After seven years of planning, The Lands & Legacies tour began August 2011 and has been a must do for Cumberland Island visitors ever since. This much sought after tour takes a limited number of people a day, 16 miles each way – that they would otherwise have to bike or walk, to the north end of this captivating island. For $15/adult and $12/senior or child – in addition to the ferry fee, day-trippers and campers the like are able to tour historic sites such as, the extravagant Plum Orchard Mansion, the First African Baptist Church (where John F. Kennedy Jr. & Carolyn Bessette were married) and learn about the wilderness and wildlife that live and grow on the island, as well as its intricate human history.
Your tour begins shortly after an enjoyable 45-minute ferry ride on the Cumberland Queen leaving from the St Marys waterfront at 9am and arriving to the Sea Camp dock, the second dock on Cumberland Island. This is where you will meet with your National Park Service ranger/tour guide and load onto a white, 10 passenger, air conditioned van. From there you will embark on a 5-6 hour journey on the rugged unpaved “Main Road”, awe struck with the islands never ending beauty. As your tour continues, be sure to keep an eye out for wild horses, hogs, turkeys and many other forms of wildlife that inhabit the island.
After breaking for lunch, your tour guide takes you through the enchanting Plum Orchard Mansion. Walk through those beautiful white, double doors and you are suddenly taken back to the early 1900’s – greeted by a room so warm and welcoming, you already feel at home. This 22,000 square foot mansion is southern comfort at its best. From dining room to bedrooms and basement to indoor pool, you won’t want to miss a beat.
As the Cumberland Island van tour draws to an end, you are taken back to the Sea Camp dock. If the tour ends early enough, you then have an opportunity to venture to the beach for the remainder of your day on the island or just a mile down the road to Dungeness. Dungeness was another Carnegie mansion, it was burned to the ground in 1959, but the ruins and grounds are just as eye catching. The brick chimneys and stone skeleton still stands as a glimpse into the past of the grandeur that once was Dungeness. Just a short walk away is the Dungeness Dock, where you will catch your 4:45pm ferry back to the St. Marys waterfront – don’t miss the ferry because that’s the last one until morning.
Taking the Lands & Legacies Tour is just one way to experience Cumberland Island National Seashore and its vast natural beauty and history. If you are interested in exploring the island by foot or van tour, reservations are strongly recommended – to make a reservation call 912-882-4335, Monday – Friday between the hours of 10am – 4pm. For more information on Cumberland Island, camping, and tours please visit: www.nps.gov/cuis