Tybee Island Georgia: 2024 First-Timer's Guide (2024)

Savannah First-Timer's Guide

Plan the Perfect Trip to Savannah

  • by Erin Clarkson

Tybee Island is one of 14 barrier islands along the beautiful Georgia Coast. Famed for its laid-back beaches, a picturesque back river area, and its somewhat turbulent history, there’s plenty to do on Tybee Island for beach goers, active travelers, and history buffs alike!

Tybee is also one of the closest beaches to Savannah, since it’s only a 25-minute drive from the city. In fact, because it’s so close, Tybee is nicknamed “Savannah’s Beach.”

The island is loaded with colorful cottages, seafood restaurants, bars, and kitschy souvenir shops. It’s not exactly what I’d call an upscale vacation destination (as evidenced by its second nickname, the “Redneck Riviera”).

Read on to discover everything you need to know if you’re planning to visit Tybee Island for the first time.

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If you’re new around here, first of all … allow me to extend a warm welcome!

My name is Erin, and I authored theSavannah First-Timer’s Guide. It combines my top tips from this website into one handy downloadable guide.

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Note: This guide contains affiliate links to my trusted travel partners.

Table of Contents

Visiting Tybee Island, Georgia

The two most popular seasons to visit Tybee Island are the spring and summer months. That’s when the weather is at its best and you can enjoy long days at the beach.

The water is warm enough for swimming from April through September, and those are also the months when lifeguards patrol the beach.

Once late August hits, peak Atlantic hurricane season begins and continues through early November.

During the winter months, Tybee turns into more of a ghost town. Although the locals stick around, it definitely lacks the vibrancy of tourism season.

Some of the businesses close down during the off season, as well.

If you’re curious, my favorite time to visit Tybee is early May.

Important Considerations

There are a few important considerations to factor in when you’re planning a trip to Tybee. Some of these might be “make or break” sticking points, so I want to make sure I mention them early on!

  • Tybee Island’s beaches are NOT dog friendly. Fines are generous if you get caught with your dog on the beach, so avoid that at all costs.
  • The hourly parking fees (and associated fines) are steep on Tybee, so it’s a perk when hotels or home rentals offer dedicated off-street parking.
  • There’s only one way on or off the island by vehicle, so if anything blocks the road (floods or an accident, for example), you might get stuck for extended periods of time.
  • “Orange Crush” is one of the biggest annual events that takes place on Tybee Island, and it isn’t exactly known for its family-friendly vibes. If you’re planning a family vacation, you’ll likely want to avoid that week. Orange Crush usually takes place towards late spring, so keep that in mind when making plans.
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Savannah to Tybee Island

Tybee Island is only 18 miles from Savannah, so it’s an approximate 25-minute drive from the Historic District with no traffic. However, it’s worth noting that during high season it can take an hour or more to get there.

If you want to avoid the hassle of parking, the island is close enough that you can grab an Uber or Lyft for reasonable rates.

Those ride-share services typically charge around $30 each way, but you can check the fare estimators on each site to get a quote before committing to a ride.

Make note that it’s much easier to find a ride out to Tybee than it is to get a ride back to Savannah (since the drivers rarely hang out on the island), so it’s best to pre-schedule your ride home.

There are also a few companies that run shuttles between Savannah and Tybee Island.

If you want the whole experience planned for you, with round-trip transportation from your hotel, beach towels, chairs, umbrellas, and coolers, I suggest this Tybee day tripper experience.

Finally, you can also rent a car for the day through Turo or Discover Cars.

If you go that route, I suggest visiting a few of the other attractions on the outskirts of Savannah while you have the rental. Bonaventure Cemetery and Wormsloe Historic Site are a couple popular ones!

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Tybee Island Parking

If you drive to Tybee, you’re going to have to pay for parking — there’s virtually no getting around it. Paid parking is in effect on the island from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 365 days a year.

That’s right, folks… you don’t even get a break for Christmas! (Maybe Scrooge lives on Tybee?)

As of March 1, 2023, parking rates on the island officially increased to $4/hour.

Download the Park TYB app so you’ll have it available on your phone, and then follow the instructions to load money onto it or connect it to your credit card.

If you pay at a kiosk and get a printed receipt, be sure to display the receipt on your dashboard. It’s called “Pay and Display,” and as long as that receipt is visible and you are within your time limit, you can park in any paid parking spot.

(Hopefully that makes sense? You can park, display your ticket, and then move to a better spot while still using the same ticket. That’s handy if you park in full sun and then a nice shady space opens up!)

Hotels on Tybee Island

If you want to stay on Tybee Island instead of driving back and forth from Savannah, here are a few hotel options…

Prefer a small inn or B&B to a hotel? No problem! Here are a few good options…

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Tybee Island Vacation Rentals

Book a Short Term Vacation Rental

Vacation rentals are plentiful on Tybee Island. So much so, in fact, that the city recently had to place a moratorium on allowing any new ones!

You’ll find adorable small cottages on the north end of the island, while the Back River Beach area offers the most exclusive (and priciest!) homes.

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Things To Do on Tybee Island

There are a whole slew of fun things to do on Tybee for every type of traveler — whether you prefer to laze on the beach, spend the day on the water, or learn the history of the island.

Dolphin Tours

The waters surrounding Tybee are a popular playground for bottlenose dolphin, so it’s practically guaranteed you’ll spot some if you take a dolphin tour around the island.

Dolphin tours typically last an hour to an hour and a half. You can choose a daytime tour or a sunset dolphin tour if you want to make it a little more magical.

Captain Derek’s is by far the most popular tour mentioned within my Savannah Facebook group!

Recommended Tour:
Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure

Tybee Beach Day-Tripper Experience

If you’re staying in Savannah, you can book a beach day experience that includes round-trip transportation to Tybee Island from your hotel or home rental in downtown Savannah.

This is a great way to have a stress-free day on Tybee without worrying about transportation, parking issues, extra fees, or accommodations.

The experience includes beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels. On top of that, you’ll also get a cooler with ice to stash your drinks! That’s great whether you want cold beers on the beach with friends or prefer water and soft drinks for a family outing.

Purchase Tickets:
Tybee Beach Day Experience

Go for a Stroll on the Beach

A stroll on the beach can be a relaxing activity, and Tybee has roughly three miles of ocean-facing walks, plus an another approximate two miles of river-facing views.

I prefer my beaches in more of a natural state, like Cumberland Island or Hunting Island State Park, but I can’t argue with all the people who love Tybee’s beaches! They’re great for people watching, and you can even watch cargo ships sail into port along the north end of the island.

Make note that there aren’t many shells on Tybee Island. That makes it comfortable to walk barefoot in the sand, but it’s not so great if you’re a shell seeker.

Visit the Tybee Island Lighthouse and Museum

Tybee Island is home to the tallest and oldest lighthouse in Georgia. The 145-foot-tall structure dates to 1736. Climbing the 178 steps to the top is a great way to see sweeping views of the island and beyond.

Next to the lighthouse, there are three Light Keeper’s Cottages, a small summer kitchen from 1812 that houses archeological finds from the island, and the Tybee Island Museum.

The museum is located inside an old military battery from 1899. It contains exhibits showcasing the island’s history ranging from its earliest-known inhabitants, the Native American Euchee tribe, to the mid-1900s Golden Era in U.S. history.

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NOTE: The museum is closed on Tuesdays and some public holidays, and the lighthouse closes whenever there is bad weather in the vicinity. There is free parking on site (2 hour max limit) for visitors who purchase a museum ticket.

Fish from the Tybee Island Pier

If you want to try your luck at fishing, you can toss a line off the Tybee Island Pier. Just make sure you have a valid saltwater fishing license, which you can purchase from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

A few species you might reel in include drum, stingrays, flounder, and whiting. The best time of year for fishing falls between April and October.

If you don’t have your own fishing gear, you can rent for the day from a few different tackle shops on the island or stop by Walmart on your way to Tybee. (You’ll pass it on the drive in.)

Visit the Tybee Marine Science Center

The goal of the Marine Science Center is to create awareness about marine conservation and research through education.

As part of that education, the center offers activities such as beach walks and marsh treks, where you can learn more about the importance of Georgia’s barrier islands and salt marshes.

They also have exhibits with a wealth of information about the indigenous plants and wildlife found along the Georgia Coast — including everything from alligators to corn snakes to clownfish.

During sea turtle nesting season, which begins May 1st, volunteers from the Tybee Marine Science Center work to ensure a safe nesting season for the endangered species.

They help protect the nests, assist hatchlings as they make their way to the water, and they monitor nests after the babies have left so they can support any late hatchlings.

In 2020, they kept a late hatchling and named him Ike. You can visit him at the Marine Science Center!

Kayak along the Back River

If you’re looking for an active adventure, why not go kayaking to uncover the incredible wildlife and serene beauty of the back river area?

You might see osprey, turtles, or dolphin while kayaking in Tybee Creek, Oyster Creek, or the nearby Bull River.

There are multiple places in the area to rent kayaks, and each operation should provide safety instructions and life vests. You can choose to go on your own or join a group tour, but I recommend group tours for first-time visitors.

The advantage of a group tour is that the guides will provide information about the creeks and wildlife in the area, and you’ll have a helper who is certified in first aid within reach should anything happen.

Explore Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski National Monument sits on co*ckspur Island between Savannah and Tybee Island as a great reminder of the Civil War. It was the site of one of the major battles of the war and one of the first places major rifled artillery was used in battle.

Today, it’s one of the best-preserved masonry fortifications from the 19th century!

You can visit the fortress on a guided tour on weekdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday tours take places at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The tours last 45 minutes are are perfect for history buffs who want to learn more about the fortress.

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Rent a Bike

Renting a bike is a nice way to explore the island while avoiding the hassle of driving around in search of parking. There are many bike rental shops on the island, and you can rent one for a few hours or a few days.

There are plenty of quiet roads on the island where you can take kids exploring without worrying about traffic, but do make note that many of the main roads get very busy over the holidays and during peak tourism season.

The island isn’t very big, so while it would take a long stretch of time to walk from one end to the other, taking a bike ride to see the cute cottages and catch a sunset along the river makes it much more comfortable.

Grab Ice Cream or Drinks by the Water

No trip to Tybee Island would be complete without grabbing ice cream or a cold drink near the waterfront. There are plenty of colorful bars and snack shops where you can do just that!

You’ll find the highest concentration along Tybrisa Street, including the adorable new Boardwalk Ice Cream Shop.

Restaurants on Tybee Island

Whenever you’re hungry, the worst thing that can happen is that you end up walking in circles trying to find a decent place to eat. It’s even worse if that place turns out to be subpar!

To help you find the best restaurants on Tybee Island, I’ve listed a few of my favorites for breakfast lunch and dinner.


Sunrise Cafe

This casual breakfast spot is a classic that has been serving Tybee Island for decades. Their breakfast menu offers a wide variety of sandwiches, omelets, made-from-scratch biscuits, waffles, and pancakes. Even if you have picky eaters in your group, you can find something for everyone at Sunrise Cafe!


Raw Ingredients

If you’re craving sushi, this is a great spot! They have a solid menu of nigiri, sashimi, classic rolls, specialty rolls, and create-your-own protein bowls.

Sundae Cafe

Not to be confused with Sunrise Cafe, Sundae Cafe is a long-time favorite amongst locals. They serve a wide variety of lunch and dinner options that include meat, seafood, and burgers.


Bubba Gumbo’s

I have to thank Bonaventure Don for cluing me in to this spot! Bubba Gumbo’s is a laid-back, surf-style restaurant located alongside a working marina. It’s one of the only spots on Tybee where you can get fresh-caught Wild Georgia shrimp! You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu.

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Sea Wolf Tybee

Now, if it’s dinner and drinks you’re after, you’ll find both on the menu at Sea Wolf. The restaurant serves up everything from gourmet hot dogs to oysters to vegan tacos (talk about an eclectic mix!), and they have a wide variety of co*cktails, beer, and wine. This is another spot with a little something for everyone.

The Crab Shack

I guess I can’t mention restaurants on Tybee without bringing up The Crab Shack, but I’ll just say I don’t understand the appeal. The restaurant was featured on a short-lived TV series, and they have alligators on site that you can feed, so that’s a big draw for kids.

Related Reading: A Local’s Guide to the Best Seafood in Savannah

Best Beach on Tybee Island

It’s always difficult to choose a “best of” option, since my pick for the best type of beach probably differs wildly from someone who is 25 years younger (or older) than my current middle-of-the-road age of 50.

I’ll briefly summarize the options to help you select your favorite, then I’ll link to a different post I’ve written that goes very in-depth about each spot.

North Beach

North Beach is one of the first ocean-facing beaches you’ll reach when you drive onto the island. It’s where you’ll find the Tybee Island Lighthouse and can see cargo ships passing by as they make their way into the mouth of the Savannah River.

It’s one of the best beaches on Tybee Island if you’re into photography! You can get classic “Tybee” shots from the beach with the sunset and the lighthouse in the background.

North Beach has lifeguard stands, public restrooms, changing stations, and a decent number of restaurants and snack stands. Parking is plentiful, and the beach typically isn’t overly crowded.

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Mid Beach

Mid Beach is aptly named, since it’s a middle-of-the-road type of beach. It doesn’t really stand out in my mind for any particular reason.

The Mid Beach area has lifeguard stands and a decent number of restaurants within easy walking distance. It’s a busy spot, but not overly so.

There are plenty of hotels and home rentals in this area. The parking is primarily street parking, but it’s plentiful.

South Beach

Pardon the improper grammar, but South Beach is where the party’s at.

If you’re looking for crowds, you’ll find them in the South Beach area. The popular pier and pavilion is located in South Beach, too.

The South Beach zone has lifeguard stands, plenty of parking, restrooms, and changing stations. You’ll also find a wide variety of bars, restaurants, and short-term rentals in this area.

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Back River Beach

My personal favorite beach on Tybee Island is the Back River Beach area. (Remember, though…I prefer quieter, more natural beach areas.)

This is a peaceful beach, and it’s the perfect spot to escape the crowds. It’s a great place for romantic strolls or relaxing on a beach swing while catching a beautiful sunset over Little Tybee Island.

The Back River Beach is river facing, so the waves are small and look more like something you’d see in a lake. The area does not have lifeguard stands, and you’ll have to walk a bit to find a public restroom.

This section of the beach is lined with high-end homes that act as short-term rentals or second homes for some of Savannah’s wealthier residents.

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Related Reading: 13 Incredible Beaches Near Savannah GA

Savannah Travel Guide

If you’re planning to a trip to Savannah, here are a few additional resources I’ve created to help you out.

  • Free Resources Library– When you sign up for my email list, you’ll get a checklist of “50 Things To Do On Foot in the Historic District (No Car Necessary)” and other helpful printables.
  • Savannah First-Timer’s Guide– My ebook combines my most helpful Savannah travel tips from this website in one handy downloadable guide. If you get overwhelmed looking through the site and trying to take notes, it’s an easy way to have everything all wrapped up in one neat little package.

When you purchase my ebook, you’ll also gain access to a private Facebook group where you can ask questions about your trip and get advice from others who have recently visited.

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Tybee Island Georgia: 2024 First-Timer's Guide (21) Erin authored the Savannah First-Timer's Guide and loves helping first-time visitors plan their trips. She lives in the artsy Starland District and enjoys exploring Savannah's hidden gems, as well as the surrounding Lowcountry.

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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert and enthusiast, I have personal experiences or opinions like a human expert would. However, I have been trained on a wide range of topics and have access to a vast amount of information, which allows me to provide accurate and relevant responses to various queries.

In the given article, the author provides a comprehensive guide for first-time visitors to Tybee Island, Georgia. The guide covers various aspects, including when to visit, where to stay, things to do, where to eat, and the best beach on Tybee Island. Let's dive into these concepts in more detail:

When to Visit

The two most popular seasons to visit Tybee Island are spring and summer, when the weather is at its best and you can enjoy long days at the beach. The water is warm enough for swimming from April through September, and lifeguards patrol the beach during these months. It's important to note that late August marks the beginning of the peak Atlantic hurricane season, which continues through early November. During the winter months, Tybee Island experiences a decrease in tourism, and some businesses may close down.

Where to Stay

If you prefer to stay on Tybee Island instead of commuting from Savannah, there are several hotel options available, such as the Royal Palms Motel, Hotel Tybee, and DeSoto Beach Hotel. Alternatively, you can choose from a variety of vacation rentals, including adorable cottages on the north end of the island and exclusive homes in the Back River Beach area.

Things to Do

Tybee Island offers a range of activities for all types of travelers. Some popular options include taking dolphin tours to see bottlenose dolphins, going on a beach day-tripper experience that provides transportation and amenities, strolling along the beach to enjoy the ocean and river views, visiting the Tybee Island Lighthouse and Museum for historical insights, fishing from the Tybee Island Pier, exploring the Tybee Marine Science Center to learn about marine conservation, kayaking along the Back River for a closer look at wildlife, and visiting Fort Pulaski National Monument to learn about the Civil War.

Where to Eat

Tybee Island has various dining options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some recommended restaurants include Sunrise Cafe for breakfast, Raw Ingredients for sushi, Sundae Cafe for a variety of lunch and dinner options, Bubba Gumbo's for fresh-caught Wild Georgia shrimp, and Sea Wolf Tybee for dinner and drinks. However, the author also mentions that The Crab Shack is a popular spot, although the author personally doesn't understand its appeal.

Best Beach on Tybee Island

Tybee Island has several beaches that cater to different preferences. North Beach offers picturesque views of the Tybee Island Lighthouse and passing cargo ships, while Mid Beach is a middle-of-the-road option with lifeguard stands and a decent number of restaurants. South Beach is known for its lively atmosphere, with a popular pier and pavilion, and Back River Beach is a quieter option with peaceful surroundings and beautiful sunsets over Little Tybee Island.

Additional Resources

For more information on planning a trip to Savannah, the author provides additional resources. These include a free resources library, which offers helpful printables and a checklist of things to do in the Historic District, and the Savannah First-Timer's Guide, which is an ebook combining the author's top tips in one downloadable guide. Purchasers of the ebook also gain access to a private Facebook group for further assistance and advice.

I hope this overview helps you understand the concepts covered in the article. If you have any specific questions or need further information on any topic, feel free to ask!

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