The United States of America has some of the best beaches you could ever hope to see, and the wonderful thing about American beaches is that some surprisingly beautiful ones can be found in the most unlikely of places. Everyone is familiar with the beaches of Hawaii, Florida, and California, but if you start looking outside these three big beach states, you’ll find even more terrific coastal spots in areas like New England, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia. The Peach State, in particular, is home to some of the best Atlantic Coast beaches of all, and one of the best things about Georgia beaches is that they’re often far less crowded and commercial than the sandy spots in neighboring Florida. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
2.Little Tybee Island Beach
3.St. Simons Island
3 Best Beaches Near Savannah
- Tybee Island, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Little Tybee Island Beach, Photo: William/stock.adobe.com
- St. Simons Island, Photo: gnagel/stock.adobe.com
- More Info, Photo: LazorPhotography/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Guy Bryant - Fotolia.com
More Ideas: Fort James Jackson
Georgia’s Old Fort Jackson is a National Historic Landmark located just minutes from historical downtown Savannah, GA. The restored 19th-century fort is one of the oldest brick forts on the east coast of the United States, and the oldest in the state of Georgia, and is located on the banks of the Savannah River. The view of the river from the fort, as well as the public walkways alongside the riverbanks, are highlights of the area. Visitors enter through a “sally port,” the technical name for a fort’s entrance. Once inside, a short film educates guests on the history of the fort. Permanent exhibits inside the fort explain the history of the relationship between the fort and the city of Savannah, and showcase weapons that have historically been used at the fort. The weapons exhibits are located in the casemates, fortified areas from which the guns were fired. There is also an exhibit of artifacts from the CSS Georgia, a 250-foot ironclad warship built in the 1800s, which ultimately sank in the river in front of Fort Jackson. The remains of the ship are still there today. Visitors may also tour the ramparts, the defensive walls of the fort. The original privy can be seen at the southeast corner of the fort. This privy was once washed out daily by the rising tides of the river. The fort offers daily cannon firings to entertain visitors, and the canon, a 9-inch Dahlgren, is one of the largest pieces of pre-Civil War heavy artillery still functioning in the United States today. The twice-daily canon firings at 11:00am and 2:00pm are perhaps the most popular feature of a tour to the fort, along with the view of the coastal plains from where the canon is perched.
History: Fort Jackson was built between 1801 and 1812 on top of an old battery used during the American Revolution. Under the authorization of then-president Thomas Jefferson, a system of forts was built throughout the eastern United States to defend the young nation after the close of the revolution. The fort saw battle during the War of 1812, when it defended Savannah from an attack by the United Kingdom. After the war, the fort underwent significant additional construction and a drawbridge, moat, barrack, and rear wall were added, along with a storehouse for gunpowder. The fort again saw battle during the American Civil War, when it was used to defend the Confederation from Union attack. Fort Jackson served as the Confederate headquarters for the defense of the Savannah River and home base for the Confederate States Navy during the Civil War. The fort was abandoned by the Confederate troops in 1864, when William T. Sherman and the Union army captured Savannah.
The fort was named for James Jackson (1757–1806), a British-born American who fought for the cause of the American Revolution and became a US Colonel. Towards the end of the revolution, the 25-year-old colonel accepted the surrender of the British in Savannah. James Jackson would go on to become a US Representative, a senator, and the 23rd governor of Georgia, where he served from 1798 to 1801.
Although the fort was purchased by the city of Savannah for use as a park in 1924, it was not fully restored until the 1970s. The Coastal Heritage Society, a non-profit organization established in 1975, currently operates the fort as a museum and manages four other historically significant Savannah museums as well.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Visitors to the fort may stroll through on a self-guided tour or may call ahead to find out when guided tours will be available. The 1-hour guided tours are led by knowledgeable, costumed Civil War interpreters, who educate guests on the history of the fort. The tours conclude with interactive, hands-on activities and the firing of the canon. Group tours can be arranged for schools, scout troops, or others. The fort is a popular venue for after-hours events, including weddings.
What’s Nearby: Fort James Jackson is managed by the Coastal Heritage Society, which also operates four other Savannah area museums, including the Savannah History Museum, Savannah Children’s Museum, Georgia State Railroad Museum, and Pinpoint Heritage Museum. The fort is also located adjacent to two historic lighthouses, the Cockspur Lighthouse and the Tybee Lighthouse.
1 Fort Jackson Road, Savannah, GA 31404, Phone: 912-232-3945
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More Ideas: University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium
The University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium is an education facility and teaching Aquarium on Skidaway Island in Savannah. Managed by the University of Georgia, the UGA Education Center includes an auditorium, an art and computer lab and two teaching laboratories, as well as an array of educational exhibits. The building also houses a dormitory and dining room to house and feed out-of-town groups who visit the facility as part of the marine program.
The mission of the University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium is to inspire and encourage an appreciation and deeper understanding of Georgia’s many coastal marine environments and to foster respect for the beauty and complexity of these unique marine environments.
Georgia's first saltwater aquarium, the UGA Aquarium is a modern, state-of-the-art teaching aquarium that features 16 large exhibit tanks that display over 50 species of Georgia's marine life, including a touch tank with invertebrates such as crabs and snails, fish, and turtles. The Upper Level of the Aquarium features fossils of whales, sharks, giant armadillos, mastodons and wooly mammoths that were dredged out from the bottom of the nearby the Skidaway River. The exhibits also house Native American artifacts dating back to Georgia's prehistoric ‘Guale’ era.
The UGA Aquarium features a new underwater camera system that allows both visitors and researchers to observe the behavior of the aquarium’s marine animals, capture underwater imagery and record underwater activities for educational and research purposes. The UGA Aquarium is also part of the Caretta Research Project, which rescue and rehabilitates loggerhead turtles and release them back into nature.
The UGA Aquarium is connected to the Skidaway River by an ADA-accessible boardwalk which runs over the surrounding salt marsh and winds through the maritime forest. The boardwalk provides excellent opportunities for wildlife observation and quiet reflection. Picnic tables line the bluff along the Skidaway River and provide perfect spots for a relaxing lunch. The UGA Aquarium also owns a 43-foot converted lobster boat called R/V Sea Dawg that can be used for small cruises for educational purposes.
In addition to its award-winning aquarium and research facility, The University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium offers visitors an array of other activities to explore and enjoy. Activities at the UGA Aquarium include special lectures or presentations, treasure hunts, marine debris games and salt marsh cleanups, community outreach programs, and national festivals for marine awareness, such as National Estuary Day.
The facility is home to the Jay Wolf Nature Trail, which was established in 1990 and is currently maintained by the center and a local Boy Scout Group. The Trail features several geocache sites and kiosks along the trail that provide information on the trails and other points of interest in the area. The Skidaway Interpretive Cabin offers an array of interesting information on the natural history of the area, the people who settled there, and the education activities of campus partners.
The Skidaway Learning Garden provides an opportunity for visitors to learn about the fauna and flora native to the coastal regions of Georgia with a variety of examples from around the region. Garden activities include a Garden Challenge, an Alphabet and Number Search and a Naturalist Journal. The Skidaway Learning Garden is also an excellent site for watching birds and attracts all types including waders, waterfowl, and songbirds.
The University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium offers a variety of educational programs for visitors of all ages, ranging from summer camps and internships to the laboratory and field studies.
Summer Marine Science Camps provide informal, team-oriented field experiences that emphasize coastal ecology and marine science, while at the same time nurturing the curiosity and creativity of each child.
The University of Georgia Marine Education Center and Aquarium is located at 30 Ocean Science Circle in Savannah, Georgia and is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and 9:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays.
Public programs offered by the UGA Aquarium provide the opportunity for visitors of all ages to get involved in marine science and include Estuary Trawls, Island Exploration, Dolphin Observations, Marine Debris Surveys, Shore Birding by Water, Catch of the Day, Behind-the-Scenes Aquarium Tour, and Coastal Bird Hikes.
Back to: Best Things to Do in Savannah
30 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, Georgia 31411, Phone: 912-598-2496
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More Ideas: Fort Pulaski National Monument
Located on Cockspur Island near Savannah, Fort Pulaski National Monument preserves the site of Fort Pulaski, a 19th-century military facility that served as a prisoner-of-war camp and seminal combat site during the American Civil War. Fort Pulaski was one of several fortresses ordered for construction by United States President James Madison after the end of the War of 1812, intended to serve as protection against future foreign invasion.
Construction for Savannah’s port fortress was started in 1829, located on the coastal island of Cockspur Island and supervised by Lieutenant Robert E. Lee. It was named in commemoration of American Revolution commander Kazimierz Pulaski, noted for his hand in training Revolutionary War troops, and built as part of the Third System of fortifications, many of which are still preserved as national monuments along the American Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. After 18 years of construction utilizing more than 25 million bricks, Fort Pulaski was opened as a military facility in 1847.
In 1861, after South Carolina’s secession from the United States led to the beginning of the American Civil War, Georgia governor Joseph E. Brown ordered the seizure of the fort for the Confederate States of America. After the abandonment of Tybee Island by the Confederacy in December of 1861, Union troops began advancing toward the fort across the Savannah River, leading to a seminal April 1862 battle which successfully utilized rifled cannon bombardment in combat for the first time. As a result, Colonel Charles H. Olmstead surrendered the fort to Union forces, an outcome that directly led to Union General David Hunter issuing General Order Number Eleven, which freed African-American slaves in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Throughout the remainder of the war, Fort Pulaski served as a Union prisoner-of-war camp and a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Following the end of the Civil War, the fort continued to be operated as a military prison, but by the turn of the century, its premises were in danger of falling victim to disrepair and decay. In 1924, the fort was declared a National Monument, prompting major repairs. It temporarily served as a Navy base during World War II, but has been open to the public otherwise since its transfer to the supervision of the National Park Service in 1933.
Permanent Attractions and Exhibits
Today, Fort Pulaski National Monument operates as a living history museum under the care of the National Park Service. The fort’s Visitor Center contains a number of exhibits chronicling the fort’s construction, operation, and 1862 battle and defeat, as well as the military careers of Robert E. Lee and David Hunter. A 20-minute film, The Battle for Fort Pulaski, is shown daily every half hour, and a bookstore inside the Center, operated by the nonprofit organization Eastern National, offers literature and resources related to the American Civil War.
Four major trails run through the park’s grounds, allowing visitors to explore the fort and the surrounding island area. The ¼-mile North Pier Trail offers an easy wooded pathway, while the ¾-mile Lighthouse Overlook Trail provides views of the island’s historic Cockspur Island Lighthouse. A two-mile Historic Dike System Trail allows exploration of the dike system designed by Robert E. Lee, and a McQueens Island Trail retraces the route of the former Tybee rail line connecting Savannah to Tybee Island.
In addition to the fort itself, visitors may explore several of the island’s surrounding attractions, including Battery Hambright, a Spanish-American War fortification, and the fort’s adjoining Cemetery, which serves as a resting place for a small group of soldiers from the mid 19th century. Nearby, a Monument to John Wesley commemorates the site of the preacher’s first New World sermon in 1736. The remains of the fort’s Construction Village are visible at places throughout the island as well, showcasing cisterns, ovens, and other artifacts left over from the fort’s 18-year construction period.
A variety of outdoor activities are permitted on the park’s grounds, including running, hiking, bicycling, and kayaking. Fishing is permitted along the banks of the Savannah River, although all fishers must possess a valid Georgia fishing license. Covered and outdoor picnic grounds areas are provided for visitors, although alcohol is not permitted within the park’s historic dike system. The Visitor Center and the lower level of the fort structure are fully wheelchair accessible, and interpretive services for the park’s exhibits are offered, including Braille transcripts of exhibit stations.
Free field trips for elementary and secondary school groups are offered, with pre-visit materials and tour information tailored to Georgia curriculum standards. Several independent programs for young visitors are also offered, including a Junior Ranger and Junior Civil War Historian Program and a Civil War trading card series, with 10 Fort-Pulaski-themed cards that may be collected at the park.
US-80, Savannah, GA 31410, Phone: 912-786-8182
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