Gullah Geechee Heritage Trail ~ Annual Original Gullah Festival

During the last weekend of May, The Original Gullah Festival celebrates and honors history and heritage at downtown Beaufort, South Carolina’s Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park through cultural experiences, food, and fun. For 34 years, the Gullah Festival has celebrated the rich Gullah Geechee Heritage of the Sea Islands of the Lowcountry and honors the preservation of the Gullah culture and the descendants of enslaved Africans who lived in the Lowcountry region.
The Gullah Festival was established in 1986 to honor and recreate the atmosphere of a celebration called Decoration Day, now named Memorial Day. As a result, every year during the festival weekend, there is a Decoration Day Play to commemorate the historic event.
The festival is highlighted by authentic arts and crafts, exhibits, Gullah presentations, music, workshops, Gullah dancing and traditional Gullah cuisine and provides a unique family friendly cultural experience for over 35,000 local, national, and international attendees during the three day event.

Duration
7 Days /6 Nights

Group size

Customization
Available!
Beaufort, South Carolina ~ Original Gullah Festival Annual Tour Packages:
6 Nights / 7 Days & 4 Nights / 5 Days available
Estimated Tour 6 Nights / 7 Days Pricing Inclusions: 6 nights’ accommodation, (two hotels); baggage handling; 6 breakfasts; 3 lunches; 1 dinner; Gullah Festival Admission - all three days; Gullah Festival Concert admission; admissions, entrance, and guide fees as stated in the itinerary, including taxes, and gratuity. Except gratuity for guide fees is not included on adult tours unless otherwise requested.
Estimated Tour 4 Nights / 5 Days Pricing Inclusions: 4 nights’ accommodation, (one hotel); baggage handling; 4 breakfasts; 1 lunch; 1 dinner; Gullah Festival Admission - all three days; Gullah Festival Concert admission; admissions, entrance, and guide fees as stated in the itinerary, including taxes, and gratuity. Except gratuity for guide fees is not included on adult tours unless otherwise requested.
Highlights Include( * = extended tour only )
  • Three (3) Full Gullah Festival Days
  • Gullah Festival Evening Concert
  • Oyster & Fish Fry Dinner on the Docks
  • Open-Air Trolley Touring
  • Penn Center
  • St. Helena Island
  • Darrah Hall
  • Low Country Boil with Gullah Storyteller
  • Eco-Dolphin Boat Cruise
  • Reconstruction Era History Tour in Beaufort, SC*
  • Depart for Savannah for additional two nights*
  • First African Baptist Church*
  • Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters Museum*
  • BBQ Lunch Feast at Pin Point overlooking "Moon River"*
  • Wormsloe Historic Site*
  • Laurel Grove South*
  • Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum*
  • Savannah African Art Museum*
  • King-Tisdell Cottage*
  • Second African Baptist Church*
  • African American Family Monument*
  • Guided Journey to Sapelo Island*
  • Nannygoat Beach*
  • Sapelo Lighthouse*
  • Hog Hammock Community*
  • Experience authentic "Ring Shout"* 

Day One: Both tour packages
  • Arrive in Beaufort, South Carolina, for the first day of the Original Gullah Festival.  Day One typically features local school bands, dance, and drama groups, along with other significant groups who’ve been practicing year-round for this years festival.  From gospel choirs, to drum circles, youth pageants, and praise dancing, your group will enjoy many types of entertainment throughout the day along with a plentiful array of authentic food items, crafts, shopping, and other vendors.  Everywhere you look, history and heritage will be found.  Depart and check-in to your local area hotel for the evening.  (Meals: On own at the festival today)
Day Two:
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning.
  • Depart for your second day of the Original Gullah Festival.  Day Two will feature many similar activities and performances from another day's worth of talented individuals and groups and will also contain an element of education.  While Day One kicks the event off with exuberant celebration and amazing tributes through song and dance, Day Two will add poets, historians, lecturers, demonstrators, and storytellers to the mix, expanding guests' knowledge and bringing visitors back to a time of history where emotions and cultures can be experienced.  A large evening concert is usually hosted on this second evening and tickets are included for your group.  Lunch and dinner are on own at the festival today.  (B)
Day Three:
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning.
  • Depart for your final Day Three of the Original Gullah Festival.  All three festival days will finally culminate in this last hurrah with more of EVERYTHING!  Today, we will celebrate unity, love, and joy. Come together with grateful and humble hearts to honor the culture and the heritage of a group of people so critically important to the area and whose influence expands the nation.
  • Enjoy an Oyster and Fish Fry Dinner on the Docks featuring amazing water views and some of the freshest seafood in the country!
  • Return to your hotel for the evening.
Day Four:
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning.
  • Depart onboard Open-Air Trolleys with fully unobstructed panoramic views on a quest to catch the Spirit of the Islands.
  • Tour Penn Center, a cultural and educational center located on St. Helena Island. It evolved from the Penn School, one of the first southern schools organized by northern missionaries for formerly enslaved people. During the 60s, Penn Center hosted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the SCLC staff as they planned the March on Washington and the Poor People’s Campaign.
  • Visit Darrah Hall, oldest structure on the Penn Center campus, dating to the end of the Reconstruction era.
  • Enjoy a special Low Country Boil with a Gullah Story-teller.  Visit an authentic Praise House and hear your story-teller continue their tale.
  • Sail away on an Eco-Dolphin Boat Cruise and navigate the waters through an estuary brimming with dolphin and other Lowcountry wildlife.
  • Dock, disembark, and enjoy dinner on own in Downtown Beaufort.
  • Return to your hotel for the evening.
Day FiveThe 4 Night / 5 Day Tour package will check out and depart for home following breakfast at the hotel.  The 6 Night / 7 Day Tour package will check-out following breakfast and continue their journey as follows: 
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel prior to checking out.
  • Embark on a Guided Reconstruction-era History Tour of downtown Beaufort, a historic period during and post-Civil War, in which the US grappled with the question of how to integrate millions of newly freed African Americans into the social, political, economic, and labor systems.
  • Depart for Savannah, GA and visit the First African Baptist Church, the oldest in North America.
  • Visit the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters Museum. The slave quarters are complete with the nation’s largest expanse of slave-applied, “haint blue” paint, made from indigo and thought to ward off evil spirits.
  • Enjoy a BBQ Lunch Feast included overlooking “Moon River” at Pin Point.
  • Stop for a photo opportunity of Oak Tree Lane at Wormsloe Historic Site, the world’s longest road of live oaks adorned with Spanish moss creating an absolutely stunning view.
  • Check in to your local Savannah hotel.
  • This evening, dinner will be included at a local black woman-owned & operated business serving Southern Savannah favorites.
  • Return to the hotel for the evening.
Day Six:  Extended tour only
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning.
  • Visit Laurel Grove South. While slavery was still legal, there were more free African Americans interred in Laurel Grove South than any other cemetery in the Southeast.
  • Tour the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. Recognized in 2009 as, “Georgia’s Official Civil Rights Museum” the Museum chronicles the struggle of Georgia’s oldest African American community from slavery to the present.
  • Enjoy lunch on own and free time to explore in City Market.
  • Explore the Savannah African Art Museum. Opened in 1865 as a school for newly freed slaves, the former Beach Institute is now home to Savannah’s African American Arts Center and holds a collection of over 1,000 objects from West and Central Africa representing 22 countries and over 130 cultures and ethnic groups.
  • Visit the King-Tisdell Cottage which has served as a cultural museum of African American arts and crafts for more than three decades.
  • Tour the Second African Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached his “I Have A Dream” sermon, an address he repeated during the famous March on Washington, D.C. in 1963.
  • Stop by the most prominent homage to black history in Savannah, the African American Family Monument, depicting a newly emancipated family of four standing together in an embrace.
  • Enjoy the evening at your leisure with free time and dinner on own along the Riverfront.
Day Seven Extended tour only
  • Grab an early breakfast-to-go bag from the hotel this morning and head over to the Sapelo Ferry Dock for a Journey to Sapelo Island with our local Gullah Guide who is a direct descendant of slaves brought to Sapelo in the early 1800s to work the plantations. Explore Native American shell mounds, visit the tabby ruins of an old French estate, check out Nannygoat Beach, tabby ruins of the slave cabins, and see the newly-restored Sapelo Lighthouse. You’ll also ride through the Hog Hammock community. Lunch is included while visiting. Your Guide will share stories spanning decades of history. Explore Sapelo with the inside knowledge that only a Sapelo native can provide. Afterwards, experience a Ring Shout, or “shout”; an ecstatic, transcendent, religious ritual, first practiced by African slaves in the West Indies and the United States, in which worshipers move in a circle while shuffling and stomping their feet and clapping their hands.
  • Depart for home with a life-time of memories and an excitement to share your new-found knowledge!
Base rate does not include motor coach transportation, airfare, airport transfers, driver gratuity, guide gratuity, (student groups exempt) or any upgrades or add-ons unlisted from itinerary as stated. Pricing may vary based on day of arrival or other conditions. Personalized itineraries with custom pricing and/or additional transportation can be created and added based on client needs and upon client’s request. MARS will customize quotes or personalize itineraries for FREE.
Click 'PDF' below to view a Sample Itinerary: PDF

Contact Us Today to Reserve Your Tour

Have a question? MARS' experienced tour professionals are ready and willing to help you plan a tour program that's a perfect fit for you.

Get Started