Traditionally lighthouses have served as beacons for ships sailing in the night – today these popular structures serve as beacons for beach-goers and sight-seers. And Georgia’s historic lighthouses are no exception: these gorgeous structures all have unique stories and make for fantastic photo ops!
Tybee Island Lighthouse
Standing tall at the entrance to the Savannah River, the Tybee Island Lighthouse is one of only seven surviving colonial era lighthouses. James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s founding father, ordered the construction of the light station that would survive hurricanes, earthquakes and being burned by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Today the tower continues to serve as a guide for ships, in addition to housing a museum of Tybee Island’s history. Visitors can also climb to the top for a gorgeous view.
St. Simons Island Lighthouse
Commissioned by the federal government, the St. Simons Island Lighthouse still serves as a warning for ships entering the St. Simons Sound. Though the tower no longer requires a keeper to greet guests, the panoramic view of the Golden Isles from the top provides visitors an unforgettable experience. The Keeper’s Dwelling and Museum illustrate the life of a lighthouse keeper and the history of the Golden Isles.
Sapelo Island Lighthouse
Sitting on the island that serves as a modern epicenter of Gullah culture, the Sapelo Island Lighthouse is the nation’s second-oldest brick lighthouse. Originally built in 1820, the tower was replaced in 1905 and later reconstructed to its original structure in the 1930s. The lighthouse is no longer active, but visitors can visit the lighthouse on a tour of Sapelo Island led by Georgia State Parks.
Cockspur Island Lighthouse
Located at the South Channel of the Savannah River, the Cockspur Island Lighthouse is considered part of Fort Pulaski. Situated in the direct line of fire of Union and Confederate troops during the defeat of Fort Pulaski, the lighthouse miraculously suffered minimal damage. Instead the structure would fall victim to flooding and today is only accessible via kayak or small boat. Along with the rest of the Fort, the lighthouse is included on the National Register of Historic Places.
Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse
The only one of Georgia’s five surviving historic lighthouses not open to the public, the light station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two towers were built on Little Cumberland Island: the one to the south with a revolving light and the one to the north, which remains, with a fixed light to mark the Satilla River and St. Andrew Sound. The lighthouse is no longer active, but has been well preserved by the Little Cumberland Island Association.
In addition to the five surviving historic lighthouses, Georgia boasts several other nautical lighting fixtures:
Sapelo Island Range Front
While on a tour of Sapelo Island, visitors can also view the front beacon situated at the southern tip of the island. Though inactive now, the beacon historically helped guide mariners within the range of the island’s lighthouse.
Savannah Old Harbor Light
This cast iron light was erected as the rear range light to guide vessels from Fig Island Lighthouse into Savannah. Six ships had been sunk during the Revolutionary War to provide a naval buffer, and the Old Harbor Light was utilized to avoid these wrecks. After renovations in the early 21st century, the light was re-erected in Emmet Park on Bay Street.
West Point Lake Lighthouse
Situated right on the Georgia-Alabama line on West Point Lake, this ornamental tower provides beautiful ‘Kodak moments’ from the middle of the lake or for visitors to Maple Creek Park in LaGrange.