Cumberland Island has a well-earned reputation for being a beautiful, desolate wilderness beach. Owned by the National Park Service, and accessible only by their ferry or private means, it takes some effort to get there. But it is oh so worth it!
We purchased a package through Cumberland Island Inn & Suites and arrived in time to catch the 9:00 a.m. ferry out of St. Mary’s, Georgia, to Cumberland. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the Dungeness Dock. Once we landed, we walked up the gravel path and on toward the driveway leading up to the Dungeness Ruins. It truly is stepping back in time. This is the old Carnegie estate, which fell victim to an arsonist in 1959. Much still stands, though. And it isn’t hard to imagine the old grandeur at all. When I arrived at the old iron gates leading up to the house, I paused for a moment and let my imagination soak it all in. We enjoyed exploring the grounds, the cemetery, seeing the wild horses, the pergola remains, and even stumbling across some rusting remains of Carnegie automobiles!
When we were finished rambling through the grounds, we continued on through the boardwalk that passes through the salt marsh. In just a few short minutes our boardwalk ended, and we were climbing up sand dunes that looked as if we had landed on the surface of the moon. No one else was around. We had it all to ourselves! We strolled a little further down the path and found the actual entrance to the main beach. I’d never seen anything like it. Just a gorgeous, wild desolate beach. Miles and miles were ours for the taking. We’d packed a picnic lunch so we picked a spot and enjoyed our private picnic. We then played on the beach for a few hours.
Soon, it was time to walk further south to exit the beach for the Sea Dock ferry pick-up. The entrance off the beach is like some kind of fairy tale land. The trees are magnificent! Winding, and interloping with each other. You are walking under a gnarled canopy of oak trees!
I was so tired I fell asleep on the return ferry. We selected Borrell Creek Landing for our dinner option and were not disappointed! This is a fantastic local place that has a deck overlooking a salt marsh and great quality food combined with excellent service.
There are plenty of things to do out there: you can camp, rent bikes, or even take a ranger-led tour of Plum Orchard Mansion and the Settlement where the First African Baptist Church is. This was the site of the 1996 wedding of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette.
You will need to book in advance through the National Park Service.