Savannah, GA, has long been a desirable destination for Southern vacationers. “The Hostess City of the South” is rich in charm and history and fabulous shopping and dining. Given its close proximity to so many other wonderful Southern destinations, Savannah also makes an ideal home base for entertaining day trips around the region. If you’re heading to Savannah, here are some ideal ways to while away your lazy days in both Savannah and the surrounding areas.
HOME BASE: SAVANNAH
Savannah is known for its historic squares, fantastic restaurants and ancient cobblestone streets that run along the picturesque waterfront. A smart move to avoid the throngs of tourists visiting the shops of River Street is to actually stay on the other side of the Savannah River on Hutchinson Island. The dramatic twin towers of theloom over the river offering up a fantastic view of the historic district from their comfortable rooms, many of which feature balconies. Enjoy the spa, play 18 holes of golf on their championship course or just hang out by their expansive pool deck and cocktail lounge. The resort is just steps away from the dock where frequent ferries run guests on a short trip over to the mainland. This free commute is actually an entertaining added attraction instead of having to pay for a boat tour to view the city from the water.
Dining options in Savannah are outstanding, with two newer establishments frequently showing up on national “best of” lists. The latest incarnation of is actually the fourth version of the restaurant, joining Charleston, Nashville and Greenville, SC, as cities fortunate enough to have easy access to chef Sean Brock’s inventive and meticulous homages to Southern culinary traditions. The largest of the quartet of restaurants, Husk Savannah resides in a converted 19th century mansion that is reputed to be extremely haunted. The highlight of the building is probably the room that holds the raw bar and cocktail bar. Formerly the ballroom of an Elks Lodge, this comfortable dining and drinking area features high ceilings and dramatic murals painted on the walls. While the smaller dining rooms are attractive and tastefully decorated, the bar is definitely the best spot to see and be seen at Husk.
Another novel repurposing of an older building is, where Chef Mashama Bailey is really making waves for her innovative approach to modern Southern cuisine. The restaurant takes its name and much of the lovely decor from the fact that the building was once a 1938 art deco Greyhound Bus Terminal. Owing to Savannah’s proximity to the ocean, The Grey focuses on seafood and shellfish prepared with deep layers of soulful flavors.
The menu at The Grey is arranged around smaller shareable plates and organized into sections labeled “Pantry,” “Water,” “Pasture” and “Dirt.” Order a few dishes from each category for a fantastic trip through Bailey’s amazing culinary genius. Oh, and get some oysters. Lots of oysters! A splash of the house mignonette from the precious little eyedropper that accompanies a cold dozen is the perfect accent to oyster selections from around the country that vary nightly.
DAY TRIP: TYBEE ISLAND
While there isn’t a great beach area in town, you’re just a quick half hour drive from Tybee Island, one of the South’s favorite oceanfront towns. While parking can be a bit of a bear when the crowds descend on downtown, just bring a roll of quarters and plan to walk a few blocks to enjoy the wide beaches of Tybee and lots of fun restaurants and bars situated around the cozy downtown.
A popular stop as soon as you cross onto Tybee is, a kitschy fish camp located off a side road from the main highway around the island. Park in the large gravel parking lot and put your name on the waitlist for the chance to be seated in multiple indoor or outdoor seating areas. Don’t sweat the wait, because there’s a pond full of alligators to entertain you, and kids can even feed the gators using cane poles to stay a safe distance away. Once you’re seated, order a prototypical Low Country Boil with potatoes, corn and spicy sausage along with peel-and-eat shrimp, or go big with one of their sampler platters, which add mussels and crabs to the pot.
Closer to the main pier are other fun dining options likel and , or you can actually buy a boozy rum drink or a frozen margarita along with food from vendors in the covered food court of the pier closest to the beach. Take your drink in a to-go cup and stroll among the beach people for some fantastic people watching.
DAY TRIP: BLUFFTON, SC
Less than an hour by car northeast from Savannah is another enjoyable laid-back community, this one exemplifying the heart of Lowcountry river town living. Bluffton, SC, is situated along the May River, which separates it from Hilton Head. This charming and hospitable town depends on the river for much of its livelihood, from seafood markets to oyster farms to one particularly excellent restaurant in the heart of downtown.
is the home of Chef Brandon Carter, a highly talented culinarian who partners with local farmers to create a menu of small plates that showcase the amazing produce and seafood of the region. A meal at his tiny 45-seat restaurant is meant to be interactive and shared with your fellow tablemates. Servers know the stories behind every ingredient on the plate, and even the inventive cocktail menu depends on local ingredients in many of their drinks.
For the ultimate in interactivity, though, book a seat at the small chef’s bar with a full view into the kitchen. Chef Carter will prepare and present your plates right in front of you, and he’s a very pleasant conversationalist, especially for a guy who is working that hard!
The streets of Bluffton (there are only a few of them) are lined with boutiques selling offerings from local artists and fun Lowcountry souvenirs. There are also a couple of small craft breweries around town, including which shares a space with a great burger joint called . A large patio in back of the brewery/restaurant is a favorite local gathering spot to enjoy one of Salt Marsh’s beers and live music from a small stage.
On the way out of town is a local institution called, a no-frills diner with fantastic breakfasts and a very respectable burger. There is also an unexpected selection of classic Greek specialty dishes that deserve your attention.
DAY TRIP: PALMETTO BLUFF
The next town over from Bluffton is the decidedly more upscale community of. Situated among thousands of acres of wild forest, Palmetto Bluff is divided into various neighborhoods of luxury homes with all sorts of amenities like pools, a bowling alley, outdoors outfitters, galleries and a gourmet food shop.
While many of the homes are for permanent residents, houses can also be rented for the short term or guests can avail themselves of the accommodations at the. This luxurious inn features a lovely outdoor patio/pool area where chefs roast oysters each afternoon as a complimentary happy hour snack plus multiple other . The cozy Octagon Bar is indeed eight-sided and features excellent drinks plus a menu of steaks and seafood.
The main gathering spot at Palmetto Bluff runs along the May River with access to water activities like paddleboarding, canoeing, fishing charters and excursion trips on the resort’s own 1913 60-foot antique motor yacht, “Grace.” Guests ride bikes or golf carts around the property, visiting multiple tree houses tucked back in the forest, tennis and croquet clubs or just piddling about the miles of trails that wind through the forest. For a combination of rustic beauty and luxurious hospitality, Palmetto Bluff is tough to beat. Evenings at Montage usually end up around fire pits where all the makings for s’mores are set out for a tasty dessert treat. If you go to bed hungry at Palmetto Bluff, it’s your own fault!
Make the most of your vacation at any of these appealing day trips that are just a short drive from Savannah! Happy travels!
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