By Kathie Farnell and Jack Purser
Visitors to Georgia golf mecca, Augusta, can steep themselves in historical elegance at the city’s Partridge Inn. Surrounded by magnolias, the Inn exudes graciousness combined with surprising cutting-edge cuisine at its Bambu restaurant. First built as a two-story private residence in the early 1800s, by 1900 The Partridge Inn was the gathering place for Southern society. The hotel grew through a series of renovations to the present six-story edifice which occupies an entire city block.
A million-dollar upgrade in 2001 completed its transformation to one of the South’s greatest historic hotels. The Inn was the first Georgia hotel to be selected for inclusion in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Historic Hotels of America collection. No two of the 156 rooms are alike; accommodations include full suites, some with kitchens, balconies, and in one case a patio. The rooftop Century Club, featuring sweeping views from its open-air deck, is open to guests every evening for cocktails and complimentary hors d’oeuvres.
The hotel’s second annual Best Chefs of the South culinary series, monthly dinners running through October, spotlights celebrity chefs from across the region. The Inn’s executive chef Philippe Chin, the world’s youngest French Master Chef, works closely with the visiting chefs to map out food and wine pairings for the elaborate four-course menus. The series winds up with the October appearance of Kelly Yambor of the award-winning Elizabeth on 37th in Savannah.
Chin, who came to the Inn in 2001 from Philadelphia, masterminded the hotel’s culinary renaissance, including the transformation of the property’s vintage Bamboo restaurant into the state-of-the-art Bambu on Hickman. The restaurant draws diners from as far away as Atlanta to sample Chin’s innovative fusion cuisine, which marries French technique to Asian spices.
Many visitors to Augusta come for the golf. The Masters Golf Tournament, at the Augusta National Golf Club, draws huge crowds each April, but golf is big business year-round. The latest LPGA tournament, the Asahi Ryokuken, is held each October at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club. The city is within easy driving distance of ten public or semi-private courses which allow nonmember play.
Augusta’s most recent outdoor attraction is the Augusta Canal Petersburg Boat Tours. The 65-foot-long electric boats, replicas of the Petersburg boats which used to carry nine tons of cargo from the Augusta mills, leave the downtown Enterprise Mill docks for one-hour narrated tours down the scenic and historic waterway. Tours glide past Augusta’s two remaining mills—at one time thirty-seven lined the canal banks—which now produce electricity as well as textiles. One of these, Sibley Mill, has the odd distinction of being built in a reasonable likeness of the British Houses of Parliament.
Enterprise Mill, home of the Augusta Canal Interpretive Center, provides a fascinating look at Augusta’s industrial past and the lives of its boatmen, millworkers and merchant class. Today more than 2000 acres on the banks of the canal have been designated a National Heritage Area, and are home to turtles, otters, alligators, and a variety of birds. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent, and a canal side tow path accommodates bikers and hikers. The 10th annual Head of the South Rowing Regatta will bring boating aficionados to the area in November.
Augusta’s “front porch”—the Riverwalk area—hosts a variety of festivals and events on the banks of the Savannah River. The Riverwalk’s brick paths provide access to the Riverwalk Marina, the Morris Museum of Art, and the National Science Center’s Fort Discovery. The Augusta Common, a park and festival venue, links the area with the shops and galleries of downtown’s revitalized Broad Street. Fall sees a number of special events here, including the 23rd annual Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival in September, and Oktoberfest, as well as the Hispanic Festival, in October.
For more information about Augusta:
www.augustaga.org or call 1-800-726-0243.
The Partridge Inn
2110 Walton Way
Augusta, Georgia 30904
Local: (706) 737-8888
Fax: (706) 731-0826
Sales and Reservations: (706) 262-1111
Augusta Canal Petersburg Boat Tours: www.augustacanal.com