Taylor Family at the Top of St Simons Island Lighthouse Georgia 1

St Simons Island Lighthouse: nautical family fun

And our lighthouse obsession continues… On St Simons Island, the largest of Georgia’s Golden Isles, there stands a picturesque beacon just off the boardwalk.  It’s surrounded by palm trees, oaks and green grass.  It’s not too tall, but clearly breaks the skyline:  the St Simons Island Lighthouse.  You know we love to visit lighthouses for many reasons, but the attraction of this one came from a few aspects.  The St Simons Island Lighthouse is an ideal example of 19th century maritime architecture AND it’s family friendly!!!!  Previously we tried to visit another lighthouse and only I (Rob) could climb it.  Not so here!  Keep reading to see what we enjoyed about this beacon.

 

The St Simons Island Lighthouse is a perfect nautical outing in the Golden Isles of Georgia. Any age or size visitor can climb it for a breathtaking view. 2traveldads.comVisiting – when you arrive, you’ll want to pop into the Historical Society building and pay your entrance fee.  And then buy really cool lighthouse Christmas ornaments (don’t have to I guess).  Then you’ll head over to the keeper’s quarters.  It’s set up with loads of photos and information about St Simons Island, the lighthouse and nautical history of the area.  Once you’ve had your fill of photographic nostalgia, head upstairs to the actual sleeping/living areas.  They’re made up like the residents have just stepped out for a moment.  Each room is a perfect snapshot of the time…except the iPad displays that provide information about the rooms’ contents and stories.  They add educational value, just not any aesthetic value.

Tip:  as no-fun as this might sound, historically accurate museum/room displays are a great way to show kids that life existed before technology.  It may be difficult to get them to look at the actual museum quality collection in front of them if they’ve already seen the iPad, but it’s an opportunity to explain the world like they’ll never know it.

LittleMan climbing down spiral staircase of St Simons Island Lighthouse Georgia 2traveldads.comThe Tower – climbing the lighthouse on St Simons Island is a lot easier than the one in St Augustine.  While the St Augustine light has 219 steps, the St Simons light is only a 129 step journey.  Gotta say, the 90 step difference is noticeable.  And you know, when you get to the top, the view is just as spectacular:  the sea, the town.  It’s all beautiful.  You can even spy dolphins playing just off shore if you’re lucky (which we totally were!!).

Tip:  as easy as the tower might seem, bring some water if it’s a hot day.  Parched kids aren’t happy campers…and neither are thirsty adults.

You know what else is cool?  There’s not a height restriction for climbing.  When we were turned away at the St Augustine Lighthouse because the kids were both too small, it was a bit disheartening.  Their reasoning was around the open grating and ironwork, so safety was key to not allowing the kids up the tower.  At the St Simons Island Lighthouse, there is a tight spiral staircase vs the open well in the middle.  At the top, the bars were closer…but still scary. Rob Taylor and LittleMan at the top of St Simons Island Lighthouse Georgia 2traveldads.com Overall, not terribly different, but now it makes sense why the kids couldn’t do the taller one.  

Tip:  feel out kids ahead of time as to if they’re scared of going to the top.  We’re not saying to plant the seed of fear, but you can prep them for the heights and prep yourself to have a very short visit at the top potentially.

What you see today though is quite different than what was originally built.  Initially put up in 1810, the first lighthouse was octagonal.  Today, it’s a round tower with keeper’s quarters attached.  Where’d the original tower go?  Glad you asked:  the Confederate Army destroyed it proactively during the American Civil War so the Union Army wouldn’t be able to use it or benefit from have the island as a stronghold.  The South still lost (thank goodness) and then just had to rebuild the St Simons Island Lighthouse because it was still so badly needed.

Tip:  if you’re with kids or international visitors who’ve not been taught about the American Civil War, sites like this are a great doorway to that conversation.  You don’t have to get into the details, but its a good conversation starter.Chris Taylor and Dudes at top of St Simons Island Lighthouse Georgia 1

The Lamp – the lantern still functions, but off electricity.  It makes a full rotation every 60 seconds and can be seen for miles.  The lens is a Fresnel lens, which is a fancy way of saying that the cut glass aims the beam into a much stronger light than just having a turning lantern.  Like we said:  fancy.  Unfortunately you can’t get as close to or as good of a view of the St Simons Island lens as other lanterns in the Southeast, but if you’re not too scared of heights, you can get against the rail and lean carefully to watch it turn.

Kind of Unrelated Tip:  if you want to experience a lighthouse lens up close, next time you happen into San Diego, California, Cabrillo National Monument has an awesome lens that you can actually get right up to and experience the cool distortion that makes the light so bright.

Lantern of St Simons Island Lighthouse Georgia 2traveldads.com

 

Today The St Simons Island Lighthouse is worth a visit and definitely worth the climb to the top.  Plan for an hour, just in case you really get sucked into the Historical Society’s displays (they’re well done).  When you’re finished, you can just head along the boardwalk and enjoy the dock, pier, park and even water park (weather permitting).  The area is very family friendly and spending all morning at the lighthouse and parks is a really stellar idea that kids, young and old, will appreciate.

 

20 Comments

  • elaine massey

    I really want to visit this after reading your article. I read another one about the lighthouse (maybe by you) and I say that has to be on our list. Great article and pics.

    January 14, 2016 at 9:03 am
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      There are some really cool ones from Virginia southward. We found a really cool one that we couldn’t access on the St Johns River in Florida.

      January 14, 2016 at 11:48 am
  • Shelly

    We will be heading that way at the end of Feb. Might have to make a special stop!

    January 15, 2016 at 7:37 am
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      You’d love the Golden Isles. They’re beautiful and so relaxing!!

      January 15, 2016 at 7:55 am
  • Renne

    The thought of having kids has been weighing on me a lot these days (getting married this year, so I’ll probably have kids in the next couple of years). But reading your blog has been easing my fears lately. It’s nice to see that my travels don’t have to end once I start a family. 🙂

    January 15, 2016 at 10:32 am
  • Liesbeth

    I don’t have kids (and don’t want any) but I always love reading how you take them everywhere. My parents did this too and I think it was one of the best parts of my education and growing-up. Keep it up!

    January 15, 2016 at 11:55 am
  • Maria (one tiny leap)

    The lighthouse looks beautiful, and such fun for your little ones!! Looks like a great day out 🙂

    January 15, 2016 at 12:38 pm
  • Becky

    I visited my first lighthouse in years this past fall and forgot how wonderful they can be. This one looks marvelous – and I love all the tips you included to turn it from just another attraction to something really special.

    January 15, 2016 at 2:23 pm
  • Courtney Jones

    I definitely have a love of lighthouses (probably because I’m from the east coast of Canada, so they remind me of home!). That’s so cool that you guys could see dolphins from the top!

    January 16, 2016 at 3:03 pm
  • Nicole

    We have yet to visit a lighthouses (with or without our kids), so I loved reading about the snippets of how the history intertwines with the lighthouse itself. Thanks for teaching me something new! One of my son’s favourite books is about a lighthouse and he always asks…. So I think this just made the kid bucket travel list!

    January 16, 2016 at 7:26 pm
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      They’re neat to visit, but like we said: know that the time at the top may be short…cuz some kids (and adults) freak out about height. 🙂

      January 17, 2016 at 11:29 am
  • Ami

    Wow, you were able to spy dolphins from up there? That sure sounds amazing. I love watching sunsets from the lighthouse.

    January 16, 2016 at 9:03 pm
  • Voyager

    Loved the post, Lighthouses always evoke an aura of mystery and intrigue in me, I remember my childhood and the many days I spent reading the adventures of The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. The adventures used to be filled with mysterious islands and lighthouses with mysterious flashing lights in the dead of the night. Your post brings alive all the intrigue associated with Light houses and is at the same time very informative.

    January 17, 2016 at 12:27 am
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      Thank you, and thanks for the book recommendation!!

      January 17, 2016 at 11:29 am
  • Sabine

    I actually always look at a lighthouse from far away, I’ve never visited one from the inside. I should look next time if it is possible to visit. It’s a great and fun way to show kids some historical buildings. (especially when they are kid friendly, like this one 🙂 )

    January 17, 2016 at 11:21 am
  • Natalie

    I went to St. Simons in 2015, and, while I saw the lighthouse (and heard the story of the ghost that supposedly lurks around there), I ran out of time and didn’t get to climb up to the top. I’m glad to know that it’s doable even with little kids–I’ll have to take my toddler the next time we’re there. She’ll love it!

    January 19, 2016 at 2:05 pm
    • 2TD-Rob
      Rob Taylor

      The docent mentioned the ghost and I shut that story down STAT!! I wasn’t going to have a second lighthouse tour foiled on that trip. I can see our oldest running out so fast…

      January 19, 2016 at 2:14 pm
  • Julie @ Girl on the Move

    I absolutely love lighthouses, probably has something to do with my love of water, and this one looks great…and you’re right…90 steps makes a big difference!

    January 19, 2016 at 2:52 pm
  • Sabine

    Hey I actually learned something today thanks to your post, thank you for that and the lighthouse looks really fun…would be so amazing if you could actually stay overnight in one. I just adore them =)

    January 20, 2016 at 5:56 am

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