Bicycle Diaries: A Guide To Biking Around Savannah – By Austin Rojas

Biking the McQueen’s Island Trail

Renting a bike in Savannah is, in our unbiased opinion, the best way to get around town. With flat terrain and plenty to see and do between River St. to Victory Drive, it’s a bikers’ paradise. But what about riders seeking a more rugged ride? Or nature lovers? Or the history buff in your group? If you want to rent bikes and explore, look no further than the McQueen’s Island Trail. Like a lot of Savannah, it’s both old and new and brimming with excitement.

Before You Go

At Savannah On Wheels, we pride ourselves on getting our guests on the right bike for the right ride. If you’re planning on tackling the McQueen’s Island Trail, let us know while you’re in the shop, and we’ll get you all set up for this adventure. We’d recommend getting on one of our cruisers, or one of our fatter tire hybrid bikes. The Trail is fairly new, so some unpacked gravel can be a challenge with a thinner tire. I rode the Trail on a RadRunner 2 and shop owners Mike and Melissa took to the Trail on their hybrids. It’s a great ride once you get out there, but getting there requires some planning.

One of the best parts about the Trail is that it offers an escape from the humdrum of the city. Savannah has the nickname ‘Slowvannah’ for a number of reasons, but it’s a city all the same, and a break is never a bad idea. However, its ‘out-there’ location means it’s not safe (yet!) to ride from downtown to the Trail. Not to fret, if you have a car, you can rent one of our car racks and get a couple of bikes out on the trail.

Once the bikes are loaded, it’s a short ride towards the beach down Hwy 80. Put Fort Pulaski into Maps and park to the left, in front of the gate to enter the Fort. Be sure to pack plenty of water and a snack. There is a gift shop with water and food inside the Fort, but plan ahead as the Fort may close while you’re still on the Trail. 

The Trail

The main part of the Trail is an out-and-back design, so there’s no loop, and you decide how far you wish to travel. No matter how long you decide to go, it’s an incredibly rewarding ride. There’s interesting history to encounter, tons of wildlife to observe, and picturesque scenes along the river. The trail is built on the former Savannah and Atlantic line which was a branch of the much larger Central of Georgia Railroad. The CGR connected Savannah through numerous lines and subsidiaries all the way up to Chicago. The Savannah and Atlantic was the cheapest line in the system; to get from Savannah to the beach on Tybee only cost 17 cents! The line was sadly short-lived, the advent of Highway 80 and car culture doomed the railroad and by 1933, the process to rip up the tracks had begun. 

Despite the brief history of the railroad, the area itself has seen human occupation and interaction dating back thousands of years. Near the trail is Bilbo Mound, a site more than 4,000 years old. The area between modern Tybee and Savannah was the home to indigenous populations uninterrupted for nearly that entire stretch. Some of the wildlife you can see along the trail, from box turtles to white-tailed deer to raccoons, made up the diet of the various indigenous peoples that lived near the trail.

Pull over at one of the numerous benches along the trail and take in the scenery. A pit stop might give you a good chance to catch one of the many cargo ships making their way in or out of one of the busiest ports in North America. The shipping history here goes back to the founding of the city in 1733. If you look out from the trial towards the river you can almost see the HMS Savannah or Venus being intentionally sunk in the river to prevent a French naval bombardment during the Revolution. That wasn’t the only military history this area has seen though. 

Along the McQueen’s Island Trail is also where famous blockade runners would have been trying to make their way out of Savannah and across the Atlantic during the Civil War. The capture of nearby Fort Pulaski (also accessible by bike) put an end to that chapter of the war. Biking along the trail is a great way to recreate some of that history as you pedal back in time.

As you near the end of the trail, you’ll notice that it abruptly stops. Be extremely careful as you approach the end and get off your bike before reaching its termination. There are fierce winds out here and the ground is not terribly stable. This part of the trail is very isolated and there’s no guarantee you have cell service. The view is terrific but avoid getting too close to the edges, it’s not worth the risk. 

Once you start heading back, make time to stop and catch your breath. Or better yet, set up a picnic at one of the benches! After you’ve tackled the Trail, keep the ride going around Fort Pulaski. The early 19th century Fort is in beautiful condition despite having had a wall blown through during the Union Army’s bombardment of the structure. The trails around the Fort are in fairly good shape, though some of the asphalt is cracked in places. Also, there are lots of bends that hide a group of pedestrians around a corner so pedal slowly and smartly. 

However you decide to spend the day at the McQueen’s Island Trail, come by the shop and talk with us. We’ll be happy to give more recommendations before you ride!

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