Dreamin’, Sippin’, Starin’

Libations Day! Doesn’t that sound delicious? Tasted singly, or together even better. This is another one of those places on our want to stop at list and we’ve been placing check marks left and right this year.
First, we needed a vehicle and thank you Enterprise for the upgrade to a comfy Honda 4-door Civic with a very modern dashboard. Brent was our chauffeur and gave us the low-down (we are in the low country after all) on good places to eat in West Ashley (as in west of the Ashley River). We’d already made our dinner choice for Friday; California Dreamin’ on the water overlooking the Ashley River. Three years ago we couldn’t get enough of their warm, dripping with honey croissants and we needed a fix one last time. Funny how the first time with most any place is always the best; why is that Captain Ron? Same this time, but we did enjoy seeing the prom goers in their gowns and tuxes. This is not 1976 for sure! The girls’ gowns are expensive and well suited for Oscar night and the boys with their coordinated vests, make quite the statement. Not that I didn’t love my prom dress, but “his” light blue tux- oh gag me awful!

One couple climbed down from this monster truck limo. Gee how did you get to your prom?

One couple climbed down from this monster truck limo. Gee how did you get to your prom?

Saturday morning we headed out, driving from John’s Island south to Wadmalaw Island; our first stop, The Charleston Tea Plantation.tea plantation What’s that you say? Tea grown in America? Yes Ma’am even though tea is not supposed to grow here the plantation has been growing tea for over 50 years. The only tea growing/producing plantation in North America, plus you can tour the grounds, the unexpectedly small production room, taste hot and cold teas and purchase most any tea accessory.
The tea bushes grow close together and are approx. 4’x3’ wide.

Row upon row of tightly planted bushes. These look almost ready to lose their new shoots

Row upon row of tightly planted bushes. These look almost ready to lose their new shoots

Starting very soon, the new top shoots will be harvested by a very unique machine and the tea making will begin. The shoots get harvested 6- 8 times before the end of the season in early October. My favorite tea here is the Governor Gray; easy on the bergamot and smooth sippin’.

The unique tea leaf harvester sits near the bushes- just a little off the top please

The unique tea leaf harvester sits near the bushes- just a little off the top please

The tea plantation is the prefect morning stop before moving on to the “good stuff”; the wine offerings of Irvin-House and their new skyrocketing venture, Firefly Distillery, the primary reason for our visit.

Entrance to Irvin-House and FIrefly. That's our rental car

Entrance to Irvin-House and FIrefly. That’s our rental car

Does the name Firefly ring a bell in that I’ve mentioned it more than once? Remember the picture taken in Hope Town, Abaco at Firefly Resort? Yes, the same owners. Must be a successful business in South Carolina, not to mention that Jim and Ann retired early and started the vineyard in 2001.
The tasting rooms are situated across from each other with a patio in between for relaxing and/or listening to the live music on Sippin’Saturdays. Saving the best for last we began by joining the next wine tasting which appears to be held in their small production room.

I turned around and snapped this shot after we finished the tasting

I turned around and snapped this shot after we finished the tasting

Irvin-House is Charleston’s only domestic winery with working vineyards, not a fluff place but real honest-to-goodness grape growing and wine producing.
The Irvins grow muscadine grapes, a fruit native to the Southeast, and produce authentic muscadine wine (with a modern twist), creating five labels from four varieties of grapes. We knew going in that we’d find the wines too sweet for our taste and sure enough three were on the sweeter side but two were less so. Their Tara Gold is a semi-dry, similar to Pinot Grigio and the Mullet Hall Red is a dry table wine that won the 2005 Silver Medal at the Hilton Head Wine Festival. In between the five wine tastings, we munched on popcorn, watched a short “history-of” video and listened attentively to our tasting guide. Walked out with our souvenir glasses and a bottle of Mullet Hall. All wines are $12 and except for a handful of shops in South Carolina (Charleston mostly) you can only buy at the vineyard. Producing 2,500 cases a year is pretty small-scale but enough to be in business.

On Saturdays you can enjoy lunch. Today was the delicious BBQ wagon with pulled pork, ribs, slaw, etc

On Saturdays you can enjoy lunch. Today was the delicious BBQ wagon with pulled pork, ribs, slaw, etc

Finally, the piece de resistance, the culmination of our tasting day; Firefly Distillery and its 16 offerings! Ok, so we could only select 6 to try but that was fine. We checked off many of the same, but differed on a few. Several choices can only be purchased at the distillery ( Southern Lemonade Vodka, Mint Tea Vodka ) and they are in fact produced on site. Several others (two rums and three liqueurs) are only sold in South Carolina and are produced on Wadmalaw Island as well. The more well-known delight, Sweet Tea Vodka and the five Moonshines are widely available and are bottled in Kentucky. Doesn’t take the brightest fly in the tasting room to figure out if you love certain bottles, better get ’em here and now!

The happy tasters who encouraged their guide to get down to the resort asap

The happy tasters who encouraged their guide to get down to the resort asap

Here’s an interesting tidbit (although perhaps only to us). We’d recently bought a 1.5 liter bottle of Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka and with it was a refund card expiring the next day. Phew. So now you know that Firefly’s home is on Wadmalaw Island. I’d readied the form to mail in (hey it was $7) figuring we’d find a mailbox in our Charleston travels. We did better.

Mailing our rebate from the Wadmalaw Post Office to Arizona

Mailing our rebate from the Wadmalaw Post Office to Arizona

Now you know

Now you know

Our final stop for the day, and one we nearly forgot, was to gape at the spectacular Angel Oak, a live oak figured to be over 300 years old. Words and photographs cannot adequately describe this sprawling, gigantic tree; a forest unto itself. We’ve never seen anything like it; truly amazing. Imagine the Swiss Family Robinson finding this tree 🙂

A small cabin on the property houses a gift shop and on the screened-in porch we found a woman who along with her sister and mom produce an extensive collection of sweetgrass baskets; now I have one.

Maybe a panoramic picture would have done the tree more justice

Maybe a panoramic picture would have done the tree more justice

Close-up of where the large branches extend from the trunk

Close-up of where the large branches extend from the trunk

Looks like two or tree trees worth of trunk

Looks like two or three trees worth of trunk

Interior view- dances with branches. Several dive underground then resurface

Interior view- dances with branches. Several dive underground then resurface, others need supports

 

 

 

Biking Jekyll Island, GA

Sandwiched between Cumberland Island to the south and St Simon’s Island to the north, sits Jekyll Island. Former winter cottage site of the wealthy who may have also owned a summer cottage in Newport, Jekyll is a lovely place to explore with over 20miles of fantastic bike paths where the steepest hill might be a 10” climb over a ¼ mile. Flat and perfect for this non-biker chick.

Jekyll has been on our list for years and this year with extra time available we made it happen. From arrival day, Monday 4/21 to the end of Tuesday we biked as much of the 3-mile-long island as we could. The southern section was closed off due to the recent monsoons; flat terrain equals flooding and the south part sits lower than the rest.

The paths take you through marshes, golf courses, along beaches, through and near the Jekyll Island Club, into the historic district, past cemeteries and the only island fast food joint, DQ Grill and Ice Cream.

Jekyll Harbor Marina has a long face dock laying parallel to the ICW; easy docking with competent dockhands even with current and wind. The marina provides free bikes- imagine that! Their wi-fi was excellent; this is becoming a trend at marinas lately as they upgrade their systems.

So let’s tour the island. We’ll begin at the marina, head along the west (ICW/Jekyll Creek) side, around the northern tip, along the east (ocean) side and then we’ll finish up with a few interior stops.

First we get out our trusty map which shows the bike paths, roads, places of interest and dining options.

The marina is to the right of the 3-circle cluster, at the white road where the bridge crosses the creek; we’ll be heading to the left to begin. Bike paths are blue.

A sailboat heads up Jekyll Creek-probably at mid tide or better

A sailboat heads up Jekyll Creek-probably at mid tide or better. Brunswick bridge in background.

 

Jekyll Island Club- no longer members-only exclusive. Inn, resort and fabulous dining. Pool too

Jekyll Island Club- no longer members-only exclusive. Inn, resort and fabulous dining. Pool too

Croquet on the lawn of the Jekyll Island Club

Croquet on the lawn of the Jekyll Island Club

 

Latitude 31 and their outdoor Rah Bar situated next to the creek

Latitude 31 and their outdoor Rah Bar situated next to the creek

The weather was so lovely, warm but not too, and the ambience so perfect that we ate lunch here both days. Monday’s special was one pound of Georgia peel-‘n-eat shrimp with your drink choice. The shrimp was melt-in-your-mouth heavenly; so fresh and cooked to “just done” perfection. Our usual island libation choice is the rum punch and the Rah Bar’s Rum Smash was excellent.

At first glance we thought "swan?", but no, just white pelicans acting like swans

At first glance we thought “swan?”, but no, just white pelicans acting like swans

While all the bike route is clean, wide and well-kept, the sections through the historic district are especially neat and tidy. This photo below is a great example of what we found along the route. Covered trash cans, water fountain, bench and an informational sign. Signs explaining the marshes, birds, small animals, historic sites and such were well placed (and well spaced so you could rest frequently if you wanted).

The perfect spot to rest, read and quench your thirst.

The perfect spot to rest, read and quench your thirst.

 

Red Bug electric carts are available to rent at the Jekyll Island Airport

Red Bug electric carts are available to rent at the Jekyll Island Airport

 

Horton House. Constructed of tabby and the only one of its era remaining

Horton House. Constructed of tabby and the only one of its era remaining

By one of its two fireplaces- can see the exposed tabby

By one of its two fireplaces- can see the exposed tabby

Major William Horton, an officer under General James Oglethorpe, was the first Englishman to purchase land on Jekyll Island. He eventually purchased nearly 500 acres and built the Horton House to serve as a British Empire outpost and his personal residence. Photos showed it with porches and an upper deck.

If I recall correctly, from our museum tour (no photos allowed) this was the second home. His first was burnt by the Spanish (?) about a year after he built it. Think we’re in the 1700’s here.

Driftwood Beach- an extreme and haunting example of serious land erosion

Driftwood Beach- an extreme and haunting example of serious land erosion

Each week the human crew of m/v Acapella, otherwise known as ActiveCaptain, sends out an email that deals with a technical topic, new feature of, or future plans for the best interactive cruising guide we’ve found, ActiveCaptain. The second part of their email is the Defender First deal of the week and the last but not least section is where they mention where they have been and a link to their blog, Talking Paws.

They also, of course, enter reviews in AC about places they’ve stopped at and a recent one was right here at Jekyll Island. A place Karen said not to miss was Driftwood Beach. Not really driftwood, but uprooted trees strewn along the north tip of the island. Another planet for the look and feel of those snarled tree trunks and massive root systems. Some rocky sections and little pools contained shell pieces and a few pieces of sea glass.

driftwood beach

Signpost near Jekyll Island Market and the only photo by the ocean beach

Signpost near Jekyll Island Market and the only photo by the ocean beach

The GA sea turtle center located a short distance from the Pier Rd shops

The GA sea turtle center located a short distance from the Pier Rd shops

The doc was in!  We got to see shell repairs in action up close and personal behind plexiglass. The center was beautiful; well designed and fun to explore.

Two gopher turtles require shell repair after being hit by cars

Two gopher turtles require shell repair after being hit by cars

Baby turtle, Glory has a decent chance of survival

Baby turtle, Glory has a decent chance of survival

The Glory Boardwalk mentioned in the “Meet Glory!” write-up was built specifically to film several Civil War battle scenes in the movie, Glory, filmed on Jekyll Island in 1989. And yes, we’ve added it to our movie list. Because it’s in the southern part of the island we missed it.

Capn' Crunch as seen from the tilted observation mirror above the tank

Capn’ Crunch as seen from the tilted observation mirror above the tank

Did you ever wonder why?.....

Did you ever wonder why?…..

Could not resist a photo of these, but I did resist the urge to buy one

Could not resist a photo of these, but I did resist the urge to buy one

Crossing the island was more rustic- watch for gators here

Crossing the island was more rustic- watch for gators here

Our tour ends back at the marina where this tug and barge come through in daylight. Because the ICW in Jekyll Creek is so narrow, they usually do this at night. Not only is the creek narrow, but in a couple of places,  if you don’t know the “secret path” you could easily run aground.

Tug and barge consume much of the creek as they go past

Tug and barge consume much of the creek as they go past