Over the past several years, we have discussed visiting Cumberland Island, off the southernmost coast of Georgia, but the timing just never seemed right. It was either too hot or too cold or too buggy... hey, we love the outdoors more than anything, but we're not going to intentionally make plans to spend time in the middle of swarming, biting insects! We knew that mid to late spring and fall were the ideal times to make the trek, but we kept missing our windows of time to visit.
We finally got our act together and PLANNED our trip ahead of time, which is a pretty big deal for us. We thrive on "get up and go" adventures. Planning worked to our advantage this time and we would definitely recommend it for anyone else who desires to make their way to visit this national seashore treasure.
There is only one ferry that is operated by the National Park Service and it makes two 45-minute trips daily. While you may be lucky enough to score walk-up tickets, it's best to purchase them ahead of time to ensure you have a place onboard. There may be private transportation options available as well; however, the NPS ferry is the primary shuttle.
There is a gorgeous inn on the island that provides full-service accommodations for its patrons, the Grayfield Inn. If you have the opportunity to stay at the inn, they provide private shuttle service to the island. After a lot of consideration, we contacted in inn to see if we could book a night or two, only to find they book up MONTHS in advance. If this is of interest to you, make your plans around when the inn can host you. It looks like an experience like none other!
No worries for us. We discovered there were many wonderful bed and breakfast options to choose from in St. Marys, GA. We booked a room at the Spencer House, a lovely B & B within walking distance to the ferry and several restaurants. Not only did they serve a delicious breakfast, we were able to purchase a picnic lunch to take with us to the island. There is no food available on the island so it's imperative that you pack your own. However, there is drinking water available for bottle refills. Cumberland is wild and pristine so plan to pack out everything that you pack in!
We arrived bright and early to check in for our ferry ride on Friday morning, with everything we needed to enjoy the day – lunch, plenty of water, bug spray (we highly recommend No Natz – it’s all natural and very effective!), HippieShine’s Turkish towels and hammocks, camera, and sunhat. Very minimal packing for an easy and comfortable day!
When we arrived on the island, most of the ferry occupants made a beeline towards the Dungeness ruins. It’s no wonder… it is an awe-inspiring sight to see, especially in the morning sun. It was on the ruin grounds that we saw the first of the wild horses that inhabit the island. What is it about seeing wild horses that is so cool?? We were captivated. As the day progressed, we encountered them everywhere and it was hard to stop from photographing each and every one of them.
We took our time and traversed the landscape, which ranged from narrow paths to wide open spaces, marshy swamp to dry dunes, coastal to wooded. We explored as many trails as possible and spent time napping on the beach. It is a truly wild and wonderful destination! All-in-all, we logged about 8 miles, but still had time to throw up our hammocks and take an hour-long nap under the palms.
When we took the 4:30 pm ferry back to St. Mary’s, we boarded at the same pier that we disembarked that morning; however, we would recommend getting on at the Sea Camp dock to ensure a seat on the ferry, as the passengers at Sea Camp board first for the return trip. We were left without a seat and had to stand for the duration of the cruise.
After we rested a bit, we set out to see what the area had to offer. We enjoyed a seafood dinner at St. Mary’s Seafood and More. From there, we had a pint at the only local brewery, Brackish Beer Company. We were warmly greeted the moment we walked in and left with friends and stories to spare!
We closed out the evening at Seagle’s Saloon, where we happened upon the most inspired karaoke night we’ve experienced! The locals showed up and showed out! And they made us feel like family. We can confirm that Prince's "1999" and George Michael's "Faith" are in the music catalog, although no video proof of these gems will be shared. Seagle’s had a really great selection of specialty mixed drinks and the bartenders were as engaging as the guests. We wished for more time there!
Our Cumberland Island adventure is one that we plan to repeat. It is amazing to have this national treasure so close to home! When we return, we plan to camp on the island. We took the time to wander around the campground and were so impressed with the campsites. A different side of the island comes to life at night and it would be an incredible experience to witness it.
Be sure to add Cumberland Island to your must-see list and message us with any questions! We are happy to share more details!