Let’s Dive into the History of St. Simons Island
As the largest barrier island within the Golden Isles, a cluster that includes Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Brunswick on the mainland, St. Simons Island possesses a deep and rich history that dates back to thousands of years ago.
The earliest known inhabitants of St. Simons Island were Native American tribes of the Creek Nation. Nearly 500 years ago, the Guale Indians established their village here before the Spanish and English fought each other for the ownership of the island in the mid-1600s, before the English claimed the Georgia colony for themselves.
Nicknamed “San Simone” by the 16th century Spanish explorers, St. Simons Island continues to offer a whisper of the past as the home to some of the area’s most remarkable historic sites to this very day.
Historical Sites to See
There are a ton of unique and historical sites to add to your “Must-See” list when you visit St. Simons Island.
St. Simons Lighthouse Museum
Built in 1868 through 1872, the lighthouse and keeper’s dwellings were built to replace the one that was destroyed during the Civil War. The lighthouse was shaped like an octagon and got smaller and smaller as you reached the top — eventually getting to only 10 feet in diameter at the peak! It sat over 75 feet tall with walls that were 8 feet thick at the foundation level.
The St. Simons Lighthouse is one of the five remaining lighthouses in Georgia and is still actively used to guide ships as they enter Saint Diamonds Island. The light shines up to 23 miles out, and the top offers some incredible panoramic views of the coastline. The keeper’s dwelling is a two-story Victorian home that housed lightkeepers from 1872 until 1950. Today, it houses a portion of the museum.
Bloody Marsh Battle Site
On July 7, 1742, Spanish troops made a singular attempt to invade Georgia and skirmished on St. Simons Island during what became known as the Battle of Bloody Marsh. Legend says the marsh ran red with Spanish blood, and the British victory ended the threat of Spanish invasion into the colony.
Cannon’s Point Preserve
This 600-acre preserved space rests on the north end of the island. A combination of its one-of-a-kind salty marsh, tidal creek, and diverse maritime forest ecosystem offers a perfect home to all types of native wildlife: birds, fish, oysters, manatees and so much more!
This incredibly ecologically fertile area of the region was the home of the Guale tribes who dubbed the area Guadalquini. Guests are invited to view numerous archaeological sites rich with remnants from the tribes, as well as plantation ruins and a Late Archaic shell ring spanning the preserve.
Near Cannon’s Point Preserve on the northern part of the island you will also find Fort Frederica. When the English moved south away from Savannah and the Spanish mission settlements moved north from Florida, the fort was constructed strategically to head off additional Spanish intrusion to the island.
In 1736, British General James Oglethorpe established Fort Frederica in honor of Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales. Today, the fort is open to the public, with free admission.
Historic Hamilton Plantation Cabins and Grounds
Now maintained by the Cassina Garden Club and open to the public, this historic mill provided a number of jobs for both the planters and the freed slaves in the area following the Civil war. It was also the reason Anson Green Phelps Dodge Jr., the main character in Eugenia Price’s novel Beloved Invader originally came to the island and successfully rebuilt the magnificent Christ Church Frederica.
Exploring St. Simons Today
While St. Simons Island holds a fascinating history, it also offers a ton of other experiences for its visitors, including unique shopping experiences, majestic beaches and resorts, and an expert golf course selection.
Here are Some Must-Visit Attractions on St. Simons Island
- Head to nearby St. Simons Island Pier Village to explore more than 50 different boutique shopping, dining, and family fun options!
- Rent a kayak to tour the saltwater marshes and explore the local ecosystem even closer.
- Explore the oceanfront Neptune Park Fun Zone near the St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum to access its oceanside facilities, including a pool, playground, mini golf course, oak-shaded picnic area, fishing pier, public library, and theatre.
- Take a majestic horseback ride along the sandy white beaches of the island.
- Spend an afternoon searching for nine different tree spirits that are said to be encased in trees all across the island. It’s a unique scavenger hunt that the whole family can get excited about! Stumped? Head over to the Welcome Center to grab a map that will reveal where all nine are hidden.
- Rent golf carts or bicycles to wander around St. Simons Island and take in the scenery while still smelling that refreshing salty air.
- Cast a line when you see what you can reel in off the St. Simons Island fishing pier!
- Take a swing at Retreat Golf Course or Seaside Golf Course – both can be a rewarding challenge for even the most experienced golfer.
Visit Morningstar Marinas Golden Isles
Did you know that Morningstar Marinas calls St. Simons Island home on the Golden Isles?
If you’re looking to make a fun trip out of it, be sure to stop at ICW marker 675 to visit our marina which conveniently offers no vertical obstructions and perfectly deep waters, so it’s the perfect stop for larger vessels and sailboats.
And, while the Golden Isles are certainly picturesque, the area is especially known for being a world class fishing destination. Inland fisherman can find trout, red fish and flounder while offshore fishermen come home with groupers, mackerels, sharks and snappers.
With a call-ahead concierge service, a courtesy car for inland visits, and a complimentary fresh-water rinse for every boat that docks with us, you won’t want to miss this stop as you visit the historic St. Simons Island and additional Golden Isles!