Tybee Island lighthouse at sunset

Each sunset is a real treat on Tybee Island. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Spend 72 Hours on Georgia’s Historic Tybee Island

The tiny, super-friendly community of Tybee Island, Georgia, feels a little like Mayberry by the sea. Every driver you pass on your bike waves hello and your waitress will unironically call you “honey bun” or “sweetheart” with a singsong Southern drawl. That’s just part of the charm in this Georgia seaside town, located on some of the South’s prettiest coastal marshes.

While there’s not much in the way of fancy nightlife or white-tablecloth restaurants, there are more than 5 miles of public beaches and loads of activities, including old-school souvenir shops, a marine center and dolphin-watching cruises.

While you and your crew will likely be happy simply surfing the waves and collecting shells, set aside some time to get to know this sweet island — it’s a place where, at least for a few days, time moves at a more languorous clip.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Hit the Beach by Bike

Tybee Island beach on sunny day
Don’t forget your swimsuit! (Photo: Getty Images)

Named one of America’s Most Bicycle Friendly Communities by the League of American Bicyclists, Tybee is easy to get around on a beach cruiser.

Rent yours at Fat Tire Bikes, then take a ride north along the bike path, which runs the length of the 2.75-mile-long island, to get a lay of the land. Traverse lovely residential neighborhoods and Memorial Park, before ending up at Fort Screven and North Beach.

Spend the balance of the morning enjoying the beach, then grab lunch at theNorth Beach Grill, a casual, Caribbean-influenced beach shack serving jerk chicken and fish tacos. Then check out the Tybee Island Marine Science Center to learn about life under the sea, including the endangered loggerhead sea turtles that nest on the island in summer.

Afterward, walk across the street to climb the 178 steps leading to the top of the Tybee Island Lighthouse, Georgia’s oldest and tallest light station dating back to 1773. Do you need a pick-me-up? Swing by Seaweed’s Sno-Balls & Ice Cream for a double scoop of mint chocolate chip or a brain-freezing “Dragon’s Blood” sno-cone.

Rest up before joining the locals for a live act at Sting Ray’s Seafood, a restaurant that doubles as a casual venue with a large deck and plenty of beach umbrella coverage. Wind down the evening with a moonlight stroll along the Tybee Pier to see the local fisherfolk at work

Saturday: Experience South Beach

Pancakes with banana and strawberry
Dig into some next-level waffles. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start the morning at the Breakfast Club, a no-frills diner on the corner of Butler and 15th. Though there’s usually a wait, it’s worth it for the pecan waffles, chicken-fried chicken and crispy fried eggs served with grits and buttered toast.

Next, follow the crowds to South Beach. Close to Tybrisa Street (Tybee’s “downtown”), this area can be busy and at times rowdy, depending on the day. Head farther south if you want a chiller experience as well as peaceful views of neighboring Little Tybee. (Low tide at this end of the beach can be especially beautiful, and the shell collecting is great.)

After the beach, grab a quick lunch at Spanky’s Beachside, which specializes in fried shrimp baskets and burgers. Nab a souvenir at T. S. Chu’s, a retro, decades-old general store on Tybrisa Street, selling everything from taffy and stickers to seashell art and pirate hats.

Before dusk, bike over to Chatham Avenue to catch the sunset on the town fishing pier over the Back River. Keep your eye out for dolphins as well as pelicans, oystercatchers and gulls diving for their dinner.

If you’d rather take in the sunset while tucking into conch fritters, crab stew or blackened shrimp and grits, nab a reservation at A-J’s Dockside Restaurant, which has a lovely deck on the marsh.

After dinner, experience a slice of Tybee’s relaxed nightlife. At Benny’s Tybee Tavern you’ll find karaoke and a bar with the self-designated distinction of offering “the coldest beer in America.”

Sunday: Get Out on the Water

On your last day, take an early ocean swim or bike ride, then drive over to the Shops at Tybee Oaks. Get caffeinated at Tybean Art & Coffee Bar, which also serves liquid brekkies in the form of yummy fruit smoothies.

While you sip on your drink, have a look in the eclectic, locally owned shops that dot the boardwalk. For hoodies and T-shirts featuring Tybee’s geo-coordinates, hit up Latitude 32; for great beachy treasures, folksy art and a smattering of cool vintage finds, walk next door to Seaside Sisters

Cannon at Fort Pulaski
Take in a history lesson at Fort Pulaski. (Photo: Getty Images)

After that, rally the troops and head to Fort Pulaski National Monument, located on Cockspur Island, between Tybee and Savannah. Operated by the National Park Service, the giant Civil War-era fortification was built to safeguard the Port of Savannah in the 19th century. There’s an impressive moat as well as miles of hiking trails. Explore the ramparts and participate in ranger-led demos.

Take a selfie atop a period cannon, then circle back toward Tybee to the family-owned Crab Shack. The popular seafood restaurant has outdoor seating overlooking Chimney Creek. Order oysters on the half shell, steamed shrimp and deviled crabs. Landlubbers will appreciate the barbecue sandwiches, chili and gooey pecan pie with Savannah’s famous Leopold’s ice cream, too.

Let your meal settle as you explore the other attractions within the restaurant: an exotic-bird aviary, gift shop and a lagoon filled with baby alligators, all waiting to be fed.

End your beach getaway with Captain Mike’s one-hour sunset dolphin tour, which launches from Lazaretto Creek’s picturesque commercial fishing dock.

Or book one of Sundial Charter’s naturalist-led private tours to Little Tybee Island, a spectacular, unspoiled nature preserve that’s accessible only by boat. On Sundial’s three-hour cruise, you will travel deep into the marshes and explore secluded beaches, encounter dolphins and flocks of shorebirds, and likely return home with a greater appreciation of the natural world and this special place.

Once back on land, cheers the weekend with a “Tybee Tea” on the roof of CoCo’s Sunset Grill before you enjoy your final meal of Buffalo shrimp or Low Country boil.