Cumberland Island

4 11 2010

Situated off the coast of St. Mary’s, Georgia you will find the secluded and breathtaking Cumberland Island.  A forty minute ferry ride will take you to this place of beauty where there are no corner stores, or concrete jungles, but rather wild horses, Spanish moss, beautiful trees and the ruins of what was once grandiose luxury. 

Early inhabitants of the island date back to 2000 B.C., to be followed by Indians, and later Spanish settlers in the sixteenth century.  The family of American Revolutionary Nathaniel Greene took interest in the island for it’s resources around 1750.  The Civil War and abolition of slavery not only changed the nation, but also greatly impacted this barrier island which is so far removed from the mainland life.  Former slaves remained on the island and built the first African Baptist Church in 1893 (which was also the site of the John F. Kennedy Jr wedding in 1996. )  Around the same time, the Timothy Carnegie family built a home, along with a recreational area, and servant’s quarters on the island.  The home, was rather large and more like a mansion, and often hosted lavish parties for Carnegie’s wealthy visitors and friends.  After years of neglect and no visitors, the house happened to catch fire in 1960 and what remains today are the exterior brick walls and foundation.  The Carnegie family still owns and manages the only inn on the island, the Greyfield Inn

Things to know when planning your trip to Cumberland Island (tips the website leaves out):

  • Bring bug spray. – The noseeum bugs and mosquitoes are horrible because of the proximity to the marsh.  Do not visit this island without bug spray.
  • Be prepared to walk (or ride bikes- you can rent them at the second ferry stop from the ferry crew).  On our trip we probably walked 10 miles in a few hours. People were wearing flip flops and jeans and looked unfortable. Wear something cool and comfortable in warm months and wear tennis shoes.  Almost all of the ground is sand.  Flip flops just will not work. 
  • You can go swimming on a day trip. If you feel so inclined, bring a swimsuit and towel.  There are showers, and places to rinse off your feet off the camper’s beaches.

  • There are no trash cans on the island for public use.  If you bring snacks, you have to carry your trash with you, and this even includes camping trips.  We ate prior to arriving on the island and carried snacks for our day trip.
  • The island maps can be deceiving. The River Trail that connects the first ferry dock with the second is a far shorter walk than on the main road between the same two spots.  Destinations on the northern side of the island are farther than you realize. 
  • The Plum Orchard ferry stop is only offered the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month, and if you are at all interested in seeing the African Baptist Church, this would probably be the best way to see it in a day.  Otherwise, it would be truly difficult to see the northern side of the island in one day.
  • While we were happy to see so many “life experienced” individuals making their way to the island, the sandy terrain, and tree roots on paths, does not make an easy walk for those who experience difficulty normally.
  • There are no guided tours via car or bus on the island. There are only walking guided tours.  An elderly couple visiting the island was certain they were told they could be driven around on a tour.  The Park Rangers are awesome and took great care of this couple, but I know it was a long day for them. 
  • Be prepared to truly enjoy yourself. You will find yourself stopping to stare at all of the incredibly beautiful trees.

Have you visited Cumberland Island? We want to see your pictures and hear your stories. 

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