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Tybee Island

Relax in one of Georgia’s favorite vacation destinations

With its fun-loving beach scene, outdoor recreation on land and sea, and a clutch of family-friendly attractions, Tybee Island remains true to its origins as a classic all-American holiday destination.

Just a short hop from Savannah, Tybee Island has, for the better part of 130 years, attracted sun worshippers in search of relaxation, wildlife, adventures on sand and sea on the Atlantic. Pirates, Spanish conquistadors, and English and French Colonial powers have all staked their claim.

But it’s for the Yamacraw Indians, who came to Tybee to hunt and fish, that the island is named; Tybee is an Indian word for “salt.” At Fort Screven, the last coastal fort built in Georgia, troops guarded Tybee through the Spanish-American War of 1898 and World War I.

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Beautiful Tybee Beaches

With sand made from glistening grains of granite that wash off the Appalachian Mountains, Tybee’s beaches lend themselves to elaborate sandcastles. Beachcombers and cyclists also claim Tybee’s packed sands make for easy walking and cycling (at low tide).

When school is out, southeast families converge on the island’s 5 square miles of wide, pristine sands lapped by gentle waters to swim, sail, paddle board, surf, fish and eat huge ice cream cones. During the summer onslaught, the town bulges with seafood restaurants, souvenir shops and ice cream parlors in pastel hues.

Year-round, locals thoroughly embrace the moment, with such annual shindigs as the Tybee Island Pirate Festival in fall and the Beach Bum Parade in spring. Still, for all its popularity, you can always find peace and seclusion, if that’s your M.O. Adjacent to Tybee’s town kernel, South Beach is the busiest stretch (and the only surfing beach).

Mid Beach caters to travelers in search of solitude, while the more enclosed North Beach, located at the mouth of the Savannah River surrounding Fort Screven, is popular with families for its gently shelving sands (great for shelling) and calm waters, where dolphins conspicuously cavort.

In addition to outfitters that offer kayak, jet ski, stand up paddle boarding and surf board rentals and instruction, visitors can also sign up for Tybee Beach Ecology Trips. Trips include high- and low-tide beachcombing and tide pool exploration. The Tybee Island Sea Turtle Project protects the beaches that are important nesting areas from May 1 to October 31.

Fort Screven

On the north end of Tybee, Fort Screven, named for Brigadier General James Screven, a hero of the American Revolution, was constructed in 1855 as a coastal artillery station. This imposing fortification featured six poured-concrete, low-profile gun batteries and hundreds of other military buildings.

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Tybee Lighthouse

Tybee Lighthouse, originally constructed in 1736, is the third-oldest lighthouse in the U.S. and one of the nation’s most complete historic light station facilities. With a fully functioning navigational aid, the station’s light is endowed with a first-order Fresnel lens, which can be seen 18 miles offshore. Reconstructed many times, the current 154-foot lighthouse dates from the post–Civil War period. If you can muster the energy to climb the 178 steps to the panoramic deck at the top, instant gratification comes in the form of sweeping vistas of primal dunes and salty marshes.

Tybee Island Marine Science Center

At Tybee’s small but well-conceived science center, a series of exhibits present the flora and fauna indigenous to southern Georgia and reveals the fascinating dynamics between barrier islands. In addition to a tidal pool “Touch Tank” of marine invertebrates, and a small aquarium that provides sanctuary to injured fish and turtles, the star of the show is Ike, a loggerhead sea turtle hatchling. Guided “Walks, Talks & Treks” aim to foster close encounters with the inhabitants of the salt marsh and reveal the importance of the intertidal zone and forces behind tides and waves and sand dune formation.

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Georgia Department of Economic Development