I See Georgia: Savannah-Day 3
The last full day of our trip found us headed East toward Tybee Island. It was a beautiful day, and what better way to enjoy it then with some sun and surf? An online search for rental opportunities had pointed us toward a surf and kayak shop on Lazaretto Creek. But first we needed a little sustenance, so we headed for Tybee’s most well-known eatery: The Crab Shack.
Since our last visit to Savannah, more than ten years ago, we’d regretted not trying the Crab Shack. Anytime the subject of Savannah or Tybee Island came up, someone would mention how much they enjoyed eating there. We’d heard it was one of the best places to get seafood in the area, now we would find out for ourselves.
We parked in the gravel lot and walked under the giant red crab which guards the entrance. We were seated outside on the patio, which offers great views of Chimney Creek and the marsh upon which the place is built. We ordered a Tybee Island Blonde beer (it doesn’t get more local than that!) and a pina colada and sipped our drinks while we waited for our food to arrive.
At a restaurant called the crab shack, it’s really a no-brainer when it comes to deciding what to have. We ordered the dungeness crab, and when it arrived, hot and steaming, we were immediately glad we did. The great thing about eating crab is that you have to work for it. Cracking the shell takes time, which forces you to eat slowly. Good thing, because wolfing down such a delicious meal too fast might have sent us into sensory overload.
Full and happy, we made the short drive to North Island Surf and Kayak. We’ll let Dena take it from here:
We bumped along a gravel driveway and passed dry-docked boats sitting way up high in racks. You could tell someone had made good use of something heavy-duty like a crane to get them up so high.
We parked in the midst of a small community; a kayak and surfboard rental shop, a place for boat storage, a restaurant and a bait shop. The kind gentleman at the bait shop only charged a dollar apiece for 16 oz. bottles of Dasani water. Old school awesomeness!
We walked into a brightly painted little sea shanty with an inviting front porch. The place was cozy. You could tell this was a family affair. Surfboards and paddle boards in a variety of colors and styles lined the walls in neat rows.
The woman we spoke to was new, but she was a darn good salesperson. By the time she was done with us, we had agreed to a kayak tour. What?! We never take tours! This tour, however, turned out to be a good decision on our part.
As always, we had to be different, so instead of renting kayaks we opted for stand-up paddle boards. Paddle boards are about 11 feet long and thirty-plus inches across. They are heavy and don’t tip over- as long as you know what you’re doing, that is. Which we didn’t.
As we were about to leave for the kayak trip, our tour guide Shane burst out and exclaimed: “Alright, alright, alriiiight!” like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed and Confused. Alright, indeed! It was going to be a good day.
The trip took us up Lazaretto Creek to Cockspur Beacon, a lighthouse on a tiny island completely encrusted with oysters. I was told to wear shoes, as these oysters would “cut you up!” They were indeed sharp, attached to the earth by their hinges and pointing straight up.
When it was time to leave Cockspur Beacon, I struggled to keep up with the kayakers. I’ve kayaked before, and paddle boards are a bit trickier; it’s a lot harder to maintain your balance and paddle while standing.
All of a sudden, I found myself falling into the water, sucking salty water up my nose and wondering how I was going to get back on my board. I was feeling pretty bummed out when, suddenly, a school of dolphins came leaping through the water right next to me. This was the closest I’d ever been to a dolphin, and the first time I’d ever seen them outside of captivity. I decided I wasn’t so bummed after all; in fact, I felt downright ecstatic. It’s almost as if the dolphins were checking up on me to make sure I was alright. “Alright, alright, alriiiight!”
As we were bringing up the rear, the other guides went on ahead with the kayakers and Shane hung back with me and Keith. Shane told me that he was a former history teacher who came out to Tybee and got into the kayak and board business so he wouldn’t have to be in such a hurry anymore. I also learned that he was a bagpipe player in a Keltic band.
I learned that you should use your stomach muscles to paddle rather than just your arms. Shane likened riding a paddle board to riding a horse; the horse knows which way to go, and the rider should go with the flow and move in tandem with the horse. I told him I used to ride horses until I discovered cars and realized how much I love to drive. We went on to talk about cars and motorcycles. He told me his wife would only drive a stick and preferred all-wheel drive, and I said I understood why… because off-roading and driving a manual transmission are fun!
Once the trip was over we were sad to leave. We thanked our hosts for the excellent adventure and hospitality. This whole experience made me want to move to Tybee Island. Did I mention it was destined to be a good day? Well, it was a good day; no doubt about it.
By the time we made it back to the car, we were exhausted. Paddle boarding is a workout! We went back to the hotel to catch our breath before heading to downtown Savannah to sample yet another must-try restaurant on our list: Vinnie Van Go-Go’s Pizza.
This New York style pizzeria was on every top 10 must-try list we came across while planning our trip, from Trip Advisor to Yelp to Urban Spoon. We parked beside Franklin Square and entered the City Market; a pedestrian friendly, four-block area teeming with restaurants, bars and shops.
There were quite a few people waiting for tables, so we put our name on the list. One of the great things about Savannah is the lack of an open container restriction, which allows pedestrians to walk around the historic district with drinks. We got beers from the bar inside the restaurant and checked out the area.
Once we were seated, we ordered a 14” pie with pepperoni, mushrooms and black olives. Vinnie’s pizza is thin crust, neapolitan style with plenty of sauce. When it arrived, we dug in. We’ve had good pizza from lots of places, but we’d put the one we had that night on Bryan Street high on the list.
After dinner, we put our leftovers in the car and headed for Reynolds Square, where we’d engage in that most Savannah of activities, a ghost tour. What would a trip to Savannah be without a ghost tour? With a reputation as “America’s most haunted city,” we simply had to try it.
Earlier in the day, we’d booked a walking tour with an outfit called Ghost Talk Ghost Walk, which promised to clue us in on many of Savannah’s hauntings and other strange phenomena. We arrived at the square and stood looking up at the statue of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, backlit against the night sky.
The tour began at The Olde Pink House, a Savannah landmark located on the edge of the square. Over the next 90 minutes, our guide took us from one location to another, filling us in on the various ghost stories and odd happenings from the city’s long history.
-At the Kehoe House B&B, he told us about the ghostly children who implore guests to “come play with me.”
-At Colonial Park Cemetery, we learned about Rene Rondolier, a seven foot tall behemoth who was lynched after being accused of killing two young girls in the cemetery and has haunted the area ever since.
-At the 17hundred90 Inn we were regaled with the tale of Anne, who threw herself out of a second story window and haunts room 204 to this day.
-At the Marshall House Hotel, we got chills while hearing about the structure’s past as a Civil War hospital, where guests have reported being harassed, bitten and choked by unseen forces.
At last we arrived back at the car, still looking over our shoulders for any of the spirits which inhabit the city. We returned to the hotel, tired but happy, and settled in. Sleep came quickly and was undisturbed. If any of the specters we’d heard about had followed us, we were completely unaware.
The next morning, it was time to prepare for the drive home. We’d had a wonderful few days in Savannah, but there was still one more place we had to see. We checked out of the hotel and headed East, passing through residential neighborhoods until we reached Bonaventure Cemetery.
Established in 1846, this 160-acre resting place achieved notoriety with the 1994 publication of John Berendt’s novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” The movie version, directed by Clint Eastwood, made it famous. We parked and took a walk along the paved driveways, stopping to check out tombstones and mausoleums.
Though there were many intriguing things about the cemetery, the most memorable part was the holocaust memorial. This area of the cemetery holds the remains of many Jewish people who died at the hands of the Nazis. It is a sobering reminder of how easily humankind can slip into genocide, when racial and national pride go too far.
Hot and tired after exploring the cemetery, we needed a rest stop, and one last chance to sample Savannah’s local cuisine, before heading home. We returned to the City Market, where we got a table at Belford’s Seafood and Steaks.
Belford’s, located in a historic two-story structure that was once a wholesale food company, is consistently ranked among Savannah’s best restaurants. We chose an indoor table to get out of the heat, and were seated in the main dining room.
Belford’s is a nice place, with a menu chock full of southern favorites. We ordered two of the house specialties, shrimp and grits and mac and cheese. When the food arrived, we found out why everyone from locals to visitors to celebrities frequent the place.
You can get shrimp and grits almost anywhere in the south; but only at Belford’s can you get shrimp with a smoked gouda grit cake, Applewood smoked bacon, collard greens, Chardonnay butter sauce, heirloom tomatoes, green onions and parmesan. Incredible! And the mac and cheese! Andouille sausage, peppers, onions, cilantro and three-cheese sauce. You could add chicken or shrimp, but why would you? Absolutely delicious!
After stuffing our faces one last time, we were forced to say goodbye to Savannah. We got into the car and headed West. Soon, we were on I-16, headed home.
The end of a vacation is always bittersweet. You’re happy to get home, but a little sad that the trip is over. That’s the great thing about our “I See Georgia” tour; the trip is never really over. There is always another destination lying just over the horizon, ready to be discovered.
That’s all for now. As always, thanks for reading. We always appreciate it! For more information about Savannah, visit the official Savannah tourism page at http://www.savannah.com/
Next time: We’ll head North for a visit to the sight of the first Gold Rush in the United States: Dahlonega
By Keith and Dena Maxwell