Just a few miles from Georgia’s Tybee Island beachfront is the Fort Pulaski National Monument. This massive brick fort played a critical role for Savannah in the Civil War and is now open for visitors to tour. Aside from the historical value, families will enjoy exploring the outdoor spaces and multiple trails on the island. Pack a picnic, bring some comfy shoes, or even load up your bicycles for hours of adventure.
The History Behind Fort Pulanski
Fort Pulaski, named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Count Casimir Pulaski or Poland, was built on Cockspur Island to guard the river entrance to Savannah. After 18 years, and roughly 25 million bricks, the fort was completed in 1847.
Fort Pulaski was claimed by the state of Georgia at the beginning of the Civil War. In April, 1862, Union forces set up an artillery battery on Tybee Island and commenced a 30 hour bombardment of the fort after the Confederates refused to surrender. The damage can still be seen today. Once in Union hands, the city of Savannah was effectively blockaded. The fort served as a POW and political prisoner camp afterwards. By the 1880s it was no longer in use.
National Monument status was awarded in 1924 and Fort Pulaski handed over to the National Parks Service in the 1930. The structure was restored and opened to the public. The US Navy set up a small port on the far side of the island during Word War II and the Coast Guard still maintains docks there. The rest, plus adjacent McQueen’s Island, are National Park land.
How To Plan a Family Visit To Fort Pulaski National Monument
Only five miles from the beach, it’s easy to make Fort Pulaski part of your Tybee Island family vacation. For kids who love American history, this is a must do attraction. And for kids who are typically bored, this is the perfect opportunity for some outdoor adventure. Fort Pulaski National Park offers plenty of fun activities for all ages and interests. As a bonus, guests ages 15 and under are free.
Start at the Visitor Center, where a 20 minute film teaches about the fort’s history. There is a bookstore along with the all important restrooms located here. Drinking fountains, featuring water bottle fillers, are available and a few vending machines outside the building. There I is a picnic shelter further down the road, but plenty of lawn space surrounds the parking lot.
There are two ways to tour the fort. One way is to sign up for one of the daily ranger-led group tours. These are very informative for those interested in history. The second, and my preferred method, is to explore on your own. The fort consists of two parts, both with plenty of little areas to scout around, and you will find informative signs all over. Great opportunity for kids to run free. The upper level of the fort is open and provides an excellent view of the area, but be careful as there are no railings along the edges.
A half mile long trail encircles the fort. The Civil War battle damage can be viewed from this vantage point, though it is enough to just wander along part of the exterior. There are also some old canons on display with signage and part of the original drainage system can be viewed from here.
Outdoor Activities To Enjoy At The Fort Pulaski National Monument
In addition to exploring Fort Pulaski, there are seven trails within the park. The trails provide a good mix of length and interests. Some focus on nature and historic items, while others are geared towards exercise. A note of caution, this is coastal Georgia, so keep an eye out for snakes and alligators. Here are some tips how you can hike safely in Georgia.
Here are a few trails to consider:
The North Pier Trail At The Fort Pulaski National Monument
The North Pier Trail is a one mile loop from the visitor center out to the original dock built during fort construction. The trail passes by Battery Hambright, and artillery emplacement from the 1890s. A statue of Methodist founder John Wesley commemorates his landing here in 1733.
More About The Lighthouse Trail
The Lighthouse Trail is a bit longer at 1.7 miles round trip and provides a scenic nature hike through various landscapes of the island. At the end of the trail, visitors are treated to a view of Cockspur lighthouse (built 1856) just off shore.
McQueen’s Island Trail At For Pulaski
McQueen’s Island Trail is geared more towards physical activity. This crushed gravel trail runs just over six miles along the shore beginning at the Fort Pulaski toll booth. Hike, jog, or bring your bike along for a ride. A second parking area and bathrooms are located at the midpoint.
A few other trails wind around the island and across to the fishing pier on the Lazaretto river. For serious bikers, a wide path lines either side of highway 80 all the way into Tybee Island.
Why You Need To Visit The Fort Pulaski National Monument During Your Tybee Island Vacation
.Fort Pulaski National Monument is the perfect addition to a Tybee Island family vacation. There are plenty of activities for every age, from getting up close to a piece of American history to exploring natural beauty of the island and Savannah River. Pack a picnic lunch, load up the bikes, and head over to this unique National Park. Georgia has so much to offer for historical tours, you can’t go wrong.
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