Tybee Island, Georgia, is a non-commercialized beach area about twenty minutes from Savannah. With a laidback vibe and beautiful easily-accessible waterfront areas, Tybee Island is a great family-friendly place to visit for a vacation or day trip. My family has been going there for 25 years. While there are many more restaurants and fancier houses, Tybee is still an affordable and fun place to visit.
1. Hit the Beaches
Tybee Island lies on the Atlantic Ocean and features five miles of public beaches. Enjoy watching the cargo ships at Tybee’s North Beach, or head to South Beach for Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion access. There are restrooms and changing areas at the pavilion (rebuilt for the 1996 for the Summer Olympics) for use before or after you enjoy a beach day.
You can access the beaches from many streets through the island. Parking is pretty easy to come by. Surfing is popular here (lessons are available) and you can rent paddle boards and jet skis from water adventure companies.
You’ll find Mid Beach between North and South Beaches. The crowds are more sparse here, so soak up the privacy. At the end of the island, and away from downtown is known as the Back River Beach. Here, there are few waves and very peaceful waters. I’ve seen dolphins playing very close to the shoreline on many occasions.
2. Enjoy Fresh Seafood
Tybee Island has a few really good restaurants, with my favorites being The Sundae Cafe and A-J’s Dockside Restaurant. Still, few restaurants are as well known and beloved as The Crab Shack. Sundae Cafe is great for wine, craft cocktails, and meals such as a Double Cut Pork Chop or Pecan Chicken. Don’t miss the Oysters Rockefeller.
The Sundae Cafe has a romantic setting, while A-J’s is much more casual, is where you go for seafood baskets, beer, and chill by the Back River. Start your dining experience with Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip, creamy and toothsome, served with tortilla chips. Then, for your main courses, consider Snow Crab Legs or a Fried Dinner Combo, with two choices between oysters, shrimp, flounder, and scallops.
The Original Crab Shack is a Tybee Island legend, with three bars, excellent waterfront views, and epic seafood dishes. Crab Shack is super fun and probably the majority of people who vacation at Tybee Island have eaten there. You can see alligators on the property and take amazing pictures. The crab legs and shrimp are off-the-hook delicious, as are the frozen drinks, namely the Mudslide. A great meal, photo-ops, and a fun time—Crab Shack is literally the trifecta in Tybee Island.
3. Fish From the Pier
South Beach offers the Tybee’s Pier and Pavilion. It is an excellent place to cast a line and fish for speckled trout, bass, Spanish mackerel (near the sand bars on the north and south end), catfish, and black and red drum. Don’t be surprised if you hook one of the shark species, they are quite abundant.
Besides the Tybee Pier, you can fish from Lazaretto Creek Pier (near Tybee) and Fisherman’s Walk at the back river. If you are feeling adventurous, you can charter a deep sea fishing expedition, too.
4. Visit the Iconic Lighthouse
The Tybee Island Lighthouse is a real treasure, as well as the tallest and oldest in Georgia. I find it one of the easiest to access (and park) and most fun to climb, at only 145 feet with 178 steps. The lighthouse also has a museum and you can see Fort Screven’s 19th-century gun batteries. Though the Tybee Island Lighthouse has been rebuilt several times since the 18th century, it is still fully functional.
5. Wander Downtown
Whether its shopping for beachwear, hermit crabs, rafts, or pool toys, you will find a few great places to spend your money in downtown Tybee Island, namely Tybrisa Street. While you are there, pop into Java & Juice for a refreshing drink or Fannie’s on the Beach for a cold beer or frozen margarita. Fannie’s even has a walk-up window.
For the best nightlife, head over to Wet Willie’s or Doc’s Bar, both Tybee icons. For more shopping, venture back to Highway 80 for Seaside Sisters (with regular Mary Kay Andrews signings), Latitude 32, and Tybee Oaks, an eclectic array of shops with interesting finds and adorable, picturesque colorful cottages.
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