By Hillary Latos
While most New Yorkers will head to the Hamptons for the long awaited unofficial start of summer this Memorial Day, why not visit the charming Southern barrier islands of the Southeast where quiet placid beaches, world class golf and award winning low country cuisine awaits without the traffic or usual suspects that characterize the Hamptons. With Jet Blue’s direct flights into Savannah/Hilton Head, getting there has never been easier; with flights just under 2 hours.
Take a day to enjoy the Southern charm of Savannah. One of the most beautiful cities in the South, this historic city is best explored by foot to enjoy the magnificent architecture of antebellum South created by wealthy cotton owners that dot the many picturesque squares and tree canopied plazas that are made for relaxing and enjoying life at your own pace. Or take a historic district trolley tour and learn about the personalities that shaped this fascinating coastal city. Stay at the boutique Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront that combines the 18th century maritime explorers with a contemporary flare in their oversized suites with views of the riverfront. By night Rocks on the River, their indoor/outdoor rooftop bar, is Savannah’s latest hotspot with unsurpassed views on the river and the historic district serving savory tapas with bespoke cocktails.
For true Southern cooking head to where the locals lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, only open for lunch, where diners are treated to family style spreads of traditional home cooked Southern dishes like fried chicken, sweet potato soufflé, okra gumbo, mac n cheese and a plethora of other daily treats shared at large tables for 10.
B. Matthews Eatery is another historic district bistro that serves one of the best Southern breakfasts in the city. Satisfy your craving for biscuits and gravy, hearty pancakes, or shrimp and grits which uses all locally sourced ingredients. For classic Savannah coastal cuisine in an elegant atmosphere head to Garibaldi’s Café located in the historic 1871 Germania Fire House and Social Hall. The gorgeous Georgian ballroom has been restored to its previous splendor with high Haint blue painted ceilings, soaring arched windows and mottled mirrored walls. The house specialty is the world famous crispy flounder glazed in a tangy apricot shallot sauce found only in Savannah.
Just a short drive over the bridge you’ll reach the relaxed seaside barrier island of Hilton Head. With over 20 championship golf courses, 12 miles of pristine beaches and 250 restaurants there is something for everyone with accommodations ranging from luxury resort hotels to private villas and home rentals. All summer long HarbourFest in Shelter Cove becomes the social epicenter and features live entertainment, activities for the whole family with fireworks every night. For a family friendly beachfront hotel the Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island is a relaxing spot that features oversized rooms that marry low country chic with modern amenities and also offers an extensive kids program. For rejuvenating spa treatments head to the Heavenly Spa at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort - a holistic and relaxing oasis that will melt away any stress from the city and will evoke a sense of renewal. For villa and private home rentals Resort Rentals of Hilton Head Island has an extensive collection of golf course or beachfront private residences available ranging from one bedroom condos to expansive 7 plus mansions.
Take in the ruggedly natural landscape of the Sea Island coast and drive a couple hours to the Southern tip of the Sea islands to Amelia Island on the Northern tip of Florida. On this breathtakingly gorgeous barrier sea island there are seven of the most famous golf courses in the world as well as a 14-mile stretch of wide placid grey beach.
The best place to stay is at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, which was created by the same developer as Hilton Head Island. After an $85 million renovation and re-imagination, the Omni is the island’s leading oceanfront resort set on 1,350 acres. Become one with nature and kayak through the Audubon nature preserve and marshes, Segway through the canopied trees, test your hand at tennis, or simply relax and rejuvenate at their eco friendly spa. Kids can have their own mini vacation at the kid’s splash pool, Nature center, Camp Amelia or Gamers teen lounge. Indulge in the Seaside Sensory Journey or the Plantation Blossom Rituals at their exclusvie spa.
Everything here exudes rest and relaxation. Their suite sized deluxe rooms feature an ocean front view and terrace and are luxuriously decorated in a contemporary low country chic palette that mirrors the seaside that is so comfortable it’s hard to wake up.
Foodies will delight in chef Daven Wardynski’s playful twist on low country cuisine. To truly experience his culinary talents, book the 12 person, multi-course Chef’s table. Chef Daven mixes molecular gastronomy with local ingredients to produce memorable journey. For fresh local seafood dine at the casually elegant Verandah café overlooking the pro tennis courts. By day, the beachside Oceanside venue is a great spot to grab a bite for lunch, people watch and get some rays. With gorgeous sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean and sunsets over salt green marshes the beauty of Amelia Island is truly unforgettable.
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