The Old South

Savannah and the Islands
By Emily Matchar
Tybee Island sand dunes and fence
A DIFFERENT KIND OF SNOW: The sandlands of Tybee Island. (courtesy, Savannah Area CVB)

Savannah, Georgia, once one of the United States' most important ports, is like Charleston on a smaller scale. The country's first planned city, it's a dense grid of historic churches, row houses, and old government buildings that date back to the city's days as the state capital. Historic River Street, with renovated cotton mills turned upscale malls, and the City Market, an 18th-century farmer's market filled with boutiques and cafes, are good bets for lunch and a chance to taste traditional Southern sweets like divinity and penuche fudge at a number of local candy shops.

The book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, based on a real-life murder in the Savannah arts community, were boons to the local tourism industry. Even now, more than ten years after the film came out, a handful of companies offer "Midnight" tours of places mentioned in the book, most notably the historic Bonaventure Cemetery. Skip the tour, but do make the pilgrimage to the eerie cemetery, where sunlight filters through the gnarled oaks to cast shadows on mossy angels and ornate mausoleums. The famous Bird Girl sculpture from the book cover is now housed in the worthy Telfair Museum of Art.

Less than 20 miles east of the city, Tybee Island is Savannah's beach getaway of choice. Island hotels and bed and breakfasts, always moderately priced, drop nearly 50 percent during the shoulder season. While the ocean is too cold to swim during the fall and winter, the weather's great for strolling the wide white beaches or crabbing off the rocky jetties (chicken necks make the best bait). Or you could let the crabs come to you at the convivial Crab Shack, which keeps its Jimmy Buffet vibe alive all through the winter.

An hour north, Hilton Head is the most proper of Southern golf and tennis resorts, popular with banker types and well-heeled retirees. The 12-mile-long barrier island has dozens of courses, most of them tucked into upscale private residential communities. Accommodations are mainly of the upscale chain-resort variety, some offering excellent fall and winter specials. The posh Westin Hilton Head has a mid-November-through-March discount that drops prices to motel levels. Pop your collar, stick a cigar in your mouth, and tee off like a good ole' boy, and we're sure you'll have a fine time.

Just south of Hilton Head, Daufuskie Island was once home to a sizeable population of Gullah people, the descendants of West African slaves who inhabited the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia, retaining much of their original culture and language. Live Oac offers boat tours to historic island sites, including a visit to the old lighthouse and dinner at a local Lowcountry restaurant.


Published: 24 Dec 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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