Cumberland Island National Seashore off the coast of Georgia was the perfect way to celebrate National Parks week. Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. Cumberland Island is home to over 9,800 acres of Congressionally designated Wilderness. Complete with breathtaking live oak trees, remote beaches and perfect hideaway campgrounds to get away from it all. Cumberland Island constitutes the westernmost point of shoreline on the Atlantic Ocean in the United States. The island is 17.5 miles long and consists of a mix of marsh, mudflats and tidal creeks.
The key to visiting Cumberland Island is planning. The island is very near the Florida/Georgia line so you can imagine the weather heats up quickly. We went in mid-April and it was perfect for us. The other tricky part is getting reservations. We went over spring break and the only campsites left were the remote wilderness sites. We stayed at Yankee Paradise about 7.5 miles one way from the ferry station. The wilderness sites do not have facilities of any kind, so preplanning is essential. A more family friendly option if it is available is the Sea Camp campground by the ferry terminal which has all the facilities you’d expect from a family site.
To get to the island you have to make reservations on the ferry ahead of time and plan your return. The ferry ride is about 45 minutes and departs from the little town of St. Marys, Georgia. There are several little restaurants near the ferry terminal to grab some food or a drink before and after the ferry. We rode over with the ferry crowd, a mix of young backpackers, day beachcombers and families. After arriving at the ferry station on Cumberland Island all the wilderness backpackers received a safety orientation at the ranger station before departing for our various sites. There are three wilderness campgrounds and two developed sites.
We spent two nights at the Yankee Paradise site and only ran across a handful of other people the whole time. We did run across, dolphins, armadillos, deer, wild horses and unfortunately lots and lots of ticks. Be prepared for ticks, seriously, no joke, seriously.
The first afternoon we hiked to our campground and set up camp among the trees. After spending a while on the beach we enjoyed cooking and sleeping under the stars.
The next day we spent the entire day on the beach and for eight hours and didn’t run across another human soul. It was as if we’d escaped to a remote island and had the beach for ourselves. We packed in the hammock and relaxed for the entirety of the day on the pristine beach.
Our final day on Cumberland we spent hiking and exploring some of the history of the island. We hiked from Yankee Paradise to Sea Camp and then over to the historical sites on the Southern end of the island. Cumberland island has a rich history starting with the Native Americans long ago. There are guided van tours of the island available, bike rentals and other ways to explore the island if you only have the day. We were fortunate and got to take a lot in during our two and half days on the island.
After leaving Cumberland island we spent another night at the nearby Jekyll island. Jekyll island is a developed state park with a mix of pristine beaches and large developments and a rich history. We camped at a private campground and spent the morning doing yoga on the beach before breakfast. We spent the afternoon exploring the historical buildings of the island and the sea turtle hospital.
If you ever want to explore the coast of Georgia and discover remote beaches and surround yourself among the trees Cumberland island is a magical place to do so.