Rebuilt several times in its history, the Tybee Lighthouse (30 Meddin Ave., 912/786-5801, www.tybeelighthouse.org , Wed.–Mon. 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m., last ticket sold 4:30 p.m., $7 adults, $5 children) traces its construction to the first year of the colony, based on a design by the multitalented Noble Jones. At its completion in 1736, it was the tallest structure in America. One of a handful of working 18th-century lighthouses today, the facility has been restored to its 1916–1964 incarnation, featuring a nine-foot-tall first order Fresnel lens installed in 1867.
The entrance fee gives you admission to the lighthouse, the lighthouse museum, and the nearby Tybee Island Museum. All the outbuildings on the lighthouse grounds are original, including the residence of current lighthouse keeper and Tybee Island Historical Society Director Cullen Chambers, which is also the oldest building on the island. If you’ve got the legs and the lungs, definitely take all 178 steps up to the top of the lighthouse for a stunning view of Tybee, the Atlantic, and Hilton Head Island.
All around the area of the north end around the Lighthouse complex, you’ll see low-lying concrete bunkers. Though many are in private hands, these are remains of Fort Screven’s coastal defense batteries. Battery Garland is open to tours, and also houses the aforementioned Tybee Island Museum (30 Meddin Ave., 912/786-5801), a charming, almost whimsical little collection of exhibits from various eras of local history.
On nearby Van Horne Avenue is a key part of Fort Screven, the Tybee Post Theater (912/323/7727, www.tybeeposttheater.org ). Once a site for Army entertainment such as movies, concerts, and theatrical productions, the Post Theater is currently undergoing extensive renovation. It occasionally hosts events; check the website for details.
Continue on Van Horne around the delightful Jaycee Park to the row of ornate mansions with expansive porches facing the Atlantic. This is Officer’s Row, former home of Fort Screven’s commanding officers and now a mix of private residences, vacation rentals, and B&Bs.
Reaching Tybee Island  proper on Highway 80, you’ll soon arrive at the intersection with North Campbell Avenue. This is the entrance to the less-populated, more historically significant north end of the island, once almost entirely taken up by Fort Screven, a coastal defense fortification of the early 1900s. Take a left onto North Campbell Avenue then left again on Van Horne. Once on Van Horne, take an immediate right onto Meddin Drive. Continue until you see a lighthouse on your left and a parking lot on the right.