First African Baptist Church
The National Park Service has announced they will be starting the guided van tours on Cumberland Island National Seashore. Starting August 11th, they will take visitors on a 16-1/2 mile long tour of the island, stopping at places like the First African Baptist Church, where John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette were married, and Plum Orchard, a mansion with 106 rooms built in the 1800’s. This tour lets you see all the island sites in a single day without walking, but it is a very physically demanding trip as the main road is a dirt road with washboard surfaces in many areas.
Visitors who are taking the “Land and Legacy” tour will spend about 45 minutes or longer at Plum Orchard depending on other stops. Plum Orchard was built by the Carnegie family in the late 1800’s and the mansion was donated by the family to the National Park Service in 1971. The mansion still remains in good condition in part due to the volunteers helping to maintain it. The visitors will be given a tour of the mansion from the spacious bathrooms with unique fixtures, the beautiful Tiffany glass pieces, the lovely wallpaper to other antiques spread throughout the home. The indoor swimming pool and elevator are especially interesting to see because they are original and ahead of their time.
The First African Baptist Church became popular with the outside world when JFK Jr. and Carolyn got married there in September 1996. With the Kennedy wedding being only 20 minutes of the church’s history though, it is interesting to see what else has happened there. During the 1890’s the Settlement was established for African American workers. The little church sits on the northern end of the island about 17 miles from the Sea Camp dock which is where the tour begins.
The Park Service recommends that visitors should bring their own food and drinks in a small bag or backpack as you will be gone for 6 hours. Restrooms stops will be made but will be limited. The tours will be $15 for adults and $12 for Seniors and Children – these costs are in addition to the ferry ride and the park entrance fee. The Cumberland Island van tours will leave Sea Camp at 9:45am, just after the first ferry docks, and be given rain or shine. To make your reservations for the Cumberland Island ferry or the van tours, please call 912-882-4335, Monday- Friday 10am to 4pm. This truly is a great way to see Cumberland Island National Seashore. Come prepared for a wonderful adventure!