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A guide to Cumberland Island National Seashore

What has wild horses, a mansion ruins, and a gorgeous tree canopied walking path? If you guessed Cumberland Island National Seashore, well glad you read the title. Because yep- it has all those things plus more. Why else would I mention them?

I say this with absolutely no bias whatsoever for my home state, but I think Georgia is a state packed with so many different kinds of adventures for anyone who visits. And Cumberland Island National Seashore is just one of those unique packed adventures – it’s a nature lover’s paradise.

The landscape alone is breathtaking. Empty beaches that seem to stretch for miles wide. An easy to walk main path with stunning oak trees dripping with the glorious Spanish moss that is so typical of the area. There are just so many trees as far as the eye can see. My parents and I spent a HOT day walking the island and I got lots of recommendations for ya! Check out my guide to Cumberland Island National Seashore

Getting to Cumberland Island National Seashore

This pristine barrier island is located 6 miles off the coast of St. Marys, Georgia just before crossing over into the state of Florida territory. Oh and it is only accessible by ferry or private boat. Pay CLOSE attention to the ferry schedule because you could potentially be left on the island. If that happens, there is the Greyfield Inn which is lovely and happens to be the only accommodation on the island. Fingers cross they have availability. On the bright side, their rates include all meals but it will cost you a pretty penny for your evening. I think I saw the cheapest per night stay was $525 and that is before the rates go up next year. Just be sure to make it to the ferry on time.

But the lack of commercialization adds to the charm of the island because it is very, very laid back. Rustic. Kind of bare bones, if you will.

my go to “active” outfit. I only own one so you may have seen this before. 😂

But don’t fret- they have a few vehicles on the island for tours and such! But don’t expect a Starbucks or anything.


What do to at Cumberland Island National Seashore

Hike

With miles upon miles of hiking trails available to you, even the most novice hiker (i.e. Me) can find a path that is ideal. Because of who I am as a person, I am not an avid hiker who enjoys getting hot or even sweating. We don’t usually gel together. But since I am a glutton for punishment, I decided that hiking the island would be an ideal way for me to see it. Boy was I right and also so very wrong.

Don’t read that wrong, it was stunning walking the main path under the canopy of trees dripping in the ever-present Spanish moss. It was magnificent. But it was magnificently hot that day. I was drinking in the humid air and getting no relief from it. Luckily my parents and I prepared and had a couple of bottles of water with us because we were all sweating it out by the gallon.

We took the main road from the ferry dock up to the Ruins which was only 1.2 miles one way. In reality, we somehow walked 5 miles according to my phone tracker but it felt more like 10 miles. But was it worth it??

Absolutely!

We got to see the Dungeness Ruins and y’all, there was a whole pack of wild horses just straight chilling nearby. I definitely did not try to approach them because, ya know, they are wild and I have a healthy fear of most animals (it is a thing, ok!), but I did of course become my basic millennial self and get photos of them and with them. For the ‘Gram and all.

Bike

Although I didn’t do anything else but hiking when I visited, biking the island would be my ideal alternative! Bring your own bike is an easy task for the ferry but it is limited in space. You can also rent bikes on a first come, first serve basis. I honestly wish I had chosen to do this option. Biking is faster and probably would have created a breeze that I desperately need.

Please note: There are no paved roads on the island. All roads, including the Main Road, are sandy surfaces. Conditions can vary but often the surface is soft, making riding more difficult and slower. Bikes will need wider tires to be ridable (no thin street tires).

If you want more info on bike rental or bring your own bike, check out this page!

Camp

As for camping, if you are into that sort of thing, there are 5 campsites to choose from for a maximum of a week stay. I mean who wouldn’t love to be terrorized by raccoons and mosquitoes while sleeping on a hard ground? Sounds like a blast. 😂 All jokes aside, I know there are outdoor people who would love to have the island to themselves to explore at their leisure.

Click here to read alllllll the rules about camping on Cumberland Island and how to reserve a spot online.

Swimming/Shell-Hunting

Lastly when it comes to swimming, you have 15+ miles of pristine beaches! There is practically no one else on the beaches unless they are other ferry-goers or campers- no lifeguards but maybe a wild horse or two! But if swimming isn’t your thing either, go look for shells and fossil shark teeth. Apparently you can find some decent sized ones!

Spending the day or even a weekend at Cumberland Island National Seashore is a must! I want to go back when it is not quite so hot and ride around on a bike, picnic, and just explore more of the island.

Have you ever been to Cumberland?

xx,
Sami

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Sami Mastrario
Sami Mastrario

The cool aunt. Plant novice who loves to travel to cool places, eat unadventurous food, and take pretty photos.

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