Courtesy Visit Savannah
Savannah and Tybee Island
Savannah is known for its historic buildings and neighborhoods, but perhaps the Southern belle should also be known for its waterways. The city sits just off the Atlantic Coast, and the area is laced with rivers, inlets and islands.
“Certainly, Savannah is known as a historical city, but sometimes people forget we’re also a water city,” said Mindy Shea, director of tour and travel sales for Visit Savannah. “We’re really excited when they can break out of the historic district and take advantage of our waterways.”
Both Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours and Dolphin Magic give dolphin-watching tours and sunset cruises for groups of about 50 people. Bull River Cruises also does “eco-tours,” during which a guide casts a net, and passengers can see, handle and learn about the sea life that is pulled up before the animals are returned to the water.
One of the most popular options for groups to enjoy the city’s water is aboard one of Savannah Riverboat Cruises’ paddle-wheel riverboats. The company offers sightseeing tours, dinner cruises, and lunch and brunch trips, as well as specialty cruises such as gospel music, murder mystery and holiday cruises.
On Tybee Island, just minutes from downtown Savannah on the Atlantic Coast, groups can tour the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, which was built in 1773. Visitors can “brave” the 178 steps to the top of the lighthouse, tour the restored keeper’s cottage and on-site museum, and follow the nearby walkway to Tybee Beach.
Tybee Beach Ecology Trips also offers groups a chance to learn about coastal ecology while strolling on the beach. Marine biologist Joe Richardson leads groups as they pull in a net, observe animals, examine tidal pools, measure salinity and hunt for fossil shark teeth.
Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum gives visitors a “double” experience, Shea said: a collection of maritime artifacts in a historic mansion. Located in the 1819 home of William Scarbrough, one of the principal owners of the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, the museum’s collection includes model ships, paintings and maritime antiques.
Nothing says Cape Cod more than lighthouses. Or maybe the beaches. Or whale-watching. Actually, they all scream Cape Cod.
Whale-watching off the Cape is “some of the best in the nation,” said Patti Lloyd, vice president of sales for the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, and several companies take groups onto the Atlantic to spot humpback, minke and right whales.
One of the favorite destinations of visitors to the Cape is the Cape Cod National Seashore, 43,000 acres of protected lands that include sand dunes, beach shacks and swimming beaches. The seashore is also the site of Guglielmo Marconi’s famous Wellfleet radio station, where he sent America’s first transatlantic wireless signal in 1903.
“A lot of groups go to the National Seashore,” she said. “There’s nature walks, a visitor center and guided tours by the rangers. People love it.”
Groups can also experience Cape Cod National Seashore by vehicle with Art’s Dune Tours. The company can take up to 45 people in its fleet of SUVs to tour the sand dunes and learn about the history of the dune shacks and the Cape’s vegetation and wildlife. Art’s Dune Tours also takes groups to Race Point Lighthouse and offers sunset clambake tours.
“It’s not only exciting and historical, but it’s also learning about the environment,” Lloyd said of the tours. “You can imagine the Pilgrims coming up to land and seeing the dunes and the vegetation out there.”
With 13 lighthouses on the Cape, lighthouse tours are another must-do for visitors, she said. As the Cape’s oldest and tallest lighthouse, Highland Light in Truro, Massachusetts, is one of the most popular for groups. Highland Light was built in 1797, then rebuilt in 1857; it was moved farther from the crumbling cliff in 1996. Visitors can climb the 66-foot tower or stroll the grounds, which include the 1857 keeper’s house.
Visitors may also want to plan their trip to catch the Cape Cod Canal Centennial Celebration July 24-August 3, 2014. The festival will feature maritime-themed events including tall ship displays, tugboat races and a boat parade of lights, Lloyd said.