Guided paddling tours are one of the best ways to experience the nature and landscape of the Georgia coast. Most commonly made by kayak, but also by paddleboard or canoe, excursions allow a closer look at the marsh landscape and its wildlife, traveling along creeks that would be difficult to access by larger boat.
There are dozens of different tours to choose from, catering to skill levels from complete beginner to experienced paddler. Destinations include the creeks and inlets of Tybee Island or the marshes between it and Savannah, or secluded barrier islands just a little further down the coast.
If you have experience of kayaking or paddleboarding and knowledge of the area, you can alternatively rent the necessary equipment and make an unguided excursion of your own: see details of kayak rentals and paddleboard rentals on and near Tybee Island.
Choosing A Guided Paddling Tour
Tour length Shorter tours are more appropriate for beginners. A few tours, mostly those running to the more distant barrier islands where some open-water paddling is involved, require experience, and some will also require considerable endurance.
Launch locations Most paddle tour companies are based out of Tybee Island; otherwise, one of the marinas between Tybee and Savannah.
Some trips will depart from locations other than the operator’s shop. If you don’t have your own transport, check that it will be feasible to reach the launch point. The guide(s) will meet you at the tour departure point with the boats/boards, and may also offer transport to the launch site for you and your group, either included in the tour price or for a small additional fee. Sometimes, however, it will be necessary to make your own way there.
Private tours Most tour companies offer private versions of their public tours, and also private custom tours to the local destination of your choice. Contact the individual tour operator for details.
Pets Some tour guides will allow pets to be brought on tours; inquire directly for details. Many of the destinations visited, however, including Little Tybee and Wassaw Islands, do not allow dogs or other pets in order to protect the nesting birds and wildlife.
Tour dates and times Many tours are timed to coincide with whichever particular tide is most appropriate for the sites to be visited and the wildlife to be seen. Tide times vary daily, so tour departure times vary too. Inquire with the guide company for the times of excursions during the days you are likely to want to go.
Weather Tour operators generally run their excursions in gray and rainy or hot and humid weather, and will only cancel trips if conditions are dangerous.
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Paddling Destinations In The Tybee-Savannah Area
Tybee Island offers several easy and accessible kayaking and paddleboarding spots. North of the island is the Savannah River and the bay, with views of historic lighthouses and Fort Pulaski, dolphins and riverboats. South and west of Tybee are smaller creeks dividing the island from the inland marshes and Little Tybee.
Tours to any of these Tybee Island locations, whether by kayak or paddleboard, should usually be suitable for beginners, and not require too much exertion.
Little Tybee Island
Little Tybee Island is the most popular destination for water tours out of Tybee Island. This large nature reserve, just south of Tybee Island, offers paddling on its river-facing and ocean-facing sides, plus its network of saltwater creeks winding through the marshes. Read more about Little Tybee
Most paddling tours to Little Tybee are appropriate for beginners, and this is a great place to see wildlife as well as get an introduction to a new activity. Longer tours will often include time on the island itself to explore the beach and hammocks.
Many different paddling tours are available to Little Tybee Island, mostly by kayak and a few by paddleboard. See Little Tybee tours
Experienced kayakers might enjoy a longer paddle out to one of Georgia’s undeveloped barrier islands. Wassaw Island has miles of beach front and maritime forest, preserved in a National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the refuge is not open to the public, but the outer island and its beaches can be visited during daylight hours. Read more about Wassaw Island’s ecology and history
Full-day tours are available to this privately-owned wildlife sanctuary, the third large barrier island southwards from Tybee. The beach is open to the public, but the interior can only be visited by special appointment. Kayaking experience and good physical fitness is required for these tours.
Between Tybee Island and Savannah is a large area of tidal creeks and marshes bordered by the Skidaway, Bull, Vernon and Wilmington Rivers, primarily accessed via launches near Isle of Hope, Thunderbolt and Wilmington Island.
This is a good, sheltered place to kayak or paddleboard, with marsh scenery and lots of wildlife, but a little less convenient to get to if you are staying on Tybee Island.
See details of kayak and paddleboard tours in the Skidaway area.
Ebenezer Creek is a beautiful blackwater swamp near Rincon, several miles north-east of Savannah. Wildlife, including alligators and birds, is abundant here but the main draw is the typically “southern” swamp landscape with its cypress and tupelo trees.
Ebenezer Creek is a sheltered paddling spot appropriate for beginners, but you will usually have to make your own way out there.