Seeing Savannah with a professional guide can be one of the best ways to get to know the city’s unique landscape and history. Savannah’s guides offer an almost overwhelming choice of tours (trolley, ghost and walking history tours are the most popular) but in practice, many of them have more similarities between each other than differences.
A large proportion of guided tours offered in Savannah are intended to provide a basic introduction to the history and layout of the city. This sort of overview tour, whether riding or walking, is particularly appropriate for first-time visitors, before setting off to sight-see on your own.
Others focus on specific aspects of the city’s history, and are more appropriate for returning visitors, or people who have either already taken an overview tour or are especially interested in a particular topic.
See below for more about the different kinds of tour on offer in Savannah:
This is the most popular tour type in Savannah, with three main trolley companies offering daily tours. They can be distinguished by their different liveries but otherwise offer a broadly similar service: a narrated ride around the Historic District, usually with the opportunity to get on and off the tour at any of a dozen or so stops around the city.
Look out for vouchers and special offers at the Visitors Center, online, and on city maps and guides, as discounts are often available.
A basic narrated tour takes around 90 minutes, with most companies also offering hop-on, hop-off services, usually for an additional fee. You can expect to pay around $25-$30 per adult, with children usually less than half price.
There are many different walking tours designed to give an overview of Savannah’s history, with more still focusing on specific aspects of the city’s past.
A walking tour offers much more opportunity to enjoy the city and its details than a trolley or bus tour; the smaller walking tours also provide a more intimate and personal experience. On the other hand, you will cover far less ground than on the trolley, and a walking tour can be much more tiring, especially in the heat of summer.
There are well over a dozen general history tours available, and as many again focusing upon the city’s architecture. The Civil War period is another popular topic, with other tours looking into Savannah’s African-American history, or the book that made the city famous, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
Most tours last around 90 minutes to two hours, and will cover about a mile or so of ground. Expect to pay in the region of $25 per adult (before tax and gratuity); prices can however range from around $15 to $50. Child tickets are usually somewhat cheaper.
The majority of walking tour providers also offer a private option, usually at higher cost. Inquire with the individual guide or tour company for details.
Ghost tours are a popular activity in Savannah, which is considered to be one of the most haunted cities in the United States. Walking, trolley and other riding tours are available, with some (including crawls of reputedly haunted pubs and bars) aimed at an adults-only audience.
Most tours are undertaken in the spirit of storytelling: a history of Savannah’s folk tales and ghost stories. A few are intended to provide an introduction to the art of paranormal investigation (or “ghost hunting,” as it is more popularly called), where you will be invited to assist in the search for evidence of ghostly presence.
Other of Savannah’s ghost tours fall somewhere between the two: mostly stories and history, with some “evidence” of spirit activity in the form of photographs, recordings and personal recollections.
Ghost tours are generally a little more expensive than regular walking tours, with the average price being around $30 per person.
Several tours exploring Savannah’s culinary and drinking history and culture through guided visits to a selection of the city’s most characteristic restaurants and other food spots are available.
These visit a small selection of the city’s dining or drinking establishments, with food or drink samples usually included in the price. Bar tours focused on the city’s drinking history are also available, along with more straightforward pub and bar crawls.
Food tours usually take around 3 hours, and cost in the $35-$50 per person range. Drink-focused and standard pub crawls are usually shorter, and in the case of the crawls (which do not include drinks), cheaper too.
Several Savannah companies offer short carriage rides of the Historic District, usually available, as with trolley tours, on a walk-up basis. Most will include some element of historical narration.
An alternative way to explore Savannah, with a range of tours – some more historically-focused, others more fun-focused – by electric or pedal bike, multi-person bike or Segway.
For a more unique perspective on Savannah and the lowcountry, try one of the tours by helicopter offered by local aerial tour companies, with some trips based out of Savannah itself and others out of nearby Hilton Head, SC.
Shorter, more budget-friendly tours offer views of Savannah’s riverfront and downtown; longer tours can also take you out over the marshes and barrier islands between the city and the ocean.
Several of Savannah’s tour guides focus exclusively on African-American history, including the history of slavery in Savannah, the lives of the city’s black residents, and the Civil Rights movement, along with other aspects of African-American culture in Savannah. Both walking and bus tours are available.
A few tours exploring Savannah’s black heritage are also available from other guides, usually focusing on slavery in the context of the Civil War period.
John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is the book that made Savannah famous, followed a few years later by the movie based upon it.
“The Book,” as it is locally known, brought Savannah’s eccentric characters and particularly, the murder allegations aimed at wealthy local preservationist Jim Williams, under the national spotlight.
Besides reinvigorating the city’s tourist industry, Midnight has spawned several tours (both walking and riding) exploring the locations in Savannah featured in the book and its movie, stories of the (real-life) people it mentions, filming locations, and more.
Walking tours focus on the in-town sites and stories from the book and movie; if you also want to go out to Bonaventure Cemetery, take a riding tour instead. General tours of Bonaventure are also available if you would prefer a more in-depth look at its history and highlights.
Savannah has featured in dozens of movies and television series over the years. A few overview tours of Savannah’s history as a filming location are available, either walking or riding.
Savannah’s beautiful 19th-century Bonaventure Cemetery is one of its highlights. Atmospheric and haunting, with its moss-hung oaks and hundreds of monuments, funerary sculptures and mausoleums, the cemetery is rich in history and a restful and memorable place to visit.
Various tours of Bonaventure are available. Walking tours allow a more sedate and intimate experience, whilst minibus (and even Segway) tours allow you to cover more ground. Some, but not all, tours include round-trip transportation to the cemetery, an important consideration if you don’t have car in Savannah, as Bonaventure is a few miles out of the city. Details of Bonaventure tours.
Two of Savannah’s other historic cemeteries, Laurel Grove and Colonial Park, can also be seen by guided tour. Colonial Park is the city’s oldest burial ground, laid out in the 18th century and home to many important historic figures. Many of Savannah’s general history (and ghost) tours discuss Colonial Park, but a few focus on it more exclusively. See Colonial Park Cemetery tours.
Laurel Grove served as a city-owned counterpart to (originally private) Bonaventure, divided into separate white and black areas. Currently, only one guided tour of Laurel Grove Cemetery is available, by Segway. You can, of course, make a self-guided visit on your own.
Please note that the city does not allow ghost tours to be conducted on cemetery property; all cemetery tours (Bonaventure, Colonial Park and Laurel Grove) are history only. Several ghost tour companies tell outside-the-gate stories about Colonial Park Cemetery, but none go inside.
Savannah is situated in the heart of the lowcountry, and its nearby nature spots have as much to offer as the city itself.
A fun and easy way to see the creeks and marshes of the Georgia coast is to take a kayak (or in some cases, canoe or paddleboat) tour. Most excursions are not too strenuous and are suitable for complete beginners, but if this doesn’t sound like your thing, there are also dozens of boat tours, both public scheduled tours and private charters, to choose from.
Boat excursions to see the dolphins that populate the area around the mouth of the Savannah River are especially popular. Public scheduled tours are most convenient and usually cheapest.
Some operate directly out of Savannah (usually from River Street). Others begin from the nearby seaside community of Tybee Island, around 18 miles from the city (the tours that go straight out of Tybee are usually cheaper than those out of Savannah).
Other boat excursions visit the tidal marshes and pristine barrier islands of the upper Georgia coast, with shorter trips available to Little Tybee Island, just south of Tybee, and longer tours to Wassaw or Ossabaw Islands.