Let’s begin with full disclosure. When the fine folks at Abshire Public Relations contacted me earlier this year to come and experience Tybee Island, my immediate answer was “Yes!” And as I got off the phone with Allison from Abshire PR, that answer was immediately followed by the question to myself, “Where the heck is Tybee Island?” Google maps here I come. Ahh, Tybee Island is in the state of Georgia, about thirty minutes east of Savannah, and sitting on the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Hilton Head Island, SC.
So in the early summer, my wife, Rachel, and I flew into the absolutely beautiful Savannah International airport, rented a car, and headed through the historic streets of Old Savannah. From the airport to Tybee Island it took about 45 minutes. The time didn’t seem that long though, as we enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds of a region that we had never been to before. I was in my glory driving through the streets of Old Savannah, where so much American history had taken place. (Cue the ‘nerd’ guy in me).
Once off Bay St. and through Savannah we took the Islands Parkway (StRt.80) east to Tybee Island. With the Savannah River to our north and the Tybee Inlet to our south, we quickly felt the vibe of our surroundings slow down and relax. Turning onto Tybee Island’s main strip, Butler Avenue, it was easy to see that we were in a beach town. From the smell of the ocean breeze to the sand whisping through the streets, Tybee Island was screaming, in a whispering sort of way, “Come and relax.”
Abshire PR set me up to stay at Tybee Island’s #1 beachfront hotel, The DeSoto Beach Hotel, at 212 Butler Ave. From check-in to check-out, the staff at The DeSoto was friendly, helpful, and always accommodating with any questions or requests I had. Parking at The DeSoto was complimentary, with about half of the parking spots covered. Our ocean-view room was clean and sported a decor of bygone days on the island. The balcony overlooked the hotel’s pool, and then beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean. A nice feature of The DeSoto is that they offer complimentary lounge chairs and umbrellas oceanside. A quick call to the front desk and your slice of ultimate relaxation awaits you.
The miles of beach along Tybee Island are spectacular. From the north beach at Fort Screven, past the Tybee Island Pavilion & Pier located off Tybrisa St., to the more private southernmost beach at the end of Butler Ave., the sand is pure, the wind is typically brisk, and air smells of salt water.
The Tybee Island Pavilion & Pier is located towards the southern end of Tybee Island. The pavilion offers up seaside snacks and beverages, while the pier extends out into the Atlantic inviting sightseeing and fishing for locals and tourists alike. Located around this area are beach-themed restaurants, your typical souvenir stores, and fun beach bars including perhaps my new favorite, Wet Willie’s. This beachside oasis offers up what I refer to as “A Wall of Fun”. Set next to each other along Wet Willie’s back wall are nearly twenty frozen drink machines waiting for your mixing and matching. Think of it like a Jelly Belly box for adults.
Rachel and I started each morning at the DeSoto Hotel’s beach, taking in the sunshine as it rose up over the Atlantic. Within a couple hours of absorbing the rays and a few mouthfuls of saltwater from the waves, we took to some local sightseeing and shopping. And yes, our daily visit to Wet Willie’s. Located at the northern end of Tybee Island sits the Tybee Island Light Station & Museum and Fort Screven. Known as Georgia’s tallest and oldest lighthouse, the Tybee Island Light Station sits majestically above a compound of buildings making up the lighthouse and museum grounds. The view from the top is spectacular as you are able to take in a 360-degree view of the island and the Atlantic. I should warn you however that the view from 145-feet above can only be obtained by climbing the 178 winding steps to the top. But with a couple stops along the way, and incredible views from each level, the climb is worth the ultimate view from a top this 18th century lighthouse.
Just off Tybee Island’s main strip is Tybee Road. Along here visitors will find cool shops like The Gallery By The Sea and Fish Art, filled with antiques, collectibles, and unique souvenirs. Also just off Tybee Rd. is a neat restaurant called Huc-A-Poo’s. This open-air restaurant is a laid back hang out offering up local seafood, hand-crafted pizzas, wraps, and salads. While the food is that of what you could find at many vacation-area restaurants, it’s the hundreds of antique signs and pictures that make Huc-A-Poo’s so memorable.
AJ’s Dockside Restaurant is a favorite of those that call Tybee Island home. Known as having the “Best sunset north of Mallory Square (Key West)”, AJ’s atmosphere is laid back and relaxed with indoor or waterside dining. The menu at AJ’s Dockside includes such seafood delights as oysters, scallops, and shrimp to Po Boy sandwiches made with mahi mahi, shrimp, and oysters. Their daily Happy Hour and weekend entertainment make AJ’s a must-stop when on Tybee Island.
The Crab Shack, also located just off Tybee Road, is a unique restaurant. The long drive off the main road gives visitors a feeling of driving deep into swampland, Cajun country. Built alongside the Tybee Inlet, The Crab Shack has indoor and outdoor dining, and “oh-by-the-way” dozens of alligators to view tableside. The fun, casual, “come as you are” atmosphere and decor is just one of the reasons that The Crab Shack has been voted the best seafood restaurant on Tybee Island since 1998. As their slogan says, “It’s where the elite eat in their bare feet!”
During my 4-day stay on Tybee Island I grew to love the pure relaxation that the sand and surf offered. I also realized that I was extremely fortunate to have been invited by the Tybee Island Tourism Board and Abshire PR to visit what is known as “Savannah’s Beach”. From not even knowing how to spell “Tybee” a few months earlier to now realizing that it is truly a hidden gem of an island town waiting to be discovered, Tybee Island is one of those vacation locations that can very easily hook a first-timer like me to coming back on an annual basis or someday maybe even calling it home.