South’s Greatest Adventures 2021
2021 is the year of adventure—it’s time to get out and meet your date with adrenaline-filled destiny.
There are two sides to Southern lifestyle: laid-back living’ and unrelenting adventuring. Sure, sippin’ sweet tea on a front porch swing is a pleasant way to spend an evening, but only after a day well spent reeling in big ones, tearing through the woods on horseback or conquering the surf. We clean up nice, but we’re not afraid to get down and dirty. Here are some of South’s greatest ways to scratch that adrenaline itch.
Every year, South pens a list of “Greatest Adventures” for our Travel & Adventure Issue. These adventures vary in intensity—from tactical training and borderline military-grade excursions to a wildlife drive-thru—and theme, whether that’s wildlife, sporting, or simply admiring nature. We love the adventure that this region holds and the endless potential for discovery. Southern adventures certainly raise the bar for adrenaline thresholds. Read on to discover the amped of version of anything, from fly-fishing, to hiking, to sky diving, to swimming….with sharks. Yup. You’ve been warned.
1. The Ultimate Adventure: GORUCK Challenge
GORUCK is built on the values and virtues of servant leadership, community building and inspiring people of any background or affiliation to serve something greater than themselves. This is apolitical, colorblind and accessible to anyone. GORUCK Challenges bring ruckers together for events all over the U.S. (and the world) to test mental and physical toughness.
RUCKING [VERB]/ Exercising with a weighted rucksack (aka backpack). It implies action, energy and purpose. Rucking requires strength, endurance, and character—and builds it, too.
Ruckers are a community of fearless, tenacious individuals who commit to something larger than themselves. The act of rucking involves carrying a weighted backpack—usually beginning with 20 pounds—to cultivate fitness through “movement with a purpose.” GORUCK not only sells all the top-of-the-line rucking gear needed to get going, but also fosters the community and ethos of rucking by organizing the GORUCK Challenge. The challenges can be basic, tough or hard, ranging from 5ks to the toughest endurance events in the world (24-hour and 40-mile events). The time limit, rucksack weight and distance requirements vary between intensity levels, so there’s a challenge for everyone.
GORUCK Challenges are led by Special Forces Cadre who test limits, push beyond them and build groups into teams. Through GORUCK, the Cadre’s service continues at home, as they are tasked to teach people how to overcome adversity as individuals and as teammates. In that process, the Cadre are building a bridge between the civilian and military worlds, and they’re building better Americans, too.
GORUCK Challenges are the ultimate adventure, combining team building, physical challenges, cool gear and nature into one experience. It’s not simply for the sake of adventure—it’s for a higher purpose: to be a part of something greater than oneself. Since 2010, GORUCK has hosted over 7,000 events and inspired over 300 GORUCK clubs.
photo caption: Check out Phil Wall’s compelling documentary, “The Standard,” starring Jason McCarthy, co-founder of GORUCK. The film offers an inside look into GORUCK’s most challenging, once-yearly event: Selection. The 48-hour challenge is a chance for elite athletes to test their limits and the Cadre to bridge the military-civilian divide. The documentary is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
2. Code Blue Force
(Joint Training Facility at Blue Force Gear)
Ashley Burnsed started Blue Force Gear (BFG) driven by a code of advancement, “If we can’t make something better than what is currently being produced, we don’t make it.” Since its beginnings in gear manufacturing, BFG has become so much more.
“I’m humbled and honored to have the opportunity to support new military and local law enforcement, making sure they have police officers that are more than able to do the job they’re called to do,” says Chris Sizelove, Blue Force Gear’s Joint Training Facility (JTF) Senior Manager of Training and U.S. Army veteran. Sizelove describes the JTF as the fulfillment of the first part of BFG’s mission: “Knowledge, mindset and equipment.” It is Sizelove’s job to provide clients with top-notch training in issuing, utilizing and mission capabilities of their gear. “We train escalation and de-escalation of force hostage situations, high-risk search operations, low light, no light, night vision device use, breaching doors and walls, use of specialized marking devices and emergency medical procedures in or around a structure,” says Sizelove. Not only is the training adrenaline-pumping, but it also properly equips trainees with skills that translate to real scenarios. Visit Sizelove on Instagram and Facebook @jtf_bfg to book a training session. Check out Blue Force Gear’s exceptional products at blueforcegear.com.
3. Golf of Guns
(Shooting Instruction with Harry L. Woolley)
Calculating and executing a shot at a moving clay target can be likened to a heart-racing putt on the green. There is just one chance in that moment to compute the velocity of a moving object and sink the target. However, in one instance there’s a putter and in the other, there’s a shotgun firing.
When it comes to handling guns, it is absolutely critical to have the proper instruction from a trusted teacher in the proper environment with the proper equipment. With all the appropriate safety precautions taken, it is much easier to have some fun and enjoy the sport of it. Harry L. Woolley is a local, National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) Level III certified shotgun instructor (meaning he’s logged over 5,000 hours of instruction) that offers private and group instruction by appointment. He’s a staff instructor at the Dorchester Shooting Preserve and is certified and insured to teach at eight different clubs in Georgia and South Carolina. He is also a staff shotgun coach at the Savannah Country Day School, for the Lowcountry Annie Oakleys, and more. The fun in clay target shooting comes from actually hitting the target, which is harder than it might seem (much like trying to sink that putt). With Woolley’s expert guidance, even beginners shooting for the first time will hit a target and watch the disk burst mid-air at the blast of the ammo. Visit shotgunshootinginstruction.com for more information.
4. Court Sport Craze: Pickleball
Tony Gottlieb is one of the top 10 pickleball players in the country, perhaps the world. as the sport is growing in popularity some are still wondering what the heck it is.
What is pickleball? Pickleball is best described as a combination of badminton, ping-pong and tennis. Played on a badminton-sized court with a net similar to a tennis net, players use a ping-pong-like paddle and a plastic wiffle ball. Pickleball can be played as singles or doubles. According to pickleball pro Tony Gottlieb, “The goal is simple–it’s all about getting families and friends to enjoy court sports games: tennis, pickleball or both.”
Why pickleball? “Most pickleball players would describe pickleball as a game they can get pretty good at fairly quickly, have fun, and get some exercise. We like the cycle: have fun, play more, get better,” says court sports pro, Tony Gottlieb. “The game also has unconventional, quirky rules that put the server at a disadvantage, such as being required to serve underhanded, the double bounce rule and the kitchen zone rule. Pickleball is also very social—a typical doubles game is played to 11 and players are encouraged to rotate with other players in a pickup style round robin. The key to getting better is practicing and playing the right way,” says Gottlieb. “To do that you have to dive in and work your way into the better games with the better players. I like to call it getting schooled.”
Where to play: Gottlieb says, “Pickleball is a very inclusive game. There are lots of pickup games at all the clubs and public parks—ladders and leagues are starting to grow as well.”
- Franklin Creek Tennis Center at The Landings boasts 10 pickleball courts, with league play nights on Tuesday nights. For more details, visit thelandings.com.
- The Savannah Golf Club has court play hours Tuesday through Sunday and eight pickleball courts. New to the game? The club has certified professionals on staff, such as Tony Gottlieb himself. Learn more at thesavannahgolfclub.com.
- With several locations in the Savannah area, the YMCA offers loaner paddles and balls, as well as an air-conditioned gym. Visit ymcaofcoastalga.org/main/pickleball or call your local branch’s front desk for more information and hours.
If you’re interested in pickleball lessons or clinics contact Tony Gottlieb, Savannah Golf Club Head Tennis Professional and Pickleball Professional at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Catch Some Sea Breeze
(North Florida Kiteboarding)
Chase that stomach-dropping sensation at the whim of the wind behind the sail of a kiteboard. This insanely thrilling sport is extremely popular in the Coastal South, where the generally flat water conditions and consistent winds make for the perfect kiteboard-friendly combination. For those beach goers who gape at wind-conquering daredevils from the safety of the shoreline, North Florida Kiteboarding offers the most comprehensive lessons at the Jacksonville beaches and can help you get your wings. This exhilarating sport is beginner-friendly so no experience is necessary to take flight. Head to northfloridakiteboarding.com to learn more.
6. Get Your Wings
Having conquered land and water, only the air remains to be explored. Harkening back to the Wright Brothers and their original experiments on the shores of the Outer Banks in North Carolina, that pioneering spirit combined with an innate curiosity has led people to the skies ever since. Savannah Aviation offers discovery flights that provide a whole new perspective on the Lowcountry. From a tour in the clouds, gaze down on Savannah and the riverfront, Tybee Island and the pier as well as other landmarks, like Fort Pulaski. Spread your wings even further and earn your pilot’s license with instruction from highly trained, certified teachers at the region’s most accredited flight school. Savannahaviation.com
7. Pack a Mean Punch
(Savannah Combat Club)
Pure adrenaline boils down to one of the most simple human functions: the fight or flight response.
Putting on a pair of gloves and stepping into the ring can result in a chemical rush that packs a mean punch. Former UFC fighter and MMA fighter Coach Stephen Bass of Savannah Combat Club provides confidence-building, foundational and expert-level instruction that gives clients the technical tools to embrace that natural fight response and ride that adrenaline rush. Trainees get in the ring and learn to fight their way out of intense situations to come out the other side stronger than ever. On top of that, MMA training is one of the best and quickest ways to get that body into phenomenal shape. It’s one of the best all-around ways to get in excellent shape. Combining cardio with overall strength training, most fighters achieve optimal fitness while learning lifelong skills. savannahcombatclub.com
8. Swim with Sharks
(Florida Shark Diving)
There’s an intrigue that accompanies the impending threat in the “dun-nuh, duh-nuh” of the iconic “Jaws” theme song. While society is terrified of sharks, it also cannot help its fascination. Shark attack headlines continue to captivate readers—the thrill of a predator lurking in the ocean shadows is irresistible.
But, is it irresistible enough to plunge into shark infested waters? From the safety of a tried-and-true shark-proof cage and under the expert guidance of Captain Bryce Rohrer, guests can experience one of the world’s apex predators from within their domain. Based in Jupiter, Florida, Captain Bryce of Florida Shark Diving has over 10 years’ experience working with sharks in a professional capacity and spends at least 300 days per year on the water. He understands the nuances of their behavior, which makes him the ideal guide to safely swimming with sharks. Florida has one of the largest shark concentrations in the world, so swimmers can jump in with some of the heavyweights, including: bull sharks, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, mako sharks and more.
Extreme marine daredevils can drop the barriers and freedive in the open ocean by the boat platform. Captain Bryce is on standby; however, once you’re out there, you’re in the sharks’ territory and there is nothing between you and a mouth of 350 teeth (on average). To learn more about this exhilarating adventure, check out floridasharkdiving.com.
9. Tuck and Roll
(Savannah Canoe and Kayak)
South first met Kristin and Nigel Law in 2003, when they were first setting up shop as Savannah Canoe and Kayak (SC&K). Having just moved across the pond, the Laws chose Savannah for its unique wind conditions and geography, which make it one of the most ideal destinations in the world for kayaking. SC&K uses certified guides who have a vested interest in the community and are stewards for protecting the coastal environment. Beginners and experts alike can learn adventurous techniques and take off-the-beaten-path exploration paddles. SC&K is not your typical tour and is the place to go for paddlesports in the Lowcountry. Savannahcanoeandkayak.com
“Kayak to the bar—the sandbar that is. Soak up some sun and sea air. Get yourself into nature.”
10. Take a Drive On the Wild Side
(Wild Animal Safari)
Experience one of the greatest adventures the world has to offer—the African safari—right here in Georgia. In true Southern fashion, the park is a drive-thru that covers a 3.5-mile stretch, home to over 450 animals of 45 different species. Visitors can spot tigers, buffalo, ostriches, wolves and more. Four-legged friends have been known to pop in open windows and say hello. Take a guided tour or a walk-about for a more in-depth experience. animalsafari.com/georgia
11. Earn Your Racing Stripes
Head to the main drag, also known as “The Action Track of the South,” to satisfy a need for speed. The Screven Motorsports Complex is home to the Screven Motor Speedway, Savannah River Dragway, GeeChee Creek Mud Drag, and Gamecock Speedway. Weekly racing events are held on each track, but South recommends the Savannah River Dragway for the maximum adrenaline rush. Drag racing combines three measurements—reaction time, elapsed time, and speed—to determine a winner. Drivers with the lowest combined reaction time and elapsed time win. Because to the three measurable factors, drag racing makes for compelling spectating and driving alike! Screven Motorsports Complex boasts a family-friendly environment, so this is the perfect high-octane event to get everyone involved. Screven-motorsports.com
12. The Belly of the Beast
(Florida Caverns State Park)
Something of a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare, Florida Caverns State Park is home to an eerie-yet-spectacular sediment formation. The not-so-secret caves are filled with interesting geological formations and unique critters. The park’s caves have a long and interesting geologic history beginning 38 million years ago when sea levels were much higher and the southeastern coastal plain of the United States was submerged. Shells, coral and sediments gradually accumulated on the sea floor. As sea levels fell, these materials hardened into limestone. During the past million years, acidic groundwater dissolved crevices just below the surface, creating cave passages large enough to walk through. Dazzling stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone and other fragile cave-drip formations were formed by a similar dissolving process by the naturally acidic rainwater.
“Something of a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare,Florida Caverns State Park is home to an eerie-yet-spectacular sediment formation filled with unique critters.”
The park’s bluffs, springs and caves are known as karst terrain, and the caves provide habitat for blind cave crayfish, cave salamanders and three species of cave-roosting bats.
Visitors duck into four-foot tunnels and emerge in a vast, breath-taking chamber, illuminated with stunning LED color visuals. To get to the chamber area, the tour leads down a staircase, through a dozen cave rooms where visitors learn about the cave’s history, early uses and the process of the unique geological formations. In addition to the cave tours, history lessons and hikes through local flora and fauna are available as well. Be sure to arrive early, as tours are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/florida-caverns-state-park
13. Tightrope Tallulah Gorge
(Tallulah Falls State Park)
In 1970, local city leaders in Tallulah Falls, Georgia, wondered how to put their city on the map. They invited world-famous daredevil, German-born Karl Wallenda, to perform his riskiest stunt yet: cross a 1,000-foot tightrope 750 feet above the rocky cliffs and rushing waters in the gorge below. After 18 minutes and two handstands under the watchful and apprehensive eyes of 30,000 onlookers, the 65-year-old hopped off the wire and accepted a ready-made martini from his wife.
Today, visitors to Tallulah Gorge (north of Atlanta) can still spot the platforms of the metal towers that suspended the tightrope conquered by Wallenda over 50 years ago. While crossing the gorge via tightrope is not recommended, there is a thrilling pedestrian suspension bridge to peer over the canyon from a dizzying height of 80 feet above the rushing water. Tallulah Gorge State Park visitors can also discover six waterfalls throughout the park and observe the Hurricane Falls from an observation deck. This park is one of the state’s most thrilling natural wonders and visitors need a permit to cross the gorge, limited to 100 permits distributed per day. Throughout the park are hiking, running and biking trails to enhance the visitor experience. No equipment—other than the recommended sturdy hiking shoes and a water bottle—is required. Visit gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge for more information.
14. Lure & Hook
(Fly Cast Charters)
There’s no need to haul-ass at 5 a.m. to get miles off shore for the South’s most exciting fishing. Pull on your waders and get down and dirty in the salt marshes of the Golden Isles. Captain Dave of Fly Cast Charters of St. Simons Island is an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing guide who knows just how to wrangle redfish and tarpon with the flick of a wrist. Capt. Dave’s expert guidance helps attendees identify, stalk, lure and hook some rewarding fish that make you earn the catch. Gear is available for those who are not fully outfitted. Come with an open mind, sense of adventure and willingness to dig in! Flycastcharters.com
15. Plummet Over the Peach State
(Jump Georgia Skydiving)
It takes a special kind of insanity to actually step out of a moving plane 15,000 feet (almost three miles) above the earth. Defeating that mental barrier releases a unique rush of adrenaline that yields the sweetest flood of endorphins while free falling to the landing zone. Jumpers feel the wind through their hair like never before, looking out over Savannah, Augusta and even Charleston below. At Jump Georgia Skydive, first-time jumpers fly tandem; but if one time is not enough, jumpers can learn to skydive solo from certified United States Parachute Association instructors. With over 125,000 skydives logged, Jump Georgia has seen zero incidents, making it the top local choice for safe skydiving. Jumpgeorgia.com
16. Get Off the Grid
(Len Foote Hike Inn)
Abandon the restrictions of daily life and embrace an off-the-grid adventure. Len Foote Hike Inn (or simply, Hike Inn) lies at the end of a five-mile trail in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The path itself is one of the gateways to the Appalachian Trail, making the Hike Inn a sought-after refuge for experienced hikers or easy-going escapists alike. The easy-to-moderate, five-mile path starting from the top of Amicalola Falls is among the most popular mountain trails in the North Georgia Blue Ridge–and one of its most beautiful and diverse. The two to four-hour hike crosses small streams, traverses scenic ridges and ambles through stands of mountain laurel and rhododendron.
While the trail to the Hike Inn is an adventure in its own right, the inn is not just the destination but a continuation of the experience. The lodge promotes an atmosphere of “unplugging,” giving guests the chance to fully enjoy the amenities. The lodge is designed to make engaging with nature easy and offers 20 guest rooms, hot showers, fresh linens and home-cooked meals. For a backcountry lodge, the Hike Inn is forward thinking when it comes to conservation practices. As a steward of mother nature’s precious resources, the lodge uses photovoltaic panels, solar-thermal systems and extensive compost initiatives to minimize their carbon footprint. Not only can you get off the grid, but you can visit without any trace or footprint.
The appeal of the lodge is not only the opportunity to escape, but the opportunity to be fully present and engaged with surroundings. Other guests visit for the same reason, and the family-style meals allow guests to share stories and trade tales. Various day trails provide more adventure, and relaxation rooms with board games, a wood-burning stove and plenty of books. hike-inn.com