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 will travel back in time as they Explore the island's well-preserved history and abundant cultural attractions, heritage sites, monuments and parks.
St. Simons Cultural Attractions, Heritage and Preservation
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.
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.
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 coastalgeorgiahistory.org.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Historic Site Hours:
Wednesday-Sunday / 9am-5pm
Last main house tour at 4pm / Gate locked at closing.
Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
Located 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.
This beautiful plantation represents the history and culture of Georgia’s rice coast. In the early 1800s, William Brailsford of Charleston carved a rice plantation from marshes along the Altamaha River. The plantation and its inhabitants were part of the genteel low country society that developed during the antebellum period. While many factors made rice cultivation increasingly difficult in the years after the Civil War, the family continued to grow rice until 1913.
The enterprising siblings of the fifth generation at Hofwyl-Broadfield resolved to start a dairy rather than sell their family home. The efforts of Gratz, Miriam and Ophelia Dent led to the preservation of their family legacy. Ophelia was the last heir to the rich traditions of her ancestors, and she left the plantation to the state of Georgia in 1973.
A museum features silver from the family collection and a model of Hofwyl-Broadfield during its heyday. A brief film on the plantation’s history is shown before visitors walk a short trail to the antebellum home. A guided tour allows visitors to see the home as Ophelia kept it with family heirlooms, 18th and 19th century furniture and Cantonese china. A stop on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail, this is an excellent spot to look for herons, egrets, ibis and painted buntings. A nature trail that leads back to the Visitors Center along the edge of the marsh where rice once flourished.
Launching the Story of Our Community's Patriotism, Heroism, and Enterprise
In 1940, as war ravaged America's allies, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called our nation the "Arsenal of Democracy." Following Pearl Harbor, the Golden Isles became an important component of that arsenal and contributed profoundly to the war effort. The new museum at the Historic Coast Guard Station will tell the multi-faceted story of bold initiatives to protect our coast from German submarines, train fighter pilots, build Liberty Ships to supply troops overseas, and much more. State-of-the-art exhibits will provide authentic and meaningful activities for visitors of all ages to engage in, as they learn about this critical period in our nation's history.
In 2016, the Society appointed Gallagher & Associates, a renowned museum design firm, to develop the concepts and layouts for the museum. Divided into six themes, the exhibits will be housed in the two historic buildings on the site. Outdoor displays will add another dimension to the overall visitor experience. Throughout, personal stories will be told using interviews, artifacts, documents, and photographs from the Society's collection.
The World War II Home Front Museum is scheduled to open in October, 2018. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
The Marshes of Glynn
Made famous by poet Sidney Lanier, these natural treasures are the first thing you'll see as you cross the marshes approaching St. Simons Island. The birthplace of much of our sea life, a kayak or canoe trip offers you the best way to experience the area's natural beauty.
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.