By Kathy M. Newbern and J.S. Fletcher ©2016
(Part 4 in a Series)
We classify ourselves as beach people, and a complement to that is we love lighthouses. As avid cruisers, we look out for them as we enter each port, most recently noting several while on Holland America Line’s Nieuw Amsterdam for her seven-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary.
In North Carolina, we have seen most of the navigational beacons from the northernmost Currituck Beach Lighthouse going south to the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse then Cape Lookout and Old Baldy. To the far north, we’ve visited Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, officially Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, at the entrance to St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia. To the south, we’ve seen several, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Light and the Key West Light among them.
Recently, we got up close and familiar with the St. Simons Lighthouse, located at the entrance to St. Simons Sound, known for its many sand bars. As reported in Part 2 of this series, the light is adjacent to Neptune Park, a very popular attraction for visitors and locals alike. It’s an easy walk from the park or a bike ride from The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, where we stayed.
This white, cylindrical structure is one of the best-known landmarks of the Golden Isles, the moniker for this area of Georgia that encompasses St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island and Jekyll Island (we’ll be covering the latter here shortly). This beacon is actually the second lighthouse to stand on the island. The first, 85 feet tall, was built in 1810 for navigational safety. It was octagonal and constructed of tabby, a type of concrete made from oyster shell, lime and sand. You can still see tabby today in some homes and ruins across these islands.
Over two centuries ago, plantation owner John Couper advocated constructing a lighthouse to encourage business for the Brunswick area. Congress allocated money in 1804, and by 1810 James Gould, from New England, completed the tower prudently using pieces of the ruins of Fort Frederica. Gould was then hired as light keeper and served for 27 years.
In 1830, a keeper’s house was built. Oil lamps that hung from chains were the first light source. In 1847 nine lamps with 14-inch reflectors were installed. In 1856, a third-order Fresnel lens replaced them. In 1862, retreating Confederate forces destroyed it and the keeper’s residence so the Union troops could not use it.
Today’s tower, erected in 1872, is 104 feet tall, about half as tall as the Cape Hatteras Light in North Carolina, which boasts 268 steps to its observation platform. St. Simons Light has a mere 129 steps. Yet don’t let that fool you; most people climbing it are winded by the time they reach the top. There, climbers are rewarded with a vantage point that will clearly show the layout of the town below and the vast Atlantic and sound beyond.
Before or after making the climb, plan on perusing the tidy first floor collection of displays and historic items to learn more about the tower and the island.
We were fortunate to be met by Sandy Jensen, education director of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. (Do take a couple minutes to watch the video of our interview with her that accompanies this story.) She happily gave us a little introduction to the site and its history, explaining that we were standing in what once was the light keeper’s residence. She noted there are five lighthouses in Georgia, and that only two, this light and Tybee Island’s lighthouse, are official aids in navigation.
When asked what was special about this one, she answered, “What makes us unique in particular is that we have the keeper’s dwelling. A lot of lighthouses had keepers’ dwellings that were wooden, so they burned. But ours is brick, so we are still here with original floors, a lot of the original woodwork, and, of course, with the building itself.”
Next door is the A.W. Jones Heritage Center and gift shop where you purchase your ticket to climb the lighthouse. It also houses a historical research library. Timelines and photos adorn the walls, so you can learn even more.
Wedding and receptions are held on the grounds, and select Sunday evenings May through September, a concert series called “A Little Light Music” is produced on the waterfront lawns of the lighthouse. Attendees are encouraged to bring picnics, lawn chairs or blankets to enjoy performances from entertainers like “The Tams,” a group that has performing for over 50 years and well known for their hit “Be Young, Be Foolish and Be Happy.” Click here for dates: http://www.saintsimonslighthouse.org/music.html
Annually, the lighthouse attracts than 40,000 visitors. If you’re going to St. Simons Island, you should be one of them. You don’t have to climb to the top, but certainly stop by to see this slice of history.
If You’re Going: The St. Simons Lighthouse is located at 610 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island, GA 31522. You can call 912-638-4666 or visit http://www.saintsimonslighthouse.org for more info. Tickets for a Lighthouse and Museum Tour are $12 for adults, $5 for children 6-12, and free for kids five and under. The ticket also includes a tour of the Maritime Center at the historic Coast Guard Station, 4201 1st Street, just minutes away by car or bike traveling north on Beachview Drive.
Accommodations: The oceanfront King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort is located at 201 Arnold Rd., St. Simons Island, GA, just 15 minutes off I-95. In addition to family and couples’ getaways, it’s popular for business conferences, meetings, weddings and special events with its 10,000 square feet of function space. For reservations, call 800-342-0212 and check online at kingandprince.com.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy:
• Other stories by Newbern and Fletcher
• Other Stories by JS Fletcher
• Stories by Kathy M. Newbern, Luxury Travel Examiner
International and Luxury Travel Examiners J.S. Fletcher and spouse, Kathy M. Newbern, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.