Love Where You Live: Finding your perfect Savannah neighborhood

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As a new homeowner, I still get giddy whenever I tell people that I have a place of my own. My delight reaches a fever pitch when I elaborate on that sentence — I own a home in Savannah. 

I haven’t lived in Savannah long, but the city seduced me well before I moved here with its heady mix of history, idiosyncrasies and Southern savoir-faire. The aptly-named Hostess City — full of fascinating people, great restaurants, shops, museums and vibrant neighborhoods (more on those below) — extends its hospitality ceaselessly, day in and day out. 

Bottom line: I love living here, and my love only grows as I get to know this city in more intimate and intangible ways: for instance, the way the light looks in Forsyth Park in summer compared to fall. From just about any spot in the city, I can behold something spectacular: a magenta-saturated azalea, a historic structure, a glimpse of the river or a coastal marsh. 

Savannah is both ever-evolving and a moment suspended in time. Here, it’s possible to time-travel several eras and centuries without walking more than a single block — and, depending on your coordinates, sometimes with a drink in hand. This is why, I’m pleased to remind you, I own a home in Savannah. Won’t you be my neighbor?

Downtown Historic District. Photo by Katie McGee

Downtown Historic District

When you think of archetypal Savannah — tidy squares and stunning townhomes under a canopy of languorous oaks heavy with Spanish moss — you’re probably thinking of the Downtown Historic District, which is actually America’s first planned city. Italianate, Federal, Colonial, Regency and Georgian architectural styles are all at home in this coveted neighborhood, which is officially bounded by Bay, Gaston, Price and Montgomery streets, although some may contend its southern boundary is at the end of Forsyth Park on Park Avenue. 

In 1733, General James Oglethorpe designed what is now the Downtown Historic District — Savannah’s historic epicenter — using a grid system punctuated by six public squares. Oglethorpe’s design remained in use as the city grew: six original squares inflated over time to 24, dwindling down just a touch to the 22 squares you’ll find today. 

Considering many of the buildings date back hundreds of years, Savannah’s Downtown Historic District is chock full of meticulously, lovingly restored architectural treasures, including a mix of private homes, stately churches, thriving bead-and-breakfasts and much of the campus of Savannah College of Art and Design. Indeed, this is the city’s premier area to marvel at buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. But don’t think the beauty of the Historic District is limited to, well, historic structures. In 2006, lauded architect Moshe Safdie designed the Telfair Museums’ uber-modern Jepson Center, a contemporary art museum. Similarly, the residents of the Downtown Historic District are as diverse and unexpected as the architectural styles: service industry professionals, students and artists are all a part of the neighborhood’s fabric alongside doctors, lawyers, CEOs and out-of-towners with stylish second homes or pied-à-terres. 

Thomas Square. Photo by Katie McGee

Victorian District/Thomas Square

Savannah’s restrained sophistication eventually gave way to whimsical Victorian styles as tastes shifted in the late 19th century. Today, there’s a whole namesake district highlighting the trim, towers, turrets, gables and all-around elaborate characteristics of the Victorian era. The Victorian District sits just south of the Downtown Historic District and is bounded by Gwinnett Street, Anderson Lane, East Broad Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. 

Thomas Square, just south of the Victorian District’s official boundaries, was technically a part of Oglethorpe’s original 1733 plan for Savannah — but it was designated as farm lots. Indeed, there were once cotton farms and accompanying plantation homes here: the historic Drouillard-Maupas House at 2422 Abercorn St. (now home to The Cottage Shop, a gift boutique) dates to ca. 1750 and hints at the neighborhood’s agrarian past. The area stayed relatively quiet until the electric streetcar arrived in 1888. Its advent meant easy access to downtown, allowing Savannahians to move farther south into what was previously farmland. 

Just as the streetcar electrified Thomas Square’s popularity in 1888, an influx of shops and restaurants has breathed new life into the neighborhood once again. Starland, a sub-district of the neighborhood on Bull Street between 34th Street and Victory Drive, is home to popular cafes, specialty shops, spas and even a brewery. With fixer-upper Victorians ripe for renovations and an active neighborhood association, a Thomas Square address is on many a local homebuyer’s wish list.

Baldwin Park. Photo by Katie McGee

Baldwin Park

Craftsman and Victorian homes comingle in Baldwin Park, an intimate and charming neighborhood located between East 40th Street, Victory Drive, Waters Avenue and Price Street. Its eponymous park, situated on a circular plot, is a quiet and spacious meeting spot for neighbors, who often come with dogs and children in tow (there’s a playground and green space to keep both parties entertained). The park also touts a picturesque vista: look directly south across Victory Drive, and you’ll see a palm-tree-studded pedestrian corridor along Atlantic Avenue leading to Tiedeman Park and Savannah Arts Academy, housed in a building once designed as a luxury hotel. 

Named for a city alderman, Baldwin Park was once an offshoot of Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent before becoming its own distinct neighborhood in 1935, when the construction of U.S. Highway 80 (more commonly known as Victory Drive) bisected the area. The neighborhood’s eclectic amalgam of architectural styles speaks to its era-spanning history. 

Baldwin Park is close to one of the city’s main thoroughfares, Victory Drive — but you’d never know it. Its wide streets and well-kept homes seem miles away from hectic hustle and bustle, where meet and greets and waves from passersby are common. Popular with families, Baldwin Park features proximity to all of Savannah’s best assets at a more affordable price point.

Ardsley Park. Photo by Katie McGee

Ardsley Park

Ardsley Park (more specifically known as Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent or Ardsley Park-Chatham Crescent-Ardmore) is Savannah’s first suburb, a distinction that, depending on one’s tastes, might be revered or maligned. These days, though, it’s just a quick Uber ride from downtown, making it a palatable option for young professionals, families or retirees — essentially, anyone who wants the serenity and stability of an established neighborhood with the option for an occasional night out. The neighborhood sits between Victory Drive, 55th Street, Waters Avenue and Bull Street.

Thanks to the automobile, Savannah residents cruised southward during the early 1900s. Ardsley Park began its development in 1910, but most of the homes were constructed during the 1930s and ’40s. Many Ardsley properties feature Craftsman details from the end of one era while also testing out the more sprawling, ranch styles that came into vogue after World War II. 

An abundance of public green spaces and oak-shaded thoroughfares unifies Ardsley Park’s multitude of architectural styles and home sizes. Perhaps those shaded streets and parks are why University of Georgia mascot Uga the bulldog chooses to call Ardsley Park home. Though historically Ardsley was only for the most affluent families, today its residents are from all walks — and you’ll often find them all (including Uga) taking a walk in the early evening, when that subdued, golden-hour sunshine highlights the neighborhood’s beauty.  

Habersham Woods. Photo by Katie McGee

Habersham Woods/Jackson Woods

Conveniently located yet tucked away, Habersham Woods and Jackson Woods are home to spacious, single-family builds with enticing extras like pools and sprawling yards. With Habersham Street at its spine, Habersham Woods extends toward White Bluff Road at its western edge and Waters Avenue to the east. Just south sits Jackson Woods, near the intersection of Habersham Street and Stephenson Avenue. In addition to obvious draws like ample square footage and newer construction, these neighborhoods offer an unexpected bonus: lots of dead ends mean no cut-throughs for drivers seeking a faster route from A to B. 

Another asset of these two neighborhoods is their proximity to just about every convenience Savannah has to offer. Restaurants, grocery stores, a movie theater, pharmacies, furniture stores and the Oglethorpe Mall are all nearby, as are the St. Joseph’s/Candler and Memorial health systems, making Habersham Woods and Jackson Woods a savvy choice for medical professionals seeking a quick commute and a peaceful place to call home.

Kensington Park. Photo by Katie McGee

Groveland/Kensington Park/Magnolia Park/Fairway Oaks

Savannahians often take for granted that all homes are historic, yet many of the city’s architectural treasures are farther away from modern conveniences like malls and grocery stores. Kensington Park, Groveland, Magnolia Park and Fairway Oaks find balance, melding proximity to just about everything with a touch of history — though one that admittedly doesn’t date back as far as the Downtown Historic District. 

Established in 1950, Groveland and Kensington Park encapsulate post-war architecture with the kinds of mid-century ranch and split-level homes that have come back into style and back to the top of buyers’ minds. Although some of the homes have been altered, most of the residences in Groveland and Kensington Park in particular have stayed true to their mid-century roots, helping them to garner a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. These same two neighborhoods, bounded roughly by Derenne Avenue and Johnston, Reynolds and Abercorn streets, also have a renegade edge: breaking rank with Savannah’s centuries-old tradition of grid layouts, designers planned curvilinear streets and cul-de-sacs.

Just east of Groveland and Kensington Park, Magnolia Park and Fairway Oaks attract buyers for that same convenience and mid-century appeal with an added draw for leisure-seekers. Bacon Park Golf Course and the Savannah Botanical Gardens are adjacent to both these neighborhoods, which fall between Derenne and Stephenson avenues and Truman Parkway and Waters Avenue.

The Landings. Photo by Katie McGee

The Landings/South Harbor

While a golf course and gardens might be leisure enough for some, those who consider R&R a lifestyle find their happy place at The Landings, a gated community on Skidaway Island. Like to fish? The Landings boasts 151 fishing lagoons. Walkers, joggers and cyclists can traverse the development’s 30 miles of trails; gardeners and beekeepers alike can chip in at the community’s two-acre farm. The Landings is a sweet retreat year-round, bestowing the feel of an exclusive excursion without ever having to leave home. Golfing (there are six golf courses), boating (it’s got two deep-water marinas), a 48,000-square-foot wellness and fitness facility and seven on-site dining options are all available, and all with Savannah’s tranquil, coastal landscapes as a backdrop. 

A labyrinth of coastal tidal marshes and intracoastal waterways means no matter where you are within The Landings, you’ll probably have a water view. And lest you think that puts things squarely out of your price range, consider The Landings range of home options, from modest condos to more sizable single-family homes to unabashed estates.

Located south of The Landings, South Harbor is another Skidaway Island retreat with a laid-back vibe. Inspiration resides here — you’ll find it in expansive, largely untouched views and a well-documented history, which dates back to 1758. 

These areas hold great appeal for all demographics and, as mentioned to the right, are bringing in-towners out of town (albeit only 15 miles, or 25 minutes along Truman Parkway) to commune with the Savannah area’s coastal charms.

Isle of Hope. Photo by Katie McGee

Isle of Hope/Dutch Island

Sometimes, a name is enough to pique one’s interest. Is there anything more auspicious sounding than Isle of Hope? Nestled against the Skidaway River, this inland island is just eight miles from downtown, cementing it as the go-to retreat for Savannah’s elites during the 1840s. Today, Isle of Hope retains many of its original structures, from palatial, Greek Revival-style mansions to smaller bungalows and cottages to two historic, wood-framed churches ca. 1870. Profuse and verdant greenery ties together this eclectic scene. The area’s marina, in fact, is less than a mile from Wormsloe Historic Site, with its majestic oak canopy and pathways leading to coastal panoramas. Those looking to go even more off the grid can camp at nearby Skidaway Island State Park.

About three miles north of Isle of Hope sits Dutch Island, a private, gated community that pairs similar views with upscale amenities. Despite its quiet and secluded appeal, the island was once in the limelight: during the early 1900s, it was the site of an airplane factory. After it shuttered, a single family purchased the entire island in 1928, eventually developing it in 1969. Fast-forward to today, where Dutch Island dwellers call 500 acres of secluded, pristine marshland home. 

Both areas offer the best of Lowcountry island living: a slower pace, an abundance of natural beauty and mood-lifting views on even the cloudiest, rainiest days. 

Richmond Hill. Photo by Katie McGee

Richmond Hill/The Ford Plantation

With the tagline “Just South of Savannah,” Richmond Hill beckons homebuyers to discover what’s just around the bend — that bend being the curve of I-95 as it heads about 20 miles south toward exits 87-90. It’s fitting, then, that it was Henry Ford who put Richmond Hill on the map when he chose it as the site for his winter retreat in 1925. But you don’t need to be an automobile magnate to live here: typical Richmond Hill homes feature large lots and newer construction at tempting price points.

Located outside of Chatham County in adjacent Bryan County, Richmond Hill is particularly popular for families because of its favorably ranked public schools. It’s also a peninsula bounded by the Ogeechee, Tivoli and Lincoln rivers as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Translation? You can find waterfront properties here, too. Public marinas and boat ramps mean that even if you don’t live on the water, you can still enjoy its delights.

Whitemarsh Island. Photo by Katie McGee

Wilmington Island/Whitemarsh Island/Talahi Island

Due east of downtown Savannah via the Islands Expressway, Wilmington, Whitemarsh (pro tip: it’s pronounced Whit-marsh) and Talahi islands are the closest to Savannah’s beach, Tybee Island. With about 15,000 residents, Wilmington Island is the largest of the three and features the Wilmington Island Club, offering golf and tennis. Whitemarsh Island — home to about 7,000 people — includes Marsh Harbor and Long Point, gated communities with plenty of upscale, private residences and a shared dock. Talahi Island is far less populous with about 1,200 residents but just as desirable for its soothing views of tidal marshes.

Proximity to the beach and waterfront activities make the islands an attractive choice for all sorts of Savannahians: young, old, renters, owners, newcomers and longtime residents often make their way to Wilmington, Whitemarsh or Talahi for a slower pace without sacrificing access to downtown Savannah, whether for a daily commute to work or for an evening out on the town.

Emerald Pointe. Photo by Katie McGee

Causton Bluff/Emerald Pointe

Stunning, waterfront properties are commonplace in Causton Bluff, where stately homes are often designed with entertaining in mind. This intimate community of 52 single-family homes and 112 smaller cottages features a security gate and amenities like a pool, gazebo and boat slip. 

Another gated community brimming with saltwater marshes and live oak groves is Emerald Pointe, just three miles east of historic downtown and about 12 miles from Tybee Beach. In addition to security and larger homes big on Southern charm, Emerald Pointe residents have access to a pool, club house, playground, nature trail, dog park and tidal lagoon for fishing and bird-watching.

Coffee Bluff. Photo by Katie McGee

Southside/Coffee Bluff/Vernonburg/Georgetown

These days, the Southside is home to more than just the Savannah Mall. Georgia Southern University’s recent merger with Armstrong State University has given the area a boost, bringing an influx of students, faculty and staff from the Statesboro campus seeking Savannah’s cultural offerings and convenience. Coffee Bluff, situated on a scenic bend of the Little Ogeechee River, is a neighborhood where the lawns are always tidy, and the Carmelite Monastery brings a welcoming feel. The Coffee Bluff Marina offers a range of inshore fishing and sightseeing tours for anglers and oglers alike. To the west, Georgetown touts close proximity to Georgia Southern University at Armstrong, while Vernonburg is about equidistant — and on the Vernon River — to the east.