Bonaventure Cemetery- A Must See Savannah Destination
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Savannah, Georgia is one of the most romantic southern cities in the United States. With its historic squares, interesting waterfront, cobblestone streets and expansive salt marshes, one probably does not expect a cemetery to be high on the list of “must see” sights in Savannah. The Bonaventure Cemetery, however, is one of the best treasures in all of Savannah and a “don’t miss” destination.
Bonaventure Cemetery is a 100 acre hauntingly beautiful burial ground for many of Savannah’s historic figures in a landscape filled with old live oak trees, 100’s of azalea bushes, and amazing statutes. Every bit of this cemetery is beautiful with the historic district being especially interesting. In this Bonaventure Cemetery- A Must See Savannah Destination post, I provide the information necessary to get the most out of a Bonaventure Cemetery visit including names of some important people buried in the cemetery, photos of some of the prettiest gravesites, links to a detailed map and tips for what to bring. I even throw in photo tips for you camera buffs.
Where is Bonaventure Cemetery?
Address: 330 Bonaventure Rd, Thunderbolt, GA 31404
Directions: The cemetery is about four miles from downtown Savannah depending on where you start by a small fishing community of Thunderbolt.
Bonaventure Cemetery – What You Need to Know
Hours and Days
What You Can Bring
Cameras, cell phones and water and food. Also pets on leashes are allowed.
Bonaventure General Information
Bonaventure Cemetery Contact No: 912-651-6843
About Bonaventure Cemetery
Prior to being a cemetery, the site was first settled in 1761 as two plantations belonging to the Mullryne and Tattnall families. It is believed that the beautiful live oak trees we see today were first planted during that time. By the mid 19th century, Josiah Tattnall was the only remaining original owner and subsequently sold the land to Savannah businessman Peter Wiltberger in 1846.
Wiltberger decided the beautiful lands were a perfect place for a cemetery and founded Evergreen Cemetery but never accomplished his goal of making it an actual cemetery. In fact it was not until 1869 that Evergreen Cemetery became a private cemetery. The City of Savannah purchased the cemetery in 1907 and renamed it Bonaventure Cemetery. To learn more about it’s history check out: Bonaventure Cemetery History.
Best Time to Visit Bonaventure Cemetery
The best time to visit Bonaventure Cemetery is from the first of March through Mid March when the azaleas bloom. This will be a memory that will last forever. For photographers like myself, there is no better time to capture the haunting beauty of this cemetery. If you can’t make it in early March, then consider visiting in the cooler months since the best way to see the cemetery is to walk it.
I do not recommend visiting in the hotter summer months as it will not only be hot and humid but also very buggy due to its location on a river. Here is a guide to average temperatures in Savannah to help you plan your visit.
Savannah, Georgia Average Temperatures
Best Way to See the Cemetery
Bonaventure Cemetery is so massive that it is easy to miss some famous gravesites and interesting history. To help you find your way I suggest purchasing this detailed map of Bonaventure Cemetery. It will save you a ton of time searching for certain gravesites as I know.
Even with a map, a guided tour is the best way to experience Bonaventure and I am saying this as a person who usually prefers to see things on my own. In fact, after encountering and eavesdropping on a tour group while wandering around, I quickly realized what I was missing by not being on a tour. I highly recommend Bonaventure Cemetery Guided Tour with Shannon Scott.
If you happen to be in town on the second weekend of each month, Bonaventure Historical Society offers a free guided tour. They also have a mobile app for purchase if you prefer to do a self guided tour: Bonaventure Historical Society Tours. I haven’t tried it so I can’t offer any opinions.
Sections of Bonaventure Cemetery
The cemetery is divided into sections including the historic section where it is believed that one of the original plantation homes once stood. The historical section is also where the older burial sites are located and where I would dedicate a lot of time.
Famous Burials in Bonaventure Cemetery
Bonaventure Great Photo Spots
Best Times of Day
Photographing Bonaventure Cemetery
The best time to capture the main iconic oak line cemetery road with azaleas is in the early morning. As to photographing the rest of the cemetery, it depends on where each grave is in relation to the sun. My suggestion is to photograph the main road (Bonaventure Rd) then capture as many locations as possible that have good morning light. Leave and visit other Savannah locations then return in the afternoon and spend time photographing gravesites with good afternoon light. Of course if you get lucky and have a beautiful filtered light day, you can photograph all day long. Bright sunny days are not a great time to photograph this cemetery.
Like countless other photographers, I was initially drawn to Bonaventure Cemetery to capture the haunting beauty of its gravesites which feature interesting headstones and statutes nestled under old live oak trees draped in moss. What I did not expect was to become some engrossed in the history of the cemetery. Please take time to put the camera aside and take in this cemetery’s history while there. I did not do this until my third visit and realized how much I had missed.
To photograph the azaleas and stately oak trees, a lens in the 28-70mm lens works very well. However, to be able to capture some of the statutes and headstones and not walk all over a gravesite, a longer telephoto lens in the 70-200mm lens is needed. Please respect that each gravesite is private property and stay on established paths.
What to Bring to Bonaventure Cemetery
Hat -Even under all the oak trees you will need to bring a hat for sun protection. This one is my favorite for locations such as Bonaventure: Columbia Unisex Fishing Hat
Comfortable walking shoes: The cemetery is best viewed by walking and I mean a lot of walking so be sure to wear comfortable and supportive shoes.
Water Bottle: One of my favorite water bottles to take everywhere is the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth w Straw.
Bug Spray- Seriously don’t leave home without it.
What Not to Bring or Do at Bonaventure Cemetery
Final Thoughts on Visiting Bonaventure Cemetery
Bonaventure Cemetery is one of the most interesting and unique places in all of Savannah. Not only is its location beautiful but the cemetery’s history and tales add an insight into Savannah that one will not find anywhere else.
I have visited this cemetery a number of times and continue to learn new things with every visit. When planning your Savannah, Georgia trip, please leave enough time in your schedule to tour this special place.
Please check out my Portfolio of Southern Life at: Southern Living to see images of Savannah and other close by locations.
Thanks for joining me on another Photo Road Trip adventure and stay tuned for upcoming posts about Fort Pulaski and downtown Savannah in the next few weeks.