Tybee Island, Your Unexpectedly Wonderful Winter Break Family Vacation

by | Dec 8, 2023 | Destinations, East Coast, Family Adventures, Traveling with Teens, USA

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East of Savannah, Georgia, lies Tybee Island, a destination that may not be on everyone’s radar for a winter break destination, but hear me out. This quaint and charming barrier island is a great place for a pump-the-brakes kind of family getaway where you can decompress from the hectic holiday season, enjoy some family bonding time, and recharge your batteries in time for the start of the new year. Of all the times we’ve visited Tybee Island, these are our favorite things to do.

 

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Things to Do on Tybee Island

Tucked along the Georgia coast, Tybee Island enjoys balmy winters with average daytime temperatures in the low 60s in December and January. Humidity levels are low in the winter, too. Visitors can take advantage of Tybee Island’s sandy beaches, nature trails, and outdoor attractions without packing heavy coats and mittens. Several times while beachcombing, we all got too warm in hoodies and had to peel down to t-shirts.

 

Hit the Beach

South Beach is the most popular beach on Tybee Island for sunbathers and swimmers. It is centrally located to the island’s dining and shopping district, so even in the winter, beachgoers rarely find the beach deserted. That’s not the case with North Beach. It is a more secluded and relaxed place to enjoy the sand and surf.

 

Tybee Island beaches are fun for the whole family.

Balmy beach weather awaits on Tybee Island. Photo by Holly Landkammer on Unsplash

 

Watch Dolphins Play

The waters around Tybee Island are home to pods of friendly dolphins. Island visitors can watch these aquatic mammals in their natural habitat from shore, from piers, or by renting sea kayaks. Guests can do what we did … book a dolphin tour. We had an amazing time on Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventure Tours. In fact, we all agree that this was the highlight of the trip.

 

Paddle Around the Island in a Kayak

Kayaking is a popular activity on Tybee Island no matter the time of year. We found it to be a relaxing way to explore the waterways around the island. There are companies on Tybee Island that offer guided kayak tours, or you can strike out on your own. We stuck close to shore and didn’t venture too far so we wouldn’t get turned around.

 

Try Your Hand at Water Sports

Kayaks aren’t the only watercraft rentals available on Tybee Island. We spent an afternoon paddle boarding but opted not to rent jet skis on this trip. We could have arranged for kiteboarding lessons or surf lessons, but a couple of the kids chickened out. Okay, I chickened out, too.

 

Beachcombing on Tybee Island

Shell hunting is a relaxing family activity on Tybee Island. Photo by Holly Landkammer on Unsplash

 

Comb the Beaches

Seriously, there is nothing as relaxing as beachcombing. I love collecting seashells from the places where we travel. During the winter months, when tourism numbers are down, shelling conditions on Tybee Island are ideal. 

 

If it storms during your visit to Tybee Island, hit the beach as soon as the skies clear. This is when fresh shells wash ashore.

 

Keep your eyes peeled for fossils, too.

 

Check Out the Trails

Tybee Island has nature trails, biking trails, and scenic trails crisscrossing the island. There is no better way to appreciate the natural beauty of the island than by getting up close and personal with nature. This is how I got my steps in.  The island is home to a variety of bird species, even during the winter months. Birdwatching enthusiasts should be able to check some species off their lists.

 

Tybee Island Attractions

Tybee Island may be a small island, but it is packed with fun attractions for the whole family. Families who want to take a break from their beach-time lounging will find fun, educational, and photo-worthy places to visit. 

 

Tybee Island Marine Science Center

With a focus on the unique natural environment of Coastal Georgia, Tybee Island Marine Science Center is committed to research, education, and conservation. This facility has educational programs and exhibits year-round to help visitors truly appreciate the special blend of beaches, marshes, and oceans that comprise the local ecosystem. Do you have a budding marine biologist like I do? Take a beach walk or a marsh trek with one of the marine science educators or view the marine animals – horseshoe crabs, sea jellies, clownfish, and diamondback terrapins – at the Science Center. Say hello to Ike, the star of the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. A loggerhead turtle, Ike is not just the mascot of the science center; he is also the official marine debris ambassador.

 

Loggerhead turtle at Tybee Island Marine Science Center.

Tybee Island’s Marine Science Center lets you get up close and personal with the island’s sea life. Photo by Tessa Edmiston on Unsplash

 

Fort Pulaski National Monument

Even though it is technically located on Cockspur Island between Tybee Island and Savannah, Fort Pulaski National Monument is one of the biggest attractions for tourists visiting Tybee Island. This 1862 fort was in operation during the American Civil War and served as a weapons testing facility. I am married to an amateur Civil War historian, so the kids and I are used to visiting historic sites when we travel. Usually, the kids are bored, but we all had fun at Fort Pulaski National Monument.

 

Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion

Tybee Island Pier is more than just a fishing pier; it is a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. The pier is free to visit and open to the public year-round. From the end of the pier, you get a broad view of the beach and town. During the winter months, pier walking is much more pleasant because there aren’t as many people as there are during the busy summer months. The fishing pier and adjoining pavilion play host to festivals and special events throughout the year.

 

Tybee Island Light Station on Tybee Island

Lighthouse lovers can visit the historic Tybee Island Light Station. Photo by Tyler Edic on Unsplash

 

Tybee Island Lighthouse and Museum

We are from Michigan, the state with more lighthouses than any other state (Don’t believe me. Google it), so we enjoy visiting different lighthouses when we travel. The Tybee Island Lighthouse did not disappoint. This light station has guided sailors into the Savannah River for nearly 275 years. It is Georgia’s oldest lighthouse as well as its tallest, at 144 feet tall. Replace your leg-day workout with a climb up the lighthouse. Believe me, you will feel the burn! Unless the weather is bad, visitors can step outside onto the catwalk for a 360-degree view. The lighthouse also has a museum showcasing the maritime history of Tybee Island.

 

DON’T MISS:  9 Perfect California Lighthouses for Kids

 

Events At Tybee Island

Even in the wintertime, Tybee Island plays host to special events that attract visitors. 

 

Tybee Island New Year’s Eve Fireworks

If you time your visit to Tybee Island for late December, you won’t want to miss the island’s annual New Year’s Eve Fireworks show. Tybee Island hosts the biggest fireworks display in the Southeast. 

 

The pyrotechnics are visible across the island, but to get the best seat in the house, take your beach chairs to South Beach near Tybee Island Pier.

 

New Year's Eve fireworks at Tybee Island

Tybee Island’s New Year’s Eve fireworks are legendary. Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash

 

Tybee Polar Plunge

A New Year’s Day tradition, the Tybee Polar Plunge has thousands of participants who don quirky and outlandish costumes before they plunge into the Atlantic Ocean. Well, it is more running than plunging, but you get the idea. While the Tybee Polar Plunge is a hoot, it lacks the chilling, frigid elements of a Michigan polar plunge. But maybe that’s a good thing.

 

DON’T MISS: Best Secluded Beaches on the East Coast 

 

Tybee Island Restaurants 

During the winter months, oysters and shrimp are in season. The town’s seafood shops sell seafood fresh from the fishing boats. If you stay at a rental house with a kitchen, you can prepare your own shrimp boil. Or let someone else do the cooking by visiting one in Tybee Island.

 

Low country boil

What’s better than a low country boil with the freshest seafood? Photo by Sunira Moses on Unsplash

 

Salt Island Fish & Beer

Salt Island Fish & Beer is a fun, casual beachfront eatery located at 101 Lovell Avenue on Tybee Island. The restaurant relies on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. In addition to fish and seafood menu items, the restaurant has several vegetarian and gluten-free options.

 

The Original Crab Shack 

Voted the best seafood restaurant on Tybee Island, the Original Crab Shack, located on Estill Hammock Road, is a family-friendly oceanside restaurant. Don’t let the name fool you. The Original Crab Shack also offers non-seafood items, such as pulled pork sandwiches and beef brisket.

 

Huc-A-Poos

Huc-A-Poos is a pizza joint that takes pizza cuisine up a notch. The restaurant is located on US Highway 80 on Tybee Island. The pizzas are made from scratch using fresh ingredients. The list of specialty pizzas includes the Hot Tamale, made with hot sauce, jalapenos, and crushed red peppers, the Odyssey, a Greek pizza with black olives, feta cheese, spinach, and fresh tomatoes, and Miko Miko, a Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple.

 

Places to Stay On Tybee Island

My family enjoys staying at VRBOs when we travel, and we were fortunate to find some beautiful and unique accommodations. One time, we stayed in a houseboat. So fun! 

 

Hotel Tybee

Hotel Tybee’s location can’t be beat. It is located adjacent to South Beach at the Tybee Fishing Pier. Guests have two outdoor pools to choose from, as well as barbecue grills and picnic tables. The hotel even has complimentary bicycles for guest use.

 

DeSoto Beach Hotel

Tybee Island’s only true beachfront hotel, DeSoto Beach Hotel, has several room configurations for families. For sunbathers and beachcombers, the location is ideal. Guests can rent some beach chairs and an umbrella and walk just a few yards to the beach. Grab a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise … you might even share the moments with a few dolphins.

 

 

Tybee Island combines small-town charm with the best attractions of Coastal Georgia. The island slows down during the winter months, but it continues to welcome vacationers year-round. You’ll find plenty of things to do to keep the whole family occupied during a winter getaway to Tybee Island. From outdoor activities to historic sites to relaxing downtime on the beach, Tybee Island is a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of life. 

 

When You Go

 

 

Getting To Tybee Island From Los Angeles

Most major carriers based in the United States fly into Savannah, Georgia, and flights take about six and a half hours. Rent a car or Uber to Tybee Island. From there, families can use bikes or walk around the sunny destination.

An excellent discount site for flights (and cars, hotels) is Expedia! This is where we start our research for the best deals!

If you’d like to be in the know for exclusive discounts to fly anywhere in the world, check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). Their website shows current deals, and they send emails when they find crazy cheap discounts. Some can even be booked with points.

To get discounts on tours in the area, we recommend Get Your Guide or Viator (which offers 51% off last-minute tours!).

 

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Karen Harris is a freelance writer, recovering academic, history buff, amateur photographer, and sufferer of chronic wanderlust. She passed her wanderlust down to her four daughters and even infected her firefighter husband. She is the co-author of a newly published children’s book, Ellie Lou Knows What to Do, written in honor of her young granddaughter who has been diagnosed with Noonan Syndrome.