Laid-back Tybee Island off of Georgia’s Atlantic coast is virtually unknown to most people outside Georgia, even for beach-loving travelers like myself. While it’s only 20 minutes east of the major historic and cultural city of Savannah, Tybee Island is far from the beaten path, and won't likely become as recognizable as the major family destinations along the coasts of neighboring Florida and South Carolina for a while.
Tybee is a beautiful little retreat—less than three miles long—with emphasis on relaxation and water sports. It marks the gateway to Georgia's other barrier islands, and sea kayakers will find paradise in the endless maze of tidal rivers and coastal waters here. Or, see the island from above on a parasailing adventure.
This is one place that's actually proud to be known as a “drinking island with a fishing problem”; alcoholic beverages are allowed in public in plastic cups. During spring-break weekends, the beach inevitably fills with college students, but the island attracts nature and history enthusiasts year-round.
From its discovery by the Spanish to its role throughout several wars, the island boasts 400 years of history as an important location for coastal defense. Its lighthouse still functions as a navigational aid, and visitors can climb its 178 steps for a stunning panoramic view. Check out Fort Pulaski, where a battle in 1862 marked the first time cannons were used in long-range combat. You can watch daily musket and soldier demonstrations here. A museum on the island's history and the Marine Science Center provide additional sites of interest. Kids will love the adventures; history buffs can get their fill; and local art galleries can entertain shoppers for hours.
For lodging on the island, you can find small local bed and breakfasts, oceanfront hotels, or rental homes or condos; even camping is available. There's also a huge variety of upscale lodging in nearby Savannah.
While in the area, grab a meal at Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House. Any fan of Food Network star Paula Deen will know that Uncle Bubba's is her brother’s restaurant where she sometimes films special shows. Just a short detour off the route from Savannah to Tybee, the restaurant's marsh view is spectacular, and the oysters fired over the open grill are an absolute must for seafood lovers. If you like oysters, cheese, and garlic butter, you will never forget these oysters! It'd be a shame not to select the fresh local seafood in this casual eatery, although if you prefer, steak and Paula’s fried chicken are also offered.
The Crab Shack is another fun, classic Tybee stop for shellfish, although barbecue and other choices are plentiful here. Dining outdoors under the sprawling live oak trees, you'll learn why “the elite eat in their bare feet” here. Dozens of baby alligators lounge in the protected lagoon and you can feed them safely with demonstrations and instructions from the on-site 'gator wrestler.
Some other great food spots on Tybee include Sting Ray's (try their delicious calamari with marinara dip), or Dolphin Reef (go for the chocolate sushi dessert—not really sushi, just looks like it!). For those whose tastes tend toward the landlubbing end of the spectrum, you can get wonderful steak, chicken, lamb, or veal entrees at Eleven06 Restaurant and Wine Bar.
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