While most Fort Pulaski visitors are drawn to the main attraction (its namesake), if Civil War history isn't your thing, there are ample distractions in the form of hiking trails, marsh views, and abundant wildlife.
Fort Pulaski was constructed in 1857 as part of a defense initiative following the War of 1812. The Fort was to guard Savannah's port from naval attack. In 1862, Fort Pulaski found itself under siege by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The Battle of Fort Pulaski concluded with a Confederate surrender.
Declared a National Monument in 1924, this 5400 acre park sits on an extensive tidal marsh ecosystem, with wetlands composing 90% of the property. Live oaks, palmetto palms, and southern red cedars also characterize the landscape. Seven primary hiking trails invite exploration and offer views of the Savannah river channel.
Take the Historic Dike Trail for a 2.1 mile loop to view the perimeter of the fort, with chances to gaze out at passing ships from the Historic North Pier. You will walk along dikes and drainage canals constructed by Lt. Robert E. Lee to control daily tidal variation.
The Lighthouse Overlook Trail serves as another great hiking option. At 1.7 miles, the trail winds through maritime forest and the north channel of the Savannah River. The trail culminates in a stunning view of the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, erected in 1856. The lighthouse stands as one of only five in the state of Georgia. At low tide you may be able to walk out across the mudflats and old oyster beds for a closer look.
Additional trails of one mile or less in length provide access to picnic areas and other historic sites.
Fort Pulaski provides habitat to a variety of wildlife, including 11 protected species. At dusk you are likely to encounter white-tailed deer and raccoons. Throughout the day egrets, herons, cormorants, and ibis make their rounds, providing outstanding bird-watching opportunities. Take a look at the marsh mud for evidence of other creatures, whether they be fiddler crab burrows or bobcat tracks.
The Lazaretto Creek Boat Ramp (~.5 miles outside the park) facilitates sea kayaking and other coastal paddling around the perimeter of the park and provides access to the Cockspur Island Lighthouse at high tide.
Recreational fishing and shellfish collection is available along the Savannah River and off of the Cockspur Island Bridge. Remember to obtain a valid State of Georgia fishing license before you go.
What Makes it Great
A range of activities to suit a variety of interests and physical abilities make Fort Pulaski an ideal family day-trip destination. Fort Pulaski is located within close proximity to both historic Savannah (~20 min) and the beaches of Tybee Island (~10 min). Just outside of the Monument lies the scenic McQueen's Island Trail, a six-mile walking, running, and biking trail converted from an abandoned railway.
Who is Going to Love It
History buffs will clearly embrace the opportunity to wander through the historic fort and brush up on their Civil War history. A 17-minute film regularly on view in the Visitor's Center chronicles the life of Fort Pulaski. Guided tours take an in-depth look at seacoast fortification and coastal engineering. The cannon-damaged Fort walls, courtesy of Union artillery, are certainly a memorable sight.
Birders will appreciate the variety of habitat for observing rare species, including American oystercatchers, bald eagles, and woodstorks. Migratory and resident bird populations occur in large number within the park, and painted buntings are known to nest in the area.
Kids will love climbing to the top of the fort for a wide view of the surrounding landscape and far-off barrier islands. Cannons and drawbridges make excellent photo opportunities. Added bonus: children under age 15 are free of charge.
Facility, Passes, and Hours
Fort Pulaski remains open from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM throughout the year, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day when the monument closes completely. If you're planing to linger for the sunset, be sure to park outside of the entrance gate, which closes at 5:15.
The Visitor's Center, the Fort's lower level, restrooms, and one hiking trail are wheelchair accessible.