While its name might not be a household one – yet anyway – Statesboro is the biggest city and the county seat of Georgia’s Bulloch county.
Situated in the state’s southeast roughly 100 kilometres from the Atlantic seaboard, it was chartered as a city in 1803.
Founded as a trading community serving the surrounding cotton plantations, it was still so small by the middle of the nineteenth century that its courthouse doubled as a barn.
Statesboro really only began to grow after the American Civil War, when many now freed slaves chose to stay in the area. This was followed by the creation of Georgia Southern University in 1906.
The presence of the university campus ensures a youthful and creative air evades Statesboro, while the Georgia Municipal Association has recognised it as one of nine state ‘live, work, play’ cities for its all-round attractions.
These are our picks for the 15 best things to do in and around Statesboro, Georgia.
1. Georgia Southern University Museum
It may be part of Georgia Southern University, but this museum dedicated to the natural history of the state certainly isn’t a dusty or boring place to spend a few hours.
Instead, its halls are packed full of family-friendly interactive exhibits. However, it’s the 78-million-year-old eight-metre skeleton of a Mosasaur, sometimes called the T-Rex of the Sea, which will probably hold your attention the longest.
The 42-million-year-old Vogtle whale fossil, North America’s oldest, runs it a close second. The museum also houses the complete skeleton of a Bryde’s whale, and various treasures from the deep such as sawfish bills and sharks’ teeth.
2. Georgia Southern Botanical Gardens
A few blocks away from the university’s main campus are its 4.5-hectare gardens. Aiming to preserve rare and endangered plant species native to the state, it sits around Bland Cottage.
This is a slightly unfortunate name, given all the colour and natural beauty that surrounds this early-twentieth century farmstead turned visitor centre.
The gardens themselves are divided into a number of subsections, including a heritage garden, bog garden, rose collection, and several wooded walking trails dotted with benches.
A haven for nature a short stroll from downtown Statesboro, it is also home to a number of native butterfly species, birds such as the mockingbirds and red-feathered cardinals, and a healthy population of squirrels too.
3. Splash in the Boro! Water Park
For an activity that’s a little more adrenaline-fueled, look no further than Splash in the Boro! water park.
It features nine main attractions across more than 600,000 square metres, including a 240m lazy river, which meanders around the leisure pools.
Other attractions include a wave pool and Flow Rider surfing simulator, while those travelling with younger kids will be thankful for the pool play area.
Watched over by lifeguards, it combines nursery pools with child-friendly slides and other features to keep little ones entertained.
Also containing a 25m lap pool for serious swimmers, the centre can be found in Mill Creek Regional Park.
4. Averitt Center for the Arts
An excellent place to begin any exploration of downtown Statesboro is the Averitt Center for the Arts.
A thriving cultural hub, it comprises two separate buildings. The first is recognisable by the beautiful off-white exterior Greek-style columns and decoration which once adorned the Bank of Statesboro, before its collapse during the Great Depression.
The second building is the Georgia Theatre, known today as the Emma Kelly Theatre in honour of a local songstress. Its art deco stylings were maintained when it was renovated, ensuring visitors get a feel for what Statesboro was like in the 1930s.
Together, both buildings host a range of events right throughout the year, from art exhibitions to bluegrass jamborees.
5. Blind Willie McTell Trail
This short four-kilometre trail won’t satisfy any serious hikers among you, but it does provide a glimpse into everyday Statesboro.
Connecting up Memorial Park with Triangle Park right at the heart of the city’s downtown district, it slips through the sorts of American scenes largely ignored by television news and guidebooks.
In short, the trail is a wonderful place to enjoy an alfresco lunch when the weather is good – which is most of the year in this portion of southeast Georgia.
A plaque along the route explains its naming, after the blind composer of the song Statesboro Blues who lived in the city for much of his life.
6. Museum on Main
While the museum at Georgia Southern focusses on the region’s natural history, the museum on downtown’s Main Street instead helps lift the lid on the area’s cultural and human history.
Though a comparatively old city in US terms, Museum on Main looks even further back, detailing the lives of native Americans during the period before the arrival of Europeans.
Also spanning British (and Spanish) colonial exploration, it doesn’t hide away from the fact many of the surrounding cotton plantations were worked by African-American slaves.
Nor does it fail to explore the effects of the Civil War as the Confederate southern states including Georgia left the growing Union.
7. Statesboro Farmers Market
Another attraction to be found on Main Street is Statesboro’s Farmers Market.
Each Saturday the area’s farmers descend on downtown Statesboro to provide its residents and visitors with some of the region’s best produce.
Coming largely from small-scale family farms, the stalls here display everything from beautiful cuts of meat to farm-fresh eggs.
Interspersed between these stalls you’ll also find items ready to eat and drink, with lemonade and coffee both on offer. Sip them to the sound of live music as you check out the handicrafts also on offer.
8. Centre for Wildlife Education
Switching from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean by way of the state’s humid middle, Georgia has an amazing array of native animals.
Many of them can be seen up close at the Centre for Wildlife Education. Here bird of prey shows demonstrate the beauty of America’s national bird, the Bald Eagle. Vivariums allow visitors to come nose to nose with the state’s snake species.
In addition, there is a small area of protected wetland, which boasts its own beaver dam and lodge.
A children’s trail and separate self-guided nature paths allow you to explore more fully. An invasive species exhibition also displays some of the non-native species that now call the region home.
9. Eagle Creek Brewing Company
Simply oozing the southern charm for which Georgia is known, the Eagle Creek Brewing Company in downtown Statesboro is not just a craft brewery. On the contrary, it is also a brewpub with a full restaurant menu matched to its range of beers, wines, and cocktails.
They can be enjoyed alongside regular live music events, which provide a wonderful backdrop to the likes of the brewery’s Tea Party Amber, River Street Praline American Brown Ale, and Spot Tail blends.
While some of these brews can be found elsewhere, Eagle Creek also reserves some for its brewpub taproom alone, meaning for a full craft beer experience you’ll need to visit the brewery itself.
10. The Jumping Place
To get the heart pumping in a way that not even Splash in the Boro! is able to provide, you’ll need to head to The Jumping Place.
Specialising in sky dives, this company offers tandem and single aircraft jumps for beginners and experts.
Not only a fantastic thrill, but an unrivalled eagle-eyed view of Statesboro and the southeast of Georgia, this is undoubtedly an experience you’ll be talking about for years to come.
Alternatively, head to the similarly named Jumpshot. This indoor activity centre contains three paintball fields, trampolines, and a wipeout machine among many others.
11. Bulloch County Courthouse
As the county seat for Bulloch County, Statesboro’s downtown district is the home of Bulloch County Courthouse. Built in 1894 in a blend of the classical revival and Queen Anne styles, it was added to the US’ National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Costing 20,000 dollars at the time it was constructed, the courthouse remains one of Statesboro’s grandest structures.
Considered by many to be very centre of Statesboro, the neighbouring Courthouse Square contains monuments that help to highlight various periods of the city’s history.
Film fans might also recognise the building from the Robert Downey Jr, Kiefer Sutherland and Winona Ryder movie 1969, where it played the part of Culloch County Courthouse in several scenes.
Just shy of the Atlantic Ocean in a region of meandering rivers, islands, and wildlife refuges is the city of Savannah, 93 kilometres from Statesboro.
The oldest city in Georgia, Savannah was founded in 1733, when the United States was still the North American colonies of the British Empire. It went on to play a key role in both the War of Independence and the American Civil War.
Largely unaltered from its original city plan, Savannah’s cobblestone streets and park-like squares form one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts anywhere in the country.
Specific attractions here include various historic homes, with exterior verandas typical of the region, and the Fort Jackson Maritime Museum.
Approximately 1.2 kilometres from downtown Savannah, the nineteenth-century fort was built to protect the city from attack by sea, and was also used as city defences during the civil war.
13. S&S Greenway
The S&S Greenway is a paved walking trail that runs for 4.5 kilometres along some of the path of the former Savannah & Statesboro Railroad, which began operation in 1897.
The trail begins at Gentilly Road, before slipping under bypasses in tunnels and passing through mature tree cover on route to its end at Pretoria-Rushing and Burkhalter Roads. As further work is completed, the greenway will stretch all the way to the city of Brooklet about 13 km away.
Both ends of the trail provide parking and spots in which to relax or enjoy a picnic lunch.
14. Blackwater Preserve
Fifteen minutes south by road from Statesboro, Blackwater Preserve lies on the outskirts of the town of Register. Sitting within an historic property 170 hectares in size, this preserve provides access to entirely unspoilt wetlands for kayaking, canoeing, and camping adventures.
Backing onto cypress swamp, there can be no better way to explore the Georgia wetlands than from the water itself.
A great escape if you’ve overdone it a little in downtown Statesboro, the sound of running water and the dappled sunlight piercing the tree cover is really as good as it gets, before any mention of the birds and other wildlife that inhabit the preserve.
15. Tybee Island
Back on the Atlantic Coast, Tybee Island lies some 115 km, or 1.5 hours from Statesboro, and can be combined with a trip to Savannah.
Lying on the border with South Carolina, the island is the easternmost point in Georgia. For many years the island was officially known as Savannah Beach, demonstrating one of its main attractions.
However, the island is also able to boast the black-and-white striped Tybee Island Light Station lighthouse, and the Fort Screven Historic District.
Commissioned in 1898, it served as an important coastal defence right up until 1947, with various military structures still visible, including six gun batteries and a guard house.