Cumberland Island National Seashore is Georgia's southernmost barrier island located 7 miles from St. Mary's, Georgia. The island was designated a National Seashore on October 23, 1972. Weighing in at 17.5 miles long and 36,415 total acres, the island has become one of the more popular tourist destinations in Georgia. The island is home to a diverse ecosystem, which includes saltwater marshes, mud flats, tidal creeks, maritime forests, white sand beaches, and natural sand dunes.

The first records of human habitation on the island go as far back as 1566 when the Spanish constructed Fort San Pedro. Years later, there was a Franciscan Mission built on the island to attempt to convert the Timucuan Indians to the ways of Christianity. The British took control of the island in 1736 when General Oglethorpe named the island Cumberland after the Duke of Cumberland. In 1803, two of the first settlers, Phineas and Catherine Miller, built one of the first residential homes on the island and named it "Dungeness". Their house was burned to the ground late in the century.

Then the Carnegies arrived. Their family took particular interest in the island and Thomas, the brother of Andrew Carnegie, and his wife built several mansions on the island including Greyfield and Stafford. Most of the mansions are very reminiscent of a plantation style home. Eventually the Carnegies lost interest and abandoned the island. Since the islands designation as a National Seashore in '72 the natural growth has overtaken the ruins of all the old buildings and mansions. The island is slowly transforming back to its natural state and the manmade parts of the island have become far less prominent every time I visit the island.

Touring the Island
Tourists visiting the island will have to leave their cars behind because the only way to reach the island is via a ferry that runs between St. Mary’s and the island. Visitors also have to plan ahead. The island only allows 300 visitors a day and reservations must be made six months in advance. It is also recommended that you bring a good pair of hiking boots/shoes because the only transportation on the island is your own two feet. Tourists will also have to deal with the infamous Georgia heat and humidity. The occasional coastal breeze doesn't provide much relief from the heat and humidity, which in the peak of summer can be too much for those who are not used to it. Another item to consider bringing is a good bug repellent. The island is a nature preserve and thus it is home to many species of insects including ticks. Yes, ticks are abundant on the island but a good bug repellent will keep you tick free for the length of your stay.

Your choice of adventures to have once you have arrived on the island is as wide as your imagination. One of the main activities on the island is to hike the beach and the forest and watch the wildlife that inhabits the island. The wild horses are of particular interest and tend to be found playing in the surf on the beaches. Often times you will be surprised what you find. For instance, during one of my trips to the island I was rather startled when an armadillo sauntered out of the bush I was sitting next to on one of the trails. There are also prime places for camping and picnicking. One of the most exhilarating activities that one can partake in is stargazing. Once the sun sets, the lack of artificial light makes the island perfect for those who care to stick around for nocturnal fun.

Prices and Such

Camping Fee - Back Country
$2.00 person per day
Campers also need to pay Day Use Fee.

Camping Fee - Sea Camp
$4.00 person Day
Campers also need to pay Day Use Fee.

Day Use Fee
$4.00 person/visit One Time
Ferry Prices: $12.00 Adult $ 7.00 Child (12 and under) $ 9.00 Senior (65 and over)

Annual Day Use Permit
$20.00 Annual

back to U.S. National Parks and Monuments

Information drawn from:
and my own personal expeditions

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