Lighthouses were created to safely signal to incoming boats and once were found throughout the Southeast. Few remain today because of erosion and hurricanes, but Georgia is blessed with six that travelers can visit.
All lighthouses are located within a short drive of one another so you can base yourself in Savannah to explore the rest. We didn’t include the Little Cumberland Island Light because it’s located on private property and not accessible to visitors.
Cockspur Island Light, Savannah
Built starting in 1837 on an oyster bed, the Cockspur Island Light was decommissioned in 1909. It sits on an islet outside of Savannah, viewed from Fort Pulaski National Monument and Tybee Island.
The light was turned off after the fall of Fort Pulaski during the Civil War. It was relit in 1866 but became disused. It was turned over to the National Park Service in 1958 and restored in 1995. The famous “Waving Girl” statue is of Florence Martus, sister of the Cockspur Island lighthouse keeper.
The lighthouse and surrounding land are closed to the public but you can see it from the Lighthouse Overlook Trail. You can also take a kayaking tour with Tybee Jet Ski & Watersports.
Sapelo Island Light, Sapelo Island
Located on the Southern tip of Sapelo Island, the Sapelo Island Light Station is the nation’s second-oldest brick lighthouse and the oldest surviving lighthouse designed by Winslow Lewis.
It was built in 1820 and has its signature red and white stripes, set on the site of a previous skeleton lighthouse. The light station survived the Civil War but was damaged in subsequent storms. It was decommissioned in 1905 and mostly abandoned before being restored in 1998.
The Sapelo Island Light is now relit and managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Visitors can climb the lighthouse, located near the Reynolds Mansion, but the island is only accessible by public ferry or private boat.
Sapelo Island Range Front Light, Sapelo Island
Located next to the Sapelo Island Light is the Sapelo Island Front Light, originally made out of wood in 1855. A number of versions were destroyed and replaced before the current iron light was built in 1877.
In 1899, it was no longer used so the state took it apart but during World War II, the US Coast Guard built it to look out for enemy submarines along the coast. It is believed to be the oldest surviving iron structure in the state.
Savannah Harbor Light, Savannah
One of the most unique of Georgia’s lighthouses is the Old Harbor Light in Savannah. It was built in 1858 on Fig Island, a stretch of land in the Savannah River, to guide ships into the harbor.
It resembles an elaborate street lamp, made of cast iron imported from Europe. The Harbor Light was moved in 1869 and turned off during World War II. It was moved to its current location in 1958. It was relit in 2001 after being restored.
Today the light sits in Emmett Park on East Bay Street, a short walk from Savannah’s top attractions.
St. Simons Island Light, St. Simon’s Island
The beach community of St. Simon’s Island is home to the St. Simon’s Island Lighthouse, which was first built in 1810. It is one of five in the state with its restored Fresnel lens and still operates in guiding ships.
The original was abandoned during the Civil War, after scouting for Union ships, and a new lighthouse was built in 1872. The lighthouse keeper’s cottage is now a museum that educates visitors on the World War II period on the island.
The island is an easy day trip from Savannah and other islands like Jekyll. Visitors can climb the 129 cast iron steps to the top. It’s also rumored to be haunted. Admission is $12.
Tybee Island Light, Tybee Island
Tybee Island, Savannah’s beach community, also has a historic lighthouse. The first was constructed in 1736 and was replaced over the years with another that was burned down during the Civil War.
The current Tybee Island Light Station dates back to 1916 and is the oldest and tallest in Georgia. Fort Screven was created around it as a strategic location for the Spanish-American War, and later for both World Wars.
The Tybee Island Lighthouse and its surrounding buildings now operate as a museum and admission is $10. It can also be climbed when the weather allows.
Have you visited any of these historic lighthouses?
Looking to learn more about the South’s lighthouses? Pick up a copy of Southern Lighthouses: Outer Banks to Cape Florida.
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