Tybee Island: Savannah’s Laid-Back Beach Town
When local say they’re going to “the beach,” they’re headed to Tybee Island. Every other waterfront location on the coast, and there are many, is referred to by name. Tybee (pronounced TIE-bee) is where you go to kick off your flip-flops and relax. The island has a low-key vibe, lots of public beach access and plenty of great inexpensive restaurants.
Follow historic Highway 80 as it winds into the pristine marshlands to the sea at the city’s edge and then to the sea. This small beach town, 15 minutes from downtown Savannah, is the most densely developed of Georgia’s 15 major barrier islands and is very different from the luxury resort communities of Sea Island and St. Simons just up the road. Tybee was developed primarily in the 1950s and 1960s, so it’s a melange of sturdy single-family beach homes with massive porches to catch the breeze and sea views and more modest cinder-block structures with catamaran- and surfboard-junked front yards. Locals enjoy barefoot Christmas parades, and the shag (the beach music dance, not the haircut) still hasn’t gone out of fashion.
A trek to the top of the North end lighthouse, the oldest and tallest in Georgia, gives a sweeping view of the island, beaches, marshes and the Atlantic Ocean. Catch a dolphin cruise for up-close-and-personal sightings of these bottlenose beauties. Charter-fishing tours abound, or cast your line from the Tybrisa Pier, but not before you start the day at the Breakfast Club (1500 Butler Ave., 912-786-5984), renowned by locals as Savannah’s best breakfast spot.
Climb 178 stairs to the top of Tybee Lighthouse, the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Georgia, for sweeping views of the island.