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Cumberland Island in Georgia

Updated on April 2, 2015
Tipocal trail on the island.
Tipocal trail on the island.
Wild horses on the island.
Wild horses on the island.

I own these & don't leave home without them!

Cumberland Island in Georgia

By George Bogosian

Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia near the town of St Mary’s is one of Georgia’s delightful unspoiled hidden gems. The St Mary’s River separates Georgia from Florida and begins in the interior Okefenokee Swamp and ends at the Intercoastal Waterway at the Atlantic Ocean. I love places that take a little extra effort to reach; it keeps the crowds under control…usually. Well, this is certainly the case at Cumberland Island.

You can camp on the island at Sea Camp Campground up to seven days and that will require reservations. If you’re staying for the day you need to take the early morning pedestrian ferry over to the island. No cars allowed on the island unless you work over there. You can rent a bicycle at the park and I recommend that arrangement. You can’t bring your own bike on the ferry so you’re left to walking, so the bike rental is your best bet. This barrier island is 17.5 miles long mostly covered with maritime forest, salt marshes and some historic structures. It's an untouched place with no development and camping is the chosen method of spending some nights on the island. Most folks spend some time walking the dirt roads, beach and trails on the island. Cumberland Island is called an American treasure and I agree. It’s the largest Georgia barrier island on it’s coastline. The Travel Channel named it America’s most beautiful wilderness beach and yes, I’ve seen the wild horses here on the island and at the beach. The natural beauty of the place becomes apparent the minute you step off the ferry. You sense you’re in a special place…and you are! The history is rich here with the Timucuan Indians, the French, the Spanish and pirates, wars and steel magnates have had their time on this island but the natural beauty of the place remains for you to explore.

Ok, here are some details for getting to and enjoying the place. The 45 minute ferry ride leaves the newly renovated (a few years back now) town waterfront. The ferry building has a small museum about the island and some videos playing while you wait for the ferry to take you over to the island.

  • Arrive 30 minutes before your ferry scheduled departure time.
  • Bring food, drinks, sunscreen, insect repellant, and wear comfortable walking shoes as there is no source of supplies on the island.
  • Restrooms and drinking water are located at the Ice House Museum, Dungeness Historic Area, Sea Camp Ranger Station and at the Sea Camp Campground.

After returning to the mainland and you decide to spend the night in St Mary’s I favor the Riverview Hotel right downtown and across the street from the ferry building. I like it’s old time feel but if you’ve got to have all things right then this is not your hotel. The Seagles's Saloon is it’s bar and an old time kind of experience as well. (I hope they're stopped the smoking in the bar) The food here is good last time I stayed. It’s been for sale for some time, but no takers at the moment. But maybe you have news. If you’re camping I recommend the Crooked River State Park down the road about 6 miles. It's a awesome (sorry) state park right on the river and I've stayed there with my vintage Airstream trailer in years past.

The Cumberland Island experience is a hiking or biking adventure with nature on a barrier island that has been intentionally left on its own. It's a significant treasure. The diversions are few but the beauty and 17 miles of beach (without services) makes you feel like you discovered the place. Go explore and see what you can uncover.


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    • bigocean profile image

      George Bogosian 5 years ago from New England


      Yea, it's great there! We just returned this week from another visit to Cumberland Island. The history is varied and amazing with the Carnege's playing a big roll into having it be a national park. I love staying at the Riverview Hotel in St Mary's. It's a great 50's place.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      I've heard of Cumberland Island, but never been there. Thanks for the information about the ferry and the island. It sounds like a lovely place to visit to get away from it all!

    • bigocean profile image

      George Bogosian 6 years ago from New England


      I think you and I are the only ones who have visited the place!! Not...but lots of folks don't know of this "secret spot". I'll be lookin' for ya on the island.

    • mike6181 profile image

      mike6181 6 years ago

      I like the place already! Appreciate the article and photograph links.