Cumberland Island is an amazing National Sea Shore managed by the National Park Service. An island larger than the size of Manhattan Island allowing a maximum of 300 visitors per day keeps it beautifully pristine. There was so much to do on Cumberland Island is just a day trip that I couldn't cover everything in the one post, so see my Cumberland Island, Georgia Part I - about Cumberland feral horses. Below is a photo taken from the ferry as we traveled to Cumberland from Saint Mary's, Georgia.
The view as you are arriving to the island from the ferry are beautiful.
Upon arrival, you are greeted by park rangers who give you the option of self guided tours or a guided tour. My husband and I elected to take the guided tour to hear about the island's history which is documented back 4000 years to the Timucuan Indians.
The Spanish in the 16th century set up a mission on the island. They converted the Indians to Christianity and eventually left the island. After that, most of the Indians either left the island or died from European diseases they had been exposed to from the Spanish. When James Oglethorpe claimed use of Cumberland Island for a hunting lodge which he called Dungeness after a river in Europe.
In 1783, Revolutionary War Hero Nathaniel Greenenpurchased the land as to harvest the live oaks for ship building. After he passed away, his wife Catherine remarried Phineas Miller and built the home that Nathaniel Green had designed to build a four story tabby mansion which Catherine named Dungeness. After the economy's blow during the Civil War, the plantation economy deteriorated, the family moved away and the original Dungeness burned in 1866.
The Carnegie Family, Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy purchased land on Cumberland for a winter retreat. In 1884, the construction of a new mansion on the Dungeness site commenced. Thomas did not live to see its completion, but his wife Lucy and their 9 children had the 59 room Scottish style mansion. The Carnegies remained living in Dungeness until it burned in 1959. The ruins of Dungeness are a part of the guides tour. Lucy Carnegie made it clear in her will that she wanted Cumberland preserved and the Carnegie and Candler families worked the national park service to make the preservation of Cumberland possible.
It is still apparent that the gardens of Dungeness of and views of the river would have been a splendid backdrop for this incredible mansion.
After leaving the Dungeness Ruins, taking a walk towards the dune and the beach, there is a board walk from which you can see beautiful views including those of a feral mare and her foal. You will cross the dunes and arrive on the most beautiful beach.
The 17 1/2 miles of pristine beach (there are no trash cans on the island - what you bring with you you take back - is incredible. As you can see from this photo, you cannot see the entire beach from one location due to the curvature of the earth. (This day trip doesn't require walking but about 1 3/4 of this beach - or bring you beach towel and bathing suit and jump into the beautiful blue water.
Wildlife of every kind is abundant on Cumberland Island. You will see raccoon, white tail deer, alligators, feral horses, wild hogs, birds of all kinds including bald eagles. When you reach the next boardwalk across the dunes, you come onto beautiful oak tree lined roads.
Live oaks (Georgia's official state tree) were aptly named as they appear to retain their leaves year round leaving them with the appearance of being alive. Cumberland Island is covered with beautiful live oak trees - the canopy is a wonderful shade while walking the roads of Cumberland.
The walk back across the island take you back to Sea Camp Dock where you meet the ferry to take you back to the mainland. This is just the southern portion of Cumberland Island. As we explore more of the island, I will be back with additional posts to share this national treasure.