Better By Boat

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A guide to Savannah’s most seaworthy day trips

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There’s nothing more relaxing than a day spent on the water. No matter the vessel, a trip down Savannah’s waterways is a breathtaking survey of marshlands, pristine beaches, rivers and creeks. Still, navigating the Intracoastal Waterway can sometimes be a challenge, and even the savviest of boaters knows that preparation is key. So, along with our own nautical bucket list, we’re bringing you a windfall of must-have information to make sure any outing down our beautiful coastline is smooth sailing. 

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Photo by Parker Stewart

Daufuskie Island

Latitude Bloody Point Beach: 32° 5’21.62”N  80° 52’ 4.19” W

Latitude Freeport Marina/Old Crab Company: N 32° 07.987′ / W 080° 52.228′

Anchoring skill level: easy    

By Boat: approximately 45 minutes*

Daufuskie Island is the southernmost inhabited sea island in South Carolina. Its three miles of beachfront are only accessible by boat. While there’s a daily ferry, you’ll usually find recreational boaters eased into the soft sands at Bloody Point. This quiet beachfront, named for a battle in 1715 during the Yemassee War, is popular for beachcombing and great views of Hilton Head Island. Though the historic lighthouse was moved half a mile inland, Daufuskie’s beaches are pristine, and the eclectic mix of old driftwood, sea oats, stumps and tree bark make for some of the best photo backdrops around. 

Go a little further west up the Intracoastal and find the Freeport Marina and the Old Daufuskie Crab Company. Popular for its lowcountry cuisine, the Crab Company offers live music, water views and a general laid-back attitude. While the indoor dining room doesn’t have AC, you can sip a cocktail and watch the sunset as the kids busy themselves with horseshoes, swings and other outdoor games. 

This area is also home to Daufuskie’s General Store as well as bike and golf cart rentals. Visitors enjoy using them to explore Daufuskie’s many historic sites, like the Marsh Tacky Stables, Silver Dew Winery or author Pat Conroy’s famous schoolhouse. Day dockage is free when you eat or drink at the Old Daufuskie Crab Company and overnight dockage is about $2 a foot. 

Photo by Beau Kester

Wassaw Island

Latitude: 31° 52’ 27.59” N  -81° 01” 17.40”W

Anchoring skill level: moderate (bring a front and back anchor and a first mate)  

By boat: around 30 minutes

Any local seafarer worth his salt has spent some time on this undeveloped barrier island along Georgia’s coast. Preserved as a National Wildlife Refuge, parts of Wassaw Island are not open to the public, but its unspoiled beachfront is a popular boater’s destination.

To visit this island — either the north or south side — you’ll want to plan ahead because the tides are strong, and less experienced boaters find anchoring tricky. After backing the boat in so it faces outward, you’ll need two anchors and a second set of hands to help secure the bow and stern lines. Make sure to allow extra wiggle room for the tide, because the gradual slope of the sand at Wassaw lets the water sneak away slowly. A proper anchoring calculation will avoid finding your boat “high and dry” when it’s time to leave.  

Once you’re here, the sea breeze is heavenly and porpoise sightings are plenty, but dogs are not allowed. You’ll want to make sure to bring everything you need from a beach umbrella and chairs to picnic supplies, and don’t forget a few garbage bags. There’s not a restroom or even a trash can on Wassaw, and you’ll want to leave no trace behind when you go. 

A-J’s Dockside. Photo by Colin Douglas Gray

Tybee Beach Sandbar

Latitude: approximately 31°59’38.0″N 80°51’19.8″W

Anchoring skill level: easy    

By boat: approximately 45 minutes

The Tybee Beach Sandbar is just that — a large tidal sandbar about 400 yards off the south end of Tybee Island. Located between Tybee Island and Little Tybee Island, this sandbank appears only at low tide and is famous for its social vibe and the ease of its “back-in and anchor” off the land form’s west side.  

Here, you’ll need to bring everything a day at the beach requires, but after you’re done soaking up the rays and catching up on the local gossip, A-J’s Dockside Restaurant is just a half a mile away and offers free docking while you eat. Whether you dine inside or out, bathing suits are just fine for this casual seafood eatery, and their fried specialties are a perfect way to cap off any day at the beach.  

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Harbour Town.

Harbour Town

Mile marker: 565.0   

Latitude: 32° 08’ 20” N, 80° 48’ 40” W MM 565 ICW

Anchoring skill level: moderate (dock space can be limited)   

By boat: about one hour and 15 minutes

Surrounding the Sea Pines resort, Harbour Town is approximately 18 nautical miles from Thunderbolt Marina in Savannah. This bustling outdoor tourist destination offers casual outdoor cafes, a playground and a full array of boutiques, art galleries and gift shops. 

Short-term docking is complimentary at the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, but only on a first come, first serve basis. The marina prefers that you call ahead before docking and it’s a good idea to bring dry clothes and comfortable shoes as you meander through this scenic strip of shops and restaurants. 

Photo by Parker Stewart

Skull Creek Boathouse and Skull Creek Dockside

Latitude: 32.1331° N 80.8699°

Anchoring skill level: easy

By boat: At least one hour to one hour and 30 minutes (depending on your speed)

This Hilton Head favorite is the longest boat ride from Savannah but offers a good mix of family-friendly waterfront dining destinations. The Hilton Head Boathouse provides afternoon docking for 10 dollars, though space can be limited during peak weekends. 

Once you’re tied up, choose between Hudson’s Seafood House on the Dock, Skull Creek Dockside and Skull Creek Boathouse. All offer fantastic views, kids’ menus and family-friendly outdoor activities. 

It’s hard to go wrong eating in Skull Creek — from bellying up to the open-air bar at Buoy Bar or checking out the fresh sushi and oysters at the Dive Bar, the choices are varied and delicious. The vibe at Hudson’s is even more relaxed, and its views of the Port Royal Sound are spectacular. Hudson’s still employs the largest (and one of only two remaining) fishing fleets on Hilton Head Island, and watching the crews unload the day’s catch is a must.

After your stomach’s full and you’re ready to head home, make sure to gas up and give yourself plenty of daylight for the long ride back. If you time it just right, the end of your day can coincide with a sunset so stunning everyone aboard will feel like king of the world and captain of the universe — already set to sail another day.