Tybee Island also known as Savannah's Beach, is an easily accessible barrier island located just 18 miles east of the historic Savannah, Georgia. While it has become a popular tourist destination, it still feels like a hidden gem compared to the well-known beach towns of South Carolina or Florida.
Only three square miles, and devoid of the typical chains found in other beach hot spots, it's no wonder why many haven't heard of Tybee Island. Yet, nature and art lovers and families will surely fall in love with this tiny, laid-back getaway offering plenty of Southern charm and lots to do.
Where to stay:
You won't find commercial resort chains here, mainly local beach motels on the strip and unpretentious bungalows for rent. A vacation home rental is really the way to go here for a true local experience.
For our summer getaway, we used Natural Retreats to book a two bedroom, two bath beach cottage just a block away from the beach and boardwalk in Tybee. We had the upstairs unit with our own entrance and wrap-around sleeping porches, which are common on the island. Read more at TravelingMom.com.
Martini Time, our cozy & colorful Tybee rental.
What to do:
For such a small island, there is surprisingly lots to do, especially in the waters surrounding Tybee Island. Whether you want to ride a wave, paddle in the surf or see it all with an eco-tour there is an option for everyone.
Kayak tours & Paddleboarding - Sea Kayak Georgia - They offer several different half day kayak trips including a sunset kayaking tour to Little Tybee Island that I highly recommend. Our two hour tour was both vigorous and relaxing. Our guide and instructor was a local science teacher, which pointed out different animals and marine life along the way. He also helped tow our tired friend and her kayak for a bit. Unlike the afternoon tours where the sun is at its strongest, the sunset tour offered a bit of a breeze, but choppier waters.
Dolphin Tours - See the Bottlenose Dolphins in their natural habitat. Choose from one of the many knowledgeable, trained guides that will teach you all about Tybee's Island marine habitat. Captain Mike and Derek are both fantastic!
Shopping - Stroll along The Shops at Tybee Oaks, which has everything from junk to funk, original art work and jewelry all housed in little bath house cottages. It's a colorful sight where you'll be sure to walk away with a one-of-a-kind treasure that no one back home will have.
Bike Rentals - The terrain on Tybee Island is pretty flat, and the island is only 2.75 miles long, so you can get almost anywhere without gasoline. Tybee's designated bike route is a combination of paths and safe streets, and is a great way to tour the neighborhoods. The beach and the scenic, six-mile long Old Railroad Trail along US-80 are also favorite biking and hiking spots. Fat Tire Bikes and Tim's Bike Rentals both have several shops that you can easily rent a bike from once on-site.
Tybee Island Light Station & Tybee Museum - A 280-year-old site! It's a steep climb to the top of the lighthouse (178 steps), but the views are worth it.
If you get a bit restless during your stay with the laid-back offerings of the island, the nightlife and sights of Savannah are only a half-hour drive away.
One afternoon, we drove about 15 minutes to Wilmington Island to experience a Honey Bee Garden Tour at the famous Savannah Bee Company. We donned bee keeper hats and saw the hives up-close, while also being educated on everything there is to know about honey bees and pollination. It was fascinating and yummy. This tour isn't often found on the guide books, but for just $3 it was one of the highlights of our trip. We also left with amazing Tupelo honey and beeswax lip balm.
Where to eat:
For breakfast, try Tybee's popular The Breakfast Club, but if you'd rather skip the lines you can head down the road to the no-frills The Sugar Shack, which has 24 flavors of ice cream too.
For coffee, you won't find a Starbucks on this 3 mile beach town, but on the north end of the island there is Tybean Coffee with local art and WiFi in a beach shack ambiance.
For cocktails and tapas, Tybee Island Social Club is the hip, open-air restaurant with live music and local art. They serve Mexican/American fusion. Their fish tacos and tasty margaritas were the perfect balm for the hot evening.
For a sunset dinner, A-J's Beachside is a must, but if you want a table for sunset you may want to get there at least an hour early as they do not take reservations.
For drinks, Doc's is the oldest bar on the island (1948) and there are Crab Races usually on a Friday night.
For a big seafood meal, order the Sampler at The Crab Shack with an assortment of shellfish, whitefish, corn, potatoes and sausage. Before you enter the extremely large screened in restaurant, you'll first have to cross a bridge over real alligators, which are there for your viewing pleasure. They offer fishing poles and food to feed them too for a fee. While we waited for a table we also enjoyed spotting the many cats in the parking lot. We even saw one lounging peacefully right on the waterfall rocks near the hostess station (there are a lot of stray beach cats on the island in general, so you might want to save a piece of fish from your seafood platter for them). While I was prepared for the kitsch of the place, I was not expecting such an amazingly tasty meal. I would go back to Tybee just for this seafood smorgasbord again.
Enjoy discovering Tybee!