Tybee Time

A stunnning ocean viewIt’s hard to say exactly what makes a getaway memorable and magical. A recent stay on Tybee Island on the coast of Georgia was both for many reasons. The weather was perfect sunny, warm, and breezy.

We stayed in a lovely house over looking the sea. Sandra Bullock is rumored to own several houses, just down the beach. No Tybee native would think to bother her or confirm of she is on or off the island. I can see why she chose the location as a hideaway. It is stunning and peaceful.
The beach is open to the public, but the long walk ensures the area where we stayed was private and serene. Our deck overlooked the sea and a riot of fragrant beach roses. At breakfast we watched dolphins frolic in pairs, as if auditioning for a remake of Flipper. No Disney film could have competed with their antics.
We watched the dolphin "show" from our deck each morning The weekend was a treat; from laid back Tybee with its fabulous beach houses to hitting the fun and funky shops and local eateries. It was a delight to be able to feast on fresh crab, shrimp, and oysters. As a native New Englander and dedicated foodie, I never get enough of delicious fresh seafood – so I was in heaven. Tybee is nowhere near the Gulf of Mexico, so fresh local seafood is plentiful on the island despite the oil spill. Island dining is casual but tasty. We ate the most amazing fried green tomato BLT’s at Sundae Café. It’s a deceptively simple looking restaurant on Tybee’s main drag. Toasted whole grain The pelicansbread, crispy fried green tomatoes, and thick cut apple-smoked bacon made these sandwiches to die for. I had a rich, delicious, creamy crab soup at MacElwee’s, a local seafood place. And we also tried the Santiago’s Mexicali Cantina and Grill. The food was a surprisingly tasty Tex-Mex. The atmosphere was fun and beachy. A special request for Chicken Molé was produced without a murmur. It was declared it a success, especially the fresh vegetable mélange that came on the side. I really enjoyed the cheesy Chile Releno.
Horse carriage in SavannahSavannah is a food and culture mecca. It’s just 20 minutes over the bridge and down the Island Expressway. The small city is an architectural jewel well worth seeing for its charm and beauty. It is the location was made famous by the popular novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – called “the book” in Savannah. One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways for a newcomer to see the city is on a Trolley Tour. One of their well-informed drivers will impart a painless and amusing history lesson. 
I recommend skipping well-known tourist spots when it is time to eat. Savannah has a host of tasty ethnic and regional restaurants. But Savannah also has world class gourmet restaurants. Two of my favourites are Elizabeth on 37th which features fresh regional American cooking, and Il Pasticcio with delicious Northern Italian cuisine. Both have elegant decor, fresh food, and attentive service. An evening at either restaurant will be a but pricy, but foodies will relish every bite. Quaffers won’t want to miss the popular Moon River Brewing Company.
TybeeIsland and Savannah are a unique vacation destination with fabulous history and dining. There are also all the usual family attractions of go-carts, boat trips, jet skis, and such. Golf in the area is easily arranged.
The real draw of Tybee is the stunning natural beauty of the island and the privacy – for those who want it. The proximity to Savannah, with its variety of restaurants, galleries, and other attractions makes it irresistible.
If I’ve tempted you, contact Stacye Jarrell. She is an invaluable island resource. I can’t wait to go back, and hope to this fall, my favourite time at the beach.
Stacye Jarrell info@oceanfrontcottage.com 
Sundae Café At Tybee www.sundaecafeattybee.com   
MacElwees www.macelweesontybees.com   
Elizabeth on 37th     http://www.elizabethon37th.net/
Blue Moon River Brewing Company www.bluemoonriverbrewing.com

The lighthouse


Tybee Island and the sweet life

The knack of living a sweet life is to stay with in your budget, but never feel deprived. For too many people, economizing is about having to give up the things they love. I say try finding new things you can love. any of us will be looking for new things to do close to home this summer. Renting vacation homes or condos so that we can cook some of the time may be appealing. It can also be fun in areas where there is lush local produce and fresh seafood. 

My husband and I once rented a villa in Sicily. I knew I would not be able to resist cooking there, so a kitchen was essential. We dined out of course at the fabulous restaurants — we adore Sicilian food and wine — but it was incredible to cook there with baby clams straight from the sea and fabulous fresh Italian vegetables and pasta.
On a different note, I recently paid a visit to Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia. It is also just across the bridge from beautiful and historic Savannah. I was reminded of my Sicily trip, as my friend and I stayed in lovely large house just a stroll from the beach. It had a magnificent view of the sea from the top deck that would have been perfect for cocktails had we had more time to linger. We also had a fabulous kitchen which would have been perfect for cooking up feasts of the island’s fresh seafood! The houses on Tybee are fairly close together, as they usually are on very small islands, but the atmosphere was friendly and peaceful.
Tybee has a small bustling centre and there is a large beachfront pier. The honky-tonk and mid-way stuff on the island is kept to a minimum, with a few local and hangouts. If there wasn’t any of that stuff, the kids and young people would be disappointed. And actually a couple of the pubs seem to attract a middle-age to oldies crowd. It was very tame.
There is plenty to do for such a small island. It’s good fit for nature lovers and campers. There is a large bird sanctuary there which makes it a birdwatcher’s paradise. Little Tybee island is a nature preserve that is only accessible by rowboat, kayak, and by some charters. Camping is permitted.
Sports people can rejoice in the nearby river, deep-sea fishing, and crabbing. Water babies can enjoy kayaking, surfing, kiteboarding, and parasailing. Terminally-active dry-landers can golf, hike, walk, and jog.
The island also has two dog parks, so if you like to vacation with your pet, it’s definitely fido-friendly.
For history buffs there is the TybeeMuseumand Lighthouse (one of three in the area)as well as historic Savannah. I adore Savannah. It deserves its designation as one America’s most beautiful cities. It has many attractions and would definitely be worth an afternoon or two touring there. It is just over the bridge and about a 20-minute drive.
For my friend the highlight of our short trip was the dolphin boat. We went out with Captain Mike’s Dolphin Adventure. I have been on these types of tours all over the world and this one was quite good. The guide was knowledgeable and friendly, the boat clean and safe.
The best surprise was the food. While Savannah is a well-known foodie haven, I had no idea of what to expect from Tybee. Often island food is dodgy. The so-called better restaurants can be pricey and pretentious with hit-or-miss menus. Some of the casual beachfront food we tried was mediocre and aimed at kids or the pub crowd. But most of we ate on the island was delicious and very reasonably priced.
At MacElwee’s Seafood House I had a dozen succulent fresh local oysters. My companion had a pasta dish with scallops that earned raves. We shared an appetizer of blackened tuna bites that were so moist and flavorful we ate them up in minutes. The service was warm and friendly. The family restaurant is casual and welcoming. We both loved it and would be regulars if we lived there.
We had a quick and casual lunch at Café Loco on the docks. They have fun fare. We munched on a selection of appetizers that included some nice fresh tuna, stuffed mushrooms, and buffalo shrimp. The fish club sandwiches looked great, but we were too full to try one. The place is a friendly local hangout. It is also right on the dock for the dolphin ride and the kayak rental.
The most elegant meal we had was at the Eleven06 Restaurant & Wine Bar. This hip, but relaxed bistro would be at home in any good food city. Our charming host Vinnie served a selection of small plates. My friend’s favourite was a take on a Southern classic: grilled shrimp wrapped in proscuitto served on a bed of cheese sauced grits. I found it difficult to choose a favourite as each course was so well matched to the choice of wine. The wine selection is excellent, offering wonderful choice at a variety of prices. The ambience at Eleven 06 hits just the right note for fine dining at a beach resort. It’s elegant, fun, delicious — not pretentious and annoying.
Tybee does not have much shopping. But it does have a few clever and diverting shops. We loved Seaside Sisters, a potpourri of fashion, knickknacks, home goods, and accessories. All of it was fun, original, and dangerously tempting! I could easily do much of my holiday shopping there.
Tybee Island isn’t stuffy or posh, but it’s fun with lots to offer if you are looking to have a relaxed good time. You can find any type of accommodations, from beautifully-appointed seaside homes to causal beach condos.
Tybee is 45 minutes from the Savannah-Hilton Head Airport. It’s an easy four-hour drive from Atlanta. Airfares are down making it very accessible from much of the east coast. The prices are reasonable and the living is easy on Tybee Island.
Photographs: Angela D’Amario
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