Updated: Sep 6, 2022
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Located 18 miles from historic Savannah, Tybee Island is positioned near the Savannah River and at the easternmost point of Georgia. Its most famous landmark is its 145-foot-tall lighthouse that decorates postcards and shows up in stock images. Many go for the beach, which has two access points at South Beach and North Beach. Lifeguards are on duty from May until Labor Day while the water is warm enough for swimming.
Tybee Island is also a known spot for turtle nesting from May to October. After 10 p.m., beachfront lights are turned off so leatherbacks, green sea turtles, Kemp Ridley turtles, and most commonly, Loggerheads, can lay their eggs in privacy. You shouldn't disturb these turtle nests; there's another way to see a turtle up close that I plan on covering. This post will also dig into the best things to do, places to eat, and top accommodations.
Tybee Island Light Station and Museum
The Tybee Island Lighthouse was originally constructed from 1732 to 1736, but the structure was destroyed and rebuilt twice due to storm damage and harsh tides. The present day base was built in 1773, but in 1871, the remainder of the lighthouse was destroyed once again by a hurricane. In 1999, the Tybee Island Lighthouse was finally restored to its current glory.
Visitors of the lighthouse can purchase a ticket to climb the 178 steps. After taking in the scenery, guests can visit the Tybee Island Museum, which is housed inside an 1899 military battery. The museum has more than 400 years of history including exhibits on Fort Screven, the Euchee tribe, and Tybee’s Golden Era.
Tybee Island Marine Science Center
The Tybee Island Marine Science Center offers one-of-a-kind experiences for tourists. Activities include a Beach Walk where guests can learn about wildlife, a Marsh Trek that leads tourists through a salt marsh, and a Turtle Talk covering Tybee’s turtle nesting season. If you’re not interested in joining a guided tour, the center’s Coastal Georgia Gallery features a range of live animals and a touch tank. It's also the home of Admiral, a loggerhead turtle that visitors can see up close. The exhibits provide information about sea turtles, sharks, shells, and mammals, and since it changes often, you can return each time you're in town.
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Built on Cockspur Island, Fort Pulaski National Monument served in the Civil War as a prisoner-of-war camp and a testing ground for the James Rifled Cannon. In 1862, the cannon was tested by the Union Army for use against the Confederate. The cannon caused severe damage to the fort’s walls, causing the Confederate commander, Charles H. Olmstead, to surrender. In recent history, the fort was used in two films: "The Conspirator" and "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies." The monument is open to the public for self or guided tours along with an indoor museum and hiking trails.
Tybee Beach Pier (and Beaches)
The Tybee Pier and Pavilion is a prime fishing spot with incredible views. Visiting the pier is free, though it can also be rented for special events. From the pier, you can reach the beautiful South Beach area and take a dip in the water. The other main ocean access point is at North Beach, which is lined with shops, restaurants, and historic attractions. It boasts the island's main shopping district including the Tybee Oaks shopping center and The Shoppes at 1207. Along with swimming, visitors have options to rent jet skis, charters, and even take surfing lessons.
Little Tybee Island
Little Tybee Island is a nature preserve that can only be accessed by water. Despite its name, it’s actually double the size of Tybee Island itself, and it’s considered to be a hidden gem of sorts to those who visit. There are many water transportation methods used to reach the preserve—some guests rent boats while others choose to rent a jet ski or kayak. While on the island, guests can spend the day bird watching, fishing, and even fossil hunting. It also has plenty of salt marshes, beaches, and nature dunes.
If you’re an animal lover, Tybee Island offers numerous dolphin tours led by reputable companies. One of the companies, Capt. Mike’s Dolphin Tours, is home to several cats that lounge on the docks and in the office for adoption. Another tour company, Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure Tour, ensures that their high horsepower engines will produce enough waves to make dolphins jump behind the boat. Regardless of which tour you choose, you’re sure to have fun viewing dolphins in their habitat.
Places to Eat
One of the most popular restaurants in the area is The Crab Shack, which serves crab legs, seafood boils, shrimp, and chicken. The exterior of the building features an alligator lagoon and exotic birds to entertain you while you wait. Coco’s Sunset Grille is another great location offering sunset views over the marsh, a large seafood menu, and a variety of alcoholic beverages. Housed in a 1940's building, Bubba Gumbo’s has indoor and outdoor dining rooms. Along with classic seafood options, this eatery serves burgers, chicken strips, and fresh salads. For dessert, many locals head over to Paradise Snow Cone and Fresh Squeezed Lemonade with Beach Treats.
The DeSoto Beach Hotel is a beach-front location that offers rentable umbrellas, an outdoor pool, and an arcade for families. Hotel Tybee is close to the beach as well as the pier and numerous shopping centers. Great for couples, it has a poolside bar and two outdoor pools.
The Sea and Breeze Hotel is the most economical option on this list, but it’s still located just minutes away from the beach. This hotel includes a restaurant and three beach bars.
Quaint, quiet, and beautiful, Tybee Island is a great place for couples and families. Its beach is peaceful unlike those in party towns, and its location is great for those who also want to visit Savannah. If you do make the trip to Savannah, learn about our top things to do.