Whenever I think of Tybee Island, the first thing that comes to mind is the Tybee Pier and Pavilion. The long pier stands on the beautiful South Beach, like a colorful vintage postcard coming to life. Tybee Island is known as “Savannah’s Beach” and has been a popular destination for beach lovers since the early 1900s. And it is no wonder why. The barrier island is the perfect beach vacation spot with its timeless beach atmosphere and modern amenities.
I visited Tybee Island a few times in the past with my family, but only for a few hours to see the tallest lighthouse in Georgia and Fort Pulaski. However, this time, we decided to extend our stay and explore more of the island. I’m glad we 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 options for dining and shopping. Plus, it’s only 18 miles from the charming city of Savannah.
In this article, I’ve listed 7 fun things to do on Tybee Island, along with some travel tips and information about where we stayed. You can do all these activities in one day or spread them out over a few days to allow more time to relax on the beach!
7 Fun Things to Do on Tybee Island
1) Relax at Tybee Island’s Beaches and Enjoy a Breathtaking Sunrise or Sunset
Location: Pan on the map below to see the approximate locations of South Beach, Mid Beach, and North Beach on Tybee Island.
How Much to Visit and Parking: Visiting the beaches is free, but parking fees are enforced daily from 8am to 8pm (around $2 to $4 per hour, depending on where you park). Payment can be made at the meters, through Pay & Display stations, or with their new parking app (Park TYB) available on iPhones and Androids. Find locations to park and more information here.
Are Pets or Glass Containers Allowed? No
I believe there are few things better than enjoying a cup of coffee on the beach in the morning. That’s exactly what I did on the first day of our weekend getaway to Tybee Island. 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.
The oceanfront beaches are family-friendly, clean, inviting, and great for many activities: sunbathing, swimming, playing ball, and people-watching, to name a few. We even witnessed a Sunday morning baptism and someone metal detecting. I sometimes wonder if they found any treasure in the sand!
North Beach is closer to the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum and is usually quieter than South Beach. Here, you can unwind with a book while listening to the gentle waves. It’s also an excellent spot for seashell collectors.
South Beach is where you will find the picturesque Tybee Pier and Pavilion, making it an ideal spot for photography. It’s also the most popular beach on Tybee Island, with many visitors that go to it annually. You may even see a concert or festival at the pavilion. During our stay, we spent most of our time at South Beach since it was the closest to our bed and breakfast inn.
Like North Beach, the beautiful Mid Beach is quieter than South Beach but has fewer amenities and nearby restaurants. There is also no parking lot, so you’ll have to park at one of the street meters.
Photo Tip for South Beach: Head over to the Tybee Pier during sunrise. Depending on the time of year you go, you can see the sun rising between the pier’s columns, which I call the “spider legs.” It’s an incredible view that’s definitely worth getting up early for instead of hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock. Sunset is also a pretty amazing sight to see, with the watercolor sky adding to the beauty of the scene.
Tybee Island also has two river beaches, Savannah River Beach and Back River Beach, located at opposite ends of the island. Both river beaches see fewer people and provide a pleasant respite from the more crowded oceanfront beaches. You might even see a few dolphins!
Back River Beach isn’t ideal for swimming. But it is perfect for a leisurely walk, sunset watching, or kayaking to Little Tybee Island.
There are public restrooms at Back River Beach, but you will not find any at Savannah River Beach.
Off the Beaten Path: Little Tybee Island:
If you want to stay close to Tybee Island but crave some solitude, consider taking a day trip to Little Tybee Island, a beautiful uninhabited nature preserve. Despite its name, Little Tybee Island is more than twice the size of Tybee Island and is accessible only by boat, kayak, paddleboarding, or jet ski. Numerous outdoor activities are available here, such as hiking, swimming, birdwatching, and fishing. Find more information about Little Tybee Island here.
2) Climb the Tallest Lighthouse in Georgia: Tybee Island Light Station and Museum
Location: 30 Meddin Drive, Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
How Much to Visit: Adult tickets are $12. Tickets are $10 for children ages 6-17 and people 62+. Coast Guard (with ID) and children 5 and under get in free. Also, if you are in the military, tickets are $10 each with an ID.
Parking: 2-hour parking is included with your admission ticket.
Operating Hours: They are open Mondays and Wednesdays through Sundays from 9am to 4:30pm. They are closed on Tuesdays and certain holidays. Visit their website for more information. Note: The lighthouse is closed until mid-March 2024 due to renovations. However, the grounds and museum are still open at a discounted admission rate. You will want to check their website frequently for updates.
There are five lighthouses in Georgia, with the tallest and smallest located on Tybee Island: the Tybee Island Light Station and Cockspur Island Lighthouse, respectively.
Compared to Cockspur, the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum is more popular because it is easily accessible and visitors can climb it. Completed in 1867, it stands at a towering 145 feet despite not being the original, the first two having been destroyed. The light station is still operational today, and you can see its bright light from the beach at night.
A question often asked: How many steps are there 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 don’t have any seating available.
But imagine being the keeper of this lighthouse and having to climb it every day! I used to be able to climb it easily when I was a freshman in high school, but now I have to take frequent breaks. After about 15 minutes, I finally made my way up to the top!
The climb is worth it, though, for the lovely panoramic views of Tybee Island, including Battery Garland (Fort Screven) and the blue ocean that stretches as far as the eye can see.
Remember: Your admission ticket to the lighthouse includes visiting the nearby 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.
3) Take a Dolphin Cruise to See the Smallest Lighthouse in Georgia
Location: Sunset dolphin cruise with Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure located at 3 Old US Highway 80, Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
How Much to Visit and Operating Hours: Daytime and sunset tours are available. An adult ticket ranges from $27.95 to $37.95. View additional pricing information and tour times on their website.
To get a good view of the smallest lighthouse in Georgia, Cockspur Island Light, you must take a boat since you cannot directly access the small rocky island where it stands. Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure can take you pretty close to the lighthouse, and you can enjoy watching the golden sunset behind it.
During our tour, we spotted several pods of playful dolphins. Although they didn’t come near the boat, we managed to capture a few photos of them peeking their fins or heads above the water. However, their fast speed made photography challenging.
Although I initially hesitated to bring my film camera onto a boat, I’m so happy I did because the sunset photos turned out amazing! The ride was a bit bumpy with strong winds, and some people at the front got splashed with water. Luckily, my camera was safely tucked away during that part.
However, towards the end of our boating adventure, a swell hit the boat, and the couple sitting 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, it’s important to be aware that you might accidentally get wet, depending on the wind and waves.
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!
4) Immerse Yourself in History at Fort Pulaski National Monument
Location: 101 Fort Pulaski Road, Savannah, GA 31410
How Much to Visit: The admission fee for adults is $10, and cash payments are not accepted. Children who are 15 years old and below can enter for free. They also offer fee-free days on some days throughout the year and an annual pass for purchase. You can find more information about entrance fees and passes on their website by clicking here.
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.
One of the top things to do when visiting Tybee Island is to explore the Fort Pulaski National Monument. Although the fort is not technically on Tybee Island, it is only a short distance away, approximately halfway between Savannah and Tybee Island. Despite its slightly off-location, the fort is definitely worth a visit and should be added to your itinerary if you love history.
Once a strategic military outpost, the fort was bombarded by Union soldiers in 1862. They eventually gained control and turned it into a Confederate prison camp. Today, the remnants of this cannon bombardment can still be seen in the fort’s brick walls.
After the Civil War, the military withdrew from the fort, handing over control to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse keepers. Today, the Cockspur Island Lighthouse is a part of the Fort Pulaski National Monument. Visitors can take a walking trail near the fort to get a closer look at the lighthouse and enjoy a better view.
As you enter the fort, you will notice a giant pecan tree near the center with its long, bony tree limbs stretching 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 it’s actually not a bush. It is a living fig tree that still produces figs used to make fig brandy and preserves today!
Visiting tip: You can explore the fort by walking around or climbing up to the second level to get a better view of the grounds and the cannons. Most of the fort is outdoors, so don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, comfortable walking shoes, and an umbrella if it rains.
5) Grab Delicious Coffee and Shop at Tybee Oaks
Location: 1213 US Highway 80 East, Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
Operating Hours: Store hours vary; Tybean Art and Coffee Bar is open daily from 7:30am to 1pm.
On US Highway 80 East, you will see a row of small, colorful retail shops and a coffee shop. There are only a few 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 flavorful frozen drinks, which you might enjoy more than that popular coffee place we all know.
Parking at Tybee Oaks is available on-site or along the street.
6) Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth While Taking a Stroll Down the Tybee Pier and Pavilion
Location: Tybrisa Street, Tybee Island, Georgia 31328
How Much to Visit: Visiting and walking down the pier is free. However, plan to pay for parking and if you wish to order any food or drinks. Many people fish at the dock, but you must have a Georgia fishing license.
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 great for people-watching, fishing, and birdwatching. We saw many birds eagerly trying to catch a piece of fallen food.
The pier has a spot for visitors to sit and eat their own food or purchase ice cream and drinks. There is even a fun photo booth. We decided to save the pier and pavilion as one of our last activities on Tybee Island, but looking back, I wish we hadn’t. If I could redo our plans, I would have enjoyed lunch in the octagonal pavilion while watching and listening to the gently rolling waves.
7) Indulge in Delectable Food at Tybee Island’s Restaurants
Tybee Island is home to a variety of locally-owned restaurants and bars. Among them, the Original Crab Shack stands out as the most famous and well-known. You can indulge in crab or other delicious seafood while enjoying the view of the marina. I highly recommend trying their beef brisket sandwich with their Tybee mustard-based sauce – it’s one of the best sauces I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, the sauce was sold out at their on-site gift shop the last time we checked. You can find the Original Crab Shack at 40 Estill Hammock Road:
We also ate at Fannie’s on the Beach since their sign told me to do so (the sign really says this!). It is conveniently near the bed and breakfast we stayed at, close to 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:
My favorite, and perhaps the best restaurant on Tybee Island is Sea Wolf Tybee, at 106 South Campbell Avenue. It is a hole-in-the-wall place – it took us five times going up and down the road trying to find it. Locals frequently come here, and it is no wonder why, as the mouthwatering food and fancy drinks are exceptional. There are few 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 travel dates. Since there are only a few hotels and franchises on Tybee, you won’t find big-name chains like Marriott or Hilton. Instead, most of the businesses are locally owned and operated.
I’ve never stayed at a bed and breakfast before, so I was searching for a cozy B&B near the beach. After a few days of searching, I finally booked our stay at the Beachview Inn & Spa. And our stay there was fabulous!
Constructed in the 1910s as a hotel, Beachview Inn & Spa has seen many visitors come and go over the last 100 years. Even though it’s a historical building, the rooms are richly decorated with modern amenities.
Our room, the “Ophelia” room, has the original hardwood floors. I jokingly told my husband, who despises painting walls, that he should feel lucky we already painted the house because I would want the exact same wall color that is in the Ophelia room! I don’t know the name of the paint, but it’s a pretty blue-green color that reminds me of the Caribbean Sea.
Unfortunately, we could not experience the spa during our short weekend trip. However, we indulged in their daily breakfast, which offered a wide variety of options, such as biscuits and gravy, breakfast quiche, and peach French toast. If you like an early morning cocktail, 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 of the article on the Tybee cats. Tybee Island has a thriving 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 so happy to see these cats receiving such tremendous love and care!
Our bed and breakfast also had three kitties: Charlie, Daisy, and Tuxedo. Daisy was exceptionally welcoming for our first night there – she led us to our room. 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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