Old-Fashioned Travel: Tybee Island & Old Fort Jackson, GA

There's plenty to see in Savannah. It's a beautiful city, full of history. But you'll be missing a lot if you don't venture out to other nearby areas. We only had a day to do so, but we always pack a lot into those short trips!

Tybee Island is about 20 minutes' drive from downtown historic Savannah. It's a barrier island, and a popular spot for families to vacation during the summertime and enjoy the sunny beach. More laid-back than many other beach vacation spots, there's plenty to do there during the warmer months. Of course, we visited in January, so we weren't sure what to expect.

We found... history!

First stop: Tybee Island Lighthouse.

You can read all about its history on the website, but here's a summary. The first version, a "day mark" — lighthouse without a light — was built in 1736. It was destroyed by storms. The current structure dates to 1773, but the stairs and top 40 feet of the brick-and-wood structure were burned down in 1861 by Confederate troops to prevent Union ships from finding their way. It was rebuilt after the Civil War ended, and now stands 145 feet tall.

Tickets include admission to the lighthouse, a nearby raised cottage, and the museum across the street, right next to the beach. Yes, you can climb the lighthouse. I can't remember how many steps there are, but it's over 120. Fortunately, there are small landings every 15 steps or so, for visitors to catch their breath. And yes, we climbed the narrow spiral all the way to the top. Whew!

It was a beautiful day. Chilly, though. 40 degrees, which was a lot better than the 10 degrees back home in Springboro.

The Tybee Museum is located in Battery Garland, which was constructed in 1897 along with Fort Screven during the Spanish-American War. The fort was gradually disarmed through WWI and WWII, officially decommissioned in 1947. Today, the main attraction is the museum, which houses a truly comprehensive, fascinating collection of historical military items and Tybee memorabilia.

Another nearby attraction is Fort Pulaski, a huge, two-story fort which was constructed between 1829 and 1846. It played a large part during the Civil War, and if you visit, you can attend a guided tour including Civil War re-enactors. Unfortunately, since this fort is part of the National Park Service, we were not able to visit due to the partial government shutdown.

Fortunately, Old Fort Jackson is run by the Coastal Heritage Society, not the NPS. Constructed in 1808 during Thomas Jefferson's presidency, it's Georgia's oldest brick fort still standing.

When we arrived, the friendly lady in the ticket / gift shop hurried us along! Because the Civil War re-enactors were about to fire the cannon! She said we could pay for the tickets later!

So glad she did, because it was fascinating. One "soldier" demonstrated a reproduction 1860s rifle, while two others showed our small group of visitors the steps for loading, priming, and firing a cannon — realistic, though small by comparison to the three cannons perched on the tower above.

These very knowledgeable re-enactors patiently answered any questions tossed their way. We were then turned loose to wander around the fort, which is mostly intact from its original construction. It houses exhibits that include original artifacts such as uniforms, documents, and more.

Of course, it's tough to enjoy a tour through Tybee history on an empty stomach.

We highly recommend The Original Crab Shack. Motto: "Where the Elite Eat in their Bare Feet." It's kitschy, it's quirky, it's fun. There's an alligator pond with a platform for viewing. You can also visit a room full of rescued exotic birds and visit their gift shop. It looks like a fun place to hang out during the summer during peak tourist season, with an airy, casual back patio and outdoor bar.

Judging from our dinner, we bet everything on the menu is delicious. Specialties include a lowcountry boil, various seafood entrees, barbecue, and sandwiches. We had the lunch combo, which included the delectable New Brunswick stew and crab stew. Fantastic!

But wait... there's more. Onward to St. Augustine!


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