Journey to Our Roots ~ A Gullah Heritage Tour

The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of Africans who were enslaved on the rice, indigo and Sea Island cotton plantations of the lower Atlantic coast. Many came from the rice-growing region of West Africa. The nature of their enslavement on isolated island and coastal plantations created a unique culture with deep African retentions that are clearly visible in the Gullah Geechee people’s distinctive arts, crafts, foodways, music, and language.
Today’s Gullah Geechee arts and crafts are the result of products designed by their ancestors out of necessity for daily living such as making cast nets for fishing, basket weaving for agriculture and textile arts for clothing and warmth. Deeply rooted in music traditions brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans, their music evolved out of the conditions of slavery that characterized their lives. The influence and evolution of musical forms that arose out of Gullah music can be heard in many musical genres such as spirituals and gospel music, ragtime, rhythm and blues, soul, hip hop and jazz.
Explore the beautiful scenery, rich in history, inspiration, passion, and home to a diverse ecological system found only on the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor stretching the coastal areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida . Experience their unity, love, culture, heritage, and joy on one of these incredible Gullah Heritage Tour Packages available exclusively through MARS.

10 Days /9 Nights

Group size

Tour Inclusions: 9 nights’ accommodation; baggage handling; 9 breakfasts; 5 lunches; 7 dinners; 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.
Journey to Our Roots, The Gullah Heritage Tour - A 9 Night / 10 Day Journey from Sandy Island to Sapelo Island.
Beaufort, South Carolina & Savannah, Georgia
  • Brookgreen Gardens
  • Sandy Island Touring
  • Hobcaw Barony
  • Gullah Museum Georgetown
  • Swamp Fox Tour
  • Rice Museum
  • The Clock Tower
  • Old Market and Kaminski Hardware Buildings
  • Old Slave Mart
  • Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture
  • McLeod Plantation
  • Guided Gullah Geechee Heritage Tour & Presentation
  • Boone Hall
  • Lady's Island Oyster Farm
  • St. Helena Island
  • Penn Center
  • Darrah Hall
  • Fish & Oyster Roast Festival
  • Guided Reconstruction-era Tour of Beaufort, South Carolina
  • First African Baptist Church
  • Second African Baptist Church
  • Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters
  • "Moon River" at Pin Point
  • Wormsloe Historic Site
  • Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
  • Laurel Grove South
  • Savannah African Art Museum
  • King-Tisdell Cottage
  • African American Family Monument
  • Journey to Sapelo Island
  • Sapelo Lighthouse
  • Hog Hammock Community
  • Darien River
  • and more!

Sample Itinerary:
Day 1
  • Arrive in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, and visit Brookgreen Gardens to enjoy a unique 50-minute audience collaborative program. Entertaining and educational, this interactive, Cultural Game Show informs viewers about the rice culture lived and passed down by Gullah Geechee people of the southeastern coastal United States and its connections with Salone (Sierra Leone, West Africa).
  • Depart and board your boat for Sandy Island. Explore the island on a tour providing a unique perspective of both sightseeing and historical insight. Sandy Island is approximately 12,000-acres of beautiful Low Country landscape. Some 3,000-acres is private property belonging to the local residents – descendants of enslaved Africans who proudly carry on the traditional Gullah way of life.
  • Enjoy dinner included this evening at a favorite restaurant for fresh local fare.
  • This evening, check in to your local area hotel. (Meals: D)

Day 2
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning.
  • Explore Hobcaw Barony, a 16,000 acres peninsula encompassing a rich diversity of every common ecosystem found on the South Carolina coast, making this an unparalleled site for research in the environmental sciences.
  • Stop at the Gullah Museum Georgetown, founded by the late Gullah artist, Vermelle “Bunny” Smith Rodriguez and her husband, Andrew Rodriguez. Bunny’s story quilts are sought after by museums and private collectors all over the world.  Her Gullah Ooman Story Quilt records the history of the Gullah Geechee people, from a West Africa village to Emancipation from slavery in the Low Country. Andrew, an activist, and researcher, uses the story quilt as a teaching tool in lectures at the Gullah Museum.
  • Enjoy lunch on own in Georgetown.
  • Experience a historic, guided Swamp Fox Tour where your tour guide will share knowledge of the rich history of this 300 year old American seaport. Visitors are surprised and inspired by the amount of history in the area.
  • Visit the Rice Museum. While the growth and production of rice was good news to the wealthy plantation owners of the area, it also produced a dark chapter in local history, as Georgetown was subsequently home to some of the largest slave-holding plantations in the entire south. The Clock Tower is home to extensive maps, dioramas, artifacts, and other permanent exhibits allowing visitors to understand a long-gone society once based on a singular agricultural crop. The Old Market and Kaminski Hardware Buildings take patrons through an extensive tour of this chapter of Georgetown. These stories are shared in detail at the rice museum, in addition to a number of other seasonal and full-time exhibits.
  • Depart for Charleston.
  • Enjoy a Welcome Dinner included at a local Oyster House in the heart of historic Charleston.
  • Return to the hotel for the evening. (B, D)

Day 3 -
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning.
  • Explore the Old Slave Mart Museum. Displays in this former slave auction building, constructed in 1859, tell the story of the slave trade in Charleston, and is believed to be the last surviving slave auction facility in South Carolina.
  • Tour the Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture, a division of the College of Charleston library system, located on the site of the former Avery Normal Institute in the Harleston Village district.
  • Enjoy lunch on own and free time in the historic area of City Market, spanning four blocks and home to more than 300 vibrant entrepreneurs. Sweet grass basket weavers can be seen in every building, along with local artists, jewelry, tapestry, souvenirs, church dolls, afghans, rugs, rice, beans and sauces, local candies and cookies and much more.
  • Spend the afternoon exploring McLeod Plantation. McLeod Plantation was built on the riches of sea island cotton - and on the backs of the enslaved people whose work & culture are embedded in the Lowcountry’s very foundation. It is a living tribute to the men and women and their descendants who persevered in their efforts to achieve freedom, equality, and justice.
  • Enjoy an included dinner at popular local restaurant known for its downhome comfort foods and family vibes.
  • Return to the hotel. (B, D)
Day 4 -
  • This morning, depart to Geechie Seafood for a taste of locals’ breakfast!
  • Enjoy a full day of Guided Gullah Heritage Touring. Drive through and visit places of history and lore relevant to the rich and varied contributions of black Charlestonians. Enjoy a Workshop Presentation by a Native Gullah Sweetgrass Basket Weaver where you’ll learn about “The Five Senses of Gullah”. #1 Touch: Rice; “Carolina Gold”; a product so sought after in the 18th and much of the 19th century, it made Charleston one of the richest cities in the US and was built by slaves who carved the rice fields out of cypress and gumtree swamps filled with alligators, snakes, and disease-carrying mosquitoes. Your fingers will feel the leaf of the state tree, the Cabbage Palm, which will be used to create your very own Palmetto Rose to take home with you. #2 Hear: Your speaker explains the art of sweetgrass weaving and its history by way of West African slaves brought to America to work on plantations. West Africa resembles South Carolina in climate, landscape, and rice production. This basketry uses a type of marsh grass known as bulrush to create beautiful and unique works of art. #3 See: Beautiful, one of a kind sweetgrass baskets, carefully hand-crafted over a period of many days, and each one completely unique unto itself. #4 Smell: The sweetgrass baskets and the traditional Gullah foods as we enjoy our Gullah Experience. #5 Taste: Enjoy a Gullah Soul Food Luncheon included from authentic traditional Gullah recipes and learn about the African influences on today’s foods.
  • Return to the hotel to refresh, then depart for dinner on own in Downtown Charleston. (B, L)
Day 5 -
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning and check-out.
  • Explore Boone Hall Plantation with a Gullah Culture Presentation and Gullah lunch. Boone Hall Plantation was founded in 1681 when Englishman Major John Boone came to Charleston. The family and descendants of Major Boone were influential in the history of South Carolina, the colonies, and the nation. In 1743, live oak trees were planted and arranged in two evenly spaced rows.
  • Tour Lady’s Island Oyster Farm where they grow the signature 'Single Lady' oysters in the beautiful Coosaw River using maricultural techniques.
  • Check in to your local Beaufort hotel.
  • Enjoy a presentation from a historical lecturer with a deep interest in preserving the Gullah Culture and ancestral heritage, and a member of the Beaufort History Museum Board of Directors.
  • Feast on an included dinner at the #1 spot for the best barbecue in the Lowcountry!
  • Return to your hotel for the evening. (B, L, D)
Day 6 -
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning.
  • Depart to catch the spirit of the Islands onboard open-air trolleys with fully unobstructed panoramic views. Smell the earthy marsh and salty tidal air, soak in the sunlight, and enjoy the fresh air breezes.
  • 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.
  • Experience an Eco-Dolphin Boat Cruise and navigate the waters through an estuary brimming with dolphin and other Lowcountry wildlife.
  • Dock and disembark for a classic Fish & Oyster Roast Festival this evening! (B, L, D)
Day 7 -
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning 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 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 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. (B, L, D)
Day 8 -
  • 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. In 1859, one of the largest slave sales in U.S. history took place outside of downtown Savannah. Remembered as "The Weeping Time," this historical event was appropriately named, not only for families torn apart during this time, but also for the heavy rain which occurred throughout the two-day auction.
  • Enjoy lunch on own and free time to explore in City Market.
  • Tour 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 & 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. (B)
Day 9 -
  • 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 your 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 Gullah 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 to enjoy a Farewell Supper on the banks of the Darien River, known for its elegant views of the Altamaha bio-reserve and the amazing sunsets. The local shrimp fleet docks right at their backdoor and provide an abundant supply of fresh locally caught Sweet Georgia Shrimp. (B, L, D)
  Day 10 -
  • Enjoy breakfast at the hotel this morning before checking out and departing for home with memories which will last a lifetime, and knowledge to share with a new generation. (B)
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 for a Sample Itinerary:            

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