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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 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.
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.
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 lodging ~ In 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.
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
FAMILY TRIP NOTES
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.
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