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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
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.
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?!
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 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!
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?!
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