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My North America photo travels led me to the Tybee Island Lighthouse on beautiful Tybee Island, Georgia. Once there I could not wait to start photographing it but along the way became fascinated by its history. I have now made 4 visits to Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse. In this “Up Close and Personal: Getting to Know Tybee Island Lighthouse” post I share what I have learned from my trips including things to know before you go and also some photography tips.
On my first two Tybee Light Station trips, I failed to do enough research ahead of time and showed up on days I could not go inside the Lighthouse along with other mistakes. My sharing the following information I hope to help you avoid repeating my mistakes. By the way, as you read this post, you will find in italics the things I did not know prior to my first visit that sure would have been beneficial to know ahead of time.
Where is Tybee Island Light Station and Museum
Address: 30 Meddin Drive, Tybee Island, Ga. 31328
Directions: Once you arrive on Tybee Island, the signage for the lighthouse is easy to miss. Follow the instructions below:
Tybee Island Light Station And Museum – What You Need to Know
Hours and Days
Tickets may be purchased in a small booth next to the entrance gate by the free parking lot. Ticket is only good for one day.
What You Can Bring
Cameras, cell phones and water.
Other Tybee Lighthouse Rules
Contact No: 912-786-5801
About Tybee Light Station
Tybee Light Station is one of the oldest and tallest lighthouses in the entire United States at 176 feet tall and 178 stairs. It also has a 9-foot tall first-order fresnel lens.
The Light Station is located on 5 acres of land and includes the following buildings:
Access is to all buildings is included in the admission fee.
Tybee Light Station Brief History
The first Tybee Light Station tower was built in 1736 to guide mariners through the Savannah River. It was built with no light and called a first-day mark.
Storms destroyed the main tower so a second first-day mark tower was built and completed in 1742. The ocean also took a toll on this tower and a third tower was built further away from the ocean in 1773 to its current site.
Initially, the third tower also had no light but in 1791 the Lighthouse Establishment took over the operations of the first-day mark and turned it into a lighthouse. Sadly, in 1861 the Confederate troops during the Civil War decided to burn the top 40 floors to prevent the Union Troops from using it for navigation.
The fourth and final tower was built using the remaining 60 floors of the third tower, then adding additional floors. It was also modified to be a fireproof structure composed of masonry and metal. Lastly, it was also turned into a first-order light and later equipped with a first-order lens.
Today Tybee Light is operated by the Tybee Lighthouse Preservation Society. If you are interested in getting to know more about the Tybee Island Lighthouse, I encourage you to read: Tybee Lighthouse History.
By the way, if you are like me and have no idea what a first day mark is, I have attached a link to a glossary of lighthouse terms: Lighthouse Terms that I found very helpful.
Best Times to Visit Tybee Lighthouse
There is not a bad time to visit Tybee Lighthouse just better times. Summers are hot and humid since this is the Southeastern United States. The fall months and March through May are the best times to visit with fewer bugs, cooler temperatures, and lower humidity. Be aware, though, that March through May are peak tourist season for this area.
Certain days in the winter months can also be a good time to visit but you do not want to be there on any cold day with northeastern winds.
Tybee Island Average Temperatures
Times of Day
The best time to visit, both for photographing the Station’s front and for touring the tower, is in the early morning hours. At that time of day, there will be fewer people and the chances of finding a free parking space are good.
Be aware that prior to 9 a.m. the free parking lot is closed but you can park across the street at the North Beach Parking area which is free until 8:00 a.m. This is what I do: park in the North Beach lot until 8:00 for free, pay for the next hour(8-9) at $3.50 at hour, then move to the Lighthouse Parking lot just before 9:00 a.m. That way I pay about $3.50 for 3 1/2 to 5 hours of parking depending on what time I arrive.
When Not to Visit
Climbing the Tybee Lighthouse Tower
A limited number of people are allowed to climb the tower at any time. Therefore, prepare to possibly stand in line to enter the lighthouse and upon entry, be given a ticket that you will need to return after completing your climb. Oh, remember one of the restricted items is umbrellas so if it rains and you are in line, plan to get wet or lose your place.
Depending on the number of people in line, you may be asked to limit your time in the tower to 10 minutes. If you are not in shape, this may present a problem leaving you with little time to enjoy the views from the tower’s catwalk.
Every 25 steps, there is a platform where you can leave the staircase, take a quick break, and also enjoy views from the tower windows.
Once you reach the top of the lighthouse, you will step onto a narrow and high catwalk with wonderful 360-degree views of the entire area including the Atlantic Ocean and the Savannah River.
Photographing Tybee Lighthouse
I am a photographer and came to Tybee to photograph the lighthouse. For others who also enjoy photographing lighthouses, I had included some tips about photographing Tybee Lighthouse that should be helpful.
Most of these tips are useful regardless if you are using a camera or cell phone.
The Main Tower
The museum is located across the street at Battery Garland which was a former gun battery and magazine until 1961 when it became the Tybee Island Museum. To learn about the history of this site including Fort Screven, please click on Battery Garland.
The Museum houses exhibits about life on Tybee Island from Colonial Times, through World War 11.
To make the most of your time on Tybee Island, please see my list of other places to visit.
Tybee Lighthouse Guided Tours
Groups of 10 more require reservations.
The Lighthouse offers sunset tours at certain times of the year beginning in March. The tour dates should be posted on their website by the first of March each year. As of this writing, the cost is $25 and includes a 90-minute tour, a climb to the tower top, and next-day admission. The fee is non-refundable. Children must be 13 years of age to attend.
To book a reservation, call Desiree Wood at 912-786-5801. This is a tour I wish I had known about prior to going to Tybee.
For photographers, remember that even after hours, tripods will not be allowed. Prepare to photograph in very low light with no tripod to be sure you capture the best sunset images from the tour.
Other Events on Lighthouse Grounds
There is a nice farmers market directly behind the lighthouse from March through October of each year on Mondays from 5-7 p.m.. For the latest information please visit their website: Farmer’s Market.
On days when the market is operational, the free parking spaces by the lighthouse can fill up quickly so arrive early or choose another day. This is another one of those things I wish I had known before I went.
Also, tents and cars from the farmers market can be a problem if you plan to photograph the back portion of the lighthouse in the late afternoon light after the ground close.
What to Bring to Tybee Island Light
Hat for sun protection: Columbia Unisex Fishing Hat
Comfortable walking shoes: The lighthouse may be your only stop but be sure to bring shoes with good cushion as there are areas of sand that had be hard on your feet.
Water Bottle: One of my favorite water bottles to take everywhere is the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth w Straw.
Bug Spray- Seriously don’t leave home without it.
Other Things to Do on Tybee Island
For a small island, Tybee Island is loaded with things to do, especially for the outdoor enthusiast. Here are just a few other ways to enjoy the Island.
Final Thoughts on Getting To Know Tybee Island Lighthouse
I hope this “Up Close and Personal: “Getting to Know Tybee Island Lighthouse” post has equipped you with enough information for a great Tybee Island Lighthouse visit. If you have any additional questions or comments to add, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I mentioned the Lighthouse residential setting earlier in this post and do want to remind readers interested in photography that although the Lighthouse is very photogenic, the residential surroundings may initially be a discouraging sight. Take care when composing images and you will be able to work around the backgrounds and create wonderful Lighthouse photos.
Please check out my Portfolio of select lighthouses at: Bridges and LIghthouses. To view my entire collection of Lighthouse images that are available as fine art prints, gift items, and home decor products please see: Lighthouses.
Thanks for joining me on another Photo Road Trip adventure and stay tuned for upcoming posts about Fort Pulaski and downtown Savannah in the next few weeks..