By Charlene S. Mixa
A Place to Kick-back and Relax!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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