The Tybee Island Lighthouse

The Tybee Island Lighthouse was used to signal Savannah of possible attack by the British during the War of 1812. The light station would go on to be part of the protection of Savannah during the Civil War and WWII. (Paige Impink photo)

Tybee Island is a barrier island on the northern coast of Georgia, not far from the more fa­mous Hil­ton Head Island in South Carolina. Warm water, white sand beaches, history, a giant pier, laid back outdoor dining — all things people seek in a summer destination.

The island is a stone’s throw from Savannah, a walkable city of gardens and greenery. In fact, lo­cals call Tybee “Savan­nah Beach.”

Tybee Island is historic for its role in protecting Savannah during the Ci­vil War, and for its rich, natural resources. From the ear­liest Spanish settlers claiming Tybee as part of La Florida, to the French harvesting sassafras roots, to pi­rates stashing their treasure, the island’s position at the mouth of the Savannah River has made it a strategic and sought out location.

The Tybee Lighthouse and Museum is a draw for tourists and is Geor­gia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse. The lighthouse, built in 1732, is considered one of the most complete historic light stations in the country, with its grounds and support buildings in­tact.

The lighthouse has un­der­gone several attacks, including a Civil War on­slaught when Confeder­ate troops set it on fire to prevent Federal troops from seeing their way to the island.

One of the best ways to enjoy Tybee is from the water. Kayak tours of the river and ocean are of­fered and will not disappoint. Whether you take a guided tour or opt for self-guided, the Laza­retto Creek and marshland is such a retreat.

Wildlife abounds, though the dolphins were elusive the morning we pad­dled. Dolphin tours are also offered for visitors to catch a glimpse of bottle­nose dolphins. Excur­sions leave daily to give visitors up close chances to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat. There have also been re­ports of North Atlantic right whales off the coast of Georgia, but those sightings are rare.

The island is bicycle and pedestrian friendly, boasting four beaches, each with different characteristics. Our favorite was Back River beach, a quiet sandy tip near Lit­tle Ty­bee Island.

Parking is paid via an app, and there are no amenities, but the sand goes on forever and the warm water is a treat for northern feet. The South, North and Mid beaches are more crowded, with traditional beach front shops, arcades and food.

The Tybee pier was built by the railroad com­pany in 1891 as a destination for vacationers to the Georgia shore. The pier burned in 1967 but was rebuilt in the 90s and has drawn tourists and hosted music performances since.

With temperatures that are comfortable in the fall and spring, and perfect beach weather June until September, Tybee Island is a winner for your vacation planning.

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