Explore the St. Simons Lighthouse & Maritime Center

The Road Trip section of my site is where I share our wanderings from our hometown- St. Augustine, Florida {Viva St. Augustine!}  This post is from a writer’s retreat to St. Simons Island

I slipped off to the laid-back, charming island community of St. Simons Island alone for a much-needed mommy break. But even when I’m away, I’m always on the lookout for special things to do with my kiddos. Which leads me to today’s post…

An Atlanta blogger, Alicia, visited the Maritime Center on a previous trip with her children and thought I’d love this hands-on, historic museum. She was right! Here are 5 Reasons Why I Recommend the Maritime Center for all ages…

maritime

1. It’s Gorgeous & Historic!

The Maritime Center fills the Historic St. Simons Island Coast Guard Station. Built in 1935, this iconic station embodies everything I think of when I think of classic, Southern architecture: expansive porches filled with rocking chairs, large windows to let breezes in, Georgian columns and working shutters… it’s gorgeous! Another architectural detail- this Coast Guard building borrows the widow’s walk with views of the ocean from northern neighbors.

Not only is the building pretty, it was a functioning Coast Guard Station until the 1990’s when a more modern facility was built with dock space under the nearby Brunswick Bridge.

2. Hands-on Fun for All Ages

One of the first exhibits we encountered was a “learn to tie knots” board complete with rope for sailors and wannabes to try their hand at the skill. I’m a firm believer in hands-on learning. Having the opportunity to interact with exhibits helps children and adults alike to fall in love with maritime life.

St Simons Island Maritime Museum

Upstairs, there are fossils and whale bones that have been found on the island and many more hands-on displays. The board below illustrates storm surges and why many homes on St. Simons Island are built off grade!

Coast Guard Maritime Museum St Simons

3. History I Never Knew

I’m no history expert, but I do love to read and love to learn. I was shocked to read how close WWII came to our shores from the exhibits at the Maritime Center. {Heads-up: I’ve since noticed displays on the topic at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. If you’re there first, make sure to ask a park ranger to direct you to that info!}

From the Coastal Georgia Historical Society Site:

In early 1942, the war came home to the coast of Georgia. On April 8, 1942, a German submarine, U-123, under the command of Kapitanleutnant Reinhard Hardegan, sank two merchant ships off the coast of St. Simons Island. The ships were the SS Oklahoma, and the Esso Baton Rouge. Most of the crewmen on these two ships were asleep when they were torpedoed. The Coast Guardsmen, as well as locals sprang to action. Rescues were mounted. In all, twenty-two men lost their lives. The surviving crew members and one ship’s mascot (a little yellow dog) were taken, almost naked, to the Coast Guard station to await further instructions.

Maritime Museum St Simons Island
The St. Augustine Lighthouse loaned the items in this display! #HometownProud

One full room is dedicated to this time period in American history. I remain surprised that I could’ve lived in Florida my whole life and not know this! Über important info.

German Subs off St Simons Maritime Museum
WWII history you probably didn’t learn in school… German subs sank several ships off the Florida & Georgia coasts and spies were landed on American shores in Ponte Vedra, FL!

On a lighter note, I can’t wait to take my littles back and see them in these cute little Coastie hats:

Hands on Museum St Simons Island
More hands-on fun! I kind of like this look! Maybe I was born in the wrong era…

4. It’s Affordable & Doable

When we’re on vacation at the beach, I don’t want to spend an entire day in a museum. But I do want to learn about local history, nature and lore. The Maritime Center was a cool respite on a hot afternoon. We spent a little over an hour there and took in all the small museum had to offer.

A ticket to the Maritime Center also includes admission to the St. Simons Lighthouse & museum! Since one admission covers both places, spend as much or as little time as you’d like in these historic museums. They cover different time periods so time in both museums will not feel redundant.

St Simons Lighthouse
St Simons Lighthouse and keeper’s house museum.

Views of the river, inlet and ocean from the top of the tower as well as Jekyll Island across the inlet help visitors get an overview of the area geographically. Looking out over St. Simons Island, all you’ll see is a canopy of trees. There is an ordinance that no building can be taller than the canopy so the area has maintained the feel of a cozy fishing hamlet in spite of development over the years.

view from st simons lighthouse
The city developed a playground, park, putt-putt and swimming pool complex next door to the Lighthouse to provide a gathering place for families on the island and visitors as well.

5. Walk on to the Ocean

Just steps from the Maritime Center, the ocean on St. Simons Island is peaceful and calm. {Well, it looks that way. I have two friends who have been caught in currents there when the tide changes… but that’s a whole other story!!} For a relaxing walk on the beach, this place is hard to beat.

St Simons Island Beach

As we strolled casually back to The King and Prince Resort, the sand glittered in the setting sun. Tide pools held sea critters waiting for little hands to discover them and the ocean waves tranquilly washed over the clean beaches.

After my time at the Maritime Center, I know more about history and look forward to taking my littles to explore the past… knowing our past better prepares us for the future!

The King and The Prince Oceanfront Hotel St Simons Island

Maritime Center
4201 1st Street, St Simons Island, Georgia
(912) 638-4666

Admission includes nearby lighthouse museum & climb:
$12 adults, $5 ages 6-12 

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