Cumberland Island Georgia Beach With Wild Horses? Yes, Please!

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The first time I visited Cumberland Island Georgia as a young girl, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen in my life.  I’d been on many family vacays, but this trip with my friend’s family was unique.  We happily wandered on foot around this paradise island – encountering wild horses – especially on the beaches!  The untouched beauty and wild horses were unforgettable, and I purposed in my mind that I would return one day.  I’m tickled to share what happened when I did – 30 years later with my family!

Cumberland Island Georgia Beaches is practically untouched and sometimes filled with wild horses

Cumberland Island Georgia

When a group of our friends was trying to decide where to go next for our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday travel, Cumberland Island Georgia came into the conversation.  I jumped at the chance to plan a long-awaited trip back to this gorgeous Georgia barrier island.  I couldn’t wait to show my family and friends this spectacular place.  Cumberland is one of ten protected areas known as national seashores and operated by the National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior.

Where is Cumberland Island?

Cumberland Island Georgia is one of the islands off the coast of Georgia – the largest and southernmost barrier island, as a matter of fact.  It’s accessible only by the Cumberland Ferry that’s located on the mainland of St. Marys Georgia. The mainland of St. Marys Georgia is easily accessible from South Georgia’s I-95.  Take exit 3 and travel about eight miles to reach the St. Marys Historic District.

St Marys ferry dock for Cumberland Island Georgia
St Marys Dock for Ferry, Rob Bixby, cc

Cumberland Island lodging

I couldn’t remember seeing any Cumberland Island hotels or campgrounds on my childhood trip.  But there actually is a Sea Camp Campground and a bed and breakfast on the island – both are tucked away and not always found. More about the Cumberland Island lodging we chose in part #2.

Cumberland Island ferry

I made reservations for our group to board the Cumberland Island ferry.  The round trip tickets for the concession-operated passenger ferry were pretty pricey, but I knew it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for my kiddos.  We happily arrived at the dock thirty minutes ahead of time to wait for further instructions from our guide.  After our orientation and safety talk that was given 15 minutes prior to departure at the Visitor Center, it was time to finally see my isolated island again.

I mean, I’d only been waiting for 30 years!

The travel time from the St. Marys to Cumberland Island takes about 45 minutes but it was pretty fun.  About midway, dolphins arrived alongside our boat and they charmingly kept my attention as they tried to keep up with us.  It was a race!  Don’t you love dolphins?!

Dolphin near Cumberland Island Georgia ferry
Cumberland Island Georgia ferry ride
our friend, Mr. David, & Me!

As we neared the island, we were reminded of our departure times with two dock areas to choose from that would return us to the mainland. It was our responsibility to return to one of those two docks promptly or be a la stranded.  I started to feel a little anxious – envisioning all those old shipwrecked movies of the past [lol].  My anxiety melted away though when I saw the beauty of the island appearing in the distance.  I was mesmerized once again.

Things to do on Cumberland Island 

As we unloaded at the dock, I noticed this mysterious path of oak trees.  I couldn’t wait to explore it.

But first, we entered a building called the “Icehouse Museum.” It was built by Thomas and Lucy Carnegie and used to store huge blocks of ice brought down from the north by ship. Today it contains a collection of small artifacts and history of the Timucuan Indians, the Carnegies [who owned most of the island], early English settlers, the slave plantations, and those involved in the Civil War.

We brought picnic baskets of food and stopped for a picnic lunch after strolling down the mysterious path through the Oaks pictured above [there are no stores to buy food on the island].  Then we caught up with the free walking tour led by a Ranger Guide. She was explaining the history or the island and you know how I am about history!

She spoke of the earliest inhabitants on the island and even of invasions by pirates but our reenactment started with the plantation era. She was a gifted storyteller who assigned each of us as a character in her historical retelling of the Carnegie’s former home, now the Dungeness ruins.

The ranger is assigning characters to everyone
The ranger telling my son, Captain, that he’ll portray Revolutionary War hero, Nathanael Greene.
Cumberland Island Georgia - wild horses on the beach and near Dungeness
Dungeness Ruins

The intriguing but sad history of this place called Dungeness was truly remarkable and eerie.  This site passed through the hands of James Oglethorpe, Nathanael Greene, British forces, and the Carnegie Family.  Now the National Park Service watches over her ruins.  You’ll have to wait for the whole story on your own free guided tour!

We were ready to see lots of wild horses roaming free.  I knew it would be such an awesome experience for the kids.  As usual, God provided ten-fold as we not only saw a gorgeous Georgia beach with wild horses but they were all over the island!  

Cumberland Island Georgia - wild horses on the beach
Cumberland Island Georgia - wild horses on the beach
Cumberland Island Georgia - wild horses on the beach
Wild Horses on Cumberland Island Beach, Linda, cc

A family vacation trip to Cumberland Island Georgia is an experience like no other.  The rest of our adventure, other wild animals, details of where to stay and what to eat, other things to do on Cumberland, Cumberland Island weather, and more will be in part #2.  Until then, check out this wonderful video shot by an NBC cameraman, David Brooks…..

Are you ready to take the family to Cumberland Island Georgia right now?!


Cumberland Island Georgia beach pictured with ocean and sand

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 ☕️



  1. Oak Hill Homestead
    October 16, 2013 / 3:22 am

    What a neat place! Love the photo of the “cool mysterious path”, very pretty. And wild horses… well, you know I love horses. (Although I’m wondering how an appaloosa ended up wild on an island off the east coast? Hmm)


  2. Kristen Lewers
    October 16, 2013 / 2:30 pm

    I love Cumberland Island!!! The last time I went I was only 9, though, but the memories of it are still very vivid because it was such a unique experience! I had never ridden a ferry before then, but getting off the boat was the best part! As we walked towards the house there were a bunch of wild horses grazing about 100 ft away from the ruins. I did a big no-no and I touched one, but, thankfully, it was friendly and didn’t panic or run away. I was also surprised by how windy it was on the beach because it was no where near that windy when we left the mainland! I would totally encourage anyone who hasn’t been there yet to go! I am actually planning on going during my winter break this year!

  3. Rosevine Cottage Girls
    October 16, 2013 / 3:41 pm

    What an amazing trip! My sister and I love horses so much. We were able to help out at a local ranch and I did a whole lot of picture taking. I would love so much to go there. Thank you for sharing. My heart longs to see it all now. Blessings!

    We are from the link up at Deep Roots at Home. Nice to meet you.

  4. Jane@Cottage at the Crossroads
    October 22, 2013 / 2:30 pm

    Hi Shan,
    I have never been to Cumberland Island even though I have heard of it. Your post really makes me want to make a trip there. I would love to see and photograph those ruins and of course, the wild horses. Thanks for taking me on a virtual trip!

  5. Rebecca Strength and Sunshine
    March 19, 2018 / 8:10 am

    O wow, what a stunning place for a quick getaway!

    • Shan
      March 19, 2018 / 11:32 am

      It truly is one-of-a-kind adventure for sure, Rebecca!!!


  6. Jeanne
    March 19, 2018 / 9:00 am

    This is going on my travel list! Great pictures

    • Shan
      March 19, 2018 / 11:32 am

      Yay, Jeanne! Let me know if I can help in any way!


  7. Meagan
    March 19, 2018 / 9:09 am

    I have never heard of Cumberland Island and definitely putting it on my list of places to go! Thanks for this informative post! 🙂

    • Shan
      March 19, 2018 / 11:32 am

      Yay, Meagan. You are SO welcome. It’s such a fun getaway!


  8. Elke
    March 19, 2018 / 10:15 am

    This was a beautiful look into what seems like a gorgeous place to visit. I would love, love, to stroll down the Oak Path. I visited Georgia once with my family and loved it there. My husband and I have been wanting to return. This may be our nudge.

    • Shan
      March 19, 2018 / 11:33 am

      Yay, Elke. Come on back to GA, we’d love to have Y’all! Yep, the oak path is gorgeous. I have this thing with beautiful trees too. 😉


  9. Shan
    March 19, 2018 / 11:31 am

    You MUST come visit, Deborah! I know, we’ll do a house swap! lol I’ve never been to Aussie. Ekkk – jellyfish terrify me!


  10. Paula
    March 19, 2018 / 11:50 am

    This place looks incredible! I could use a getaway

    • Shan
      March 19, 2018 / 12:21 pm

      You should start planning, Paula. It’s an incredible experience for sure and not many spots are more secluded. 😉


  11. Denise Riehle
    March 19, 2018 / 8:39 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve never heard of this destination, and now I’m including it on my bucket list. (You had me at horses!) Thanks for the photos and your thoughts. It sounds heavenly!

  12. Lee
    March 20, 2018 / 9:27 am

    OMG What a fund trip with so many things to do!

  13. Lisa
    March 21, 2018 / 10:28 am

    Sounds like a wonderful place. I have never been to Georgia but this makes me want to go!

    • Shan
      March 21, 2018 / 10:49 am

      Yay, Lisa. I adore sharing why our gorgeous state of Georgia has so many unique family vacay options. Blessings!


  14. Sandra Black
    March 21, 2018 / 11:37 am

    I lived in Delaware for 3 years over 20 years ago and have vacationed in the US often so we travelled a lot there but not enough to have visited the Cumberland Islands. Pinned this post to remind me that maybe our next US vacation could include this spot.

    • Shan
      March 21, 2018 / 11:56 am

      Yay, Sandra! I think you’ll fall in love!!!


  15. Amanda Martin
    March 21, 2018 / 12:30 pm

    Sounds like an absolute dream!! Your photos are stunning, especially that tree lined street. Swoon!

  16. Bekah
    March 24, 2018 / 11:52 am

    That sounds and looks so cool! I am definitely adding this to my bucket list, although I hope it does not take me 30 years to get there 🙂

    • Shan
      March 28, 2018 / 10:51 am

      Haha, Bekah! I hope you get there before 30 years are up too! 🙂


  17. Katherine
    March 25, 2018 / 3:13 pm

    Oh. My. God. Yes please! Also those dolphins! I want to visit to see them all now! Whenever someone tells me that they have a surprise for me, I ask if it’s a pony 😉

    • Shan
      March 29, 2018 / 8:17 am

      Haha!!! I love it, Katherine! Never give up on that dream! 😉


  18. Sabrina
    March 30, 2018 / 3:50 pm

    I’ve always wanted to go to Cumberland Island! Now you have me interested again! 🙂

    • Shan
      April 1, 2018 / 7:00 am

      Yay! It’s a one-of-a-kind experience for sure! 🙂


  19. Lanell
    July 27, 2018 / 7:18 am

    I had not heard of Cumberland Island. I will be considering this for our next trip.

    • Shan
      July 27, 2018 / 9:58 am

      Yay, Lanell! It’s one-of-a-kind. Just skip the months of July and August, for sure due to heat and bugs. 😉

      much love,

  20. Amber Battishill
    July 27, 2018 / 8:12 am

    Wow, it’s so incredibly beautiful there and I love that you were able to see so many wild horses! That tree lined path was so amazing too!

  21. joy abouzeid
    July 27, 2018 / 8:49 am

    Great post!! This island looks wonderful!!

    • Shan
      July 27, 2018 / 9:59 am

      Thank you, Joy! It’s awesome.

      much love,

  22. Mary
    July 27, 2018 / 10:33 am

    This place looks amazing, I cannot believe I’ve never heard of it! Pinned to my travel board!

  23. Diane
    July 27, 2018 / 11:48 am

    I have never heard of this place but when you mention dolphins and horses you are talking my favorite things!! Thank you for sharing this…it is going on my bucket list!! And you have a beautiful site!!

  24. ShootingStarsMag
    July 27, 2018 / 1:35 pm

    I’ve never been here, but it looks beautiful. I like that it has some history to it too!


  25. Elaine Mom Blog Life
    July 27, 2018 / 4:16 pm

    Wow sounds amazing! I’m always looking for new and interesting places to book our next family trip. I will definitely keep this destination in mind! It’s so beautiful! And looks like a lot of fun. 🙂

  26. Tif
    July 27, 2018 / 7:53 pm

    Wow I never heard of Georgia Island 🌴 it looks beautiful!!! I love the small town feel and wild horses!! & you finding those oak trees were a find!

  27. nicole
    July 28, 2018 / 1:15 pm

    This looks like a dream vacation! How fun!

  28. Jehava
    July 31, 2018 / 11:06 am

    Wow this is so beautiful!!

  29. iMom Guide
    September 25, 2018 / 7:13 am

    Awesome, Thanks for sharing.

  30. Leeann
    October 9, 2018 / 2:30 pm

    I cherish the residential community feel. You know, I’m continually searching for new and fascinating spots to book our next family trip. I will remember this – appears It’s so wonderful.

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