Remote, pristine and rugged ~ welcome to Cumberland Island, Georgia.
At 36,000 acres, Cumberland Island is the largest and southernmost of Georgia’s barrier islands, located just north of the Georgia-Florida line at the mouth of the St.Mary’s river. The island is a national park, with the largest wilderness preserve of any barrier island in the US. I’ve wanted to visit Cumberland Island for many years, especially since reading Stuart Woods’ novel PALINDROME more than 20 years ago. And then there are the wild horses of Cumberland Island ~ be still my heart!
After my visit to Tybee Island, I went a bit further south for my Cumberland Island adventure. The Cumberland passenger ferry leaves from the US Park station in St.Mary’s Georgia. I actually stayed in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island across the line in Florida, as I wanted to visit some other places in the area, and I drove the 45ish minutes to St.Mary’s for the ferry.
I made my ferry reservations by phone. Arriving 30 minutes before departure ensures time to hear the orientation briefing from one of the Park Rangers. While getting lots of info on how best to enjoy the island, there were also several “if you do this you will miss the last return ferry” moments, so it’s important to pay attention! Because it is a big island, it’s best to have a plan for the day. While there are a few areas where water is available, you do need to pack in whatever snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent, etc. that you’ll need ~ and I also bought plenty of water.
After the briefing, we headed for the ferry ~~~
And 45ish minutes later, we came into the Ice House dock ~~~
Here’s a better view of the route I took for my visit. 1) Ferry drop off at the Ice House Dock 2) Walk to Dungeness Ruins 3) Beach access from Dungeness 4) Walk from Dungeness Beach to Sea Camp Beach 5) Cross back from Sea Camp Beach to the Sea Camp Dock for ferry departure. Because I was exploring and taking lots of pictures, I estimate my trek at 6+ miles ~ parts of it were easy on the main paths, but parts of it were also tough going ~ but the views were so worth it!
Here’s the view just off the Ice House Dock. These live oaks were simply stunning.
These are the Dungeness Ruins. A 59 room Queen Anne style mansion, Dungeness was built by the Carnegie family, who owned 90% of the island and lived there until 1925. The mansion burned in 1959, and today the picturesque ruins are protected by the national park.
Here’s a photo of the mansion as it originally appeared ~~~
And yes, there are wild horses all around. In our orientation briefing we learned that these are truly feral horses, as they are not managed by the park service.
The ruins of the Dungeness garden gazebos are a beautiful backdrop.
I made the trek from Dungeness across to the beach, which looked easy on the map ~ but wasn’t. To be fair there were signs that called out the difficulty going across the dunes with minimal paths, but I wanted to see the ocean! Once I finally crossed the last rise, this was the view ~~~
I’m not one really for selfie pics, so I took my version just to show I really was there! This is a truly remote and beautiful beach ~~~
And then suddenly this group came running across the dunes to the beach. If only I had been fast enough to catch it on video! I did get a quick bit that I’ll post on the bluwaterlife Facebook page. They just hung around and enjoyed the view and the breeze ~~~
When you come off the beach and start the cut through to the Sea Camp dock, there are several beautiful spots to rest and enjoy the shade ~~~
I did catch the last ferry back to St.Mary’s for the day, and I was tired but so glad I was able to visit Cumberland Island.
As I was waiting for the ferry to leave, I saw these private boats anchored in the sound. That would be the best of both worlds ~ visiting Cumberland Island by sailboat! Maybe next time ~~~
If you enjoyed my visit to Cumberland Island, check out this post with the visit to Ft.Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas ~ another remote and beautiful island ~~~