Warm weather is just around the corner, and there’s no place like Tybee Island to spend your summer vacation. Tybee has the distinction of being called “Savannah’s Beach,” as it’s a mere 25-minute ride from the heart of the city. It’s also home to popular attractions, including the Tybee Light Station and Museum, the Pier and Pavilion, and the Tybee Island Marine and Science Center, to name a few. While these attractions are a must-see for visitors, we also suggest that you check out some of the under-the-radar experiences on the island. We’ve put together a list of eight of our favorite “hidden gems” on Tybee Island that will delight any vacationer.
8 Hidden Gems on Tybee Island
Little Tybee Island
Little Tybee Island is a barrier island and an untouched nature preserve located south of Tybee. Its total size clocks in at 6,780 acres, including salt marsh, tidal creeks, and miles of beach. It’s also home to 211 bird species, including Herons, Great Egrets, Osprey, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, and others. This is your place if you’re interested in birdwatching, beachcombing, kayaking, or camping!
The only way to get to Little Tybee Island is on the water. Luckily, there are several options for visitors that are “boatless.” Bull River Cruises provides 3 to 8-hour Barrier Island Excursion tours that explore Little Tybee and Wassaw Islands. They’re happy to cater itineraries to their customer’s interests and provide individual pricing based on the tour they choose.
Another way to explore Little Tybee is by kayak. Tybee Jet Ski and Watersports will deliver your kayak, paddle, and life jacket to the launch area directly across from Little Tybee Island. They also allow guests to bring their dogs along for a tandem ride—but only if they’ve had prior kayaking experience.
Lastly, tranquil Little Tybee is a favorite spot for visitors who enjoy camping under the stars along the pristine beach. After all, there’s nothing like the sound of waves crashing against the shore to lull you to sleep!
Back River Beach
Back River Beach is the ideal option for visitors looking to escape the crowds. Located on the island’s southernmost tip, this beach is easily missed, but great for privacy. Here you’ll delight in the spectacular views of Tybee Creek and Little Tybee Island.
This tranquil beach is perfect for families due to its shallow water and gentle surf with waves broken by sandbars before reaching the shore. You can also kayak and paddleboard here—and if you have the stamina, you can paddle your way to Little Tybee!
Exploring Back River Beach will undoubtedly make you hungry! We suggest A-J’s Dockside, situated right on the Back River. Here you’ll find a casual atmosphere, indoor and outdoor seating, as well as beautiful water views and amazing sunsets from the vantage point of the deck. We highly suggest A-J’s Gumbo or their fried shrimp dinner—after all, this area is famous for its shrimp—and A-J’s does it well.
Cockspur Island Lighthouse
Summer is the ideal time to get acquainted with the historic Cockspur Island Lighthouse—the smallest lighthouse in Georgia—located on a small island in the South Channel of the Savannah River. New York architect John Norris was hired to build the structure, which was completed in 1849.
Since its inception, the lighthouse has had tribulations, including a hurricane that took down the tower in 1854, but was later rebuilt in 1855. The lighthouse was also caught in the crossfire between the Union and Confederate Armies in 1862. Miraculously, it came away unscathed.
Today the lighthouse is decommissioned, and the National Park Service maintains it. Unfortunately, it’s currently not open for tours. However, if you want to see it up close, you can view it from the water—via kayak or chartered boat. Don’t forget to snap some pictures while you’re there, as the views of the lighthouse and the surrounding area are spectacular!
Interested in fossil hunting? If so, the areas around Savannah and Tybee Island are ideal spots for collecting these treasures. This is due to the constant dredging of the Savannah River, which is done multiple times per month. The dredged items are taken away and are deposited on spoil islands along the river—one of the most popular of which is Shark Tooth Island.
Not surprisingly, hunting for fossils is recommended during low tide, when you can see them better along the sand and in shallow water. It’s also advantageous to scavenge for them earlier in the day—before other fossil hunters get there first!
Several charter companies can take you to the best spots for collecting fossils. We recommend Sundial Charters, which caters to small groups of six. The tour typically runs for 4-hours. When they get to their designated island, they’ll park the boat on the beach. Your guide will get off the ship to help you find fossils, as well as provide you with interesting information about them.
Depending upon the island, you may not have to dig for fossils, as they may be visible in the sand at the water’s edge. You can expect to find fossilized teeth from 8-10 shark species like the Megalodon, Mako, Tiger, and Hammerhead. You may also stumble upon fossilized whale or stingray bones!
Tybee Post Theater
The Tybee Post Theater was built in 1930 by the U.S. Army as a movie house for the soldiers residing at Fort Screven, located on the island’s North End. After World War II, the military base was sold to the City of Savannah Beach—now Tybee Island—which auctioned its land and buildings to the public, including the Tybee Post Theater. The theater was open until the mid-1960s, when it closed, and the building was left empty for 30 years, during which it endured a fire that wreaked havoc on its wooden stage and roof.
In 2001, the Tybee Island Historical Society purchased the building, saving it from being demolished. In 2006, Friends of the Tybee Theater purchased it from the Historical Society. Finally, in 2012, with the support of generous individuals and a loan from the City of Tybee, plans were made for the restoration, which was completed in 2015.
Guests to Tybee Island can now enjoy this cultural gem and a robust schedule of events, including movies, musical theater, concerts, comedy shows, and more. After a day basking in the sun—we suggest taking in an event at the theater in the evening. Peruse their calendar of events here.
The Shoppes at Tybee Oaks
If you’re looking for gifts to bring home to family and friends or want to purchase something unique that will remind you of your stay on Tybee, The Shoppes at Tybee Oaks, located on the North End of the island, is the perfect place! Here you’ll find stores selling a range of things: beach-inspired clothing, jewelry, artwork, photography, and more.
We’re particularly fond of Casey Jones Photography, where you can purchase stunning photographs of Tybee Island and Savannah that can be framed and put on your wall to remind you of your vacation. Latitude 32 is a casual clothing store that sells adult, children, and baby clothes—including hats, visors, and more—which make for excellent souvenirs.
If shopping makes you hungry—don’t worry—Huc-A-Poos Bites and Booze is onsite. They make their delicious pizza from scratch and offer an eclectic selection of toppings. Salads, nachos, and sandwiches are also on the menu. We can assure you that you won’t leave hungry!
Are you a coffee connoisseur? If so, Tybean Coffee is also on-premises. A favorite of locals and visitors alike, there’s always a line for their lattes, espresso, cold brew, coffee, and more. Take our advice and buy your favorite ground coffee to take back home with you.
The Tybee Island Farmers Market
The Tybee Island Farmer’s Market, located behind the Tybee Light Station and Museum, runs every Monday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. starting in March through October. Here you’ll find seasonal fruits and vegetables, baked goods, jams, salsas, and other food items. You can also pick up artisan wares like jewelry, photography, artwork, etc. This is an excellent opportunity to “buy local” and support small businesses in the area.
Tybee Island is the ideal spot for a laid-back summer vacation. We look forward to welcoming you to the area so that you can experience our eight “hidden gems,” as well as all the other things that make this island special.
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