If You Take A Family Trip – Go Where Wild Horses Roam! (part #2)

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I fondly shared about a paradise island with roaming wild horses that I visited as a young girl in part #1 of our fun family trip to Cumberland Island, Georgia. I kept a promise to myself to take my own family one day because I knew it would be one of the best family vacation destinations I was right!  A family trip with history, wild nature, and untouched beauty experienced face to face?!  Yes, please!

Family trip to a practically deserted island (except for wild horses) - view of deserted beach

Family Trip to Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island National Seashore is Georgia’s largest barrier island and is only accessible by personal boat or ferry (in part #1, there are things to do and Cumberland Island Ferry details).  This Georgia Sea Island is especially rare because it only has only about three dozen habitable dwellings and most are direct descendants of the Carnegie family (yes, that Carnegie family).

Cumberland Island lodging and food choices are sparse with no shopping options, so there are a few things to definitely plan before you go.  Finding shade as you are trekking the island is sparse as well.  When I went with my friend’s family as a young girl, I got sunburned like I have never again been in my life.  Take sunscreen no matter the time of year!

Cumberland Island Checklist

  • Cumberland Island lodging OR
  • St. Marys Georgia (mainland) lodging
  • Ferry schedule to and from the island
  • Food plan during island time (bring trash bag)
  • Wise clothing, sun protection, & bug spray choices
  • Binoculars, camera, water bottles, change of clothes, etc.
  • Food storage choices if you are camping on the island
  • What to pack when staying at the Cumberland’s Bed & Breakfast

Since Hurricane Irma destroyed the park’s mainland docks, there is a new check-in process.  PLEASE check out the National Park Service’s Cumberland Island map and checklist to prepare for your trip to the island (you can print the checklist too).

Be sure to look at the entire page as there is an informative video of a popular route to walk once your family arrives on Cumberland Island for your memorable family trip.

Cumberland Island Lodging

Your options for Cumberland Island accommodations are limited to three choices:  primitive camping on the island, staying at “the” Bed & Breakfast on the island, or lodging on the mainland of St. Mary’s Georgia.  Let’s talk in detail about these three choices below.

Sea Camp ~ There are several wilderness camping areas and one campground spot on Cumberland Island with facilities.  There are several specific things you should know before booking your reservation (& you should do that soon because availability goes quickly).  You have the choice to get off of the ferry at one of two spots.

If you have a reservation to camp on the island, you will disembark on the second stop at Sea Camp Dock. Most importantly, you must bring all supplies and food with you on the ferry and be able to transport them from the dock to the campground.

ULTIMATE Family Trip where Wild Horses Roam deserted Georgia beaches - Cumberland camper pictured

Here are a few other things to plan for:

1. You must have a reservation to camp on Cumberland Island Georgia

2. Print out your camping reservation and bring it with you

3. The only place with drinkable water is at Sea Camp Campground

4. There are no fires allowed at the wilderness sites

5. Bring supplies to hang your food up at any of the campgrounds

Greyfield Inn ~ Is a stately, 19th century home built by the Carnegie family that was turned into a Bed and Breakfast in the 1960’s.  Each room still holds character and antiques from the beauty of the past.

ULTIMATE Family Trip where Wild Horses Roam deserted Georgia beaches - Greyfield Inn pictured
GREYFIELD INN, John Lilly, cc

The all-inclusive Inn has several amenities including tours, round-trip ferry transportation from Fernandina Beach, Florida (close to the Jacksonville Airport),  kayaking and biking. Enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner with fresh treats from the Greyfield Garden.  You can even tour the entire island of Cumberland with an expert naturalist!

Mainland lodgingIn the quaint downtown area of St Marys Georgia, there are a several B&Bs, many hotels, and two RV/tent campgrounds. Based on outward appearances and spectacular reviews (I haven’t visited any of these B&Bs yet), Spencer House Inn Bed & Breakfast and Goodbread Inn Bed and Breakfast look like great choices.

We actually stayed at Country Oaks Campground with a group of our RVing (glamping) friends.  It was a lovely and quiet property that you would never know was so close to I95.  Down the road is another RV campground called St. Marys KOA.  Both of these campgrounds are approximately eight miles from downtown St. Marys where the Cumberland Island Museum and ferry are located.

Although we didn’t have time to visit ourselves, down the road from Downtown St. Mary’s is Crooked River State Park.  The park offers 26 full hook up sites at this time, 11 cottages, and tent sites.  There are also hiking trails, a boat ramp, nature center, and civil war history things to see.

ULTIMATE Family Trip where Wild Horses Roam - Downtown St. Marys Georgia pictured

Cumberland Island Food

Once you get off of the concession-operated passenger ferry on Cumberland Island, there will not be an ability to purchase food unless you are staying at the Greyfield Inn.  You must bring your own picnic lunch, water bottles, and trash bags to take it all with you when you leave.

Things to Do on Your Family Trip

Although we didn’t even come close to hiking the 50 miles worth of trails, we were amazed at the diversity of all the different areas on Cumberland Island.  The main road and trails will take you through the maritime forest, sand dunes, beach sand, marsh, historical mansions, open fields, tidal creeks, wetlands, and the original settlements.

On the island, be sure to visit the Ice House Museum, First African Baptist Church, and Plum Orchard Mansion.  Take a free walking tour provided by the National Park Service that federally protects the area.  The walk will lead you to the historical ruins, called Dungeness, that was last inhabited by the famous Carnegie family.  While on your family trip, you can camp, hike, beachcomb, fish, bird watch, photograph wildlife, picnic, learn history, and kayak


The last few tidbits I would offer to busy women thinking about planning a trip with her people.  Personally, I would not visit during the hottest summer days because of humidity and bugs, and I would not bring children that are not able to walk independently a lot on their own.  There is a lot of walking and you don’t want to have to carry toddlers or babies all over this island – trust me!

Be sure to bring refillable containers because there are water spigots around the island.  Seriously, bring sunscreen and apply it to everyone.  You’ll be here for hours and no one wants the misery of a sunburn on the night of your family trip.

So when do you plan to take a family trip to Cumberland Island Georgia?  Let me know the month you want to visit and/or memories of trips you’ve already taken in the comments below.


ULTIMATE Family Trip where Wild Horses Roam deserted Georgia beaches

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. Dick Evans
    January 13, 2015 / 8:32 am

    headed to Cumberland Island after a kayak trip in the Okefenokee. Nice site. BTY, my wife grew up in Fernadina across the inlet from CI, but has never visited.

    • Shan
      January 25, 2015 / 1:28 pm

      Great Dick. Let’s see some pix of Cumberland Island. I love it.
      Have spent many many times in Fernandina. Great place too.

  2. Mimi
    April 6, 2018 / 10:51 am

    This Island looks amazing, that beach though!

  3. Paula I'm Busy Being Awesome
    April 6, 2018 / 10:52 am

    Such a beautiful vacation spot. Greyfield Inn looks like something straight out of a novel!

    • Shan
      April 6, 2018 / 3:41 pm

      I know, Paula. The story of this family is novel-worthy, for sure. The Carnegies are an interesting family!


  4. Melanie
    April 6, 2018 / 11:47 am

    What a fun trip! This looks beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Ayanna
    April 6, 2018 / 1:32 pm

    What a cool vacation destination. I have never heard of Cumberland Island and I will have to put this on my list of vacation destinations.

    • Shan
      April 6, 2018 / 3:42 pm

      Yay! Hope this helps!


  6. Marya
    April 6, 2018 / 2:11 pm

    Looks like a wonderful trip! Living in Florida, we don’t go to many coastal places outside of Florida any more 🙁

  7. Sabrina
    April 6, 2018 / 3:26 pm

    I can’t wait to check out the island! I’ve wanted to go since I was a little girl. It’s time! 😉

    • Shan
      April 6, 2018 / 4:44 pm

      Yay! Yes, check it out, Sabrina. Just not in the dead of summer! 🙂


  8. Kristin Cook
    April 9, 2018 / 7:24 am

    That sounds like so much fun! I would love to go somewhere like that!

    • Shan
      April 9, 2018 / 9:21 am

      You can do it, Kristin! Let me know if I can help with plans!


  9. Ashley
    April 9, 2018 / 11:23 am

    How have I never heard of this place? What a perfect family getaway locale! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Inn…it’s perfection.

  10. kate Werthmann
    April 9, 2018 / 3:07 pm

    That hotel looks dope!!!
    I’m totally afraid of horses so this could go 50/50 that i would cry if one came near or try to face my fears!

  11. Melanie
    April 11, 2018 / 12:22 pm

    I have always wanted to go to Cumberland Island! Greyfield Inn looks like the best spot to stay. A ferry over to spend a day on the island and then come back to what looks like something out of an old movie?! Sign me up!!

  12. Bekah
    April 14, 2018 / 10:58 am

    No food to buy, no fires, and only one place to order food. Although this island sounds really nice it also sounds like a pain in the butt! lol

    • Shan
      April 14, 2018 / 1:25 pm

      Haha, Bekah. No, the reality is that it’s an experience like no other. You have a chance to get a safe but unique way to see kind of what it feels like on an (almost) deserted island. Not for everyone – that’s for sure. 🙂


  13. Katherine
    April 29, 2018 / 9:28 pm

    The idea of an island without places to buy food is really interesting, and I’m glad you put together this list for people who are visiting. I’d love to stay at the Bed and Breakfast, it looks like a gorgeous building!

    • Shan
      May 1, 2018 / 2:39 pm

      Yes, it’s a one-of-a-kind place without food places for sure. Not an experience you find every day but certainly a place I think everyone should experience at least once. 😉


  14. sabrina
    May 5, 2018 / 11:53 pm

    Ok…booked our room at the Spencer House, and bought our ferry tickets! 🙂 Yay!

    • Shan
      May 6, 2018 / 8:42 am

      No way, Sabrina!!! That’s exciting. Hope Y’all have such an awesome time! Please let me know what you think.


  15. candy
    May 11, 2018 / 8:11 am

    We have not had the opportunity to visit but everything looks beautiful. Activities seem to be something going on for every age group.

  16. Aditi Wardhan Singh
    May 11, 2018 / 9:26 am

    Such detailed information for what sounds like a great trip. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Kelly
    May 11, 2018 / 10:04 am

    It was not in georgia but when I was a child my family went I believe to NC. It was an amazing trip and I still cherish the memories of the horses! They even walked through our campsite!

  18. Sam | Away She Went
    May 11, 2018 / 11:41 am

    That sounds like an amazing vacation! I would love to visit there someday. Although I would probably stay at the Greyfield Inn or one of the B&Bs. Camping is not my favorite lol

  19. Brittany
    May 11, 2018 / 2:48 pm

    That sounds like an absolutely gorgeous destination! I have yet to explore the beaches of GA, but sounds like we need to!

  20. Rachel
    May 12, 2018 / 3:25 pm

    This sounds like the perfect family vacation spot!

  21. Melissa
    May 12, 2018 / 5:04 pm

    sounds like an interesting place to visit! I’m pretty sure I’d opt for “the” bed and breakfast instead of camping! I love the thought of taking your family back to a place that was special to you as a kid!

  22. Kristin
    May 13, 2018 / 12:48 pm

    I love the idea of camping on this island but no fires would be tough!! Kind of limits what you can eat! Looks so beautiful though. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Jordan
    May 15, 2018 / 8:02 am

    This place looks amazing. I will definitely have to check it out!

    • Shan
      May 15, 2018 / 9:16 am

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


  24. Jake
    June 26, 2018 / 8:18 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this amazing place! Can’t wait to get my feet right there!

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