Situated mid-way down the Georgia coast, St Simons Island is one of the state’s “Golden Isles”. First settled by Europeans in the 1730s, and later developed as rice and cotton plantations, the island assumed its current identity as a vacation destination in the 1920s.
Beautifully situated amidst the salt marshes of the Georgia coast, St Simons offers miles of beaches, outdoor activities such as kayaking and dolphin tours, and historic sights, including the ruins of one of the state’s oldest forts, a 19th-century lighthouse, and the remnants of former plantations.
St Simons Island is accessible across a single road bridge, via the historic port city of Brunswick. Adjacent Jekyll Island, another of the Golden Isles, is an equally popular vacation spot.
Golden Isles Welcome Center
The modern, recently-opened Welcome Center is a useful source of information about St Simons and the surrounding area. Maps, attraction brochures and advice on local dining and other matters are available; there is also a gift shop and small gallery of local artists’ work.
The Welcome Center is located at 529 Beachview Drive on St Simons Island, near the Pier Village. It is open daily, Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 12pm-5pm. Call 912-638-9014.
Coastal Georgia Historical Society
Three historic attractions pertaining to St Simons Island’s maritime history are operated by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society: the Lighthouse and Museum; the AW Jones Heritage Center; and the Maritime Center, located at the historic Coast Guard Station.
A single admission fee allows entry to all three sites: adults $12, children (6-12) $5, young children (0-5) free. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm and Sunday, 1:30pm-5pm. Please note that the three sites are not all in the same location. Call 912-638-4666 for more information.
St Simons Island Lighthouse & Museum
At the St Simons Island Lighthouse and Keeper’s Dwelling (101 12th Street) on the south end of St Simons Island, you can climb the historic lighthouse tower and explore the history of the light station through exhibits, artifacts and historical photographs in a museum located inside the former keeper’s house. More details
AW Jones Heritage Center
Next to the lighthouse (at 610 Beachview Drive) is the AW Jones Heritage Center, which besides hosting the Coastal Georgia Historic Society’s library, offices and museum shop, offers a space displaying exhibits on aspects of local history and visual culture, plus a short film about the history of the lighthouse.
Closed for restoration until 2018
The Maritime Center (4201 1st Street), located in the historic US Coastguard East Beach Station, formerly housed exhibits on St Simons Island’s natural history and ecology. It is presently undergoing redevelopment as a museum of the island’s history in the Second World War. More details
Other Historic Sights & Attractions
Fort Frederica National Monument
6515 Frederica Road, St Simons Island, GA 31522
Oglethorpe established the fort and townsite of Frederica in the 1730s as part of the colonisation of Georgia. Today, this peaceful riverside site is one of St Simons Island’s principal attractions, although little of the original fort and town survives. Admission is free.
6329 Frederica Road, St Simons Island, GA 31522
Christ Church is a beautiful, historic church visited by many who come to St Simons; it is located very near the entrance to Fort Frederica. Christ Church consists of three separate sights: the church itself; its cemetery; and the adjacent Wesley Memorial and Gardens. Admission is free.
Christ Church is built on land granted by the State of Georgia in 1808 for the purposes of erecting an Episcopal Church. The first church was completed in 1820. Partially destroyed during the Civil War, the building was restored in 1884 by Christ Church’s first rector, Anson Phelps Dodge.
In the grounds of the church are its cemetery. Here, many of St Simons’ earliest inhabitants were buried, among them people of significance in the history of St Simons and of Georgia. The oldest surviving gravestones date from the first years of the 19th century.
The Wesley Memorial and Gardens are accessed by a walkway out of the church’s parking lot. The small garden is especially beautiful during the springtime, when its azaleas are in bloom.
The church is open for tours Tuesday-Sunday, 2pm-5pm. Docents are usually available to tell you about the church’s history. The cemetery and grounds are open from sunrise to sunset, Tuesday-Sunday. More details
In its early history, Gascoigne Bluff, next to the Frederica River on the western side of the island, was an American Indian settlement; later the site of the Spanish mission of San Buenaventura; and then Georgia’s first colonial naval base.
By the early 19th century, the land belonged to John Couper. There he established the Hamilton Plantation, one of several plantations he owned on St Simons Island.
Part of the plantation’s slave village survives to this day and is open to visitors. The Hamilton Plantation slave cabins are owned by the Cassina Garden Club, which offers seasonal tours. Tours are available on Wednesdays, 10am-12pm, June through August and at other times by request. Contact the Garden Club for more information or to arrange a tour outside of these hours. Contact and other details
Ebos Landing (also Igbo, Ibo or Ebo Landing) is an unmarked but commonly-visited African-American heritage site near Dunbar Creek. At this spot, in 1803, 75 Igbo slaves, brought to St Simons from the area that is now Nigeria, rebelled against their captors.
Contemporary accounts state that the Igbo escaped the slave agents, choosing suicide in the waters of the marsh over a life of slavery. According to African-American folk narrative, they were then transformed into buzzards, allowing them to fly back to their African homeland.
Cannon’s Point Preserve
Cannon’s Point Preserve, owned by the St Simons Land Trust, is a publicly accessible wilderness area that preserves the only intact maritime forest on the island. It is located at the north end of St Simons Island.
The 600-acre site has several miles of roads and trails, open for hiking, biking (roads only) and picnicking. You can also enjoy views over the salt marsh, the abundant bird- and wildlife, and see the ruins of the old plantation house and slave quarters built at Cannon Point Plantation in the 19th century.
Pets are not allowed at Cannon’s Point. Bring water and any food you will need as there is none available in the preserve. Insect repellent is strongly advised. Open Saturday-Monday, 9am-3pm. Maps and information are available from the kiosk at the entrance. See official website