If you’re looking to introduce some adventure into your tour, there is never a lack of options, especially as many resorts add zip-line routes and ropes courses. But along the coasts and mountain ranges of the Southern states, you can also find opportunities for guided interactions with nature that not only add fun and energy to your trip, but also teach your group to see the world around them differently, whether they are to find the edible foods the forest provides in the Blue Ridge Mountains or learning to appreciate the forces that give beaches their form on Georgia’s barrier islands.
Forage the Blue Ridge Mountains
Asheville, North Carolina
Though Asheville is morphing into one of the best-known craft food destinations in the South, when future forager and founder of No Taste Like Home Alan Muskat first chose the town, he had no idea he was moving to one of the country’s top natural food destinations.
“It seemed like happenstance,” he said. “Twenty years ago, a friend had a farmhouse that I literally paid $65 a month to live in, and though there was a lot of organic food going on, I didn’t know there was such a sheer diversity of wild foods. I only found out a few years ago that we’re in the best place in the continent and maybe even the world for diversity. It’s very striking.”
Muskat started eating from the land because it was free. But he has found over years of taking forest walks on his own that connection to the land that comes with foraging. “I realized there are ways to talk about spirituality through foraging, and that’s what I do now,” he said.
A standard tour takes about three hours in the forest and ends with a tasting of the products the group has foraged. Muskat also works with local restaurants to prepare the foraged goods for free as an appetizer before a meal. He can also cook food outside with the group or organize a competitive “Iron Chef”-style competition for larger groups.
The one thing Muskat can’t always promise on his tour is a specific location or specific type of plant.
“I decide where to go depending on the season because even in Asheville, I’m not sure where will be the best place until the last minute,” he said.
Sea Kayak Georgia’s Barrier Islands
Little Tybee Island, Georgia
Despite the name, Little Tybee Island is twice the size of Tybee Island, a popular beach vacation spot just a 20-minute drive from downtown Savannah. But what sets it apart is the atmosphere. While Tybee’s main street is a bustling row of ice cream shops, restaurants, bars and arcades, Little Tybee is uninhabited.
Though you can see it clearly from Tybee’s beach, Little Tybee is accessible only by boat, giving visitors a sense of what the coast would look like if humans had never set foot on it. The maze of island hammocks and barrier islands separated by creeks guarantees seclusion even if there is another group visiting.
“It’s really about the present,” said Sea Kayak Georgia co-founder Marsha Henson. “We’re teaching people to look at the tides and the present state of the marsh and the beach. Why are we seeing this animal now instead of in a different season? We’re looking at a picture of coastal Georgia right now, and we talk about beach migration — how the beach looks different in different seasons — and the wind.”
Because Little Tybee is so close to the launch site on Tybee Island, a three-hour program allows groups time to kayak to the island, tour by water, land on the beach and spend time exploring the shore before returning.
“We also offer four- and five-hour programs where they spend more time exploring, have a picnic lunch or spend the day doing an environmental program with us,” Henson said.
Sea Kayak Georgia also offers one-night to one-week combination kayak and camping programs. Tours can accommodate a maximum of 50 people at one time, though Henson recommends that large groups book as far in advance as possible.