Winter Beach Trips: Tybee Island, Georgia


In the South, anytime is Beach Time. While the masses flock to Panama City Beach or Destin in the spring and summer, fall and winter are perfect times to enjoy our “neighborhood” beaches.

Just about three hours southeast of Atlanta, down I-75 and I-16, the lovely port city of Savannah welcomes visitors from all over the world. Stately oaks dripping with Spanish moss stand guard over gracious antebellum homes, and 22 of James Oglethorpe’s original city squares dominate the Historic District.

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We’ll visit Savannah, Georgia’s first state capital, another day. So enjoy the view from US 80, and plan another road trip to explore this gem. It’s definitely deserving of its own special visit. Today’s about the beach!

Traveling about a half-hour east of Savannah’s Historic District on US 80, through salt marshes and gorgeous coastal views, you’ll come to the laid back community known as Tybee Island, or Savannah Beach. Once a sleepy, somewhat shabby retreat for locals, Tybee has morphed into a destination for travelers who want a quieter escape, a place where antiquity mingles with million-dollar estates of the rich and famous.

But first, a little history. From the original lighthouse which was ordered by General Oglethorpe to be built in 1736, to the current one, the bottom 60 feet of which were built in 1773, and the top 94 feet, added in 1867,

Tybee’s light has offered refuge to lost sailors and warned of impending military attacks.

Tybee has played an important military role for more than 300 years. Various forts in the area, including Fort Pulaski and Fort Screven, offer tours and opportunities for history buffs to explore this heritage.

For decades, Tybee also played a major part in pirate forays, providing resources for fresh water and game as well as hiding places for loot scavenged from shipwrecks on the rocks. The kids will get a kick out of digging for treasure in the sand while you soak up the warm rays.

There are three miles of public beach with metered parking areas located nearby. Fishing enthusiasts can choose from deep sea charters, fishing piers, and even surf fishing. It’s a relaxed atmosphere with local bars, restaurants, and shops offering everything from beach pails to margaritas. A number of local artists are represented in galleries and specialty shops. You’ll also find an active music scene with live performances most nights of the week.

School groups from throughout Georgia have traveled for more than 20 years to the Burton 4-H Center, offering unique glimpses into the teeming life under the seas and in the salt marshes. It’s a great educational experience for students and adults alike.

If food is on your mind after a long day fishing or catching waves, there are lots of places to choose from. More than 25 restaurants now dot the Tybee community, with many offering “catch of the day” specials.

One of our favorites is The Crab Shack, “where the elite eat in their bare feet.” It’s just a short drive off of US 80, near the bridge coming onto Tybee Island. Outdoor tables on decks built around the trees, a dock where fishing and pleasure boats tie up, and an inside eating area for those blustery days that sometimes occur, The Crab Shack is a perfect place to sip a cold one and relax while relishing delicious seafood, barbeque, or even a Kosher dog. They’re open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And they have outdoor heaters and fire pits for hardy souls!

So just because the temps are dropping, winter beach trips can still be a delightful destination, for a day or a weekend. Accommodations are abundant – everything from chain hotels and motels to a campground to private cottages owned by people you’ve heard of (Paula Dean, Mary Kay Andrews) and many you haven’t, your choices are unlimited.

We look forward to hearing about your favorite haunts – feel free to comment and share!

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