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Gotta Go: 'Morning Show' takes deep dive in Southeast Georgia

Treasure hunt, submarine museum offer adventure along coastal Georgia

When you think of coastal Southeast Georgia, pristine marshlands, quaint bed-and-breakfasts, and sandy white beaches may come to mind. 

But did you ever imagine you’d make the drive from Jacksonville to see a fish out of water? Or in this case, a beautiful mermaid named Cora in the Golden Isles of St. Simons Island. 

“She is our newest tree spirit,” said Marcie Kicklighter, marketing and communications manager for the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau, referring to a tradition begun in the 1980s by a former resident of the island to carve faces into the trees. 

A hunt for these spirits is just one of several family-friendly ideas as our "Morning Show" series, “The Places You Gotta Go That You Don't Know,” takes us across the state line into Georgia. 

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Legend has it the tree spirit artist began carving a face into a tree that had been damaged by a lightning strike. From one face, came another. Now there are seven tree spirits open to the public. 

With a map in hand to guide your journey, you’ll feel like you’re on a treasure hunt. The maps to find the sprites can be found at the Welcome Center, and they’re free.

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Here's the list of locations:

Golden Isles Welcome Center
529 Beachview Drive
Main parking area, west side 

Mallery Park Baseball field
Park Avenue near Butler Field
Large tree in parking lot entrance 

Mallery Park Basketball Court
Mallery Street and Park Avenue
Behind the basketball goal (look east)

Redfern Village
310 Redfern Village
Across from Gnats Landing (look up)

Magnolia Manor
101 Heritage Drive
First right and third tree on the right 

Anderson Fine Art Gallery 
3305 Frederica Road
Large tree in front of art gallery 

Gascoigne Bluff Park
At the south end of Arthur J. Moore Drive
Along dirt road by river picnic area 

As protector of the loggerhead sea turtles, the tree spirit Cora keeps watch just outside the Welcome Center on Beachview Drive. 

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“We have had so much fun with her and she brings so much joy to people,” Kicklighter said.

Two of the sprites are found in Mallery Park, one of the most family-friendly on the island and another welcomes visitors to Redfern Village, where you can find some of the best shopping on the island. Each spirit leads you down the path to a new adventure. 

“It introduces you to some really great points of interest that are off the beaten path that we want you to discover,” Kicklighter said. 

While we don’t know exactly what inspired the artist to create the delicate faces, they allow you to become your own storyteller using your imagination. 

“When my sister and I were younger, we used to pretend they were the grandmother from Pocahontas. The grandmother in the tree there,” Kicklighter said. “So everyone can kind of take on the story that they want to interpret to that. Whether that’s an old fisherman, or a sea turtle, or a beautiful mermaid. Coming up with that story and enjoying it for yourself is really fun.”

You can even share photos of your family with the tree spirits using #GoldenIsles.

For more on the tree spirit adventure, go to https://www.goldenisles.com.

Hollywood hotspot?

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The St. Simons Island tree spirits aren’t the only hidden treasures to be discovered along Coastal Southeast Georgia. 

Just head south from Glynn County, down to St. Marys in Camden County. On Osborne Street in the heart of the city is the Riverview Hotel. 

It’s a local historic fixture, but is giving Hollywood a run for its money. Production just wrapped at the hotel on the sequel to Stephen King’s “The Shining,” etching the Riverview’s place in cinematic history.

For more on the hotel, go to http://www.riverviewhotelstmarys.com.

Dive into history

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Just down from the hotel, you’ll find the St. Marys Submarine Museum. Executive Director Keith Post said the building was once a movie theater, but now honors America’s submarine force. 

“The submarine force really turned the tide of the war in World War II,” Post said. “The submarine force also suffered the highest rate of casualties of any of the branches.”

You’ll get a chance to see above through the lens of the museum’s periscope. Post said it is from an old missile boat.

“It is on loan to us from the United States Navy,” Post said. “If you look across, you can’t quite see Jacksonville, where you’re from, but you can see Florida.”  

Who can say they’ve gotten behind the wheel of a submarine? Yes, you can do that at the museum, too.

“It’s a great opportunity to share with young people how a submarine works,” Post said. 

The building is home to an ocean of artifacts. It holds two floors and more than 4,500 square feet of displays. One of the oldest is a flag that flew on the R-1 in 1918.

Another exhibit focuses on a pillow taken from the USS Scorpion.

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It was lost in 1968, killing nearly 100 crewmen.

The mission of the museum runs deep, answering every question about submarine history. History buffs can explore uniform displays, flags, models of all kinds and small artifacts.

And yes, there’s a cool gift shop.  To visit the submarine museum, the highest price you’ll pay is $5 for adults. The prices are lower for small children, seniors and veterans. Proof you don’t have to spend a fortune to find hidden treasures from the sea.  

For more on the St. Marys Submarine Museum, go to https://www.exploregeorgia.org.


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