Skidaway Island State Park, Georgia: Coastal Getaway
Camping at Skidaway Island State Park is just the beginning of a great coastal Georgia family getaway. If you can manage to pull yourselves away from camp, Skidaway Island State Park offers convenient access to romantic downtown Savannah, the quaint beach town of Tybee Island, two lovely lighthouses, a historic military fort, easy nature hikes, boating, and fishing.
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 sites 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 and stay a while, but don't get too comfortable --- There is a lot to do!
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) See our guide to Savannah on a budget.
Sandpiper and Avian Trail Loop
If you are looking for an easy hike 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.
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.
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