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Fun Reasons to Visit Tybee Island, Georgia

I'm a retired nurse who loves to write short stories, travel and medical articles.

Tybee Island Lighthouse compound. Includes lighthouse keeper's and assistant's quarter's, summer house, typical Tybee Island vacation house and gift shop.

Tybee Island Lighthouse compound. Includes lighthouse keeper's and assistant's quarter's, summer house, typical Tybee Island vacation house and gift shop.

If you live in or are visiting the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia, a day trip or weekend visit to Tybee, a barrier island off the Georgia Coast, can pack a lot of family fun. Just 20 minutes from Savannah, you can soak up the sun on Tybee's sandy beach, go fishing on the pier, visit a marine science center, tour a lighthouse, learn all about the colorful history of this tiny but historically important island at the Tybee Island Museum, or take a dolphin tour boat ride.

This article was written in response to a question by Riaha: "What was the best short vacation you ever took? " My answer is that while staying on Hilton Head Island, I've had a few wonderful day trips to Tybee Island. I hope that after reading this article you will understand why it's such a great place to visit no matter how much time you have to spend there.

Come, let's get started on my five fun recommendations for things to do in this great beach town.

1. Visit the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum

Get a great workout and enjoy breathtaking views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean when you climb the 178 steps to the top of the lighthouse. If you think climbing is hard, just imagine what it was like being one of the workers who had to install one step at a time and carefully rotate it into position.

When Tybee Lighthouse was built in 1773 it was the third lighthouse built on the island. The Confederates burned it down during the Civil War and it wasn't rebuilt until 1867. To learn why this island and lighthouse were so important during the war, plus more history about Tybee Island, visitors can go across the street to the Tybee Island Museum which is housed in Fort Screven's Battery Garland. There is only one admission price for both places and if you park by the lighthouse there is no charge for parking.

The Battery served as part of America's Coastal Defense System until it was decommissioned in 1945. The Tybee Island Historical Society converted it into a museum in 1962. Fun things to do at the museum include:

  • Climb onto the observation deck to see the mouth of the Savannah River as it opens into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Learn folklore about Native Americans, English settlers, and pirates who once inhabited the island.
  • Learn Tybee Island's history as a popular resort and amusement park.
  • See how Tybee families and kids used to spend their summers.
  • Learn about the Chu family's rise to prominence in the Tybee community and how this added to the multi-cultural influence on the island.
  • See the seven flags that have flown over Tybee since 1520.

2. Visit The Crab Shack Restaurant and Gator Lagoon

The Crab Shack is a shabby-chic outdoor seafood restaurant that has been named "The Best Seafood Dive" by Coastal Living Magazine. Other restaurants might be offended to be called a dive, but the Crab Shack is proud of being #1 and its owners have worked hard to get there by providing quality food at reasonable prices which is popular with both the locals and tourists.

Diners enjoy a waterside view of the creek while they eat finger-licking good seafood platters, delicious crab stew, and a host of other items from the shack's fun menu.

The house specialty is a platter piled high with an assortment of tasty shellfish that are in season. It's served with corn on the cob, potatoes, and sausage and can be ordered as a single portion or platter for 2, 3, or 4 people. While I did not partake in a platter I can attest that it looked mouth-watering and was indeed piled high with seafood, including large snow crab legs. I did order a seafood sandwich and a cup of crab stew for lunch and both items were delicious.

Before or after dining you can visit the Crab Shack Gator Lagoon and learn everything a tourist needs to know about alligators.

Tybee Island Pier

Tybee Island Pier

Close up of pavillion mural.

Close up of pavillion mural.

3. Visit Tybee Island Pier

The original Tybrisa Pavilion, built by the Central of Georgia Railroad, lasted more than 70 years and was a landmark on the South Atlantic Ocean. Like today's pier, it was a popular destination for day-trippers and seasonal visitors and had live entertainment.

The Tybee Pavilion was opened in 1996 and has spectacular views of the ocean, picnic tables, public restrooms plus in-season dances, musical performances, and special festivals and events throughout the year.

It has brightly painted murals that depict marine life scenes and give it a distinctive appearance while at the same time increasing the public's awareness to protect the marine life at this beautiful beach and in the ocean.

The adjacent pier is a great place to fish and enjoy the sea breezes.

Learn About Sea Turtles at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center

Learn About Sea Turtles at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center

4. Visit the Tybee Island Marine Science Center

The Tybee Island Marine Science Center features an aquarium, touch tank, and displays on marine life indigenous to the area.

The center has installed new tanks for their Diamondback Terrapin adults and hatchlings. Also, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center just gave them an 800-gallon tank and in the Spring of 2012 visitors will be able to see a young Loggerhead Sea Turtle in it.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles nest on Tybee from May to October. The Marine Science Center conducts a Sea Turtle Project and has volunteers who search for turtle nesting activities. Female turtles dig their nest, lay eggs and return to the ocean leaving the eggs on their own for the 60 days that it takes for a baby turtle to hatch and make its own way out to sea. If the volunteers find a nest they mark it off for protection and monitor it daily until the babies hatch and find the sea.

If you watched the Miley Cyrus movie, The Last Song, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, you may remember that Miley's character found a disturbed nest and called to have a volunteer sent out to protect it. Beach scenes in the movie were filmed on Tybee Island and if you haven't seen the movie yet, rent the DVD prior to visiting the island.

The Marine Science Center hosts many special activities and events and its staff will help teachers and group leaders plan activities for schools, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts. To find out more information on how to plan your own visit or a group visit go to the

5. Take a Dolphin Boat Tour

No visit to the island would be complete without seeing the bottle-nose dolphins who frequent its waters. Though they can easily be watched from the beach it's always a special thrill to view them by boat.

Captain Mike's Dolphin Tours depart from Lazaretto Creek on Tybee Island and are a great way to experience the excitement of seeing dolphins in their natural habitat and learn about them.

As the boat heads out toward the Atlantic, you'll pass shrimp boats and docks and go by the Cockspur and Tybee Lighthouses.

The tour lasts approximately one and a half hours, and reservations are required. Spectacular sunset cruises are also available.

Plan Your Visit to Tybee in Advance

If you do decide to take a day, weekend trip, or full vacation on Tybee Island you can plan your visit in advance by ordering a complimentary Tybee Island Vacation Planner online or calling 1-877-340-3388.

Or you can choose to be a beach bum, pack a cooler full of food, bring a good book, and sit on the beach under a wide umbrella. Either way, anyone who loves the ocean will enjoy a trip to Tybee.

Tybee Island Poll

© 2012 Gail Sobotkin