The view from the porch at Inlet 1790 cottage on Tybee Island.
The view from the porch at Inlet 1790 cottage on Tybee Island.

By Cathy H. Burroughs

It’s easy to fall in love with Tybee Island.

Off the southern coast of Georgia, just over the bridge from Savannah, beach combers have been falling in love with Tybee since the turn of the century. With its three-mile stretch of oceanfront, natural dunes, myriad cottages, bungalows, stunning beach hideaways and its own brand of relaxed allure, Tybee has provided a wonderful and popular getaway. By the 1990’s, the barrier island was nearly forgotten. Luckily, there were a handful of residents who saw Tybee’s potential and helped bring about the island’s near miraculous return.

Cottage Getaways

Two important guardians who contributed immeasurably to the island’s reemergence are  owner of Tybee Cottages, the gracious Jim Heflin  along with his fabulous team, and the gifted designer and creator of Tybee Chic, Jane Coslick. Coslick’s design panache combined with her foresight and hard work have saved dozens of some nearly lost cause cottages and put Tybee back on the map.

With her blend of original vintage, imaginative themes, color choices, and one of a kind finds, Coslick have brought new vitality and luster to  the once sleepy island. Voted the top interior designer by Savannah Magazine, Jane bought her first cottage in 1993 and began her campaign of conversions from drab (and sometimes derelict) to dazzling. For one memorable week, Jim generously provided a stay in two of his coveted properties: Tween Waters and Inlet 1790 with its own private beach, water frontage and what may be the island’s most astounding views.

Outside Tween Waters.

Mid-island Tween Waters is named for its idyllic neighborly spot hovering on the cusp of the open marshland waterway (seen over the back fence) and the sea. From the house you can easily walk or bike the six blocks or so to the beach, restaurants, boat launches or any number of coastal outlets. The place has charming curb appeal with its green shutters, cheetah spotted window boxes, trellis gate, white picket fence and overgrown English gardens. The winding bricked paths lead to an outdoor bar, private drive and plenty of sun and shade seating areas on every side of the house as well as an outdoor table, chairs and grill. For a relatively small cottage it is roomy and has a remarkable number of nooks and crannies. It sleeps up to six, is centrally air conditioned with four bedrooms (two queens, one with TV, one full and one twin) and 1.5 baths. The interior is by Jane Coslick, so you’ll find all her charming and shabby, coastal chic design throughout.

Then it was on to Inlet 1790, a sprawling waterfront villa with its own secluded beach and location. From the house’s exceptional screened porch and balcony we captured some of the island’s most extraordinary sunsets and sunrises and views of the Inlet Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean.The spacious, contemporary, airy and light~ filled house is immaculate and loaded with elegance. It comfortably sleeps up to eight with four bedrooms and four baths (one king, two queens and two twins); and there’s plenty of room for the entire family or a big group of friends inside and out with a two car garage and four parking spaces. Its open living area includes a fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher, bar with laundry room washer/dryer, ice maker, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, blender and all your dishes and utensils. You won’t feel out of touch unless you want to be with such conveniences as cable TV, wifi, CD players and DVD player.

A cool drink with a view from CoCo’s Sunset Grille. (Courtesy CoCo’s)

Good Eats on the Open Water

Just blocks away from the cottages is A-J’s Dockside Restaurant, which is hard to miss with its lines of multi-colored lanterns. We sat right on the dock just above the lapping water. If its fabulous seafood and margarita’s alfresco you’re after, don’t miss A-J’s. Another outdoor waterfront eatery, Coco’s Sunset Grille, is nestled in the marsh on the shores of the Lazaretto Creek. Sporting views of the river and marina from the large patio, you may also sit aloft as we did on its dramatic windy third level. We had shrimp tacos and other delectable treats, returning three times for their fabulous food and raucous game of trivia.

Both restaurants offer lunch and dinner, a children’s’ menu, homemade desserts as well as scrumptious fresh scallops, flounder, oysters, shrimp, gumbo, crab legs, seafood platters, crab cakes and specialties like blackened shrimp with grits, beer battered calamari, conch fritters, jambalaya, deviled crab and more.

Away from the open water, we had a blast enjoying the outdoor/ indoor seating at Huca Poo’s Bites and Booze. Its first rate pizzas (we had veggie and Mediterranean), salads, brews, happening vibe, hot jukebox and live music made for a fun night out.

Cool, fun finds at Seaside Sisters. (Courtesy Seaside Sisters)

Fish Finds/Vintage Cottage Décor

Right next door to Huca Poo’s are a cluster of shops worth exploring. You can’t miss Fish Art, with its massive outdoor sculpture garden of outlandish proportions made from found and discarded objects. Inside, you’ll find ingenious and quirky fish and mermaid treasures made by engaging artist/owner Douglas Jones. Don’t miss the clandestine backroom for neon and collectibles.

Across the way is Seaside Sisters. Their array of vintage items is ideal for bungalow coffee tables and provides that retro je ne sais quoi that makes the perfect gift for you, a friend or family member. I found a set of 50’s striped and polka dotted juice glasses with accompanying pitcher that I couldn’t live without.

Tybee’s Wild Side

Yes there’s lots of night life on Tybee and neighboring Savannah, but that’s not what we had in mind this trip. We’re thinking Tybee’s natural wonderland.

Our first outing was Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure. For about 90 minutes through the mist and setting sun, we sought and found a plethora of dolphins. They came in packs, in families and solo, dashing, promenading and doing vertical swirls as the boat raced. When it slowed to a snail’s pace they came in for more intimate bonding. Definitely a deal at $15 a head and $8 for kids.

Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventures.

Later, we tried the Kayaking Adventure of Sea Kayak Georgia. We did a beginning level, but there are advanced level kayak, rolling surf, paddle board and canoes trips also available for the asking.

Our favorite was the customized Sundial Fishing and Nature Tours, which offered an immersion into maritime history and ecology. We relished the many dolphins in wild sightings, beach combing, salt marshes, birding and shell and fossil hunting.

Another great way to see Tybee is by bike. We rented from Tim’s Bike and Beach Gear, which delivers the necessary bikes and gear right to your front door. It was fun to peddle around Tybee’s looping coastal water ways and quiet neighborhoods.

Cathy H. Burroughs’ travel pieces have been commissioned by The Washington Post and People Magazine and appeared in The Washington Times, The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Magazine, The Columbia Flier and The Baltimore Chronicle. She is the adventure and travel blogger for journeyPod, an online luxury travel site.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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