By Kenda Williams
Guest Blogger for Visit Savannah
Fall is one of the best times of the year to experience lighthouses along the East Coast. There’s a cool breeze coming off the Atlantic and tourism season is picking back up after the hot summer.
Coastal Georgia boasts several historic lighthouses. Some date all the way back to the 1700s and are still in operation today. Local communities have poured funds and time into restoring these historic places so that the next generation can enjoy them as well.
Tybee Island Light Station
Perhaps the best-known lighthouse in Coastal Georgia is the Tybee Island Light Station. Located on the north beach end of Tybee, it dates back to 1732. The house itself was rebuilt several times, with the current building dated at 1916. It has 178 stairs, which you can climb all the way to the top on a tour of the lighthouse. Although you’re pretty breathless by the time you reach the top, the view is spectacular. It’s a panoramic scene of Tybee’s north beach. You can just imagine the lighthouse’s history while there and the lighthouse keeper’s job of communicating to the ships at sea on a rough, stormy night. The station also has a great gift shop and historic support buildings filled with photographs and antiques of the lighthouse’s past. The Tybee Island Light Station and Museum is open every day except Tuesday, from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and up, $6 for children 6-17 and free for 5 and under. Groups are $6 with 10 or more people with a reservation. Military is $6 with ID and Coast Guard is free with ID.
Cockspur Island Lighthouse
First built in 1849, this small but attractive lighthouse can be seen best from the U.S. Highway 80 bridge driving over the Lazaretto Creek. At high tide, the tiny rock and oyster beach surrounding the lighthouse will be completely covered in water. If you’re lucky enough to kayak out to it during low tide, you can park the kayak on the beach and climb up inside the lighthouse. It’s a fun excursion kayaking over to the island to catch a glimpse at Tybee from inside Cockspur Island Lighthouse.
Sapelo Island Lighthouse
Some lighthouses aren’t quite as easy to see from the road or to access on foot or kayak. Some you have to get to by boat and other modes of transportation. I had the pleasure of visiting the Sapelo Island Lighthouse this fall, and it was a truly exciting adventure figuring out how to get there. After visiting the Sapelo Island Vistor Center and purchasing tickets for a 30-minute ferry ride and a driving tour of the island, I arrived at the lighthouse. It was every bit as impressive as I thought it would be. And the journey to get there, I think, made it that much more special. The lighthouse was erected in 1820, and it’s recognized most easily by its red and white candy stripe pattern. Tours of the island and the trip to see the lighthouse can be purchased from the Sapelo Island Visitor Center, which is open Tuesday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Sunday 1:30-5 p.m.
St. Simon’s Lighthouse
An easily accessible lighthouse from downtown St. Simon’s Island, it is just an hour from Savannah and a relaxing day-trip. The first lighthouse was built in 1810, but after being destroyed in the Civil War, it was rebuilt in 1872 by one of Georgia’s most noted architects, Charles Cluskey. Its hours of operation are Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 1:30-5 p.m. Admissions are $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-11, which includes access to all museums, galleries, exhibits, lighthouse tower and watch tower. Group tours are also available upon request.
Cumberland Island Lighthouse
Built in 1838, few people can visit the Cumberland Island Lighthouse today unless they are residents on Cumberland Island or guests of residents. You can see the lighthouse by boat on the water, but access to it on land is restricted. The lighthouse was in service until 1915 when it was deactivated, but its historical preservation now maintained by the Little Cumberland Island Association.