Tybee Island is deeply rooted in American history and offers centuries of interesting facts & things to see from the past. Popular Tybee Island historical sites include museums, forts, lighthouses, and a wide variety of historic homes available to view OR rent. Recorded history for Tybee started around 1520 when Spanish explorer Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon laid claim to Tybee Island as part of Spain's "La Florida." In 1605 the French came to Tybee Island in search of Sassafras roots, and the Spanish fought them off in a naval battle just off the shores. Then in 1736, French and British settlements made Spain relinquish their claim on Tybee along with several other nearby islands.
Tybee Island went on to have roles in many of America's most notable wars. It was the staging area for French Admiral D’Estaing’s 1779 “Siege of Savannah” during the Revolutionary war, and it was inhabited by both sides of the Civil War. First, it was occupied by the Confederates and then in December 1861, Union forces commanded by Quincy Adams Gilmore took control of Tybee Island when the Confederates withdrew to Fort Pulaski under orders from Robert E. Lee. After the wars subsided, Tybee's history began to change focus and in 1887, the Central of Georgia Railroad finished a rail line to Tybee Island, bringing tourists and more full-time residents as the railway increased accessibility to the beautiful island. With the completion of U.S. Route 80 in the 1920s Tybee Island continued to be more accessible to visitors and has been known as "Savannah's Beach" ever since.
Located in the Fort Screven Historic District, this theater once served as a movie house for the soldiers of the U.S. Army and their families in the 1930s. It was one of the first theaters in the state to display "talkies," feature-length movies with recorded sound. In 2001 the building was saved from being demolished and restored by the Tybee Historical Society and was reopened to the public in 2015. It's a must-see Tybee Island historical site!
This 145-foot-tall lighthouse is considered to be the most quintessential sight on the island. The Tybee Island Lighthouse is the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Georgia and is one of the most intact historic lighthouses remaining in America. First Completed in 1736, the historic Tybee Island Light Station has been destroyed numerous times by storms but has always been rebuilt. A critical restoration began of the lighthouse in 1999 and was completed in 2002. Today the Tybee Island Lighthouse visually represents its 1916 to 1966 black-white-black daymark design. If you love maritime history, don't miss this historic landmark.
Not only is Tybee Island home to the tallest Lighthouse in Georgia, but it also has the smallest lighthouse in the state. Construction was completed in 1849 but was destroyed in 1854 when a hurricane struck. It was then rebuilt the following year with a design change. The eastern side was made to be like the prow of a ship to help withstand future storms. You can access the Cockspur Lighthouse at low tide by walking or at high tide by boat.
Built on the north end of Tybee Island in 1855, this fort was a major part of America's Coastal Defense system from 1897 to 1947, with six poured concrete, low-profile gun batteries, and a minefield. In 1947 the fort was closed and sold to the Town of Tybee, and by the 1950's most of the forts buildings had been converted for use by private owners. In 1961 the Tybee Island Museum opened up in the former gun battery & magazine. If you visit, your ticket also includes access to the Tybee Island Light Station located just across the street.
Tybee Island has many historical buildings and homes that are over 100 years old, each steeped in its own version of the history and the stories of Tybee Island. Not all historic places can be toured inside as they are private residences. These historic sites, such as the residence of the bandmaster of Fort Screvens home or the Fort Screven Bakery can still be enjoyed with a walk-by viewing. Others can be enjoyed both inside & out, such as the Fort Screven Guardhouse which is currently the Tybee Island Community Center. There are also numerous historic homes and cottages that are currently offered as vacation rentals and allow guests to enjoy a fantastic historical Tybee Island vacation, from sun up to sun down. Our favorite example is the recently renovated and converted Quarters at the Commissary which offers 3 beautifully appointed neighboring units in the historical Commissary building for Fort Screven. There is also a slew of historical Tybee Island cottage rentals available, each with its own unique charm and intrigue. Find what suits you!
Tybee is just one of many historic destinations along Georgia's coastline. Often times guests to Tybee Island will day trip to Savannah's historic district and experience even more of the area's colorful history and historic sites. MORE ABOUT SAVANNAH'S HISTORIC DISTRICT