Cumberland Island NP – St Mary Georgia
Cumberland Island is a quaint national seashore that is near and dear to my heart. I cannot imagine a more inspiring beach in our national Park system. On our way to Disney World in 2016, I saw Facebook post about Cumberland Island national seashore. I had never heard of the park before but after looking it up, I was so excited and ready to take the kids. Three weeks later, we were heading to St. Mary Georgia to prepare ourselves for a camping adventure.
Getting to Cumberland Island is no easy feat. You have to get a ferry. You have to bring everything you need with you on the island. And you have to prepare your heart to be able to leave by 4 o’clock the same day. Unless….. You camp.
We’ve never been afraid to get a little uncomfortable. Swag (my son) was nine months old the first time I took him camping with two horses and a grandpa in tow. So the idea of sleeping in a tent on the Cumberland Island national seashore and being responsible for all our own meals wasn’t TOO overwhelming. But I have to say, I was hesitant for our first trip. I mean once you’re there, you are there. There’s no pizza delivery. There is no let’s just load up and go to a hotel. You must be prepared and think through what you need for your trip. That was hard for this fly by the seat of your pants style girl.
This was the best of beach vacation ever though and it was worth all the hassle to spend a week in this location. TWICE!
Cumberland Island has earned the coveted “Repeat Visit Award”. That is the highest honor Your Travel Secret can bestow upon any location or venue. Why? Because this world is a really big and I’m not sure I will live long enough to visit everywhere even one time. So if I’m really willing to return it’s a gem of a place and worth you taking note.
Why is Cumberland Island national Park such a good beach vacation?
Cumberland Island national Park is an amazing beach location because of its natural state. This ungroomed, unmanaged, expanse of beachfront property makes you feel like you stepped onto a deserted island. Castaway anyone? Palmettos are everywhere. There is wildlife everywhere. And it has a quiet peaceful serenity that’s hard to find in commercial locations. Now don’t get me wrong I like a hip beach scene. Nothing beats a good ice cream cone while watching the waves roll in unless it’s the unadulterated sounds of waves rolling in on Cumberland Island.
I seriously think you can hear the beach from just about everywhere on the island. The sand is white and soft with a clean briny smell. My daughter says they have the softest sand and she spends hours playing only God knows what on those Atlantic shores.
The wildlife is amazing. So far we have seen wild horses, turkeys, all kinds of other birds, armadillos, raccoons, lizards, and magnificent dragonflies. And the trails take you from the map marshy south to plum orchards in the North part of the island. There is also plenty of hiking and biking for those who are up for it.
And even though Cumberland Island has been around as a National Park since 1972, it seems undiscovered. We have had no trouble getting reservations with a little early planning and there really isn’t a bad campsite. It’s almost surprising when we see other people and mostly at the bathhouse located in the center of sea camp. (We have also only gone in the shoulder and off season so I have no clue how busy it is in the peak season).
The morning of our departure we woke the kids up early to experience an east coast sunrise. It was breathtaking.
Camping – our favorite sites
We scoped out all the sites on our first trip and decided to stay on site 11. On the second trip, we decided to stay on site 12. Both of these sites are an easy walk to the bathhouse and you can hear the ocean all night.
We have even been treated to hearing the wild horses nicker in the evening and in the morning. Site 12 is our favorite site in a sea camp however because it has an unofficial not to be used personal trail to the bathhouse. I will not confirm or deny that we used this personal trail to get to the dishwashing station, bathhouse, and showers. But if you were to visit Cumberland Island national seashore and choose site 12 in sea camp you may appreciate the unofficial not to be used short trail from site 12 to the bathhouse. I won’t tell anyone if you won’t tell anyone. Site 9 is also lovely because it is very private. But no matter what site you choose, they are all spacious, have a picnic table and a fire ring.
What is there to see at Cumberland Island national Park
Obviously there is the beach. But the western side of the island is equally stunning. From beautiful sunsets to the incredible rich marshy ground there is so much to behold on Cumberland Island. Incredible old trees, mansions in ruin, cemeteries, and miles of trails will keep you busy.
One thing you will notice on Cumberland is that people don’t talk. There looking around and are hesitant to break the beautiful silence with their own voices. That is of course unless you are my children. They run around screaming like feral child.
What to bring
If you’re coming for the day be sure to bring a refillable water bottle. There is potable water at the ferry drop-offs and at the sea camp. Sunscreen, glasses, bug spray, and something to eat are really handy. There is nothing to purchase on the island. So once you are there you only have what you brought. The ferry does offer a small snack bar with drinks and chips if you forgot to pack something. You can rent bikes on the island or bring your own. Call ahead if you’re planning to bring your bike yourself to make sure there’s room on the ferry.
If you’re camping, you need all of the above plus your camping gear. Obviously, you need to bring all of your food and refillable water containers. You can use down wood from camp or by firewood off the ferry. You can also get ice for your cooler on the ferry. I will be creating a resource page for my favorite camping gear soon. Subscribe to this blog for updates in the sidebar or footer for mobile devices.
We are already planning our third trip back. We don’t know when we will go exactly but we want to do more exploring on the island with bikes. Our kids are not yet proficient enough for biking excursions at this time. So as soon as they’re ready we are loading up and going back.