Hunkering down in style
Brunswick, Georgia, proves to be a real boater-friendly town
By Judy Koetitz
GH 37 Lo Que Sea (Whatever)
The question was, "Boat-wise, how far south could we go in Georgia—to hunker down and wait out the chill of January and February, and still be in a protected spot -with shopping a bike ride away"?
The answer: Brunswick, Georgia
It’s a town of two faces. The modern one on the north side is the typical type, a mall, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, you know, the regulars.
But the hidden jewel is the little historic downtown area several miles south of all that hustle and bustle.
George Washington declared it one of the five ports of entry for the colonies in 1789. Although not as active a port today, container ships can still be watched as they load and unload their huge cargoes
The main street is divided by a nicely landscaped median, which breaks up the feel of Main Street as usual. As we walked, we found small garden areas with benches, so one could just sit for a while and enjoy the ambiance. The French-Quarter style street lights, along with the palms and other large trees lining the street, adds a feeling of quiet quaintness to the area.
The architecture is mixed, many old buildings have been restored, some hopefully still in the process. The S. H. Kress & Co. (the dime store of my youth) sits vacant, but that big red sign, with it’s gold letters, brought back fond memories of Double Bubble gum and other nostalgic purchases. The old Movie Theater (Ritz) has been converted to a community art and cultural center with live productions—an elegant way to recycle the city’s architectural and cultural heritage.
Hattie’s Bookstore has a great selection; we especially liked the window arrangement of good travel books. The reading area, with its cozy couches, seems to beckon you to come, sit, and read a spell. The city boasts several nice galleries as well as some very interesting antique, and "stuff" stores.
The restaurants are mostly casual, a few more formal, and one that boasts the "Original Brunswick Stew,” although residents of Brunswick County, Virginia, would call ’em "fightin’ words"!
The Marina is just across the road from Newcastle (the main street). It has state-of-the-art floating docks, and we hardly even noticed the nine-foot tides each day except that the ramps to the docks are either almost parallel to the water (high tide) or very sloped (low tide).
A City Park is a short walk from the marina and it’s fun to get a close-up look at the shrimp fleet, which docks there after unloading their daily catch further up river. The nets and rigging on the shrimp boats look quite complicated, and we have marveled at the ability of those "noble old ladies" to go out in all kinds of weather and bring in the shrimp.
Flocks of gulls and pelicans always attend the boats, hoping, one guesses, for a few escaped shrimp to become a succulent meal. Several times a week a farmer’s market opens for business in the park’s open pavilion. Even in January, it offered a nice selection of fruits and vegetables, as well as home made goodies. This is especially great for boaters, since most are either a-foot, or a-bike.
Speaking of biking. The grocery store and West Marine are an easy two-mile ride through a
residential area, but we especially liked the old Ace Hardware Store one block away from the main street. It’s high ceilings and aged pine floors reminded my husband, Gene, of his "growing up on the farm" days. However, their modern stock of hard-to-find stuff was impressive.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention McGarvey’s Wee Pub. It is located just across the street from the marina—on the forth floor of what looks like an apartment building. It’s worth a happy hour just to see the view of the marina and river beyond- and the sunsets are breath taking. It was also my first sampling of a southern favorite—boiled peanuts (spelled “P’nuts” by the locals). Suffice it to say, that I do not understand why anyone would want to ruin a perfectly delicious, crunchy peanut by boiling it!
All in all, Brunswick is a great little All-American town, and a good place to hunker down for a while.