Tybee Island serves as Savannah’s nearest recreational beach and is distinguished by the Tybee Island Light Station which has lit up the mouth of the Savannah River since early Colonial times. Before the construction of the lighthouse in the 18th century, the marshy land served as a hideout for pirates. The island then became a tourist destination in the late 19th century when steamships began carrying passengers out to the island. U.S. Route 80 has since made Tybee accessible by car. Reaching the island is a scenic ride with marshlands lying on either side. Students, locals, and tourists often flock to the beach on weekends to enjoy the ocean.
Tybee Island During the Civil War
Besides serving as a pirate hideout, the island helped the North to win the Civil War. Confederate troops were stationed at the nearby Fort Pulaski, which is also built on an island in the marshes. At the time the fort was built cannon technology wasn't advanced enough for cannon balls to be able to reach the fort from Tybee Island, the nearest area of solid ground. But by the Civil War, new advancements in rifling and cannon technology meant that Union troops were able to station their cannons on Tybee Island and fire cannonballs all the way to Fort Pulaski, winning them the Confederate fort. The cannonballs are still lodged in the ruins of the wall today.
Tybee's other landmark is Fort Screven. This fort wasn't built until after the Civil War but still served as an important coastal defense. It was named after a Revolutionary War hero, George Screven. George C. Marshall, who laid out the Marshall Plan after World War II was briefly the commander of the fort. The fort is immediately recognizable from the island's main parking area and a museum houses several cannons.
The Tybee Bomb
A well known story among locals is about the Tybee Bomb, a nuclear weapon that was lost in the Savannah River during testing in 1958. Despite numerous efforts to locate the bomb over the years, it still remains hidden somewhere near the coast of Tybee. It is unclear whether the bomb's presence poses any threat of radioactive contamination, but so far nothing has happened.
Tybee Island Festivals
Several unique and fun festivals occur annually on Tybee Island. Tybee Island has its own St. Patrick's Day Parade, a kooky Beach Bum Parade, a Pirate Festival, and a Sand Arts Festival. Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary sponsors the Sand Arts Festival so that to raise awareness for their local conservation efforts that protect 22 miles of reef off the coast of Georgia.