The Good Ole Summertime: Tybee Island for 4th of July Weekend

`It is hard to walk far on Tybee Island without making a friend of a local, who will regale you with what I call ‘True Tybee Tales‘.” –Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Georgia Coast & Okefenokee by Richard J. Lenz

For a long July 4th weekendfireworks and a beach getaway are typically top of mind.  To give our guests a fuller appreciation for Tybee Island’s role in America’s Independence Day celebrations, Lighthouse Inn bed and breakfast thought it would be fun for us to find and share a few historical tales about the Fourth of July on Tybee.

Tybee Island Lifeguard Chair. Photo (c) Sunny Side Up (Flickr). Used under Creative Commons License.

Tybee Island Beach

Lighthouse Inn is in the Fort Screven Historic District, prominent in the neighborhood where America’s independence was fought on Tybee Island, Georgia

We will say early here, “Thank you, historians” for giving us a fuller appreciation of our beloved Tybee Island, Georgia on the Georgia Coast.

We found Margaret Gobley’s Historic Tybee Island, . SAVANNAH BEACH Georgia, first published in 1958. One chapter is entitled “The Good Ole Summertime”.

  • “There was nothing quite like a trip to /Tybee on the train, and Sunday school picnics and the fourth of July ranked very close to Christmas as day of pure joy,” Gobley wrote.
  • On July 4, 1851, the steamer J. Stone left for a ‘pleasure excursion’ to Fort Pulaski and Tybee. The first stop was for visiting at the magnificent fort.  [Ironically, it is the fort that Confederate General Robert E. Lee helped to build.] In the afternoon the steamer headed to Tybee Island, where “a large number of gentlemen embraced the opportunity to take a sea bath,” Ms. Godley documents.

Tybee Island‘s pivotal location on the Georgia Coast, at the entrance of the Savannah River, brings Georgia’s northernmost barrier island and the “Liberty people” into historical focus.  During the American Revolutionary War, Tybee was a key location.

  • There is a good read about the “Capture of the [British ship] Philippa” near the Tybee Lighthouse on July 10, 1775.
  • During the weeks leading up the Siege of Savannah, French  Count Charles Henry D’Estaing commanded 38 ships and 5000 to capture British vessels off Tybee Island, forcing the British off the island.
  • Tybee Island became the disembarkation point for loyalists to leave Georgia, in route to Canada, the West Indies, and England during the evacuation of Savannah in July 1792. (Source:  Tybee Island, the Long Branch of the South)

In 1899, one Tybee resident states that he “sees the decrease in the number of mosquitoes and picnickers and in the yardage in women’s bathing suits [formerly with weights in the beach skirts] as being some of the most radical changes.” Ms. Gobley also gives us insights into  the picnic, which consisted of “olives, hard boiled eggs, peanut butter, fried chicken and potato salad.”

Lighthouse Inn wonders why “sweet tea” — THE refreshing, cool drink, synonymous with America’s Deep South — was not listed in the 19th or 20th century picnic.

When you stroll the beach today, beach-goers with ice coolers are likely to bring much of the same food, plus cold beer, barbecue [Wiley’s Championship BBQ won Best of Savannah 2011], ham and cheese sandwiches, soft drink sodas, bottle water, yogurt, fresh vegetable snacks, pretzels, and animal crackers.  Shaved ice snow cones are always popular.

For summer 2011, come test the fun of a beach-style picnic on Tybee Island‘s beach or pier.  Explore the train tracks along the Rails to Trails (McQueen Island), the route that brought Savannah families to Tybee between 887 until 1933. Train travel time was 1 hour.  Bring beach chairs or blankets to watch the Independence Day fireworks on July 3, 2011.

We hope you will put Tybee Island and Lighthouse Inn on your agenda.  It’s a charming place to celebration independence with fireworks on the Tybee Pier, July 3, 2011.  Get out on the water to fully appreciate the “very agreeable landskip” and arrival to Tybee by water, reminiscing an era when steamers transported Savannah’s city-bound resort seekers eager for a refreshing “sea bath” and family picnic at Fort Pulaski or on Tybee Island beach.


The highway to Tybee was opened at noon on June 21, 1923. It is today’s Highway 80, remaining the most popular means to reach Tybee Island from Savannah.

By 1931, the “sun back” bathing suit was questioned about being improper on “Savannah Beach, Tybee Island“, the name incorporated August 1, 1929.

In February 1948, the Dinah Shore-Harry James musical variety show adds Johnny Mercer to the castThe Thousand Islands Song by Johnny Mercer (Capitol) was listed one of the “Best bets of the first week.”

Did you know? Born in the Landmark Savannah Historic District (November 18, 1909), Mercer’s “longing, wistful tone of voice” sang “Tyyyyybeeee” in his recording about “The Thousand Islands”, writes Godley.

Slip away to Lighthouse Inn and Tybee Island, where Americans and internationals celebrate with gusto the USA Independence Day holiday on the Georgia Coast!

For more information:

Lighthouse Inn, a Tybee Island bed and breakfast inn.
Historic Tybee Beach Inn Bed and Breakfast, Celebrating 100 Years! |
16 Meddin Drive | Tybee Island | Georgia | USA 31328
(912) 786-0901 | Toll Free (866) 786-0901 | Twitter @Rockinporch | Facebook

Copyright © 2011 Lighthouse Inn/Sandy Traub. All rights reserved.

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