Georgia’s second oldest city, Augusta, is much more than home to The Masters.
Road Trip: Hilton Head Island to Augusta
Duration: 132 miles (2 hours, 41 minutes)
By Keaton Thurmond
As a city celebrating a resurgence of craft, recreation and the arts, Augusta’s River Region has started writing the next chapter in its rich history. It’s one that includes diverse chef-driven restaurants, renowned trail systems and a modern, artful vibe from the street corners to the most recent gallery openings.
Locals and visitors alike are discovering an Augusta alive for a new generation, celebrating the city’s culture and dynamic recreational opportunities, reveling in the renewed appreciation of the region’s storied past, and pulsing with a contagious vitality that promises a bright tomorrow for the new Augustan.
WHAT TO DO:
No stranger to revitalization, Georgia’s second oldest city’s early rise to prominence began with the formation of the Augusta Canal, routed from the Savannah River to bolster this present-day city. The two waterways contribute to Augusta’s thriving, heritage-enriched community, adding to recreational ventures, such as GUIDED KAYAKING TOURS with area expert Cole Watkins. (Ask to see the wild donkeys while you’re out.)
If perusing the waterways isn’t what you had in mind, guests can hop aboard the LADY LIBERTY TROLLEY for a land-locked, historic trolley tour of downtown Augusta. You’ll pass historic homes, hear tales about the bone-filled Medical College of Georgia basement, and even get a glimpse at a U.S. president’s boyhood home.
While on Broad Street, be sure to visit the city’s growing entertainment district, where you can catch live shows at the centennial-staple, the IMPERIAL THEATRE, the recently renovated historic MILLER THEATER, and smaller, quirky venues such as LE CHAT NOIR.
WHERE TO EAT:
Augusta is also heating up its dining and cocktail scene. The River Region is a culinary hub for artisanal-designed meals and uniquely local Southern fare. Visitors and locals alike start their morning off at BUONA CAFFE, an artisanal coffee shop far removed from corporate chains in both style and setting. At Buona, brewing methods are an art form, steeping for four minutes in an hourglass vessel. This cozy coffee joint offers locally roasted coffee and pastries reminiscent of grandma’s.
When in the South, barbecue is a must. For lunch, SOUTHBOUND SMOKEHOUSE comes highly recommended. A musical barbecue mecca boasting a fusion of comforting tastes and sounds, Southbound’s music ranges from acoustic to Southern rock, while offering up authentic Southern eats named after famous jam-bands such as the “Pimento Cheese Incident.”
CRAFT & VINE is the perfect spot for those looking for an intimate setting for dinner. It’s tucked away in downtown Augusta on Broad Street, serving New American fare and featuring hand-crafted cocktails and elegant wines in a low lit, art-deco venue.
WHERE TO STAY:
For an ideal place to call home base, book a room at the AUGUSTA MARRIOTT at the Convention Center. It’s on the Riverwalk in downtown Augusta, making it easy to leave the car behind and traverse the city by foot. The hotel offers sleek, modern finishes, comfort-centric features such as platform beds, and it’s pet friendly.
Those looking for a more historic, boutique experience should consider THE PARTRIDGE INN, known as “The Grand Hotel of the Classic South.” This Curio Collection Hilton property has undergone an extensive restoration. It still allows guests to enjoy the charm of the original 1836 house that remains within the building, in addition to the comforts and conveniences of a contemporary, luxury hotel that sits on a hilltop just steps away from downtown. Sip a cocktail at the P.I.’s rooftop bar, overlooking the city.
Those who prefer the newest digs in town should check out the HAMPTON INN & SUITES by Hilton Augusta-Washington Road. With easy access to the interstate, the hotel is minutes away from Augusta National Golf Club, the city’s crown jewel that is home to the Masters.
How the champ rolls
Defending RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing champion Wesley Bryan lives in Augusta and gave LOCAL Life the inside scoop on his favorite local places.
His Ideal Date
“It would start at Craft & Vine (1204 Broad St.). You would have a couple of drinks there, then head over to Frog Hollow Tavern (1282 Broad St.), which is probably one of my top 3 favorite restaurants in the world.”
With a restaurant-meets-bar concept, the tavern specializes in sophisticated dishes with a Southern twist, such as gouda mac and cheese, fried quail and duck confit.
Bryan’s other favorite places to eat are Abel Brown (491 Highland Ave.) and Beck’s (2111 Kings Way).
When not playing golf, Bryan and his family unwind with miniature golf.
“I go play putt-putt. They just shut down one of the putt-putt places, but they’ve still got the one open.” (Putt Putt Fun Center, 3763 Martinez Blvd.)
The greens there are very slick, as one would expect in an area near Augusta National. The center also offers laser tag, bumper cars, bumper boats and batting cages.
Bryan has two places he recommends to visiting family and friends.
“The downtown Marriott (Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center at 2 10th St.) is really, really nice, but there’s a hotel right next to our house that I also recommend people stay at (Sheraton Augusta, 1069 Stevens Creek Rd.). They’re both great places.”