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Discovering St. Marys, Georgia -- Part 1: Where to Stay

First, it must be pointed out that judging by every piece of printed literature I've seen, there is no apostrophe in Marys. :)

Most say the town's name came from the St. Marys River which it borders. Others say it came from the Santa Maria Catholic mission on nearby Amelia Island. In any case, it is a charming name for this quiet, relaxed, waterfront, history-filled town located an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida, and an hour and forty-five minutes south of Savannah. Its main claim to fame might be as the primary gateway (via ferry ride) to Cumberland Island National Seashore, but I found many other reasons to visit St. Marys.

You will want to stay a few days when you reach St. Marys. There are several Airbnbs and vacation rentals, and there's a SureStay Hotel about 2 1/2 miles from the center of town, but I would recommend the Riverview Hotel, Goodbread House Inn Bed & Breakfast, or Spencer House Bed & Breakfast. These three accommodations have an interesting history and are within easy walking distance of the waterfront park.


Each of the 18 rooms has a private bath, wireless internet, cable TV, air conditioning (a MUST), and a continental breakfast. All are on the second floor.

The hotel was built in 1916 and owned by the Brandon sisters -- Sallie, Semora, and Ethel -- and other family members from 1920-2019. Famous guests during those years include Weatherman Willard Scott, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Sr., and Cartoonist Roy Crane.

The Seagle Restaurant is on the ground floor, and the hotel will provide lunches (for a nominal cost) in cooler bags for those taking the ferry to Cumberland Island. Riverview is the closest accommodation to the ferry.


Spencer House Inn offers 14 guest rooms with private baths. A full breakfast is served every morning, and peach iced tea and sweet treats are available in the afternoons.

The house was built circa 1872. Period furnishings, heart pine floors, three verandas for peaceful rocking, and gourmet chocolates add to the charm.


We saw the first two places, but Goodbread House is where Steve and I stayed for two nights while we were in St. Marys. It was built circa 1870, so it is the oldest of the three accommodation choices. A fun characteristic is that each of the six rooms is decorated to reflect a romantic couple in history -- Lucy and Ricky, Rhett and Scarlett, Bogey and Bacall, etc. Ours was the Guinevere and Lancelot Suite, complete with a knight in shiny (shining?) armor watching over the room.

There are two front porches overlooking Osborne Street, and plenty of books and snacks available throughout the day.

A full breakfast is served in the dining room at 9:00 a.m. We had a savory entree one morning, and pancakes with sausage the next. Both were very good.

If you think it's hot in Alabama in late July and August, I can assure you that it is also hot in St. Marys. However, I think fall and spring would be amazing times to visit for moderate, pleasant temperatures. Crowds shouldn't be a factor at any time. That's what makes it so nice.

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