Taking the long way to Darien, Georgia

  • Feeding a herd of goats is just one of the simply pleasures available to those who take a day trip through the back roads of southeast Georgia. PAT FOSTER-TURLEY/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER
    Feeding a herd of goats is just one of the simply pleasures available to those who take a day trip through the back roads of southeast Georgia. PAT FOSTER-TURLEY/FOR THE NEWS-LEADER

Bucko and I always try to spend our wedding anniversary in some place exciting and different. Often, this involves a month-long journey to Southeast Asia where we base ourselves in our favorite hotel in Bangkok and take short trips by plane to places like Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc. You get the picture.

But this year the pandemic has shortened our sights. Neither of us want to board a plane, and for various reasons, we can’t spend the time right now on a long car trip. So, when push comes to shove, we look to Darien, Ga. for an outing. It might not be Bangkok, but surely we can rustle up something interesting to do there, right?

In preparation for our long journey to a place usually not much more than an hour’s drive away, I did my usual internet and Trip Advisor search for things to do there. We’ve been to Darien a number of times and have walked around the quaint town, eaten seafood, driven around the rural roads, visited Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge and the visitor center for Sapelo Island, but surely there must be something we missed before. And, I found it! Georgia Peach World! According to Trip Advisor, this is a top attraction in the area – how could we have missed it before?

To make this trip even more exciting, I used Google Maps to plot a long, involved route heading out toward Folkston, then north and back east again along back roads we had not traveled before, up to Townsend and back down to Darien. Along the way, we passed a large prison-like facility surrounded by high fences topped with concertina wire and guard towers, and discovered that this is the Folkston Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center, a sad place for sure. A bit further along on another side road, we stopped to photograph a dead beaver on the road. It was beside an overflowing drainage ditch it no doubt emerged from. Another sad sight, but I’ll spare you the photos.

Finally, we got to the much-anticipated Georgia Peach World and it exceeded our (admittedly modest) expectations. We were picturing something like the Florida Citrus Center off Interstate 95 near us, but this was even more exciting. If you have little children, it really is an attraction. There are two Peach Worlds at the same exit off I-95 in Townsend, one catering to children and one to adults. The children’s Georgia Peach World included a petting zoo where goats, miniature horses, and donkeys gathered along their fence line awaiting food pellets purchased by visitors from the dispensers nearby. The animals looked healthy, and the people with small children had a fun experience, I am sure. Inside this Peach World, there were all kinds of nifty things for sale, including cricket and worm edible treats, Daisy air rifles, and more kinds of peach ice cream, candies, and cakes than you can imagine. There were also some of those long ago common storefront rides that children can climb on and parents can power with quarters. Bucko, of course, could not pass these up and posed happily on one of them.

I had my own chance to pose at the second Georgia Peach World nearby, the adult version. Outside this store, I stuck my face into a hole in a mural and posed as a Georgia peach. Inside the shop, we perused shelves of different peach alcohols, syrups, jams, and other peach-oriented groceries for adults. A group of people entered the shop with their GPS still on. When they approached the peach wine, it said loudly, “You have reached your destination.” The sales clerk, Bucko and I, and the other visitors all laughed together. I guess peach wine was their target.

On the way back south to Darien, we took a detour to look for the Iron Bison Ranch, another local attraction, but sadly it was closed at the time – too bad. I was hoping to see their herd of bison but could only glimpse them from afar. Later, we passed by the “Smallest Church in America,” recommended by the Explore Georgia website, and a number of interesting political signs including a giant billboard stating, “Only Donald J. Trump and God can save our country,” and various other signs bearing religious quotes.

All in all, it was a fun road trip, the long way to Darien. Who says there is nothing interesting and exciting in our own area? There is a lot to see if you just get off the beaten track no matter where you are. And our anniversary weekend was just beginning. Stay tuned for

Pat Foster-Turley is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations.