My first indelible memories of visiting Savannah Beach included a long ride over several bridges and through miles of marshland. Though it couldn’t have been more than 20 miles from Savannah via U.S. Highway 80 to Tybee Island, the long ride down the palm-lined, two-lane road in the old ’48 Nash coupe seemed to take forever. Nevertheless, I was less than 10 years old then, and the excitement of seeing a real beach for the first time had my heart pumping wildly.
Tybee Island was a magical fairyland for a youngster, and as I grew older, I often found it to be a very romantic place to enjoy with special ladies that caught my eye. Despite hurricanes, progress, and the changing tides, Tybee is still a great place to enjoy a romantic rendezvous with that special someone.
Though much smaller, Tybee is almost as unique and diverse as Key West. The six miles of beaches are great for walking and shelling, and the one thing that makes Tybee so different from other islands and beach resorts is that people actually live there throughout the year.
In the language of the early Georgia Indians, Tybee is the word for salt. Also, the island is often called “Tacky Tybee”, which local residents hope will keep the resort crowd out. Actually, the storefronts, streets, and island cottages haven’t changed much from Tybee’s glory years as a popular resort in the 1920’s and 30’s. It’s that feeling of time standing still that is so relaxing, and to receive the full sensation, nothing could be better than a stay at the Savannah Beach Inn (912-786-8776 or toll-free at 800-844-1398)!
This gorgeous structure is one of nine elegant homes on the National Register that were built along the “Officers’ Row” section of old Fort Screven. This is a classic Victorian design that still has five working fireplaces, ornate tin ceilings, grand sitting and dining rooms, and real maple floors. Antique furnishings are seen throughout the inn, and recently renovated guest bedrooms and suites offer ocean or lighthouse views. A mouth-watering breakfast can be served in the dining room, on the large wraparound porch, or in the spacious kitchen at the turn-of-the-century lunch counter.
Hunter House RestaurantAnn Last is a gracious innkeeper who often does most of the cooking, and can direct guests to the best venues and restaurants on Tybee. For me, however, no better or more romantic place can match the Hunter House on the south end of the island. The owner, John Hunter, is a handsome gentleman who followed a lovely lady to Tybee Island many years ago. He immediately fell in love with the laid-back atmosphere and decided to stay for awhile. That was almost twenty years ago, and he and his Lady are still there.
“I grew up in Florida, and Tybee reminded me of many of the beach towns there before all the commercialization occurred,” said Hunter. “Possibly because it only has one road in and out and doesn’t have enough room for a golf course could be why Tybee has remained much the same.”
Hunter found a 1910, three-story building that was being used as a residence for shrimpers, bikers, and artists, and bought it. Though the old building was in a state of disrepair, he envisioned the restoration that eventually brought the old structure back to the elegance of the time it was built. Though the Hunter House is often referred to as a bed and breakfast, it is actually the best restaurant on the small island. Besides the great food, the atmosphere is romantic and the servers are both efficient and friendly. Also, each guest is always greeted personally by John Hunter at some point during the meal, which only adds to the elegant experience of eating at the Hunter House.
After a meal, one can move to the tiny bar for a nightcap, or simply sit outside in one of the rocking chairs on the wraparound porch and enjoy the ocean breezes. Just a visit to Tybee Island is a unique experience, but a meal at the Hunter House can make it unforgettable!
The Hunter House is located at 1701 Butler Avenue on Tybee Island, and reservations are highly recommended. For further information or reservations at the Hunter House, call: (912) 786-7515.
Any visit to Tybee would be incomplete without a spin out on the water with a knowledgeable, local guide, and Captain “Harv” is just the man for the job. Captain Harvey Ferrelle has been boating on the waterways of Savannah, Tybee, and Hilton Head for more than 50 years. In fact, Harv and I went to the same elementary school in Savannah more than 50 years ago, and it was fun to share stories about the waters around Tybee, especially those of Pelican Island. To locals, this phantom strip of sand that appears and then disappears with each tide has a bad side. Because of swirling tides that pass around it when exposed, Pelican Island has a history of being nasty. The swiftness of the incoming tide forms fast currents that cut in behind those who stay too long shelling or fishing, which has earned it a reputation as a killer, but I’ll leave those stories for Captain Harv!
Though Captain Harvey doesn’t take people fishing, he does take folks crabbing, touring, and picnicking. He will personalize a trip to any part of the area including the Intercoastal, the ocean, sounds, rivers, and even small creeks. He has scenic trips to downtown Savannah, Hilton Head, Little Tybee Island, and even the historic, black community at Daufuskie Island in South Carolina. He can be contacted at 912-786-0215 or 912-659-7777 for an exciting adventure on the water!
Tybee is much more than a beach. Its history includes two and a half centuries of settlement. The island has been home to pirates, fishermen, beachcombers, and soldiers. It was a battleground of the Revolutionary War and a site of War Between the States conflicts. One of its lighthouses, built in 1736, was the first erected on the South Atlantic shore, but it has another famous lighthouse on tiny Cockspur Island at the mouth of the Savannah River. Despite being called “tacky” at times, Tybee Island has lots to offer, and some real class in its people, history, and interesting opportunities!