Skidaway Island State Park Campground
To label the campsites at Skidaway Island State Park as merely generous would be doing them a great disservice. Deep, wide, and set back from the road front are just a few of the things that make these sites a pleasure. On top of that, the campsites are beautifully maintained (I think the host must have come through and blown the leaves away), the showers are hot, and a dedicated laundry and dishwashing room are close by. You might think to set up camp here at Skidaway Island State Park and stay a while, but don't get too comfortable --- there is a lot to do!
Skidaway Island State Park Campground Things to Know:
- Reservations: $42-49/night
- Facilities: Flush toilets, hot showers, laundry, dishwashing room, playgrounds
- Park Pass: $5/vehicle for duration of stay
- Location: On an island, but not on the beach - closest beach access is Tybee Island (25 miles away); convenient to downtown historic Savannah (15 miles away)
Skidaway Island State Park Hikes
Sandpiper and Avian Trail Loop
If you are looking for an easy hike at Skidaway Island State Park, the Sandpiper and Avian Trail Loop is on-site and short. It's a flat two-mile round trip through a typical low country maritime forest featuring panoramic views of the surrounding salt marshes and tidal flats. At about the halfway point, look for a bench from which you can relax and watch the passing boats on the Skidaway River Narrows. If you time it right, the west facing position should give you an excellent view of the Georgia sunset.
Pick up a Skidaway Island State Park trail map to learn about the signage which points out unusual spots along the hike – including the salt flats, resident fiddler crabs, Confederate earthworks, and a liquor still site (one of the thirty-one that were previously built on the park property). If you are a bird watcher, then keep an eye out for nesting osprey or a glimpse of the colorful painted buntings that are occasionally seen here at Skidaway Island State Park.
Attractions Near Skidaway Island State Park:
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Only a short 40 minute drive from Skidaway Island State Park lies the Fort Pulaski National Monument. If you were able to take a time machine back to Fort Pulaski in 1862, you'd probably believe–as the Confederate troops inside its massive walls did– that the fort was impenetrable. You might even wonder how it was ever built in the first place. Because Fort Pulaski was built in a salt marsh, eighteen feet of pilings first had be laid just to make a stable foundation. Even at that, during its eighteen years of construction (1829-1847), the engineers realized that the 25 million bricks in the fort design would make it too heavy to bear the weight of a second story as originally planned.
A remarkably well-preserved example of the Third System of Coastal Fortifications (of which thirty still exist), Fort Pulaski National Monument comes with an eight foot deep moat complete with water and resident alligator. The drawbridge and bolt-studded drawbridge gate make it look like it came from a medieval castle. Take one of the ranger-guided tours, and you'll learn more about the design of Fort Pulaski, the lives of the soldiers living in the fort, and the importance of the battle fought here on the coast of Georgia. For additional detail, walk over to the Visitor Center and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet and then watch the 20-minute film "The Battle for Fort Pulaski."
Both the architectural design of Fort Pulaski and the military technology that led to its destruction are both testaments to the incredible engineering, ingenuity, and spirit of the minds that dreamt up both.
The TL;DR version is that Confederate Fort Pulaski's massive walls and remote location - a mile from the closest offensive battery – were thought to be impenetrable to the known ordnance of the day. The Union's secret ace in the hole was a new technology – the rifled cannon– that not only extended the range and accuracy of the 30-pound shells to beyond a mile, but also increased their destructive effectiveness. Thirty hours was all it took to bring about Fort Pulaski's surrender which dealt a massive emotional blow to the Confederacy. Evidence of this last battle is still visible on the southern-facing walls.
The National Park Service has restored several of Fort Pulaski National Monument's interior rooms to reflect the Civil War time period, and you are pretty free to explore most of the fortress where each nook and cranny reveals a little more about this remarkable place.
Fort Pulaski National Monument Things to Know:
- Admission: $10/16 years or older or FREE with America the Beautiful Pass or Annual 4th Grade Pass.
- Hours: 9am-5pm daily (grounds); 9am-4:30pm daily (Visitor Center/bookstore); closed Christmas, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving
- Guided Tours: Sun-Fri 11am, 3pm; Sat 11:30, 1pm, 3:30pm
- Hikes: Check out the Fort Pulaski National Monument Trail Guide
- No drones allowed at anytime
Cockspur Island Lighthouse
Just beyond the southeast wall of Fort Pulaski on an islet marking the South Channel of the Savannah River lies the Cockspur Island Lighthouse. The first lighthouse brick structure used as a day mark was built between the years 1837 and 1839. Then in 1848, the renowned architect John Norris (designer of the Mercer-Wilder House in Savannah) was hired to supervise the construction of a new enlarged light station with an all white day mark.
Destroyed by a hurricane in 1854, Cockspur Island Lighthouse was rebuilt the following year. Incredibly, it survived unscathed in the Battle of Fort Pulaski during the Civil War. Ultimately, the need to accommodate larger freighters required a route through the deeper North Channel and the Cockspur Lighthouse was extinguished in 1909.
Cockspur Island Lighthouse Things to Know:
- Access: Closed due to preservation work.
- Lighthouse Trail: 1.5 mile round-trip hike through an open marsh offers the best land view of historic Cockspur Island Lighthouse
Tybee Island Light Station & Museum
If you've made your way to Fort Pulaski National Monument, then go ahead and make the short drive to nearby Tybee Island Light Station & Museum, hike up the 178 steps of Georgia's oldest and tallest lighthouse at 145 feet, and enjoy the scenic views.
In 1732, the first Tybee Lighthouse was constructed and over the years, it has been rebuilt multiple times. Since 1867, it has had six various daymarks, the paint pattern on the lighthouse that mariners use for identification during daylight. With its First Order Fresnel lens (essentially a design that reduces the mass and volume that the lens needs to project a light source), this active light station can be seen eighteen miles off the coast.
Fun fact: a First Order Fresnel lens, the largest lens of the Fresnel lenses, can be up to twelve feet in height and weigh a ton.
Take time to visit the three Light Keepers' cottages and summer kitchen that were used until 1910. Also, across the street is 1899 military Battery Garland which now houses the Tybee Island Museum.
Tybee Island Light Station & Museum Things to Know:
- Hours: 9am-5:30 daily except CLOSED Tuesday; last ticket sold 4:30pm
- Closed: St Patricks Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's; check website for closures
- Admission: $10/adult; $8/seniors, military, youth (6-17); coast guard free with ID
- Ticket: Includes lighthouse, cottages, summer kitchen, Tybee Island Museum (located across from lighthouse in the military battery)
- No backpacks of any size on the grounds
- Must wear shoes and shirts; bathing suits must be covered
- Drones: allowed Tuesday from 9am-5:30pm