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Savannah from the Air with Old City Helicopters

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With its squares, mansions, oak trees and Spanish Moss, Savannah is a gorgeous city when you’re standing on the ground. But how does it look from the air? To find out, we got in touch with Old City Helicopters, who invited us out on a sunset tour. Soon enough, we were zooming along the Savannah River, looking down upon the city from above.

Helicopter Tour Savannah

It was a late afternoon when we showed up at the airfield, adjacent to the Savannah-Hilton Head Airport, and the sun was just beginning its slow descent. Our pilot, Matt, described the tour we’d be taking: over Forsyth Park, around River Street and City Market, and then out toward Tybee Island. We’d return west toward the airfield just as dusk was settling in.

The company’s bright yellow helicopter is a frequent sight in the skies above Savannah, zipping over the city like a giant, benevolent mecha-bee. It’s a Robinson R44 copter, which seats four people and can travel at speeds of 150 miles per hour, although Matt assured us that we’d be going a lot slower than that. After all, the point was to see the sights, and not to zip across the city as fast as possible.

Helicopter Tour Savannah

Savannah’s logical layout is really apparent from the air, where you can see all the squares and better appreciate the city center’s grid-like pattern. There aren’t many tall buildings in downtown Savannah; the Hilton and the Cathedral of St. John are probably the most prominent. From above, Savannah looks quaint and peaceful; and more like an overgrown village than a real city… which is also how it feels from the ground, I suppose.

Soaring over the city was fun, but we enjoyed the remainder of the trip even more, when we got away from the downtown and into less populated land. The coastal waterways of Savannah look entirely different from the air. When you’re in a car, it’s impossible to see the twisting paths which snake through the marshland or appreciate the ecosystem’s true complexity.

We flew past the Tybee Island Lighthouse and Fort Pulaski, and then made our way back to the home base. Along the way, we flew over the port, which is much bigger than I had realized, and saw the International Paper Factory. This is the source of the infamous “Savannah Stink,” but with its lights on at dusk, the factory itself is quite pretty.

Old City Helicopters are a relatively new outfit in Savannah, but have quickly become popular. They offer a number of packages, from the Sunset Tour we did, to one which reaches all the way to Hilton Head. If you’re insecure about flying, you can try out their quick Discovery Tour, which provides views of the western end of Savannah for just $39. Matt was an excellent guide, friendly and knowledgeable, and we had a blast flying with him in the speedy yellow bee.

Location on our Map
Old City Helicopters – Website

List of Savannah Hotels

Helicopter Tour Savannah
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Helicopter Tour Savannah
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March 31, 2016 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

Championship BBQ at Wiley’s

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A tiny restaurant in a teensy shopping strip, just before Victory Drive merges with the Islands Expressway, Wiley’s Championship BBQ is a real find. It’s been voted the best barbecue in Savannah multiple times in its short life, and for good reason.

Better Than Sex BBQ

We’ve been twice, and have had the chance to meet the owners, Wiley and Janet. They’re relative newcomers to Savannah, but have been perfecting their barbecue sauce for years on the competition circuit. Their sauce’s name is “Better than Sex,” and while I might not go that far, it’s awfully close. And “Practically Comparable with Sex” is high praise, indeed!

Janet sat down at our table while we gorged ourselves on Redneck Nachos, their most popular appetizer, and a sampler basket full of meat. Wiley’s is small, with room for about 30 people, and always crowded. I asked if they planned on moving somewhere larger, given their obvious popularity, but she and Wiley are happy right where they are. They get a lot of regulars, and many tourists stop in as well. Often, there’s a line out the door.

If you’re looking for quality barbecue made by awesome people, head over to Wiley’s. The ten-minute drive from downtown is definitely worth it. And make sure to order the beef brisket!

Location on our Map
Wiley’s Championship Barbecue – Website

EVERYTHING BBQ

BBQ Tank
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Juicy BBQ
Georgia BBQ
Packed BBQ
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Redneck Nachos
The Wileys BBQ Savannah
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December 6, 2010 at 7:35 pm Comments (6)

Fort Pulaski – The South’s Not So Invincible Stronghold

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The road to Tybee Island takes you right by Cockspur Island, home to Fort Pulaski. Originally built after the War of 1812, the fort is now a national monument.

Pulaski Entrance

Fort Pulaski has been well-maintained by the National Park Service, and a visit introduces you to both its architecture and history. When Georgia seceded from the Union in 1860, confederate troops moved into the impenetrable stronghold, in order to protect the city from attack along the river. Savannah had one of the South’s most important ports, and control of Fort Pulaski guaranteed the flow of goods which were vital to the war effort.

Fort Pulaski was thought to be unassailable. There nearest solid land is over a mile away, on Tybee Island, and so the Union was unable to place cannons near enough to damage the fort. But the South didn’t know that the Yanks had a new, secret weapon: the rifled cannon. And it proved effective. After 30 hours of devastating bombardment, the white flag went up over Pulaski. Union troops secured the fort and effectively shut down Savannah as a Confederate resource. It was a huge loss for the South.

There are guided tours of the fort every day, which do a great job of bringing the fort’s fascinating history to life. And we can also recommend a walk around Cockspur Island, for the chance to spot wildlife. We saw a deer during our visit.

Fort Pulaski National Monument – Website
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Fort Pulaski
Pulaski Walls
Pulaski Draw Bridge
Pulaski Chains
Magic Waters
Pulaski Canon
Pulaski
Old Wheels
Spiffy Clean Canon
Pulaski Stairs
Pulaski Tabby
Pulaski TNT
Canon and a rope
Hooked Pulaski
Pulaski Defense
Savannah
Pulaski Chair
Sad Little Boat
Pulaski Soldier
Last Soldier Pulaski
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December 1, 2010 at 5:58 pm Comments (3)

Tybee Island – Savannah’s Beach

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Just a short half-hour drive from Savannah, Tybee Island is the region’s top recreational destination, with a beach, surf and kayak shops, nature trails, cool restaurants, dolphin tours and bunch of hotels.

Tybee Island

Tybee was our first excursion outside of Savannah. The drive is easy, a straight shot east along Victory Road, and gorgeous. You go across Whitemarsh Island, and follow the course of the Savannah River past Fort Pulaski until reaching the island. Of course, it might take you a long time to actually arrive at Tybee, as you’ll be tempted to stop frequently for photos of Georgia’s picturesque coastal region.

Our initial visit to Tybee’s beach was a quick one. We had brought our dog, without realizing that they’re prohibited, since turtles use the sand for nesting. So we cracked the windows, paid for parking, left our dog in the car, and took a short walk. Not short enough, unfortunately — we got back five minutes after our parking had expired, and saw a cop already writing a ticket. Tybee’s parking enforcement is notoriously thorough; don’t leave your car parked illegally for even a moment.

Tybee Island was originally inhabited by the Yuchi Indians, in whose language “Tybee” means “salt”. For a brief period at the end of the 50s, it was renamed “Savannah Beach,” and although the original name has been restored, that’s basically what it is. The majority of visitors are hear on day trips from the city. Only about 3000 people live on Tybee full-time, and I would guess that almost all of them are in the tourism business.

If you’d like to learn more about Tybee Island, head toward its most prominent landmark. The Tybee Island Lighthouse can be visited, and includes a small museum dedicated to the history of the island.

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Places to stay on Tybee Island
Tybee Island Books

Tybee Island Lighthouse
Tybee Highway
How Birds Fly
Tybee Houses
Mike Alon
Tybee Pier
Tybee Birds
Sea Beast
Tybee Beach
Tybee Hydrant
No Shark Fishing
Fishing Tybee
Tybee Art
Tybee Insel
Tybee Raven
Tybee Spatz
Tybee Lifeguard
Tybee Lighthouse
Tybee Sunset
Tybee Island Lighthouse
Tybee Island Lighthouse
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November 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm Comments (8)
Savannah from the Air with Old City Helicopters With its squares, mansions, oak trees and Spanish Moss, Savannah is a gorgeous city when you're standing on the ground. But how does it look from the air? To find out, we got in touch with Old City Helicopters, who invited us out on a sunset tour. Soon enough, we were zooming along the Savannah River, looking down upon the city from above.
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