Several beaches, offering differing experiences from commercially-developed and semi-developed oceanfront towns to natural state-managed beaches, are situated within only a couple hours’ drive of Savannah.
More beaches still can be found on the barrier islands along the Georgia and lower South Carolina coasts unconnected to the mainland by road, accessible from Savannah as a day trip by private boat, charter or tour, or public ferry. Options include the nature reserves of Little Tybee, Wassaw or Ossabaw Islands in Georgia and South Carolina’s lightly settled Daufuskie Island.
Savannah’s most popular beach for daytrippers is the small seafront town of Tybee Island, situated only a short drive away from the city.
Of Tybee’s beaches, South Beach is the most visited, being nearest to main commercial area and the pier. Mid Beach and North Beach are also popular, but usually less crowded than South Beach.
Less visited beaches, but with minimal to no amenities, are Tybee’s Back River Beach and Savannah River Beach, at the southern and northern tips of the island, respectively.
If you are a dog owner, you will either have to leave your pet(s) at home or choose another destination: Tybee Island does not allow animals on its beaches.
St Simons and neighboring Jekyll Island form part of Georgia’s Golden Isles, a series of barrier islands (together with adjacent Brunswick) that are popular with summer vacationers.
St Simons Island is the more developed of the two, with a wider range of shops and restaurants in addition to its several beaches, accessible via dozens of public accesses. The most visited area is the stretch next to the old Coast Guard Station, with the beachfront around Massengale Park offering a quieter alternative.
Jekyll Island is the quieter alternative to St Simons Island, with miles of beautiful beaches, wildlife and birds. Access to the beaches is easy, with a choice of more developed beach parks and more natural alternatives such as the enchanting Driftwood Beach at Jekyll Island’s northern tip, popular with photographers for its extensive boneyard forest of petrified trees.
An admission/parking fee applies to all vehicles entering the island.
Little Tybee Island offers Savannah’s most easily accessed undeveloped beach, fronting a pristine nature reserve only a few hundred yards from the seaside town of Tybee Island.
Although there is no road bridge to the island, it is easy enough to get to due to the many tours and charter/rental options available out of nearby Tybee. It is possible to get to the island by kayak, either rented if you have experience or with a guide for a beginner. The easiest way to get there, however, is on a boat tour (many of which include time on the beach) or charter.
For a better chance at seclusion, the next barrier island in the chain down from Little Tybee is Wassaw, protected within the National Wildlife Refuge system.
Wassaw offers long stretches of sandy beach, bordered picturesquely by maritime forest. A boat tour or charter is the easiest way to get to the island, which also offers inland hiking trails through the forest if you want more than just the beach.
Another of Georgia’s wild barrier islands is Ossabaw, across the sound from Wassaw Island, with miles of beautiful and deserted beachfront.
The island is managed by the Ossabaw Island Foundation and you need permission to visit the inland areas, but the beaches below the high tide mark are open to the public.
Several boat trips out of the Savannah area offer transport to Ossabaw Island, or you can charter a boat if you don’t have your own.
Blackbeard Island is another coastal Georgia island protected within the National Wildlife Refuge system. Its beaches, bordered by forest, are long and largely unfrequented, with opportunities for bird watching and surf fishing.
You will need a boat to get to Blackbeard Island.
Sapelo Island is accessible by public ferry. Its beaches are sandy and long, and visited by few. Nannygoat Beach at the south end of the island is easiest to get to, but there is also Cabretta Beach at the northern end, with petrified driftwood, tide pools, beachside camping and views of adjacent Blackbeard Island.
Cumberland Island National Seashore is another difficult-to-get-to highlight of Georgia’s coastal islands, with wild horses, ruined mansions and miles of sandy beach.
The public ferry is the easiest way to get to Cumberland Island (private boat or charter is an alternative), and in either case you need a day pass to access the island.
Once you are there, Dungeness Beach is the easiest to get to, a shortish hike from the ferry dock. If you feel like a longer stay, public camping is available, but you will usually need to book well ahead of time.
Hilton Head, over the border in South Carolina, is the nearest easily-accessible alternative to Tybee Island and receives millions of vacationers each year. Most of the island is divided up into gated resorts, but the beaches are accessible to the public.
Coligny Beach is the most visited, near the tourist center of Hilton Head and offering a range of facilities and commercial establishments. A less crowded alternative is South Forest Beach.
For a more natural environment, go to Mitcheville Beach at the northern end of the island, which offers opportunities for nature exploration, hiking along the beach and through the bordering forest, or kayaking.
For a beautiful, natural beach accessible by road, visit South Carolina’s Hunting Island State Park, one of the most visited parks in the state’s park system. Despite its popularity, the beach at Hunting Island is of such length that it is easy to find a quiet spot if that is what you want.
This is a great beach for a nature-oriented day out, with miles of hiking and biking trails through the inland areas of the 5000-acre island, plus a boardwalk, nature center and historic lighthouse.
Lightly developed Edisto Island offers a relaxing and family-friendly beach, albeit at a bit of a longer drive from Savannah than available alternatives.
Daytrippers from Charleston have quiet beaches much closer to home, and Edisto is primarily visited by vacationing families, so its beaches are seldom crowded.
The island has three main beach areas: the stretch fronting the town of Edisto Beach; Edisto Beach State Park; and the secluded and beautiful beach at Botany Bay Plantation, famed for its impressive boneyard of petrified trees protruding from the sand.
Charleston’s version of Tybee Island, this beach town is just a few minutes out of that South Carolina city. It is visited by summer vacationers, and on sunny weekends by large numbers of local day-trippers.
The beaches at Folly Island can be crowded in season, with traffic to match. Quieter beaches (once you have made it onto the island) can be found at the north-eastern end of Folly Beach, with a boneyard beach offering scenic views over adjacent Morris Island and its historic lighthouse.
Just east of Charleston is the tranquil beach town of Sullivan’s Island, offering a less busy alternative to Folly Beach.
Daufuskie Island is an inhabited island just north of the Georgia-South Carolina border, home to a community of permanent residents as well as vacationers. There are a couple of public access points to its 3 miles or so of beaches.
You can get to the island by ferry or water taxi, either directly from Savannah or from Bluffton or Hilton Head, or otherwise by chartered or private boat.
This destination beach town on Florida’s Amelia Island, just over the border with Georgia, offers 13 miles of beachfront and a full range of amenities and activities.
Most of the island is developed, but you can also find more natural beaches at the very northern and southern tips of the island, within Fort Clinch and Amelia Island State Parks.