Tybee Island - the beach for Savannah

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Tybee Island...a.k.a. the Beach


Please slow way down; this is not the mainland!

Tybee in Perspective


Convenient, Fun, Educational Nature Tours by boat from Tybee

to Little Tybee Island and the Marshes

can be schedule by calling Rene Heidt of Sundial Tours at 786-9470

we love what Rene does - this is not a paid ad.

Located a pleasant 25 minute drive from downtown Savannah, Tybee Island is and has been since it was first served only by a railroad, "the beach" for Savannah; more and more Savannahians are taking up year-round residence on Tybee.  As you will quickly notice, today it continues to be one of the few unplanned coastal barrier islands - and to a degree that is a good thing. 


In the past Tybee was the location of the Yankee's gun battery that took down the Confederate Ft. Pulaski (built by Lt. Robert E. Lee) and many years later Ft. Screven was the assignment of George C. Marshall who, not long after being in charge of Tybee, took on a slightly larger role of being Allied Commander for Europe in WWII.  Fortunately there are not very many vacant lots left and the 35' height "guideline" keeps the high-rises away; otherwise Tybee would run out of ground water to drink and would lose it funky charm. 


In part, Tybee is a part of the definition of the State of Georgia, as reflected in the often quoted title of the book by Ely Jacques Kahn, Jr. Georgia from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light .  There is something about driving to the end of the road that appeals to us all, especially when it takes us to the sea.


Georgians can thank axe-handle-toting Governor Lester Maddox for saving adjacent Little Tybee Island from phosphate mining by Kerr-McGee who had purchased the "land" from none other than Jim Williams, the central figure in the nonfiction book about Savannah, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

"Politically, Tybee is like a bar fight, you never know when you are going to be hit by a chair":

The City of Tybee www.CityofTybee.org  has one of the most strange forms of democratic government - which seems to spend the majority of its time and resources making "development" decisions (how high, how wide, how close to the street).  All members of council serve at large and none have overlapping terms. City Council meetings are broadcast live on Tybee's cable and get lots of 'eyeballs'. Since all council members serve at large the top 6 vote getters from however many people register as candidates are elected, which encourages the voters to vote for less than a full slate as a strategy.  The structure also means that when too many  of any one "side" (e.g. "environmentalists") run against each other, they tend to loose in the election by dividing the vote.  Tybee is a place we enjoy a lot but feel like we should share some words of advice about about how Tybee operates.  One citizens group, Forever Tybee, would like a more open, transparent government.  The real factors behind a Council decision never seem to be discussed at the Council meeting...just the vote happens there.

Unfortunately the City's web site does not provide a summary of the rules about surf boards (where they can be used), dogs, campfires or glass containers on the beach.  Surf board are OK south of the pier.  The other items are prohibited as indicated by the ugly signs at the dune crossings.  You can read the City ordinance provided below.

Mother Nature moves the sand and the federal government moves it back.  The fight against Mother Nature has left submerged metal sheet piling and concrete in areas in the water just off the beach at the North end, which should have been removed by the City long ago. Poles have been erected in the water to provide some indication of where to be careful, especially at low tide (which would not be all that obvious to a visitor, of course).  Maybe Tybee can get some SPLOST taxes to use for removing these submerged hazards.

In contrast with Jacksonville (Fla.) Beach whose live guards are consistently proactive, Tybee does not seem to take life guarding as seriously and people continue to drown on Tybee.  Be safe and stay in close enough to touch bottom and especially do not go out on the sand bars at the South end which are exposed at low tide - where the current gets too swift to overcome.  We have tides of 7-9 feet twice a day; that means a gigantic quantity of water from all of the marsh between Tybee and the mainland has to flow around both ends of Tybee Island and it stops only around dead low and dead high tide.  Pay attention to the currents! Tragically, five people have drowned on Tybee's beach during 2007.  While Tybee is 'the beach' for Chatham County, it does not receive any county funding for providing services for visitors and for the to many locals who enjoy the beach.

At a few times the beach has had elevated levels of bacteria.  You can check the Georgia Department of Natural Resources monitoring information to determine the current status.

Most beach communities have clearly marked and protected routes for bicycles.  We suggest that you find the north-south streets that do not go all the way from one end of the island to the other as a way to avoid the cars.  There are a few signs that may help you.

Those small beach communities without a toll gate have a hard time funding the government such as it is. The City of Tybee has learned from the City of Savannah about how to collect from parking meters and tickets.  Be aware that the meters are checked until 8 PM daily.  So please think of your meter money as paying for your share of the lifeguarding, housekeeping for the beach, and police services to respond when individuals forget that society has to have some rules (about alcohol and such).

A few brave sea turtles nest on Tybee every summer.  Lighting at night is believed to be confusing for hatchlings seeking the water.  Do your part to minimize the lighting on the beaches during the summer; never disturb a crawling or nesting female and report her crawl to the Tybee Marine Science Center www.tybeemsc.org. Her eggs are protected by federal law!

click here to see our detailed recommendations for a weekend on Tybee

Loggerhead Sea Turtle


During the summer of 2007 there were 11 nests from 2nd St. on the South End to the Lighthouse Condos on North Beach; the average incubation period was 50 days and there were 800 new baby Loggerheads that hatched and crawled into the sea!  The females came onshore between June 4 and July 23 and the hatchings happened between July 30 and Sept. 9.  Contact the Tybee Marine Science Center for more information.


All persons entering upon the public beaches, or structures erected thereon, shall comply with the following rules and regulations, and failure to do so shall constitute a violation of this ordinance...

(1)  Swim within 50 yards of shoreline. It shall be unlawful for any person to swim outside of the area extending 50 yards from the water's edge.
(2)    Place litter in trash containers.  It shall be unlawful to throw, place, deposit, sweep or scatter, or cause to be thrown, placed, deposited, swept, or scattered, any paper, food, cigarette butts, bottles, cans, trash, fruit peelings or other refuse upon the beaches or structures erected thereon. Beach goers must contain their trash at all times. (Ord. 2003-11; 5/8/03)
(3)    No glass or breakable containers.  It shall be unlawful for any person to take or carry upon the beaches or structures erected thereon any glass or breakable containers.
(4)    No pets It shall be unlawful for any person who shall own, or be in control of, or be in charge of, any dog or other pet, to allow or take that dog or other pet upon the beaches or structures erected thereon. This does not include properly certified guide dogs, or similar animals assisting the blind, deaf, or other physically handicapped persons.
(5) No motorized vehicles. It shall be unlawful for any person to take any motorized vehicle on to the beaches or structures erected thereon. This ins\includes automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, all-terrain-vehicles and similar motor driven vehicles and craft. This does not include properly marked emergency vehicles while in the course of an emergency operation, or maintenance/utility vehicles in the employ of the City of Tybee Island or similar governmental entity and engaged in a legitimate operation.
(6) No motorized watercraft. It shall be unlawful for any person to operate any motorized watercraft, such as a jetski, motor boat, and similar craft, within 1,000 feet of the waterline on any part of the beach between the north and south rock jetties.
(7) No fires. It shall be unlawful for any person to build or maintain any type of open fire on the beach, including any type of charcoal fire, whether or not in a grill or similar container.
(8)    No disturbing of dune vegetation or walking in the dunes. It shall be unlawful for any person to pick, gather, remove, walk in the dunes, or otherwise disturb the vegetation present on sand dunes, including sea oats.
(9)    Surfboarding and fishing only in designated areas.  No person shall operate a surfboard or fish except in areas designated for such purposes.
(10) Obey the commands of lifeguards. It shall be unlawful for any person to deliberately disobey any reasonable command of a duly appointed and identified lifeguard while in the legitimate performance of his or her duty, such commands being intended to ensure the safety of persons using the beach and any structures erected thereon.
(11) No disorderly conduct or endangerment of self or others. It shall be unlawful for any person to come upon the beaches or structures erected thereon, and individually or in concert with others, do any act or create any condition which does or is calculated to encourage, aid, abet, or start a riot, public disorder or disturbance of the peace; and it shall not be necessary to prove that that person was solely responsible for that riot, public disorder or disturbance of the peace, but only that his or her appearance, manner, conduct, attire, condition, status or general demeanor was a motivating factor that resulted in the riot, public disorder or disturbance of the peace. Any person who refuses when commanded by a police officer or other enforcement official of the city to leave the beach or structures erected thereon immediately, shall be guilty of an offense for refusal to obey the order or command of a police officer or other enforcement official of the city, and deemed to be a rioter or disturber of the peace.  It shall also be unlawful for any person to come upon the beaches or structures erected thereon and act in any way which is likely to cause endangerment to himself, herself, or others.
(12) No nudity on beaches.
(13) No beer kegs shall be allowed on the municipal beaches.  The presence of beer kegs on the beach is often associated with underage drinking, littering, public intoxication and disorderly conduct and because such activities are in direct conflict with family recreation, such containers and similar devices for dispensing of large quantities of alcoholic beverages are expressly prohibited.

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