One tank trip: Hostel in the Forest is a holistic getaway just minutes from Brunswick

Credit: Josephine Johnson / For Savannah Morning News

Credit: Josephine Johnson / For Savannah Morning News

Less than an hour and a half south of Savannah, Brunswick's Hostel in the Forest offers a unique way to experience nature and community. If you're wanting time away from deadlines and hustle, the hostel may be what you're looking for.

It’s definitely not the Hilton, glamping or even car camping. But for $40 a night you can stay in a screened-in tree house, explore trails, swim in or paddle on a spring-fed pond, and enjoy a nice vegetarian meal with guests.

Opened in summer 1975, Tom Dennard established the 133-acre wooded haven as a non-profit “which promotes and teaches environmental sustainability, while also serving as spiritual retreat and hostel for international and domestic travelers." It boasts nine tree houses, one dormitory and two geodesic dome common spaces. There’s room to be among people and ample space to enjoy solitude.

Credit: Josephine Johnson / For Savannah Morning News

In line with its sustainability mission, there’s an organic vegetable garden, a cutting-edge gray-water system, solar powered irrigation, and a worm box that composts table scraps into fertilizer. Also on site are composting toilets — the very same system that the National Parks Service uses. My favorite part, though, are the more than 30 free-range chickens and ducks running about during the day. Veggies from the garden and free-range eggs are part of most dinners at the hostel.

The weekend I visited, there was only one other guest and myself. For all intents and purposes, the place was mine to explore, swim, and work on writing in my tree house accommodation, The Nest. The sun shone brightly that weekend, warming everything about the late autumn afternoons and lighting up the pond’s translucent waters. Truly, it was nothing less than lovely.

At 6:30 p.m. the dinner bell rang, and I headed to the main geodesics to help with meal preparation. Two hostel staff, the other guest, and I worked together to make gluten-free veggie quiche and more delicious gluten-free goodies. After we set the table, we held a gratitude circle where we shared things we’re thankful for. During dinner, our conversations took unexpected turns for the deep, as we each learned more about each other.

Credit: Josephine Johnson / For Savannah Morning News

And though solitude and silent reflection are nice, necessary even, there’s an eloquent and brave kind of beauty in sharing a meal and opening up to people you don’t know — really, an authentic exercise in trust, respect and grace. And though not explicitly written in its mission statement, these values are surely inherent in every aim of the hostel’s 46-year endeavor.

After dinner, we again helped clean and tidy. And then, I went to the pond to watch the moon rise. The night was so brilliant and beautiful I didn’t need a headlamp to guide my way back to The Nest. Once there, I lit some candles and did more writing. When I finally snuggled into my sleeping bag, the night sounds had grown, cradling my thoughts and slowly lulling them to silence. In the forest, a lone Barred owl repeated its familiar question as I drifted to sleep.

Credit: Josephine Johnson / For Savannah Morning News

Currently, the hostel is operating at limited capacity, and all guests must be vaccinated with proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The Hostel in the Forest also offers weekend workshops for the community. Past ones have included creative writing, meditation and tai chi, as well as ritual and ecotherapy.

Every weekend, the hostel participates in “power down Sunday,” in which electricity is cut to a minimum and the nightly meal is cooked outdoors in the cobb oven or rocket stove. All guests are asked to pitch in and help with chores at some point during their stay and are welcome to help with larger work projects.

Learn more about Hostel in the Forest and schedule your visit at

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: One tank trip: Hostel in the Forest is a holistic getaway just minutes from Brunswick