101 Twelfth Street, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
Hours of Operation:
Mon-Sat 10am - 5pm
Sun 1:30pm - 5pm
Last climb 4:30pm
The Maritime Museum closes from 12 noon-1pm Mon-Sat
The Museums are closed on Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
The St. Simons Lighthouse is the oldest brick structure in the area and is still maintained as an operational light by the U.S. Coast Guard. You can climb the 129 steps to the top for a spectacular view of the Island.
First constructed in 1807 by James Gould on Couper's Point, this towering, 104 foot lighthouse was reconstructed in 1872 on the same site to replace the original which was destroyed by retreating Confederate forces in 1862. A beautifully restored 1872 lighthouse keeper's home complements the lighthouse.
The original St. Simons Lighthouse began as a dream of a young architect from Granville, Massachusetts named James Gould. Even as a young boy, Gould dreamed of building a lighthouse. He began work on his light's blueprints when he was a teenager. Gould moved to St. Simons Island as a young man and quickly fell in love with the island and it's people. In 1804, John Couper, a St. Simons Island plantation owner, deeded four acres of land to the federal government for the price of one dollar, as a site for the island's first harbor light. In 1807, James Gould was hired by the Treasury Department as chief architect of a project to build the lighthouse on the northside entrance to St. Simons Sound. The tower was completed in 1808. It was composed of brick and tabby and stood seventy-five feet tall, twenty-five feet in diameter. A ten-foot lantern (lit by oil lamps suspended on chains) topped the white, tapering, octagonal structure. Gould, appointed by President Madison, became the lighthouse's first keeper in 1810. This job required that he climb the tower and tend the lights several times per day, including periodic checks throughout the night. Gould, however, was a man dedicated to the fulfillment of his dream and to his people. He remained the keeper for 27 years, until 1837, when his health no longer permitted him to do so. The Lighthouse Board raised his lighthouse to the level of coastal light in 1857.
The current lighthouse, completed in 1872, stands twenty-five feet from the original site. It was built to replace James Gould's lighthouse, which was destroyed by the Confederate Army in 1862 (the original site is still marked by ropes). The current structure was built by Charles Cluskey, one of Georgia's most renowned architects. It is a white conical tower attached to a brick dwelling. The small house was once the lightkeeper's cottage. However, the oil lamps and chains were replaced by a Fresnel lens (French, hand-made) and timers in 1953, eliminating the need for a keeper. The house now serves as the Museum. No trip to St. Simons Island would be complete with a stop at the historic St. Simons Lighthouse.
Avenue of Oaks Located on Frederica Road
Anne Page King planted this famous "Avenue of Oaks" that highlights the entrance to the Sea Island Golf Club.
A.W. Jones Heritage Center
The first floor of the Center includes an entrance gallery featuring exhibits, an event hall, an executive board room and a museum store. The second floor features a climate-controlled hurricane-safe vault housing the Coastal Georgia Historical Society's vast collection of objects, artifacts, archival materials, and a 500 volume research library. Visit www.saintsimonslighthouse.org.
Bloody Marsh Battle Site Located Off Demere Road
The battle fought here on July 7, 1742, when Spanish troops landed on the south end of St. Simons Island, proved to be the turning point in the Spanish conquest of Georgia. The marsh ran red with Spanish blood and the battle was a decisive British victory which ended forever the threat of Spanish invasion into this colony.
Gascoigne Bluff P.O. Box 287, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
Located on Gascoigne Bluff Road
Overlooking the Frederica River, this area was a favorite Native American campground, and during Colonial days, the landing at the bluff became Georgia's first naval base and bears the name of the man, Gascoigne, who first surveyed the Georgia coast for England. Live oak timbers milled here in 1794 were used in building "Old Ironsides," the USS Constitution, in 1874, and timbers were also cut here for the Brooklyn Bridge.
First African Baptist Church is a beautiful two story frame structure built in 1869 by former slaves of the St. Simons plantations. The congregation itself organized ten years earlier. Constructed with round arch windows, and an off center, pyramidal roof steeple, the exterior was updated with crisp white asbestos shingle siding. Electricity was added in the 1950’s. Members of this African American church traveled from all around the island to attend worship services every Sunday. In the late 1800s, First African began to establish mission churches around St. Simons to better serve the needs of its members on the south end of the island. Although as old as many of the area's historic sites, this lovely part of Saint Simons Island culture and history is often overlooked in tourism books and brochures.
The Maritime Center at the Historic Coast Guard Station on East Beach
Seven galleries are filled with exhibits exploring the beaches, marshes and forests with their relationship to facets of our area's Coast Guard and military history. Located at 4201 1st Street, East Beach. 912.638.4666.
Brunswick, Georgia and the Golden Isles are located in the center of an area rich in natural beauty and history.
St. Simons Island, one of the famed and fabled Golden Isles that grace this corner of Georgia's coast, is especially alluring. St. Simons Island, called "San Simone" by 16th century Spanish explorers, is now simply called "wonderful" by those who retreat to its shores today. Visitors come year 'round to swim, sail, fish, and walk along St. Simons' lovely beaches, to challenge its 99 holes of golf and acres of tennis courts, to wander its enchanted historic sites, and to explore the Island's countless quaint shops and fine restaurants. All amid gloriously mild weather year 'round.
The Hofwyl Broadfield Plantation to the north of Brunswick, offers a glimpse into the lives of planters and slaves that grew rice along the Altamaha River nearly 200 years ago. You can tour the antebellum home built by the Troup family and examine the nineteenth century farm equipment still stored in the barn. Call 264-7333.
Continuing north, you will find the quaint town of Darien and the Fort King George State Historic Site. Nearby Sapelo Island, home of the University of Georgia Marine Institute, features a guided tour of the pristine barrier island beaches and Hog Hammock Community, where many of the descendants of the Plantation era still reside.
Don't miss Seabrook Village, an African American living history museum located near Midway, Georgia. Founders of Seabrook Village were freed slaves who took advantage of post-Civil War land grants to begin a new life of freedom on their own property. Join in a widely varied schedule of interactive exhibits and programs from toy-making to cane-grinding. Call 912.884.7008 for more information.
Cumberland Island Ferry - Pristine and secluded, Cumberland Island National Seashore, is located south of Brunswick, via I-95, Exit 3. A favorite destination for coastal visitors who love history, wildlife, and a vast sweep of unspoiled beaches. For ferry boat schedules call 912.882.4335.
The famous Okefenokee Swamp lies southwest of the Golden Isles. Thousands of acres of cypress and pine forest shelter the deep, blackwater swamp. Teeming with hundreds of species of birds, otters, deer, and a thriving population of alligators, the Okefenokee offers boat trips, fishing, canoeing, and other fascinating encounters with a unique independent ecosystem.
An hour North of Brunswick is Savannah, Georgia, known for its historic downtown squares and the shops and restaurants along its waterfront district.
Live Oaks Visitors are captivated by the beautiful and natural canopy provided by the live oaks that grow for so long and so large. In the early days, St. Simons Island was home to a thriving lumber industry. In fact, oak timbers, cut from Cannon's Point on the Island's north end, were used in 1794 to build the frigate U.S.S. Constitution. In 1874, timbers from the Island were also cut for use in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Legend holds that the average life span of an oak is 300 years.
Christ Church The Christ Church congregation traces its origins to 1776, and to the very earliest days of St. Simons Island. However, the first religious services were held on the site of the church some forty years earlier. It was here that John and Charles Wesley, two brothers from England considered the fathers of Methodism in America, first preached to natives beneath the limbs of an enormous oak tree. The first church structure was built in 1820, but was partially destroyed by occupying Union troops during the War Between the States. In 1884, Anson Phelps Dodge, Jr., built the present structure in memory of his wife, Ellen, who died during their 'round-the-world honeymoon. Today, the beautiful church with its magnificent stained glass windows and heavily wooded grounds that include a cemetery with graves of early settlers, is one of St. Simons Island's most treasured landmarks.
The Saint Simons Trolly Take a trolly tour of the island with stops at the Lighthouse, Fort Frederica and Christ Church.
Museums & Galleries
Coastal Center for the Arts 2012 Demere Road, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
A 12,000 square foot regional art center which promotes local St. Simons Island artists and other Georgia artists in its six galleries. There are also four classrooms and conference rooms in the center.
St. Simons National Parks & Natural Wonders
Fort Frederica National Monument Route 9, Box 286C, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
Established in 1736 by James Oglethorpe to protect the southern boundary of his new colony of Georgia, this historic national site includes remnants of a tabby fortress the British built in the 1730s as a bulwark against Spanish invaders from Florida. In 1736, 44 men and 72 women and children arrived to build the fort and town, and by the 1740s Frederica was a thriving village of about 500 citizens. When Spanish troops sought to capture St. Simons Island in 1742, Oglethorpe's men won a decisive victory in what is now called The Battle of Bloody Marsh. You can visit the site of Fort Frederica, a national park, and see the ruins of the fortifications, barracks and homes. A museum, film, dioramas, tours and demonstrations bring the settlement vividly back to life. Hiking and nature trails are on site and historical tours are available.
St. Simons Parks, Gardens & Zoos
Honey Creek Coastal Encounters Nature Center 4201 First Street, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
A hands-on environmental education center for all ages that offers a variety of educational programs include beach and saltmarch ecology walks, plankton labs, and summer camps for children.
Neptune Park Located on Beachview Drive
An oceanfront public park that features picnic tables under stately oak trees, a children's playground, a miniature golf course, lots of benches for relaxing by the sea, a fishing pier, and a bandstand where events are held throughout the year.
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