Family Fun on Tybee Island: Georgia’s oldest lighthouse, famous artillery batteries, entertainment pier, Marine Science Center and legendary Fort Pulaski

Tybee Island located 18 miles east of Savannah and about one drive from Hilton Head delights visitors with 3 miles of sandy beaches, an entertainment packed pavilion, Georgia’s oldest lighthouse, Civil War artillery batteries and the incredible Fort Pulaski National Monument.

GA\'s oldest lighthouse recently renovated to its 1700s look and feel

GA's oldest lighthouse recently renovated to its 1700s look and feel

Things to enjoy on Tybee Island:
1. The Tybee Lighthouse, the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Georgia and recently underwent major renovations to restore its 1700 era authenticity. Nearby is the Tybee Island Museum at Fort Screven with its famous artillery batteries Union troops used to conquer Fort Pulaski, in one of the most memorable bombardments in the U.S. history.

The lighthouse and museum are open daily except on Tuesday and holidays. Hours are 9 AM to 5:30 PM; beware the last ticket is sold at 4:30 PM. Admission to Tybee Lighthouse and Battery Museum is adults $6, children (6-17), seniors, military personnel and groups of at least 10 people is $5. FREE for kids less than 5 years.

Driving directions and parking: Take Hwy 80 East to Tybee Island. Once on the island take a left at the first stop light on Campbell Avenue then follow the brown Tybee Lighthouse signs. Public parking is available on the north side of the Light Station beside the gift shop. You can also park at the Beach Parking lot in front of the lighthouse. Parking fees is $1.50 per hour or $12 per day.

Tybee Island Museum and Coastal Artillery Batteries

Tybee Island Museum and Coastal Artillery Batteries

Tybee Lighthouse historic facts:
• The first lighthouse on Tybee Island, built in 1736, was one of the first public structures in Georgia, and at 90 feet, one of the tallest in America.
• In 1742 another lighthouse was built to replace the old one destroyed by a storm. In 1773 a 3rd lighthouse was built on a different site. This forms the base of the present structure.
• In 1791 Georgia ceded it to the Federal Govt and in 1948 the U.S. Coast Guard took over the operation and maintenance of the lighthouse
• The Tybee Lighthouse had to be repaired after damages inflicted during the Civil War.
• The current light station displays its 1916 day mark with 178 stairs and a first order 9 foot tall Fresnel lens.

2. Kids will have a blast at the Marine Science Center where they can learn about barrier islands, see the aquarium and dozens of exhibits with all kinds of reptiles, corals and interesting sea creatures. Among the highlights: feel a shark skin, shake hands with a hermit crab, and touch whale bones. The Marine Science Center is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children (under 3 get in for FREE).

3. While on the island you can shop for one of kind art crafts and gifts. Tybee is a thriving art community where little art shops and street-side colorful displays sprung at every step.

Dragon fly art studio on Tybee Island

Dragon fly art studio on Tybee Island

4. Stroll on the pier where there’s always something fun going on. The original Tybrisa Pavilion, built in 1891 had an open dance floor amid a breath-taking coastal setting. It soon became a South Atlantic Ocean landmark and a legendary stop on the “Big Band” tour. Unfortunately fire destroyed it in 1967.
Upcoming Tybee Island events:
• August 31st – Labor Day Beach Bash – live music and fireworks at the pier, from 7 to 11 PM.
• October 10 and 11 – be a pirate at the Pirate Fest.

Getting around Savannah and Tybee Island
Historic Savannah trolley tours: $25 to get on/off anytime, $22 one complete loop, $10 children 4-12, under 4 years is Free. Get tickets at the Savannah Visitors Center located at the end of the Savannah River Bridge right as you enter the city. Trolleys arrive at stops every 20 minutes. They operate daily from 9 AM to 4:30 PM and offer free courtesy shuttle from hotels in the Savannah Historic District.

Savannah Trolley Tour

Savannah Trolley Tour

Here is a custom Google Map with some of Tybee Island’s family attractions. Speed limit on Tybee Island is 35 mph and parking is a quarter for every 10 minutes from 8 AM to 8 PM year-round. There are bike lanes on Hwy 80 all the way to the Bull River Resort.

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Fort Pulaski awesome cannon firing and its fascinating history (memorable weekend things to do around Savannah and Hilton Head)

On April 11, 1862 Union troops struck with fury. 30 hours and 1,142 shells later the “indestructible” Fort Pulaski surrendered. The damage was so deep it will take 1,000 Union troops 6 weeks to repair it.

Facts and Trivia

The breached wall and broken Confederate cannon at Fort Pulaski

The breached wall and broken Confederate cannon at Fort Pulaski


• In 1837 with its 8 foot thick brick walls the fort was considered invincible. No cannon could inflict significant damage from more than a mile away (the closest spot where you could fire at it). New technology proved them wrong.
• The battle at Fort Pulaski marked a new warfare milestone: the end of masonry style fortifications.
• Germans volunteers of the 46 N.Y, Regiment manned the parrot riffles shooting from the batteries along Tybee and McQueens islands. Following the war the guns were taken to Cockspur Island. In mid-1960s the guns were recovered and brought to Fort Pulaski.
• The Demilune was added in 1872 to protect the fort entrance. During the Civil War the area was flat covered with gun platforms, a mess room, storage area and a guard house.
• When the Confederates seized Fort Pulaski from the US forces (in anticipation of Civil War hostilities) only 2 persons where guarding it.

Learn more about the Fort Pulaski history like the Immortal 600, the Waving Girl, and John Wesley (Founder of Methodist Church) and the awesome kids activities you can enjoy there.

Critical steps to fire the Confederates cannons
There were 5 to 9 men on the cannon fire crew, one of the earliest examples of team-work. Each person performed a specific task yet all men were cross-trained on all operations. If needed just 2 persons can safely fire the cannon.

1. Sponge the barrel and clean any leftovers (this was most important safety procedure)
2. Cover the air hole with the thumb to prevent air going inside the barrel – stumping
3. Put the projectile inside the barrel. The old cannon used by Confederates had a ball-like shell that didn’t fit tightly inside the barrel. It wiggled when it came out thus being less accurate and damaging.
4. Point the gun (during those time you didn’t “aim” another hint about the target firing guessing game) then put your arms up to signal the gun is pointed.
5. Insert the friction primer (piece of wire) to seal in the gunpowder. The primer and the projectile were poor quality and main culprit for the lame results defending the fort.
6. Fire! It was very loud. There were no ear plugs and most of the crewmen couldn’t cover their ears….you can image over time most of them were deaf.

New shells still stuck in the wall hundreds of years later!

New shells still stuck in the wall hundreds of years later!


Firing the new cannons (Parrot Riffles) required identical steps. It took a little longer because the cannon and all instruments were much bigger and heavier. The new aerodynamic projectile was longer and fitted perfectly inside the barrel. The shots were extremely powerful and very accurate even from over a mile away.

Fort Pulaski Admission and Cannon Firing Schedule
There is only $3 fee to get inside the park (children under 15 get in for free). The firing demos are held in the weekend as following:
• Sunday: noon, 1:30 and 3:30 PM
• Saturday: 11, noon, 2 and 3:30 PM

Bring your family to Fort Pulaski for an inspirational family experience!