Tybee Island is Savannah’s beach. Situated less than 20 miles away at the mouth of the Savannah River, it is a favorite seaside destination, especially during the hot Georgia summers, attracting visitors from further afield as well as day-trippers out of the city. Getting to Tybee Island from Savannah
Tourism made Tybee and it remains central to its economy today, with family vacations a large part of its trade. Most of Tybee’s tourist attractions originate in the island’s early history, first as an outpost lightstation marking the mouth of the Savannah River, later as a site for military infrastructure. More about Tybee’s tourist sights
A railroad across the marshes – said to be impossible – brought thousands of tourists and daytrippers to Tybee from the late 19th century (the railroad bed has since been redeveloped as a biking and hiking trail).
The rising popularity of the personal vehicle and the construction of Highway 80 out to Tybee sealed its position as one of the southeast’s premier vacation destinations, later rivalled by the development of resort communities on other nearby barriers islands such as Hilton Head and St Simons.
Today, Tybee is a small seafront town of around 3500 permanent residents. Low-rise motels and beach homes line its long ocean-facing side, with none of the extensive high-rise development of Myrtle Beach or the Florida beach cities.
Tybee Island prides itself on its relaxed, casual atmosphere, which sets it apart from the other barrier island destinations along the stretch of coast between Charleston down to the Florida line.
Tybee’s main sights are the Tybee Island Lighthouse And Museum, at the north end of the island, and Fort Pulaski, three miles west of Tybee off Highway 80.
Tybee’s lightstation is one of the best-preserved in the country, with its keepers’ house as well as the light itself intact. The present lighthouse (the fourth built on the site) dates from 1867. Besides climbing the tower, you can also visit the small on-site museum. More details
Fort Pulaski, the site of the Civil War battle of the same name, is a restored 19th-century brick fort built as part of the United States coastal defenses.
A museum and interpretive programs outline the history of the fort. Cockspur Island, on which the fort is situated, is also a good place for hiking and wildlife watching, with trails and views over the adjacent Cockspur Island Lighthouse. More about visiting Fort Pulaski
Public dolphin watching tours operate out of Tybee Island, and private boat charters are also available to the nearby barrier islands and marshes. More about boat tours in the Tybee/Savannah area.
Tybee’s biggest draw is its beaches, of which it has more than 5 miles. The oceanfronting beaches are most often visited: South Beach, near the pier, is the busiest; North Beach, near the lighthouse, is usually a little quieter. Please note that dogs are not permitted on Tybee’s beaches. More about Tybee’s beaches, including information on parking and beach access points
The Tybee Marine Science Center offers frequent guided walks of the beach and marshes around Tybee, for a more in-depth exploration of the area’s wildlife and ecology. See details
Ecological tours of Tybee’s beaches by local marine biologists are also available, suitable for both children and adults. More information
Tybee Island’s adjacent barrier islands and the tidal marshes between it and Savannah also provide many opportunities for outdoor activities and recreation.
Kayaking and paddleboarding are excellent ways to explore the creeks around Tybee. The neighboring undeveloped nature preserves of Little Tybee Island and Wassaw are favorite destinations, as are the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, the Savannah River and other waterways bordering Tybee Island itself.
Several Tybee Island establishments rent out kayaks or paddleboards for independent trips, but if you don’t have much experience, or don’t know the area, you can also take one of numerous guided paddling tours to any of these, and other, local destinations.
For a town of its size, Tybee Island hosts a good range of heavily-attended annual festivals and events, mostly held along either the principal thoroughfare of Butler Avenue or around the South Beach and Pier. Some of these events can bring enormous crowds to the small island community, and parking can be difficult to find.
Tybee’s event calendar begins with the New Year’s Day fireworks off the South Beach pier. A Mardi Gras Parade and Street Party is held each year in February; St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in similar style, with the island’s Irish Heritage Celebration Parade usually held a day or two off from St Patrick’s Day itself so as not to compete with Savannah’s much larger parade.
The spring months bring numerous festivals: in April and May are the week-long Tybee Wine Festival; the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Sand Arts Festival; Tybee’s Rainbow Days pride parade and celebrations; the Beach Bum Parade (and water fight); and the Orange Crush beach party.
Holiday fireworks are the biggest events through summer: the Independence Day celebration, usually held on a day to either side of July 4th, and Tybee’s Labor Day fireworks and beach party.
In October is Pirate Fest, one of the highlights of Tybee Island’s event calendar. Finally, the holiday season begins with a Christmas Parade in early December.