Tybee Island – Georgia’s Beach Retreat

By Charlene S. Mixa

A Place to Kick-back and Relax!

Miles of white sandy beach- Tybee Island

Miles of white sandy beach- Tybee Island

Seeking a laid-back vacation spot with miles of beautiful white sandy beaches? Tybee Island is the ideal spot to get away from it all. Voted “Best Beach” by Georgia Magazine and “Best Beach Retreat” by Creative Loafing, Tybee welcomes visitors. Whether it’s roaming historic forts, climbing a lighthouse, strolling the beach, fishing from the pier, biking, kayaking, or soaking up the sun, Tybee Island has it. Plus, it’s just a few miles from the thriving city of Savannah.

Having visited the beautiful city of Savannah with its rich southern history several times, our focus on this trip is Tybee Island. Located a few miles east of Savannah, we cross expanses wetlands and waterways on the drive to Tybee Island.

Holes from barreled cannons - Fort Pulaski

Holes from barreled cannons – Fort Pulaski

First stop is Fort Pulaski National Monument, which was built in the 19th century on Cockspur Island to guard the river approaches to Savannah. The informational movie at the Fort’s Visitor Center relates the building of the fort and the Civil War battle over Fort Pulaski. An all brick fort it contains 25 million bricks and took 18 years of toil to complete. When Georgia seceded from the Union the Confederates States of America seized the fort. Using 10 new experimental rifled cannons set up on Tybee Island, the Union forces mounted the attack to recapture Fort Pulaski. The projectiles bore through Pulaski’s walls shattering the bricks and opening wide gaps in the fort’s southeast walls. Within 30 hours after the bombardment began, the Confederate commander surrendered Fort Pulaski.

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski

Touring the fort, we admire this red brick structure surrounded by a moat and grassy mounds. Inside the fort, we walk along the well marked rooms with displays of era furnishings. One section shows the amazing inner structure of this all brick fort. From the vantage point atop the fort walls, there is a 360 degree view encompassing Tybee Island, Savannah’s skyline, the Savannah River and the Atlantic Ocean. Outside the fort, we observe the corner where the rifled cannons bore through the walls. The newer brick in the damaged area and photos after the battle show the devastation to the fort. Despite all the time and energy to build the fort to protect Savannah and it was obsolete after only one battle.

Ocean Plaza Beach Resort

Ocean Plaza Beach Resort

Our next stop is the Ocean Plaza Beach Resort on the southern end of the Island. Our king bed beach view room is perfect for us. It is a large room with a desk, comfy sitting area and sliding glass doors opening to a small deck. Our view of the grass covered dunes, the blue Atlantic Ocean and the pier is picturesque. The beach is a short walk across the parking lot to a walkway over the grassy dunes. The hard-packed beach is great for walking! Just a couple of blocks down, is the Tybee Pier and Pavilion. From the pier we wander along Tybrisa Street which is the center of this family-friendly downtown. We peek in the local souvenir shops and check out the colorful eateries along Tybrisa Street. This is a small town with a very laid-back, kick-off your shoes style and feel.

Tybee Island Light Station

Tybee Island Light Station

Off for another adventure, it’s the Tybee Museum & Lighthouse and Fort Screven. The admission ticket includes both the Lighthouse and Fort Screven. The Tybee Island Light Station is one of America’s most intact Light Stations, having all its historic support buildings still on its five acre site. The Tybee Island Historical Society is restoring the entire light station to its historic early 20th century character. With The Historic Tybee Museum and Light Station Guide, we tour the grounds including the Headkeeper’s House, original summer kitchen, First Assistant Keeper’s House, and take in the movie about the light station and Fort Screven. Now to climb the 178 stairs to the top of this historic and charming lighthouse. The view is awesome! We can see for miles! Each step and turn on the catwalk brings another spectacular view.

View of Fort Screven from Lighthouse

View of Fort Screven from Lighthouse

Walking across the street to Fort Screven we notice how it is built into the sand dunes. Constructed in 1885 Fort Screven was part of a coastal protection system. During the Spanish –American War, World War I and World War II, Fort Screven was the site of troop training. In 1947 the fort was closed and sold to the Town of Tybee. It now houses the Tybee Museum where we gain more insight into Tybee Island, its people, and its fascinating history.

Tybee Island a main street in town

Tybee Island a main street in town

Now we “kick-back and relax” before dinner. Tybee Island has a varied selection of casual eateries, of course specializing in seafood. The hotel has the Seaside Sports Bar and Grill and the Dolphin Reef Dining Room. Each has a magnificent ocean view! Seeking a more local flavor, it’s off to “The Crab Shack”. Living up to its slogan of “where the elite eat in their barefeet,” the Crab Shack is a hodge-podge of several very rustic buildings nestled along a river and marshland. Seating can be inside or outside on patios under huge oak trees. Relaxed, laid-back, casual are all perfect descriptions for this fun eatery. The food is very good. A couple nearby is served a huge array of assorted shellfish that looks delicious. This is “Capt’n Crabs Sampler for 1”, the house specialty. Next time we’ll order it!

If you go:

Fort Pulaski National Monument, P.O. Box 30757, Hwy 80 East, Savannah, GA 31410-0757; (912) 786-5787; http://www.nps.gov/fopu/index.htm

Ocean Plaza Beach Resort, 1401 Strand Avenue, Tybee Island, GA 31328; (912) 786-7777; www.oceanplaza.com

Tybee Island Light Station, www.tybeelighthouse.org; (912) 786-5801

 

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About Charlene Mixa

Seeing new places, learning about cultures and seeing the sights has always been my dream. Growing up I was blessed with parents that enjoyed traveling and thought nothing of taking a family of seven on excursions. My career in Human Resources and later as a consultant for an international Human Resource firm offered some travel, but I knew as my husband and I approached retirement, my goal was to do more traveling and broader trips. The nine years since retirement has been filled with fantastic adventures from short local one day trips to several week excursions. Living in Florida, it is especially enjoyable to be away in the summer to cooler climates. Multi-week driving trips across the good ol' USA, settling in for a month in the mountains to explore the local area, or a combination of both fill much of our summer season. Our travels are predominantly self-orchestrated, bringing the fun and challenge of getting everything to click. It's all about doing and sharing! Experiencing a travel adventure is exciting. Reliving a special travel moment with a friend or family is exhilarating. I feel my heart race and pulse quicken, as I sharing that special moment. Thank you for joining in my travel adventures and allowing me to hear your stories.