Kayaking near Tybee Island, Georgia. Photo by @doreennuessle3
Guide to Tybee Island
The closest beach to downtown Savannah, only 20 miles away, Tybee Island has more than five miles of public beaches popular with families. The island has a rich history, starting with Native Americans who inhabited Tybee Island for generations, arriving by dugout canoe, before the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century. The Spanish moved south in 1704, and Tybee became a part of the Georgia colony. The island also played a role in the Civil War and became a popular resort town in the decades following it.
Today, there are eight hotels, six bed and breakfast inns, and hundreds of vacation rentals, along with plenty of seaside activities, restaurants and entertaining events. Start planning your trip with this list of popular things to do, places to stay and great places to eat on Tybee Island.
Things to Do
Tybee Island Beach
Most travelers flock to the island for Tybee Island Beach, part of the five miles of public beaches ideal for sunbathing, surfing and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. It has been named one of the country’s best beaches.
Tybee Island Pier & Pavilion
An icon within the community, Tybee Island Pier & Pavilion was built in 1891 and destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt in 1996 for the Summer Olympics. Visitors can go fishing, chow down at the snack bar or soak up the view.
Marine Science Center
The Marine Science Center educates visitors on the native marine life on Tybee Island and Coastal Georgia. Admission covers a self-guided tour through exhibits with live animals, including fish and reptiles, and a touch tank.
Tybee Island Lighthouse & Museum
Built in 1732, the Tybee Island Lighthouse & Museum is the tallest and oldest lighthouse in Georgia. It has been safely guiding ships into the Savannah River ever since. Climb the 178 stairs to the top, and learn about island history in the museum.
Named for Casimir Pulaski, who died in the 1779 siege of Savannah, Fort Pulaski National Monument protected the sea approach to Savannah. It fell to Union forces in the Civil War. Today, it features interpretive programs, fort tours and weapon demonstrations.
Tybee Post Theater
Constructed in 1930, the Tybee Post Theater was used by the public and those living on Fort Screven. It sat vacant for 40 years but reopened in 2015 as a cultural arts center for the community, featuring live entertainment, classic and first-run movies, and theater productions.
East Coast Paddleboarding is the only paddleboard outfitter and school in the Savannah and Tybee Island area. They are one of the few nationally certified schools in the country, making them the best place to learn. They offer paddleboard lessons, tours and fitness classes, as well as sales for all the gear you need.
Tybee Island has dozens of hotels and inns as well as hundreds of rentals perfect for any group.
Hotel Tybee has been an island favorite for 127 years and is the island's largest full-service hotel. There are more than 200 guest rooms, two pools, a restaurant, bar, lounge and conference facility.
Desoto Beach Hotel
For direct beach access, there's nowhere better than the Desoto Beach Hotel. There are more than 30 rooms with TVs, coffee makers and free WiFi. The hotel also has a pool and sundeck, arcade and game room, conference center, continental breakfast, and rentals for bikes, beach chairs and umbrellas.
Set in the heart of the island, the award-winning Admirals Inn is one block from the beach. There are 41 newly renovated rooms with mini fridges, smart TVs and free high-speed Internet. There is also a fitness center, continental breakfast, free parking and free WiFi.
Surf Song Bed and Breakfast
This 110-year-old Victorian home was transformed into Surf Song Bed and Breakfast in 2013. Each room has an ensuite bathroom, and the inn is a short walk from the beach. They also have a swimming pool, daily breakfast, and a cozy porch with swings and rockers.
River's End Campground and RV Park
Those traveling with RVs and tents can stay at River's End Campground and RV Park, which is a few blocks from the beach. There are more than 100 sites with full hookups as well as primitive sites. Free WiFi is available, as well.
Mermaid Cottages is another vacation rental company featured by Coastal Living and Travel + Leisure for its historic homes and quirky cottages. Some are even pet-friendly, including some that date back to the 1930s. They also support local non-profits.
For such a small island, Tybee Island has no shortage of great places to eat.
The Crab Shack
Featured on The Food Network, The Crab Shack is known for its seafood platter, which comes with crab legs, shrimp and the catch of the day. The restaurant has three bars with Sunday drink specials and waterfront views.
North Beach Bar & Grill
Featured in the movie "The Last Song," North Beach Bar & Grill is a dockside eatery tucked between the lighthouse and the beach. Open for lunch and dinner, the menu is made up of seafood favorites with Caribbean influences.
Coco's Sunset Grille
Located at the marina, Coco's Sunset Grille is a laid-back spot for seafood dishes and Caribbean-inspired sandwiches, soups and salads. Their cocktails elicit flavors of the islands like the CocoRita and Parrot Head.
Fannie's on the Beach
For beachfront dining since 1992, head to Fannie's on the Beach, which has outdoor seating, Sunday brunch and live music on weekends. The menu has seafood, pizza and drinks, but don't miss the big salads!
Sting Ray's Seafood
Sting Ray's Seafood calls itself “the home of blue crabs, beach music and beer,” so get your fill of all three. They have live music on weekends and have won awards for their margaritas, seafood and bartenders.
The Deck Beachbar & Kitchen
The Deck Beachbar & Kitchen is the area's only beachfront bar and restaurant. The laid-back spot has waterfront views and live music. Don't miss the menu, which draws inspiration from the cuisines of Australia, coastal Mexico and Hawaii.
AJ's Dockside Restaurant
Open since 2003, AJ's Dockside Restaurant has a cozy location on the Back River. Outdoor deck seating overlooks the water, but there's also an indoor dining room and bar. The menu has fresh seafood and an extensive lineup of bottled beer.
There's always something going on in Tybee Island.
Tybee Island Wine Festival
The Tybee Island Wine Festival is a favorite spring event, combining live music with wine tastings that benefit the Tybee Post Theater and its local arts community.
Tybee Island Tour of Homes
Held every May rain or shine, the Tybee Island Tour of Homes has been going on for more than 20 years. It lets visitors into private homes, including historic properties, uniquely renovated homes, and new constructions on the island. Proceeds benefit a local organization.
Beach Bum Parade
Another May favorite is the Beach Bum Parade, a free event open to locals and visitors alike. It starts with a parade that soon becomes an island-wide water fight. Bring your waterproof bags and sense of adventure!
SCAD Sand Arts Festival
SCAD Sand Arts Festival in May features guest artists that create works using Tybee's best resource: the sand! Awards are handed out for the best designs. The event is open to Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) students, alumni and the general public.
Fourth of July Fireworks
Enjoy the Fourth of July Fireworks on the island, which is one of the state’s biggest celebrations. The fireworks at the pier start at dark, usually around 9:30 p.m., but they can be viewed all over the island.
Tybee Island Pirate Festival
In October, the Tybee Island Pirate Festival brings together the seafaring community for pirate costumes, parades, live entertainment and more. There's also a beer garden, kids area and fireworks.
Polar Plunge is a New Year's tradition where thousands of people take a brisk dip into the Atlantic Ocean at noon. The entire family is welcome to participate or just watch!