Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA are two of the most charming and inviting cities in the Coastal South. It is not uncommon to see these two cities compared to one another as far as worthiness in visiting, and ultimately, it does boil down to opinion, but I would like to give my two cents worth in hopes that any future visitors can be better informed in decision making. Out of these two cities, I was more captivated overall by Charleston than Savannah. That being said, the aspects that make both of these cities similar are more numerous than those that make them different. Both cities are small/medium in population, with impressive histories behind them, seeped in Colonial, Antebellum, and Civil War history. The surrounding lowlands of South Carolina and Georgia are one of America’s most unique geographical areas, with hundreds of hidden bays, estuaries, inlets and marshes.
Unfortunately, many of the Islands that have quality ocean access are privately owned, but both Charleston and Savannah have some nearby beaches that, while not as spectacularly beautiful as other areas of the country, are still worth a few hours or so of time. What differentiates Charleston from Savannah in my mind, is that Charleston is architecturally and geographically more inviting. Both cities contain wonderful examples of Southern Architecture, however the homes and buildings in Charleston feel more like a West Indies Port, with colorful paint, white, Grecian columns, and many Palmetto and Palm Trees scattered among them. Charleston also has an advantage in having more buildings and locations that played direct roles in episodes of American History. Fort Sumter alone is worth a visit to the city. Charleston is situated in a bay/harbor that has a direct outlet to the Atlantic, and indeed, you can stand on ramparts in Fort Sumter and gaze out directly at the ocean. Savannah, while being very close to the ocean, is situated slightly inland on a river, and its overall architectural style involves much more wrought iron, brick, and of course, the famous moss covered Oak Trees. Savannah is also a bit more spread out, as its squares and parks, begin to look alike after you have seen a few. If I had to use a phrase to describe Savannah, it would be “southern gothic.” Its a little bit less vibrant, less ‘coastal’ , but attractive in a unique manner. Savannah also lacks the amount of historical sites of Charleston, however, the city’s role in early Georgia history is quite fascinating. Neither city makes a claim to be an employment or entertainment hub, which helps keep crowds and costs down, but both of these cities are valuable attractions in their own right. Despite the differences, and regardless of the opinions of writers and travelers such as myself, both Charleston and Savannah are worth a first time visit at least. I mean, why not do both? I feel you would miss out more by skipping either one in favor of the other, until one has become seasoned in traveling that region.
So, the question remains: Charleston or Savannah? Either, really, best to quit dallying and just visit them…