Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tybee Island

Katy and I clash when it comes to the criteria for an ideal vacation. She likes pure, white sandy beaches and a lot of downtime to enjoy them. And once you've gotten good and baked in the sun, you go inside, get cleaned up and head out for a fancy, delicious dinner. To her, this is a natural progression.

I enjoy the beach well enough, at least the relaxation part of it. If I have a good book, plenty of sunscreen and sunglasses, I can wait it out. But I hate sand with a passion. I always try futilely to keep it from invading the cracks between my toes. And even though I'm lazy at times, I get bored with too much inactivity.

Somehow for our honeymoon last year, I was able to rope Katy into heading to Arizona, which - at least in the southern part - is basically like a beach without water. It's devastatingly hot, and when you're out walking and driving around, you can't just take a quick dip to cool off. She was a good sport, and I think the fact that our resort had a nice pool went a long way in helping her forget her beachy dreams.

But for this year's trip we found an even happier medium. Savannah's marketing people call Tybee Island "Savannah's Beach." I think that might be slighting Tybee a little. The island has a lot of attractions in its own right - batteries built by the Union during the Civil War to bombard confederate forts, pirate lore, one of the first lighthouses on the East Coast and a name that means "salt" in a Native American language.

Together, Savannah's tourist magnetism and Tybee's quiet, old-fashioned beach community made a great marriage of city life and isolation, activity and relaxation. And since marriage is what the whole trip was about, that couldn't have fit any better. We made the 30-minute drive twice, treading a long causeway across wetlands and out to the island.

Parking was convenient - only a few bucks for a few hours, and the ticket-dispensing machines were very intuitive, although we did have to help one older couple figure them out. The beaches were nice. The sand wasn't blinding white, but it wasn't too brown. Best of all, it was natural. In a total of about 4 1/2 hours over two days, we saw about 10 stingrays, two jellyfish and three dolphins, and we found the currency of vacation memories - sand dollars.

As fun as it was to trudge through sand and lay there hoping for clouds to cover the sun, my favorite Tybee Island activity had nothing to do with the sunny pursuits others like Katy tend to enjoy. I preferred cooling down at Seaweed's, a small "sno-ball" shop on the main drag, U.S. Highway 80. The friendly staff only accepts cash, and if you don't have it, make a trip to the ATM. In two days, we tried fuzzy navel, strawberry daiquiri and dinosaur (strawberry, banana, and fruit punch) with sweet cream. All were amazing, as I'm sure are the other 70-something flavors.

Thanks to Seaweed's, Savannah's Beach was quite a hit.

Photos (from top): Looking at the lighthouse Oglethorpe saw built in 1733; two aptly sized sand dollars; a Seaweed's preview.

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