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Countdown to Savannah: Tybee Island (Savannah's Beach)
Kathy Wood (kaydee)
In early 2007, we started our official Countdown to Savannah. Each Sunday, we posted a different topic about this special city where we met for our first Great Slow Travel Gathering in Spring 2008.
With 63 posts over 14+ months, we learned a lot about the many facets of this historic, hospitable and intriguing American city. Our weekly posts touched on Savannah's history, famous people, architecture, food, culture, surrounding area and much more. We hope this information acquaints you with Savannah, entices you to visit this historic city, and prepares you for a very memorable trip.
Take the Time to Visit Tybee Island
Drive eighteen miles east of Savannah—about twenty minutes—and you’ll reach the Atlantic Ocean. There’s another world at the end of the road: Tybee Island. If you’re looking for a different kind of experience during your time in Savannah, Tybee Island is well worth a visit.
Also known as “Savannah Beach,” Tybee Island sits at the mouth of the Savannah River and is Georgia's northernmost and 11th largest barrier island. The island is 2.5 miles long and 0.75 mile wide with about 3.5 miles of beach. It’s one of only four of Georgia's barrier islands that are accessible by car.
Tybee Island is a pretty laid-back, almost old-fashioned place. Don’t go there expecting a glitzy beach resort. There are a few hotels and motels, some B&Bs, and lots of vacation rentals. (Some trivia: the first-ever Days Inn was built on Tybee Island in 1970.) At the south end of the beach is a pier and pavillion. In addition to relaxing on the beach, you can choose from a variety of outdoor activities including fishing, biking, dolphin cruises, kayaking, and birdwatching.
The distinctive black and white Tybee Lighthouse is one of the best preserved lighthouses in the USA. There’s been a lighthouse at this spot since 1736. The current lighthouse was activated in 1867 and stands 154 feet tall. It was built on a 60-foot base constructed in 1773 that was damaged in the Civil War. The Tybee lighthouse is unusual because all its support buildings are intact: a headkeeper's house, two assistant keeper's houses, a summer kitchen, and fuel storage building. The light at the top of the tower is still active, and you can climb 178 stairs for an excellent view of the surrounding area. (Find more information and photos of the Tybee Lighthouse here)
Marine Science Center
Nature lovers can visit the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. This organization promotes the appreciation, conservation, and understanding of the marine ecosystem of coastal Georgia. The center includes aquariums with local and tropical marine life, reptiles, exhibits, a gift shop and a “touch tank”. They also offer educational programs and activities in the center, on the beach and in the marsh.
A few miles west of Tybee Island is Fort Pulaski, a national monument operated by the National Park Service. The fort was completed in 1847 and named for the Polish general who was one of the heroes of the Battle of Savannah during the American Revolution. Controlled by the Confederate Army in the early years of the Civil War, Fort Pulaski was seized by Union forces in April 1862. This battle was a turning point in military history since it featured the first significant use of rifled cannons in combat. These long-range weapons shattered Fort Pulaski's walls from over a mile away. Under Union control, the fort became a final stop on the Underground Railroad, the place where slaves were freed when they arrived. After the war, Fort Pulaski was a military and political prison. The park includes 5,623 acres of scenic marsh and uplands that support a variety of local animal life. (Take a virtual tour of Fort Pulaski here)
Cockspur Beacon lighthouse
The 46-foot tall Cockspur Beacon lighthouse, built in 1857, sits on an islet about 12 miles from Savannah. This little lighthouse has had an interesting history, too. Look for it on the left as you head to Tybee Island. Depending on the tides, it may be totally surrounded by water.
Crab Shack Restaurant
A very popular destination off the road to Tybee Island is the Crab Shack. (Our family loves the ambiance, and we've had lunch there several times.) Set near a fishing marina, this very laid-back seafood restaurant has a huge patio built around shady oak trees. They were featured on Rachel Ray's "Eating on $40 a Day" show. Take a look at their website for lots of photos, the menu, and the clip from Rachel Ray's show. (Be prepared to listen to Jimmy Buffett music!)
Old Fort Jackson
One of the most important landmarks between Savannah to Tybee Island is Old Fort Jackson, located just three miles from Savannah and the oldest standing fort in Georgia. In addition to its role in American history, Fort Jackson played an important role in our own Slow Travel history, as it welcomed everyone to the Saturday night party during the Great Slow Travel Gathering 2008. Those old walls came to life again.
Learn more about Tybee Island
All About Savannah: Links to many information pages about Savannah (where to eat, where to stay, places of interest, getting around town, and more)
Woods Family Grand Tour of Europe: List of articles and photo albums by Kathy Wood
© Kathy Wood, 2007
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