Walking around Darien, Georgia is an immersive experience in coastal charm- Spanish moss hangs low over the local bed and breakfast, waves gently lap the boats parked along the docks, and massive, ancient structures loom proudly, baring their history. Locals, many of whom operate small businesses here in town, wave to one another and make plans to meet up at trivia later in the evening. Right in the middle of all this calm, there are signs of growth and expansion- development is underway for a multi-use marina and boutique hotel, new restaurants, retail space, and condominiums.
Dawn Malin, President and CEO of McIntosh County Industrial Development Authority, is excited about the new developments coming to Darien and is confident that the small-town, historical vibe will remain the cornerstone of the town's identity. Darien was founded in 1736 by Scottish Highlanders, making it the second oldest city in the state. Next to some of the oldest structures in town lies a stone slab that the locals say is there own portal to ancient Scotland (fans of the Outlander series appreciate the reference.) To celebrate their history, Darien holds an annual Scottish Days celebration.
A walking tour of downtown Darien will not disappoint. Stop in and see Dale (owner and chocolatier) for quirky, artisan chocolates at Sugar Marsh Cottage. Don't miss the Darien-inspired chocolate shrimp or the Richland Rum (another Georgia company) infused delights.
Waterfront Wine and Gourmet is another must-stop. This specialty wine shop features boutique wines, craft beers, local gourmet cheeses, and steaks, as well as locally made sauces, spices, and chocolates. Locals and visitors also gather here in the cozy bar area for game nights and live trivia contests. Co-owner Mike Greenway is pictured above with Dawn Malin.
Keep exploring and you'll find yourself at Turnip Greens Market, and you'd better hope you're not in a hurry. This retail country market sells fresh, seasonal Georgia produce as well as made-in-Georgia specialty edible products and gifts.
There's another coastal industry that many people - even Georgians - haven't heard of.
Wait for it...
JELLY BALLS. Jelly balls, also known as cannonball jellyfish, once known as a space-waster in fishermen's shrimp nets, have become a huge industry for the coastal region. Jelly balls are processed there and distributed to the food and pharmaceutical industries. In the right conditions, one boat can catch up to 150,000 jelly balls in one day.
Georgia Power Community and Economic Development Coastal Region Manager, Jason Coley is also looking forward to the new development and the increased interest in Darien as a travel destination. The Georgia Power engineering team pitched in by developing a digital rendering of what the marina will look like upon completion. "It's a great opportunity for the people and businesses of Darien. We're always happy when communities prosper, especially when they have so much to share. It's a beautiful place made strong by people who truly love their community."
To see more photos from Darien, view the full album here.