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Tybee Island; Hidden Luxury in a Sleepy Coastal Town.

 

Situated just a short drive from historic downtown Savannah lies the slow paced beachside community of Tybee Island. As the northernmost point in the line of thirteen barrier islands along the Georgia coast, Tybee is located between the resort communities of Hilton Head Island, S.C. and St. Simons Island, Ga., but don’t be fooled by its quaint setting in comparison. Tybee Island offers something for everyone, whether you are looking for a cozy beach ‘shack’ to lay your head after a day of fishing on the pier or a luxurious vacation rental for the discriminating visitor, who would rather splash among the ocean waves than flash bling along the main strip.

 

On a recent weekend getaway to Tybee for research on this article, I decided to combine the best of both worlds and cover the upper end offerings of the island as well as the casual. The folks at Dan Vaden Cadillac in Savannah were generous enough to offer a brand new 2013 Cadillac XTS for my personal use, so maybe I did have a little bling when I pulled into town, but only of the utmost tasteful and elegant kind. The seamless integration system, referred to as CUE, did everything but drive the car to my destinations for me. Definitely not your grandmother’s Cadillac, but it could no doubt get her to where she was going with little effort on her part. That ride would fit in almost anywhere and made an enjoyable visit even more so.

 

If you plan your stay on Tybee for more than a day, and you want more of a private experience than a hotel might offer, definitely peruse the extensive rentals listed with Oceanfront Cottage Rentals. Don’t let the charming name fool you; some of these properties are on the modern scale of the same summer ‘cottages’ that were favored by the wealthy elite of the early twentieth century. Oceanfront Cottages has island rentals suitable for most any wallet, whether you need a plethora of bunk beds for all those last minute guests or an in-house screening room for your viewing pleasure.

 

2watersideStacye Jarrell, the charming owner of Oceanfront Cottage Rentals, couldn’t wait to show me some of her prime rentals, and offered up a couple of availabilities from which I was allowed to choose. It was like trying to decide between filet mignon or lobster (“Yes garcon, I’ll take both, please.”). The first property, 2 Waterside Walk, was located on the north end of the island, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Savannah River. Actress Sandra Bullock purchased a home in this area in 2001, so these digs weren’t too shabby.


      


Featuring three stories and an elevator, this home had living space on the ground level with a private entrance. The second floor was the main living area, boasting an aforementioned movie theatre, deck space with a pool, and deep water access via a gated dock. The master bedroom, located on the third floor, had walls made of windows that opened up and a granite bath featuring a jacuzzi with river views. No doubt impressive, the thought crossed my mind that I might feel like a marble rattling around in all that luxurious spaciousness, so we moved on…

 

HeavenSituated just a block from the beach, the second property at #4 Second Avenue was more in keeping with a traditional beach house, but on steroids. Three stories counting the pool/game room, this home also had an elevator. It was perfectly appointed with nautical motifs and could easily sleep several vacationers. The back lawn held a swimming pool and waterfall, with a hot tub under the covered patio. The open kitchen provided cozy seating space, should I make any friends that I felt compelled to cook for during my short stay. A great element on the second floor was an ocean-facing windowed porch with hardwood floors, ideal for a house party and dancing or quiet time in the morning over coffee on the lounge. With beach access being the decisive factor, I chose this rambling abode to put down my bags and set off to explore the island.

   

tybee social club 2This relaxed beachside setting offers up a wide variety of restaurants and eateries, and one of the most favored is Tybee Island Social Club. The name might conjure up notions of dress codes and VIP guest lists, but this popular hotspot is more laid back and inviting. Renowned primarily for designer tacos in pita bread, the reasonably priced menu items taste spectacular without ostentatious presentation. There is often live music, and the unassuming décor set around the white frame bungalow is perfect for dining alfresco, with tiki torches dancing in the off shore breezes. Hardly the kind of place to make you think of investments or stock dividends, ‘Social’ has even managed to garner a glowing blurb in The Wall Street Journal.

 

IMG 2239Locals chuckle at quirky eccentricities, so while on your visit make like a native and look for the triple-story restaurant facing the ocean, Fannie’s on the Beach. The cavernous building with ample porch room looks like it was plucked from the New England shore and deposited down South for our pleasure. You will find a fun variety of diners and merry-makers at Fannie’s, and when coupled with the tasty fare, the atmosphere makes for a memorable experience of eating, drinking and people watching. Live music is featured on the weekends to appeal to the funky crowd. Fannie’s is open everyday at 11:00a.m. and the staff will make sure to remind you to have a Bloody Mary or two.

marlin monroesIf you are of the unique class of visitor who appreciates great food and drink, and you have never seen a swordfish in an upswept halter dress, then Marlin Monroe’s Surfside Grill, located next to Beachside Colony is a must. The clever play on words combining the queen of blonde bombshells with a sailfish sets the tone for this laid back and unique restaurant. Set directly on the beach with an outdoor bar and an unobscured view of the ocean, Marlin Monroe’s offers a casual mood with a splendid view, just like the screen goddess herself.

cocos tybee
No trip to Tybee would be complete without a visit to CoCo’s Sunset Grille, set on the bank of Lazaretto Creek. Facing westward, the restaurant and dock are the perfect vantage points to watch the sun settle on the horizon, with a cocktail in hand and appetizers on the table. CoCo’s specializes in seafood, but there is ample landlubber fare on the menu. Check out their live sunset webcam when planning your trip, or to relive your experience once you’ve returned back to the daily grind.

 

Once my mission of exploring the magic of Tybee was complete, I headed off of the island back toward Savannah in my borrowed finery, grateful for the experience but sorry that my ‘research’ had come to an end. I knew that I’d be back, savoring the bit of ‘Tybee time’ that I was taking with me, along with a little bit of sand between my toes…

 

 Tybee Island's Most Recent Accolades:

       #1 Healthiest Beach in America - Health Magazine

       “Perfect Little Beach Town: The All-American Hamlet” – Southern Living

       “Best Family Beaches on the East Coast” - Fodor’s

       “Best Beaches for Families” – Parents Magazine

       Top 10 Vacation Rental Hotspots for 2010 - TripAdvisor

       Top 10 City Beaches in America - AOL

       “Readers' Choice Best Beach” - Georgia Magazine

       “Best One Tank Trip” - Atlanta Journal Constitution

       “Best Beach Retreat” - Creative Loafing Atlanta

       Bicycle Friendly Community – League of American Bicyclists

       Best Day Trip and Most Fun Place to Take the Kids – Savannah Magazine