With sunny weather, quiet, uncrowded beaches and a more relaxed atmosphere in the winter, Tybee Island is proving to be a traveler's home away from home not just in the summertime, but all year round.

Mona Sikes works with Mermaid Cottages, a collection of unique vacation rentals on Tybee Island.

"We have some guests that live up north who come down every year and stay with us for extended periods from a month to three months," Mona says.

"Some of them have been coming for many years and return each year. They have discovered Tybee as their warm place to escape the harsh winters back at home."

The off-season is the perfect time to make the trip, says David Barwick, a frequent visitor to Tybee.

"During the high season, there's so much going on around Tybee and Savannah that even promoting the fun stuff can get overwhelming," he says.

"I love to visit in the off-season, when there are no crowds or festivals or special events. It gives me a chance to shut out all the noise and just walk the north end or the south end and be quiet."

With nearly a dozen restaurants gearing up for Tybee Restaurant Week in January, the winter is an ideal time to visit a new place and avoid the wait.

Restaurants participating include the Crab Shack, North Beach Bar and Grill and Sundae Cafe, among others.

Popular shops like Seaside Sisters have fewer crowds, as well, affording shoppers a perfect opportunity to browse at their leisure.

While on Tybee, David loves to visit the American Legion for their weekly suppers and to hang out with locals.

"I just sit back and watch and listen," David says. "There's always a secret code among the locals, and you hear things that would surely raise an eyebrow in other social circles."

Other places to people watch include attending a Tybee Idol performance at Huc-A-Poo's or showing up at Doc's Bar for Italian Night.

Winter on Tybee Island is also a reminder of change, not just for businesses or crowds, but for the island and its wildlife.

According to David, the winter is a perfect time to catch a Sundial bird-watching tour led by Diana Churchill. While bird tours are offered year-round, the birds vary by season as flocks of new species travel to the islands for migration. The endangered piper plover can only be seen along the shores of Tybee in colder months, traveling south to escape the Great Lakes winters up north.

Birds aren't the only ones who enjoy the calm shores this time of year.

"In the winter, the beaches are quiet and a wonderful place to take a walk in the mornings or enjoy the awesome sunsets in the evenings," Mona says.

Quieter beaches also mean more room to stretch out on an ecological tour with Dr. Joe Richardson.

"This is a great activity for kids, school groups or just friends or couples wanting to check out the wildlife on Tybee," Mona says. "It is always a treat and different every time."

Joe leads regular tours throughout the year, but the wildlife varies from season to season as cold water attracts different sorts of underwater life. Each tour takes place around low tide, and guests usually find a variety of fossils, shark teeth, shells and coral.

There are many great events happening this winter on Tybee, so check out our website.

For all things Tybee go to www.visittybee.com, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.