On our second full day staying at Skidaway Island, we visited Fort Pulaski National Monument and then spent a little time hanging out with some friends who happened to be spending Thanksgiving week on Tybee Island. Apparently coastal Georgia is THE place to go for places where you can let your pack of children run wild and have an amazing time while simultaneously learning about history, because we found exactly that with both the Railroad Museum and Fort Pulaski.
Fort Pulaski is one of a number of coastal fortifications that were built after the War of 1812 to strengthen the US’s defenses. As such, it looks an awful lot like a bunch of other forts you can see elsewhere (which, for me and Dave, meant it reminded us of Castle Island in Boston). Its claim to fame, however, is its role in the Civil War, when it was recaptured by the Union Army when their fancy new rifled cannons broke through the previously thought to be impenetrable, seven foot thick walls of the fort. Which in turn, I assume, caused people all over the country who’d just spent decades building this elaborate system of coastal fortifications to throw up their hands and say, “well, THAT was a waste of time!”
But today it means that we have an extremely well-preserved fort to explore, complete with a system of tunnels, a moat that’s rumored to have alligators in it sometimes, and spiral staircases leading up to the dangerous upper level with no safety features…..like I said, funnest place EVER for a bunch of kids.
Gus is a fourth grader this year, so we have our Every Kid in a Park pass and were hoping to use it for the first time here. But then it turned out their credit card machine was down, so they were letting everyone in for free, and we didn’t feel special at all about having a fourth grader.
We explored the visitor center first and watched the film about the history of the fort. We picked up Junior Ranger books for Gus and Milo here, but Gus is the only one who finished his; sadly, I think Milo’s Junior Ranger days are over almost as soon as they started. I suspect Gus will stay interested for quite awhile, though, and Abe’s coming up behind him before long.
The Junior Ranger book here had some nice activities to choose from and was totally doable during a visit of a couple of hours.
After the visitor center, we went out to explore the fort. First the tunnels:
It was a very chilly, windy day….much colder than one expects so far south in November. Here’s everyone trying to get out of the wind and huddling together for warmth:
Everywhere we go, I get at least a couple of pictures of Abe running after his pack of older brothers:
Don’t worry; he caught them:
I really liked this door:
My favorite picture of it doesn’t have Gus in it at all (sorry, Gus), and it was with my phone camera:
The kids ran all over, checking out the fort, including this part of it that was used as a prison during the Civil War:
The big open area with cannons:
The dangerous upper level with no guard rails! Eek! But we let the older kids walk all the way around all by themselves anyway, and they didn’t fall. #bringontheGrandCanyon:
This is my favorite picture from the whole trip. It’s up at the top with words on it, but I’ll put it here again. I really liked all these archways:
So I’m not going to lie: this was a long tour (it was supposed to be 45 minutes to an hour; it was more than an hour), with lots of talking, and it was a little dry for younger kids. And maybe for adults, too; most of the people we started the tour with had wandered off by the end….although that’s probably partly because of the weather, too. Dave and Abe did their own thing while the rest of us took the tour; the older kids were all fine, but I suspect Gus and Milo would not have been heartbroken had they missed it. I enjoyed it, and I’m glad we did it, but if you’re short on time or have young kids with you (or just aren’t that much of a history buff), you can watch the shorter and more climate controlled film and get a lot of the same information. But there’s no ranger in the film.
My one big Fort Pulaski regret is that we didn’t take the time to walk around the outside walls and see where the cannonballs broke through (they’ve repaired the wall, but you can still see some damage). We were all very cold and hungry, and everyone voted to go back to the car and eat lunch instead.
But after lunch, we took the 3/4 mile Lighthouse Overlook Trail to get a view of the Cockspur Lighthouse (it’s on an island, so you can’t actually get to it or go inside). Here we encountered more muddy trails, just like back at Skidaway:
When we hit this patch and were contemplating whether to turn back, a couple passed us on their way back and told us that this was the worst part. So we pressed on! But this wasn’t really the worst part. Still, Dave and I felt like the lighthouse views made it worthwhile. The kids, on the other hand, acted like we were making them eat mud instead of just walking through it.
If you go to Fort Pulaski:
*Regular admission for non-fourth graders on days when the credit card machine is working is $7 for adults and free for kids under 16
*Fort Pulaski’s very close to Tybee Island, about 20 minutes from Savannah, and about 40 minutes from Skidaway Island
*The guided tours happen every day (check the website for a schedule); they also do weapons demonstrations on some days (not when we were there)
*Dogs are allowed everywhere except the visitors’ center. We had ours with us, but we left them crated in the car when we were in the actual fort and then brought them with us when we went on the lighthouse trail.
*There are a couple of other trails on the property, including one that’s two miles long, circles the fort, and offers views of the lighthouse and the Savannah River.
After we left Fort Pulaski, we headed over to Tybee Island to see our friends and the ocean. It was warmer by then and the wind had died down, but it was definitely walking on the beach weather rather than swimming weather (although I suspect the water was probably at least as warm as it was when we went to Santa Cruz last summer or as the water is in June on Cape Cod. So probably the kids would have been fine. But, alas, we had no swim suits with us).
Important milestone: Abe allows his feet to touch sand: