Just 15 miles north of St. Simon’s Island and 50 miles south of Savannah is a town with history and character — plus upscale accommodations to stay a while. Darien, Georgia is well worth the visit, and, this spring, you’ll want to plan traveling around the town’s Blessing of the Fleet. Taking place Sunday, April 23 with festivities all weekend, the event will include not only the meaningful send-off for shrimping season but also family-friendly activities, live music, special vendors and more.
“This year will be the 55th of the Blessing,” remarks Kat Hoyt, president of Darien-McIntosh Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a treasured tradition in McIntosh County and is not only a celebration of the boats having a prosperous season but also a time for the community to come together.”
According to Hoyt, the Blessing of the Fleet is typically held on the first Sunday in April with a high tide — but was postponed a bit this year due to the first spring high tide being on Easter. Festivities for the celebration kick off Friday, April 21 at 4 p.m. with a vendor village and two live performances that evening. Saturday, the fun continues with a 5K sponsored by the local YMCA, breakfast with the local Lions Club, a parade and a “big night of music,” Hoyt says. Then, Sunday morning commences with community worship in the park, followed by the boats’ blessing in the afternoon for a safe, prosperous season — and plenty of Georgia shrimp.
“It’s a community-wide festival and a way to celebrate the industry of McIntosh County,” Hoyt notes.
Looking for a spot to stay and enjoy the festivities? Fortunately, a chic boutique hotel opened its doors earlier this year. Oaks on the River is a newly constructed property with just 52 hotel rooms and outstanding amenities for an elite experience. Marketing Director Virginia Hall notes that the Oaks Hotel is a great place to stay during the Blessing of the Fleet weekend and offers “a front row seat” to the entire event. Guests will love The Cedar Bar, home to a gorgeous bartop made of solid cedar wood, procured and crafted by local resident Art Lucas, who had a large cedar tree on his property. “It is a stunning centerpiece,” Hall comments. Meanwhile, the Oaks Club is an intimate restaurant overlooking the river with a delicious, evolving menu.
Hall says Oaks on the River looks forward to hosting those who don’t know much about Darien’s history, both as a shrimping town and as part of the South’s storied history. Burned along with Atlanta — except for two buildings, one set to become an exciting new brewery — Darien, like its neighbor Savannah, was a planned community of remarkable architecture, a beckoning riverfront, a town square and much more.
“Our location on the Altamaha River is very unique,” Hall says. “Darien has an amazing depth of history and is a beautiful place. Vernon Square offers access to older homes, churches, fountains and beautiful short walks.”
The food scene in Darien is booming, with plenty of fresh-caught seafood on numerous menus. The Fish Dock, which serves local clams, offers a view of the processing plant right outside the window – it does not get any fresher. For nature lovers and bird watchers, Darien is a veritable paradise, and its marshy, coastal land holds historic and cultural relevance. Additionally, the Altamaha rivershed area is managed by the Department of Resources and was once a rice plantation, according to Hoyt.
“We have a rich cultural history, ranging from Native American to Scottish Highlanders to one of the last Gullah Geechee communities living on Sapelo Island,” she adds.
“It’s a community-wide festival and a way to celebrate the industry of McIntosh County."