About Cumberland Island

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Cumberland Island National Seashore: St. Marys is the departure point to Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. The ferry is located one block from the Inn. Cumberland Island is a special place that allows only 300 visitors daily. During busy times of the year (spring and fall, plus all holidays and weekends), you will need to make ferry reservations in advance. We can help you with your reservations and also pack you a picnic lunch. Cumberland Island is as nature intended, still wild and relatively untouched by man. This living laboratory is among Georgia’s most treasured resources. Roam the 17 miles of unspoiled white sand beach with its majestic sand dunes. Walk the paths through the pristine maritime forests to the salt marshes. Cumberland Island National Seashore was named one of America’s best wild beaches by National Geographic Traveler. Also, Cumberland Island was voted one of the best islands in the Continental U.S. by readers of Travel & Leisure. Cumberland Island is an oasis of beauty, tranquility and abundant wildlife, including the wild horses that roam the island. It gently persuades you to slow down.

*Note: There is a new check-in process for all ferry passengers which you can read about at the NPS Cumberland Island website.

Ferry Schedules:

Spring, Summer & Fall Schedule

7 days a week March 1st thru November 30th

Leave St Marys Arrive Cumberland Leave Cumberland Arrive St Marys
9:00 am 9:45 am 10:15 am 11:00 am
11:45 am 12:30 pm 4:45 pm 5:30 pm
Monday – Saturday 2:45 pm* 3:30 pm

*No 2:45pm departures Oct. 1 – Feb. 28*

Winter Schedule

5 days a week December 1st thru February 29th (No Tuesday or Wednesday ferry)

Leave St Marys Arrive Cumberland Leave Cumberland Arrive St Marys
9:00 am 9:45 am 10:15 am 11:00 am
11:45 am 12:30 pm 4:45 pm 5:30 pm

Closed December 25th.

Ferry reservations can be made online 24 hours a day or by telephone, toll-free at 877-860-6787 or local at 912-882-4335. The ferry office is open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4 pm, and is located at 100 E. Saint Marys St.

*Note: As of 6/26/20, the ferry is running at 2/3 capacity; face coverings are required for all passengers while aboard the ferry.

Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum: Located across the street from the Spencer House Inn in St. Marys, the museum houses a collection of artifacts from Cumberland Island with an exhibit area open to the public. The exhibition uses pieces from the collection to highlight the people of the island. The lives of Native Americans, African Americans, the Carnegie family and others who lived on the island in the 19th and 20th centuries are seen in the island environment.

Outdoor Activities

A total of 50 miles of hiking trails meander through maritime forests, interior wetlands, historic districts, marsh ecosystems, and the beautiful beaches. Trails are accessible only by foot. The roadways allow vehicle and bicycle use.
Trails at the south end include Dungeness Trail, a ranger led or self-guided walk through the Dungeness Historic District, River Trail (a short walk from Dungeness Dock to Sea Camp), and Nightingale Trail offers another view of a maritime forest, while the South End trail is an interesting collision of ecosystems. Traveling north on the dirt shell road, Grande Avenue takes you through the heart of the island under a draping canopy of live oaks, forest floors packed with palmetto, tall stands of stately pines, open fields, tidal creeks, fresh water wetlands and lakes, Plum Orchard Mansion, and culminating at the site of the First African Baptist Church located in the Settlement at the north end of Cumberland Island. For a true backcountry experience, consider taking trails and staying off the main road.

Dungeness Ruins
Revolutionary War Hero General Nathanial Greene purchased land on Cumberland Island in 1783. Following his death, his widow Catherine Greene constructed a four-story tabby home that she named Dungeness. Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy began building another Dungeness on the original foundation in 1884. The Carnegie’s Dungeness burned in 1959 and today only the ruins remain on the site.

Cumberland Island Guided Van Tours
The Lands & Legacies tour is a guided van tour on Cumberland Island National Seashore.  Visitors are taken 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 on the tour will spend about 45 minutes at Plum Orchard. The First African Baptist Church sits on the northern end of the island about 17 miles from the Sea Camp dock which is where the tour begins. During the 1890’s the Settlement was established for African American workers. Visitors should bring their own food and drinks as the tour lasts for 6 hours. The tours are $45 plus tax for Adults, Seniors and Children – these costs are in addition to the ferry ride and the park entrance fee.  The tours leave Sea Camp at 9:45am, just after the first ferry docks, and are given rain or shine. *Note: The Lands and Legacies tour is not running at this time due to public health concerns.

Plum Orchard Mansion
Plum Orchard is an 1898 Georgian Revival mansion building by Lucy Carnegie for her son George and his wife Margaret Thaw. This mansion was donated to the National Park Foundation by the Carnegie family in 1971. The contribution of Plum Orchard helped achieve congressional approval for establishing Cumberland Island National Seashore. The ferry trips from the Sea Camp dock to Plum Orchard on two Sunday afternoons a month have been discontinued due to the popularity of the daily guided van tour to the north end which makes a stop at Plum Orchard (see information above). *Note: Plum Orchard mansion is not open to visitors until further notice due to public health concerns.

First African Baptist Church in the Settlement
In the 1890’s, the Settlement was established for African American workers. The First African Baptist Church was established in 1893 and then rebuilt in the 1930’s. It was the site of the September 1996 wedding of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette.

Opportunities for photography are endless. Numerous historic structures and ruins scatter the island. Sunrise at the beach, sunset over the marsh, tangled vines connecting forest canopies to dappled forest floors, jumbles of Saw Palmetto, gnarled live oak limbs, either bare bones dead or filled with abundant plant life, various animals scurrying about, and interesting cultural and natural features all provide excellent subjects for photos.

Bird Watching
As a favorite stopping point on the transatlantic migratory flyway, over 335 species of birds have been recorded on Cumberland Island, including threatened and endangered species such as the Least Tern, Wilson’s Plover and American Oystercatcher. Pelican Banks, the southernmost point of the island, is a favorite place for black skimmers, oystercatchers, pelicans and numerous ducks and other shore birds. The fresh water pond areas provide excellent rookeries for wood storks, white ibis, herons and egrets. In the forest canopy, you can also see warblers, buntings, wrens and woodpeckers. On the shores, osprey, peregrine falcons, and occasionally bald eagles and golden eagles are often spotted. Bring your binoculars and a field guide for a glimpse of some of these beautiful island inhabitants.

Beach Combing
Collecting sharks teeth and unoccupied sea shells is allowed. Beach findings are most successful after a strong surf or storm and may include coquinas, disc clams, heart cockles, ark shells, moon snails and an occasional sand dollar or olive shell. If time allows, scour the beach south of Dungeness Beach crossing all the way around the south end of the island. Campers have an advantage over day visitors in having more time to explore the island. Sharks teeth can often be found on the roads because the roads are conditioned with dredge fill. One can also locate them at low tide on the marsh side between the Dungeness and Sea Camp docks.

Wildlife Viewing
Numerous species call Cumberland Island home. From threatened and endangered manatees and sea turtles to over 300 species of birds, the sights are endless on Cumberland Island. Often on a single trip visitors may see wild turkeys, armadillos, feral horses, vultures, dolphins and lizards all in the same day. To experience the more elusive white tail deer, bobcats and otters, one should consider camping. Animal activity is often greater at dawn and dusk and camping allows you to be “on location” during these hours. Birding is often good at the south end at Pelican Banks, as well as on the marsh edge in the interior wetlands. Often visitors can simply find a spot to sit quietly and before long one of the island’s creatures will surely be viewed.

Georgia state fishing laws apply.

Bikes are available for rent at the Sea Camp Dock for a fee of $16 per day per bike and $20 overnight per bike for campers. Bicycle rentals are on a first-come, first-serve basis with limited quantities available. Rented bikes are not allowed on the beach and all bikes must stay on designated roads – trails are for pedestrian traffic only.

If you wish to bring your own bike, they are allowed on the ferry for a $10 fee – quantity is limited to 10 bikes per ferry, and spaces are designated on a first-come, first-serve basis. As with all outings on Cumberland Island, be prepared, keep hydrated, have a map and know the distances of your destinations. Respect private property boundaries.

Source: NPS

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About the Area | Cumberland Island | Google Attractions Maps | Directions