Cumberland Island: Coastal Georgia’s Magical Secluded Island

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Two wild horses stand on the Cumberland Island Georgia between the waves and the sand dunes

I’m spilling the beans of my investigative travel report to see if Cumberland Island Georgia is truly a secluded Coastal Georgia island getaway. If so, I’m going to need you to keep this one a secret between you and me, okay? K.

Georgia’s biggest and southernmost barrier island, Cumberland Island, is known for its wildlife, unspoiled beauty, intriguing history, and unforgettable experiences.



The first thing to do is to discover the unspoiled, pristine Georgia beaches and the wildness of it all.

Cumberland Island National Seashore is located in Camden County, Georgia, and is preserved and maintained by the National Park Service. When you arrive by ferry, you’ll immediately notice its stunning secluded beaches dotted with tall dunes.

Sometimes the only visitors you’ll encounter along the picturesque shoreline or in the wild maritime forest are a handful of wild horses and scores of other wildlife.


The second way is to immerse yourself in Cumberland Island’s unique culture and history.

Spanish missionary priests, Yamasee Native Americans, English General James Oglethorpe, naturalist William Bartram, Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene, the British during the War of 1812, and Confederate General Robert E. Lee were just a few of the noteworthy visitors to the island.

Thomas Carnegie, (brother of steel baron, Andrew Carnegie), and his wife Lucy built “Dungeness Mansion” in the 1880s as a winter retreat. Lucy Carnegie later had more structures built for her children like Greyfield, Plum Orchard, and Stafford Plantation.

Greyfield Inn, the 1900 Cumberland Island Carnegie estate, now an Inn.

Today, you can explore the historic Dungeness Ruins, get a tour of Plum Orchard Mansion, or lodge in what is now the Greyfield Inn.

The cultural heritage of the First African Baptist Church dates back to the late 1800s, built by emancipated slaves after the American Civil War. This one-room church became a special, free place of worship and fellowship for the Northend community.

It was also the site of JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette’s secret wedding, which they were able to pull off, away from the eyes of the paparazzi.

I highly recommend asking about a ranger-led history tour of the island as well. All types of National Park Service Cumberland Island tours are fantastic.


The third way to uncover the island’s magic is to embark on an outdoor Cumberland Island adventure. Here you can enjoy coastal hikes, bicycle rides, and kayaking through the marshes that showcase all of its wild natural beauty.


The fourth way to enjoy this secluded destination is to stay overnight. Day trips make it very limited in the time you have to explore before you have to be back at the ferry! But there are no Cumberland Island hotels.

For overnight stays, you only have two choices, primitive campgrounds or a 1900s-mansion-turned-Inn. There are five primitive camping areas (Sea Camp, Stafford Beach, Hickory Hill, Yankee Paradise, and Brickhill Bluff). Greyfield Inn is the island’s only indoor accommodation and dinner option.




What are the best months to visit Cumberland Island?

The heat and bugs are brutal during summertime. I suggest visiting any month other than June, July, or August.

How to get to Cumberland Island?

The only way to get to the island is by a ferry (passenger ferry, not car ferry).

How much time is needed on Cumberland Island?

I highly recommend choosing the earliest morning departure. You’ll need plenty of time. This will give you around six hours to explore.

What are the chances of seeing wild horses on Cumberland Island?

There is no guarantee, but I have been many times and there are always plenty. They seem to stick closest to the Dungeness Ruins.

How long is the Cumberland Island ferry ride?

45 minutes

How do you get around Cumberland Island?

The only options are by foot, bike, or the Lands and Legacies Tour.

Can you ride a bike on Cumberland Island?

Yes, but there are Island Biking Rules.

Does Cumberland Island have bathrooms?

Yes. You should receive a Cumberland Island map and the bathrooms will be marked.

What should I pack for a day trip to Cumberland Island?

You are responsible for bringing all essentials. There are no stores or restaurants. Comfortable clothes and shoes, bug spray, hats/sunscreen, water bottles, etc. I would also suggest a picnic basket with quick meal items.

Can you stay overnight on Cumberland Island?

Yes. There are two choices, Cumberland Island camping (primitive camping) or Greyfield Inn.


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, and more, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist with a passion for helping women lose the overwhelm of planning family-friendly trips in the south. She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about Georgia, Florida, & the Carolinas vacations.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️


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