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When outsiders think of Savannah, the Historic District is likely the image that comes to mind, with its graceful moss-draped oaks, stately historic houses, and large public squares decorated with fountains and monuments. The Historic District roughly matches Savannah’s original city limits, laid out in a grid by town (and state) founder James Oglethorpe. The Oglethorpe Plan is an unusual feat of urban planning, inspired by Enlightenment ideals, which divided Savannah into wards. Each ward has a central square, with four residential blocks around each corner and four smaller commercial blocks on the east and west side. Savannah eventually grew to comprise twenty-four wards, making up the modern and easily walkable Historic District. Houses here are beautiful, centuries-old artifacts with architectural features unmatched in modern times. The district extends to the Savannah River, with the tourist attraction of River Street as the border.
Just south of the Historic District is Midtown Savannah, which encompasses quite a few neighborhoods, including Parkside and Ardsley Park. Though not The Historic Landmark District, many of Midtown’s neighborhoods are, nonetheless, historic districts that were created in the twentieth century, showcasing a variety of architectural styles. Now part of Savannah proper, Ardsley Park and its neighbor Chatham Crescent were originally Savannah’s first suburbs, laid out in 1909 and 1910. They follow a variation of the original Oglethorpe city plan, with landscaped squares and small circular parks punctuating the residential grid, and dotted with Neo-Classical, Tudor Revival, and Mediterranean houses. Parkside, named for its setting next to Daffin Park, was established in 1916, and features primarily Craftsman bungalows. The city’s signature oak trees and azaleas are everywhere in Midtown, making this area one of the prettiest places to live.
Just off the coast of Savannah are the Savannah Islands, a mix of affluent suburbs, sparsely populated nature preserves, and holiday beach towns, each with their own distinct character. Tybee Island, often referred to as Savannah’s beach, is the most well known of the islands and a popular vacation destination. Tybee Island is about a half hour drive to downtown Savannah, making it possible for commuters to live year-round in a beach paradise, though most are second-home owners. With five miles of public beaches and a fun, casual vibe, Tybee Island’s permanent population hovers around 3,400, but swells on summer weekends to 30,000. Besides Tybee Island, the neighboring towns of Wilmington Island and Whitemarsh Island are both sought-after suburbs, with beautiful houses in well-planned subdivisions. You’ll also find a handful of residences on Talahi Island and Dutch Island, two small waterfront communities.
Located along the Intracoastal Waterway, Skidaway Island is but a short drive from downtown Savannah. Most of its residents live at The Landings, a large resort community of roughly 8,500 inhabitants spread across 4,566 splendid acres. The community, which started in the 1970s and features a mix of single-family homes and townhouses, boasts six championship golf courses, indoor and outdoor pools, sports facilities, two full-service deep-water marinas, and seven restaurants. Just outside its gates lies The Village, with a grocery store, bank, pharmacy, and library. There are a couple of other small communities on the island as well: South Harbor, located at south end, and Modena Island, at the north end. Residents and visitors alike enjoy visiting Skidaway Island State Park, popular for camping, birding, and hiking.
Isle of Hope lives up to its dreamy name as a lovely coastal community on a horseshoe-shaped bend on the Skidaway River, surrounded by tidal inlets. Though normally a peninsula, it indeed becomes its true island self at high tide. In the mid-1800s, Isle of Hope was a popular place for Savannah residents to spend the summer, escaping to the island to avoid the heat and mosquitos in the city. Many of these 19th-century retreats are still standing, with Greek Revival, Victorian, and Craftsman houses making up the Isle of Hope Historic District. At the Wormsloe Historic Site, visit one of Georgia’s most famous and photogenic sights: the Avenue of Oaks, a mile and a half of 400 moss-covered oak trees, first planted in 1891. Nearby, the historic neighborhood of Sandfly has become a destination for its popular restaurants and shops. Boaters can dock in the marina, capable of accommodating dinghies to mega-yachts.
Southside Savannah stretches from the edge of the suburbs all the way to Midtown Savannah. The boundaries of Southside are flexible, but are generally considered to include Habersham Woods, Groveland, Coffee Bluff, and Windsor Forest. Southside Savannah is known for its convenient commercial corridor, with direct access to I-95 and the Truman Parkway, home to major malls and big box stores. Homes here are often modest, built in the 1960s and 1970s, with a mix of single-family houses, townhouses, and apartment buildings, but you’ll find some new construction and grand estates as well. Habersham Woods is particularly popular for its central location and its blocks of spacious, traditional houses. Southside is also home to Hunter Army Airfield, the Armstrong Atlantic State University, and a historic waterfront monastery for Carmelite nuns.