When I think of Tybee Island, I see the Tybee Pier and Pavilion with the gorgeous South Beach on a colorful vintage postcard. Travelers worldwide have visited this barrier island for its sandy beaches since the early 1900s. Known as “Savannah’s beach,” Tybee has a classic beach vibe with modern amenities.
Having previously visited for a few hours to see the tallest lighthouse in Georgia and Fort Pulaski, I decided to stay longer on Tybee for this vacation to explore more. I’m glad I did because this tiny island has so much to see and do!
Tybee has over three miles of public beaches, two lighthouses, historic forts, museums, and numerous places for dining and shopping. Plus, it’s only 18 miles from the charming city of Savannah.
Below, I’ve narrowed down 7 fun things to do on Tybee Island, including travel tips and where we stayed. You can do some of these activities in one day. Or spread them out over a few days to allow more time for some beach relaxation!
7 Fun Things to Do on Tybee Island
1) Relax at the Tybee Island Beaches and Watch the Sunrise or Sunset
Cost to Visit: Free, but there is a fee to park.
Where: Pan on the map below to see the approximate locations of South Beach, Mid Beach, and North Beach on Tybee Island.
I don’t think many things are better than drinking your morning coffee on the beach. This is precisely what I did on the first day of our Tybee Island weekend getaway. Visiting the beaches is the most popular thing to do on Tybee Island. The island has over three miles of gorgeous public beaches, and the oceanfront beaches at Tybee Island are pretty easy to remember: North Beach, Mid Beach, and South Beach.
North Beach is closer to the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum. South Beach is where the picturesque Tybee Pier and Pavilion is located. We spent most of our time on South Beach since it was closest to our bed and breakfast.
The beaches are family-friendly, clean, inviting, and great for many activities: laying out in the sun, swimming, playing ball, and people-watching, to name a few. We even saw a Sunday morning baptism and another person metal detecting. I wonder if they found any gold or silver in the sand!
South Beach is the most popular beach on Tybee Island, making excellent photos with the pier in the background.
Photo Tip for South Beach: go at sunrise and sit under the Tybee pier. The sun rising between the pier’s columns (or, as I call them, the “spider legs”) is stunning to see. The view is worth not hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock. Sunset is pretty amazing, too, with the watercolor sky.
Public parking lots are available at the South and North beaches. At South Beach, you will see pay stations, and there is a small fee to park between 8am and 8pm. Mid Beach has more street parking with pay meters. Also, you cannot bring pets onto the beach or glass containers.
In addition to the oceanfront beaches, two river beaches are located on opposite ends of the island: Savannah River Beach and Back River Beach. You will find fewer people at both locations, but it is a nice reprieve from the more crowded oceanfront beaches.
2) Walk Down the Tybee Pier and Pavilion
Cost to Visit: Free to visit and walk down the pier. However, plan to pay for parking and if you want to order food or drinks. Many people fish here, but you must have a Georgia fishing license to fish at the dock.
Where: Tybrisa Street, Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
Another fun thing to do on Tybee Island is to walk down the Tybee Pier and Pavilion on Tybrisa Street. Constructed in 1996 after the original pier was destroyed in a fire, the Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion is an excellent location for people-watching, fishing, and bird-watching. We saw so many birds eagerly trying to catch a piece of fallen food.
The pier has a place where you can sit and eat if you bring your food or purchase ice cream and a refreshing drink. There is even a fun photo booth. We saved the pier and pavilion for one of our last things to do on Tybee Island, and I wish I didn’t. If I were to redo my plans, I would have enjoyed lunch in the octagonal pavilion while watching the waves.
3) Visit the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum
Cost to Visit: Adults are $12, Children and Seniors are $10, and children five and under are free. Also, the military gets a discount with ID for $10.
Operating Hours: Monday and Wednesday through Sunday, 9am to 4:30pm. Closed Tuesdays and certain holidays. Visit their website for more information.
Where: 30 Meddin Drive, Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
Georgia has five lighthouses, and two are located on Tybee Island. The two lighthouses are the tallest and smallest in Georgia: Tybee Island Light Station and Cockspur Island Lighthouse, respectively.
Compared to Cockspur, the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum is more popular because you can access and climb it. The lighthouse you see today is the third Tybee Island Light Station since the first two were destroyed. Standing at 145 feet, the light station was completed in 1867 and is still operational.
A question often asked: how many steps to reach the top? 178! But don’t worry; it is not a continuous staircase. There are a few resting places at different intervals on the way up. However, these resting places require you to stand as there are no places to sit.
Just think: if you were a keeper of this lighthouse, you would do this climb every day! I used to be able to climb this lighthouse with little effort, but now I have to take frequent breaks. I’ll finally make my way up to the top about 15 minutes later.
The climb is worth it, though, for the lovely panoramic views of Tybee Island, including Battery Garland (Fort Screven). Your admission ticket to the lighthouse includes visiting the Tybee Museum in Battery Garland. The old gun battery houses many local artifacts, and you can easily spend a few hours here if you want to dive deep into Tybee’s history.
4) Take a Dolphin Cruise to See the Smallest Lighthouse in Georgia
How Much and Operating Hours: There are daytime and sunset tours. View pricing and tour times on their website.
Where: Sunset dolphin cruise with Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure located at 3 Old US Highway 80, Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
To get a close view of the smallest lighthouse in Georiga, Cockspur Island Light, you must take a boat since you cannot directly access the lighthouse and the small rocky island where it sits. Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure gets you pretty near, and you can watch the vibrant sun setting behind the little lighthouse.
On this tour, we saw many dolphin pods – the dolphins occasionally peeking their fins or heads above the water. They didn’t come too close to our boat, but I captured a few photos. They are fast, though, and made photography a bit difficult!
Even though I was hesitant to bring my film camera onto a boat, the sunset photos are fantastic, and I am glad I didn’t leave the camera behind. It was windy with turbulent water, and some people near the front of the boat were splashed with water. Luckily, the film camera was tucked away for this portion of the ride.
But a swell gushed onto the boat toward the end of our boating adventure. Unfortunately, the couple in front of us took the brunt of the water splash, ultimately protecting our camera. They laughed it off as we thanked them for keeping our camera safe. Needless to say, be aware that you might accidentally get wet depending on how rough the waves are and if it’s windy.
Also, you can bring drinks on the boat as long as they are not in glass containers. We picked up an excellent local gose beer; it made the boat ride more interesting as we tried to hold the beer, take photos, and maintain sound footing so we wouldn’t fall!
5) Visit Fort Pulaski National Monument
How Much: $10 per adult. Children 15 and under and military (including their dependents) get in free with ID. There is also an option for annual passes. Additional information on passes and entrance fees can be found on their website.
Operating Hours: Historic Fort Pulaski is open daily from 9am to 4:30pm, but the surrounding grounds and visitor center remain open until 5pm. They are closed on New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.
Where: 101 Fort Pulaski Road, Savannah, GA 31410
One of the most popular things to do while visiting Tybee Island is to see Fort Pulaski National Monument. However, Fort Pulaski is technically not on Tybee Island. The fort is located on Cockspur Island, halfway between Savannah and Tybee Island. But the fort is only a few minutes away and worth the stop!
Once a strategic military output, the Union soldiers bombarded the coastal Georgia fort in 1862, eventually gaining control and turning it into a Confederate prison camp. Today, you can still see the remnants of this bombardment by the cannons in the fort’s bricks.
After the Civil War, the military abandoned the fort, leaving control to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse keepers. The Cockspur Island Lighthouse is part of the Fort Pulaski National Monument, and they have a walking trail near the fort that will take you closer to the lighthouse for a better view.
Walking into the fort, you will notice a giant pecan tree near the center with its long bony tree limbs reaching towards the sky. It’s one of the last surviving trees planted inside the fort. Look to the right of the pecan tree, and you will see something that looks like a giant bush that needs some serious trimming. But this is not a bush. It is a living fig tree that still produces figs for fig brandy and preserves today!
Visiting tip: You can walk in and around the fort or take a few steps up to the second level for a view of the grounds and cannons. Most of the fort is outdoors, so don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, good walking shoes, and an umbrella if it rains.
6) Grab a Coffee and Shop at Tybee Oaks
Operating Hours: Store hours vary; Tybean Art and Coffee Bar is open daily from 7:30am to 12:30pm.
Where: 1213 US Highway 80 East, Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
On US Highway 80 East, you will see a row of small, colorful retail shops and a coffee shop. There are not a lot of stores here, but it is worth stopping as the stores are locally owned and have a wonderful collection of art, souvenirs, jewelry, and photography. You can even make your own pottery and art!
While there, grab a coffee from the eclectic Tybean Art and Coffee Bar. They have delicious frappuccinos you might enjoy more than that popular coffee place we all know.
Parking at Tybee Oaks is available on-site or along the street.
7) Eat Delicious Food at Tybee Island’s Restaurants
Tybee Island has many locally-owned restaurants and bars. Located at 40 Estill Hammock Road, the Original Crab Shack is probably the most famous and well-known. Eat crab or other delicious seafood while viewing the marina. I ordered the beef brisket sandwich with their Tybee mustard-based sauce, and it was probably the best sauce I’ve had. Sadly, they were sold out of it at their on-site gift shop last time we checked. Find the Original Crab Shack on the map here:
We also ate at Fannie’s on the Beach since their sign told me to do so. It was conveniently close to our bed and breakfast near South Beach and the Tybee Pier and Pavilion. Enjoy their nachos and piña coladas while taking in a nice view of the beach. Fannie’s on the Beach is at 1613 Strand Avenue:
But perhaps the best restaurant on Tybee Island is Sea Wolf Tybee, located at 106 South Campbell Avenue. It is a hole-in-the-wall place, and it took us five times going up and down the road to find it. Locals frequently come here, and it is no wonder why, as the food and fancy drinks are exceptional. There are not many places where you can have the best hotdog in your life with a glass of champagne! Find Sea Wolf Tybee on the map here:
Where We Stayed
It took me a good minute to find lodging at Tybee Island that worked well with our budget and our dates of stay. There are few hotels or franchises on Tybee, and you won’t see Mariott or Hilton. Many of the businesses are small businesses owned and operated by locals.
I’ve never stayed in a place like a bed and breakfast before, so I really wanted to find a cozy B&B or something similar near the beach. After a few days of searching, I finally booked our stay at Beachview Inn & Spa.
Our stay there was fabulous! Constructed in the 1910s as a hotel, the building has seen many visitors come and go over the last 100 years. Our room, the “Ophelia” room, has the original hardwood floors. Even though it’s a historical building, the rooms are richly decorated with modern amenities. I told my husband, who despises painting, you’re lucky we already painted the house because I would want the exact wall color in the Ophelia room! I don’t know the name of the paint, but it’s a beautiful blue-green color and reminds me of the sea.
Unfortunately, our short weekend trip did not permit me to try the spa, but we enjoyed their daily breakfast. They had a wide range of options, including biscuits and gravy, a breakfast quiche, and peach french toast. Don’t forget to ask for a delicious mimosa to go with your breakfast!
As a cat lover and mom of six kitties, it is no surprise that I included a section on the Tybee cats. Tybee Island has a healthy cat population; many restaurants and local businesses care for them. For example, The Original Crab Shack has a “Cat Shack” near the restaurant where the kitties can cuddle up and nap during the day. They are all spayed and neutered, and I am happy to see these cats receiving tremendous love and care!
Our bed and breakfast also had three kitties: Charlie, Daisy, and Tuxedo. Daisy was quite welcoming – she showed us to our room the first night we were there. Thank you for your hospitality, Daisy!
Have you visited Georgia’s other barrier island, Jekyll Island? If not, you might like my other article, 5 Fun Things to Do on Jekyll Island!
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