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St Simons Island Lighthouse – Everything You Need To Know

St Simons Island Lighthouse – Everything You Need To Know

And our lighthouse obsession continues… We love visiting lighthouses whenever we travel and the St Simons Island lighthouse is a great one! We’ve been several times, on our own and we’ve taken friends. This is our guide to visiting and everything you need to know for enjoying the St Simons Island waterfront.

St Simons Island is a great stop for a day or two if you’re doing a Georgia Coast road trip. There are lots of hotels, restaurants and beautiful places to visit.

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.

Where is St Simons Island and the Lighthouse?

Firstly, St Simons Island is located in southeast Georgia in a region called the Golden Isles. It’s an easy drive from Jacksonville or Savannah, and a bit longer from Gainesville or Atlanta, but it’s not bad. Interstates make the drive a breeze (except from ATL because that’s just a permanent driving mess).

Drive times to the Golden Isles from Southeast cities:

  • Jacksonville to St Simons Island – 1:15
  • Savannah to St Simons Island – 1:30
  • Gainesville, FL to St Simons Island – 2:30
  • Atlanta to St Simons Island – 4:45

On St Simons Island, the largest of Georgia’s Golden Isles, there stands a picturesque lighthouse just off the boardwalk. It’s surrounded by palm trees, oaks and green grass.  It’s not too tall, but clearly breaks the skyline. 

On the waterfront, just blocks from the village of St Simons, you’ll find plenty of parking both at the lighthouse and at the waterfront park. Dedicated lighthouse parking is on the east side of the lighthouse and museum, but if you’re already downtown enjoying lunch or at the waterfront park, you can easily just walk to the lighthouse.

Getting to St Simons Island Map

Details for Visiting 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! In the past, when the kids were smaller, we often weren’t able to climb most lighthouses because of height restrictions and safety.  Not so here! Because of its height and construction, kids of all ages are allowed.

Taylor Family at St Simons Island Lighthouse Golden Isles Georgia 1 (2)

Coastal Georgia Historical Society Lighthouse Museum

When you arrive, you’ll want to pop into the Historical Society building and pay your entrance fee ($12 for adults, $6 for kids 6-12), and then buy really cool lighthouse Christmas ornaments (don’t have to I guess).  Take a few minutes to enjoy the film about coastal Georgia history and then head over to the keeper’s quarters.  

The Keeper’s Quarters is set up as a museum 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.

Taylor Family Maritime Museum St Simons Island Lighthouse Golden Isles Georgia 2

Climbing the St Simons Island Lighthouse

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.

Taylor Family Climbing St Simons Island Lighthouse Golden Isles Georgia 1

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 (we’ve since been up a few times).  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.  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.

Looking Down from top of St Simons Island Lighthouse Golden Isles Georgia 1

History of the St Simons Island Lighthouse

What you see today though is quite different than what was originally built.  Initially put up in 1810, the first lighthouse was octagonal, like the Tybee Island lighthouse.  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 the army 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.

St Simons Island Lighthouse Golden Isles Georgia 1

The St Simons Lamp

The St Simons Island lantern still functions, but off electricity instead of oil.  It makes a full rotation every 60 seconds and can be seen for miles.  The lens is a Fresnel lens (pronounce fruh·nel), 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. For a close up of Fresnel lenses, visit the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse in Daytona where there is actually a whole collection of different Fresnel lenses.

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 Room of St Simons Island Lighthouse Golden Isles Georgia 1

Visiting the St Simons Island Waterfront 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.

Also nearby is the Golden Isles Visitor Center where you’ll find one of the many Spirit Trees of St Simons Island, Cora the Mermaid. You’ll find lots of great information about other activities, including local events and festivals.

Cora the Mermaid Spirit Tree St Simons Island Golden Isles Georgia 1

If you have any questions about visiting the St Simons Island lighthouse, the waterfront or anything relating to the Golden Isles, send us a note or leave a comment. We’re always happy to help plan a Coastal Georgia trip!

The St Simons Island Lighthouse is a great stop on a Georgia Coast road trip. The Golden Isles are full of family fun, and this guide to the lighthouse and waterfront will help you plan a great day in Coastal Georgia.
The St Simons Island Lighthouse is a great stop on a Georgia Coast road trip. The Golden Isles are full of family fun, and this guide to the lighthouse and waterfront will help you plan a great day in Coastal Georgia.


Wednesday 20th of January 2016

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 =)

Rob Taylor

Wednesday 20th of January 2016

Funny you should mention it: we had some friends stay at our local lighthouse at Point No Point across the water from Seattle. When you're in the States next...

Julie @ Girl on the Move

Tuesday 19th of January 2016

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!


Tuesday 19th of January 2016

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!

Rob Taylor

Tuesday 19th of January 2016

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...


Sunday 17th of January 2016

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 :) )


Sunday 17th of January 2016

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.

Rob Taylor

Sunday 17th of January 2016

Thank you, and thanks for the book recommendation!!