Tybee Island’s five miles of beaches are for many the entire point of a visit to this historic seaside community.
A wide, sandy beach stretches the whole length of Tybee’s oceanfront, divided into South, Mid and North Beaches. Two additional beaches, more sheltered than the seaward ones, front on the rivers at the island’s north and south.
Sunbathing, beach games, swimming and watersports are the most popular beach activities at Tybee Island. The northern beaches especially are also good places for nature watching and walks, with a bird reserve and tide pools. You can often see dolphins too.
Tybee Island’s beaches provide a venue for several annual festivals and events, particularly holiday fireworks displays off the Tybee Island Pavilion and Pier.
Please note that dogs are not allowed on any Tybee Island beach.
Visiting Tybee’s Beaches
If you want the full range of amenities, with restrooms, frequent lifeguard stations and nearby ice cream and beach stores and restaurants, then do as most Tybee Island visitors do and go to South Beach, with its pavilion and pier.
A popular alternative is North Beach, near the historic Tybee Island Lighthouse and former Fort Screven, which offers public restrooms and parking lot without the commercialism of South Beach.
For fewer amenities but more space to stretch out, visit Mid Beach, parallel to Butler Avenue for much of the length of the island. This less crowded beach, mostly used by residents and vacationers in nearby properties, is also the likeliest place to spot a turtle nest.
If you don’t mind trading facilities and ease of access for comparative solitude and a quieter, less resorty experience, try one of the river-fronting areas, Back River Beach or Savannah River Beach, at the very southern and northern ends of Tybee, respectively. Bird and other wildlife spotting can be better here, and there are fewer waves cresting on to the beach (but beware of fast currents).
There is no free public parking on Tybee Island. Use a city or private parking lot, or find an on-street spot with a pay-and-display station or meter nearby. Enforcement of parking regulations is strict across the island. Tickets ($20) are frequently issued for short over-stays.
Parking costs $2 per hour over most of the island, with some on-street parking spaces towards its northern end available for $1.50 per hour. Most parking spaces use coin- or card-operated pay-and-display stations (minimum charge of $4 for cards).
Tybee Island enforces a number of regulations on its beaches, intended to provide a safe and family-friendly space for all beach-goers, and to protect the ecologically-sensitive dune environment and endangered species which nest on the island. Fines, often substantial, are payable for infractions.
They include (this list is not exhaustive):
Dogs and other pets Many shorebirds and several species of turtle, including the endangered loggerhead, use Tybee’s beaches as nesting sites. In order to protect the birds and turtles, pets are not permitted on any of Tybee Island’s beaches. Service animals only may accompany their owners without penalty.
Pet-friendly beaches can be found at Hilton Head Island, an hour or so north of Tybee, or at St Simons or Jekyll Islands, around 2 hours south.
Littering is prohibited; use the trash containers.
Alcohol Alcohol is permitted (no kegs) in a plastic container or can. Glass or other breakable containers are not allowed on the beach.
Fires are prohibited.
Dunes Beach-goers may not walk on the dunes or disturb or remove the vegetation; use the paths and boardwalks provided.
See the full list of regulations governing use of the beaches at Tybee Island. Regulations are also posted on signs at beach access points.
South Beach, Tybee’s most popular, runs alongside the island’s shopping and restaurant district, with many of the biggest motels, bars, cafés and beach stores within a few blocks. At the oceanfront are the Tybee Pavilion and Pier and the Marine Science Center.
Families crowd to this beach in the summer for its wide sands (particularly at the very southern end) and proximity to the activity and conveniences of the commercial part of the city. Traffic can be heavy on busy weekends, though the beach is much quieter in the off-season.
Location Running southwards from around 14th Street to the southern tip of Tybee Island (the main beach is between 14th and 18th Streets). Public access points are at every numbered street between 14th and 18th. The 18th Street access is wheelchair-accessible. South of 18th Street, there are public access points at 19th Street and at Chatham Avenue.
Parking Beachfront lot between 14th and 18th Streets; metered parking on nearby streets; some metered on-street parking at the southern tip of the island. Parking can be difficult to find in the summer months and on weekends.
Amenities Lifeguard stations; public restrooms on the pier and also a block over at the Marine Science Center building; fishing pier; picnic tables.
Activities Surfing; fishing; swimming.
CAUTION It is dangerous to walk on the sandbar at the southern tip of Tybee Island due to the strong currents and rapidly rising tides.
North Beach is the quieter and less commercialized counterpart to Tybee’s South Beach. Birds are abundant here, especially near the scrub and dunes of the northern point, and you can see dolphins too, following the fishing boats along the coast. Tide pools and their marine life are revealed when the tide is out.
Located at Tybee’s historic northern end, North Beach offers views of the nearby Tybee Island Lighthouse and the commercial ships that ply the Savannah River. It was once the site of a defensive Martello tower, and the remains of the Spanish-American War-era Fort Screven can still be seen.
This is Tybee’s second most popular beach. Though less heavily used than the South Beach, it can still attract a large number of visitors on summer weekends, with the attendant traffic problems and difficulties parking.
Location & public access points This beach runs more than a mile from the northern tip of Tybee Island to the point at which Highway 80 curves near the beach. The official Public Beach, off Meddin Drive and Gulick Street, is a quarter mile long.
There are three access boardwalks to the Public Beach from the parking lot off Meddin Drive, one of which is wheelchair-accessible. Beach areas northwards and southwards from the public beach are accessible by walking along the beach itself or from additional public access points at 2nd Avenue/Van Horne Avenue and off the bend of Highway 80.
Parking Parking lot adjacent to the public beach access; additional metered spaces nearby. Free parking is available in the lighthouse and museum lot for visitors to that attraction. Arrive early on busy weekends to find a convenient space.
Activities Swimming (some parts of this beach are unsafe for swimming; they are marked).
Amenities Lifeguard station; public restrooms and foot washing stations.
CAUTION Currents can be strong, especially near the mouth of the Savannah River.
Mid Beach stretches a mile and a half down Tybee Island, parallel to the more residential central portion of the city. Also sometimes known as Front Beach, this area is appreciated for its long and less-crowded stretches of sand and its dunes, home to plants and birdlife, and occasional turtle nests. On the whole less popular than South and North Beaches, Mid Beach can nonetheless attract large numbers of people on summer weekends.
Location & public access Running southwards roughly from the bend of Highway 80 to 14th Street. Public access points on most numbered streets; wheelchair-compatible access at 8th Street.
Parking Metered on-street parking along Butler Avenue and on all numbered streets east of Butler. Arrive early during peak season and on weekends if you want to secure one of the spots nearest the beach.
Amenities No public restrooms at beach access points, but facilities are available at Memorial Park, on 4th Street west of Butler Avenue.
Activities Swimming, but most areas not attended by lifeguards.
Back River Beach
Tybee’s Back River Beach is a smaller and more peaceful area than the oceanfront beaches, with views over the wooded hammocks and marsh of adjacent Little Tybee Island. If you can get one of the few parking spots nearby (or don’t mind walking a few blocks), you will be rewarded with a sheltered beach where you can watch dolphins and pelicans and sometimes terrapins, or fish from the public pier.
Location & public access points Back River Beach is at the southern end of Tybee Island, running north-westwards for two thirds of a mile from the sandbar at the tip of South Beach.
Public access points at Inlet Avenue, Alley Street and at the fishing pier, via Fishermans Walk. Access also possible via the South Beach/South Tip at lower tides only.
Parking Some metered parking available on streets off Chatham Avenue.
Amenities The Back River Fishing Pier (with restrooms) is to the northern end of the beach. Access is via Fishermans Walk, off Chatham Avenue.
Activities Fishing; swimming (no lifeguard on duty); kayaking.
CAUTION Do not attempt to cross the sandbar at the southern end of Back River Beach to get to Little Tybee Island. It is further than it looks, the tides rise rapidly and dangerous currents can easily sweep even a strong adult off their feet. If you want to visit Little Tybee, rent a kayak or take a tour, either by boat or by kayak/paddleboard.
Also be aware of the currents if you decide to swim off this beach.
Savannah River Beach
Savannah River Beach is about the quietest and least-visited of Tybee’s beaches, mostly used by families living or vacationing in one of the properties fronting on the river. The beach, sheltered and with often-large flocks of sea and shorebirds, is a spot on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail. Dolphin-watching opportunities are good, and you can also enjoy the sight of the large ships coming up and down the river to the Port of Savannah.
Location & public access This beach is at the northern end of Tybee Island, running westwards from the northern tip to the point roughly corresponding with the end of Estill Avenue. Access to the beach is by path/boardwalk from Polk Street at the eastern end and from Byers Street at the western end. Drop-off is possible at either street.
Parking No public parking nearby; use the public lot at North Beach.
Amenities None at present.
CAUTION Do not swim at this beach. It is dangerous due to strong currents and the nearby shipping channel, especially at low tides and near the promontory at the beach’s eastern end. Wading is generally safe. Use one of the ocean-fronting eastern beaches or the designated swimming area at South Beach if you want to swim.