The largest and southernmost barrier island in Georgia, Cumberland Island National Seashore has a reputation as one of the country’s most pristine seaside regions and boasts over 17 miles of serene, white-sand beaches with enormous dunes, unforgettable views, and unique wildlife.
In addition to its tranquil, undeveloped scenery, the island also has some historical secrets to share since it used to be home to a wide variety of people from natives and enslaved African Americans to missionaries and wealthy industrialists.
A Bit of History
Seven villages of Native Americans used to thrive on the island; later it was settled by Spanish and English explorers. Finally, in the 1880s the wealthy Carnegie family bought the island and now you can see the remains of their wealth (like mansion ruins).
Location and Access
Cumberland Island is located just off the Georgia coast and is accessible only by ferry or kayak. The ferry goes from the Cumberland Island Visitors Center in St. Marys and it is recommended to make reservations in advance through the official website because there is a limit of 300 visitors per day.
In season, ferries depart at 9 a. m. and 11:45 a. m. and return at 10:15 a. m. and 4:45 p. m. There is also an extra departure at 2:45 p. m. from Monday to Saturday. The entrance fee is $7.
The island has public restrooms, restaurants, and picnic areas.
Cumberland Island National Seashore offers tranquility and untouched natural setting. There are no watersports or other activities of the kind so prepare for the most traditional sunbathing and swimming on a scenic beach. The expansive, white-sand beach offers more than enough space for everybody.
The water is usually calm. However, there are no lifeguards so please exercise caution and keep a close eye on children. There are no children’s playgrounds but there is plenty of clean sand and clear waters for your kids to frolic.
Nature and Wildlife
There are three ecosystems including marshes, forests, and beaches and a variety of plants and animals. Wild horses and loggerhead turtles roam freely along the beach and throughout the ruins. It is worth mentioning that local horses boast bloodlines tracing to the royal stables of the King of Arabia. Other species you can spot on the island include deer, armadillos, hogs, turkeys, raccoons, and rabbits.
The best way to explore the island is by walking and biking. You can rent a bike at the Sea Camp Dock the ferry arrives to. Note that the number of bikes for rent is limited so do this soon after your arrival.
Driving Time (till Cumberland Island Visitors Center)
You can drive to Cumberland Island Visitors Center and leave your car on the nearby parking lot. Then take a 45-minutes ferry ride to the island. Note that the ferry station on Cumberland Island is located in the southern part of the island whereas the beach is in the north, with the distance between the ferry station and the beach making up about 7 miles.
- 45 minutes from Jacksonville, FL
- 50 minutes from Brunswick, GA
- 2 hours 30 minutes from Valdosta, GA
Additionally, there's a number of beaches near Cumberland Island Beach which you can visit: