The best way to introduce yourself to the island is via St. Simons Trolley Island Tours (tel. 912/638-8954; www.stsimonstours.com), 649 Dellwood Ave., which acquaints you with 400 years of history and folklore, taking 1 1/2 hours and costing $23 for adults and $10 for children 4 to 12; tours for children 3 and under are free. Tours depart daily at 11am and 1pm in April, June, and July, and daily at 11am the rest of the year. Buses depart from the big oak tree at the pier in Pier Village, near 117 Mallery St.
The island’s chief attraction is Fort Frederica National Monument (tel. 912/638-3639; www.nps.gov/fofr), on the northwest end of the island (signposted). Go first to the Visitor Center, where a film and displays explain the role of the fort and the town that grew up around it. There isn’t much left; about all you’ll see of the original construction is a small portion of the magazine and the barracks tower, but archaeological excavations have unearthed many foundations. The fort and town were established in 1736 by General James Oglethorpe, the founder of Savannah, and served as a key base during the crucial battles of 1742. By 1749 the Spanish were no longer a threat, and the fort was abandoned; the town clung on for a few more years, but a fire in 1758 destroyed what was left. On the grounds is a gift shop, and walking tours can be arranged. Admission is $3 per person, free for children 15 and under. It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Christ Church (tel. 912/638-8683; www.christchurchfrederica.org), 6329 Frederica Rd., at the north end of the island, was built in 1820. It was virtually destroyed when Union troops camped here during the Civil War, burning the pews for firewood and butchering cattle in the chapel. In the 1880s, Reverend Anson Greene Phelps Dodge, Jr., restored the church as a memorial to his first wife, who had died on their honeymoon. The serene white building nestled under huge old oaks is open Tuesday to Sunday from 2 to 5pm. There’s no admission charge.
St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum, 101 12th St. (tel. 912/638-4666; www.saintsimonslighthouse.org), is a restored lightkeeper’s house from 1872. You can climb its 129 steps for a panoramic view of the Golden Isles. Inside are exhibits devoted not only to the lighthouse, but also to the Golden Isles in general. But you go more for the view than the nautical exhibits. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 11, and free for children 5 and under. Hours are Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and Sunday 1:30 to 5pm.
Scattered from end to end on St. Simons are ruins of the plantation era: the Hampton Plantation (where Aaron Burr spent a month after his duel with Alexander Hamilton) and Cannon’s Point on the north; West Point, Pines Bluff, and Hamilton Plantations on the west along the Frederica River; Harrington Hall and Mulberry Grove in the interior; Lawrence, St. Clair, Black Banks, the Village, and Kelvyn Grove on the east; and the Retreat Plantation on the south end. There’s a restored chapel on West Point Plantation made of tabby, with mortar turned pink from an unusual lichen. Locals say it reflects blood on the hands of Dr. Thomas Hazzard, who killed a neighbor in a land dispute and built the chapel after being so ostracized that he would not attend Christ Church.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.