Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island, and it is one of the most frequently visited and famous marine protected areas in the United States. The sprawling 9,800 acres of Cumberland Island National Seashore are as diverse in their geography as the history surrounding them. The island has been inhabited by multiple groups over the centuries including industrialists, missionaries, African Americans, and Native Americans.
Cumberland Island is home to sprawling undeveloped beaches, lush maritime forests, vast unspoiled marshes, designated nesting and habitat areas, and numerous historic sites and buildings including the 20,000 square foot Plum Orchard Mansion. This protected, quiet and pristine barrier island happens to be located just a short ferry ride north of Amelia Island. It is certainly worth a visit, whether you plan on taking a day tour, staying at the Greyfield Inn, or camping there for a few days.
What to Do on Cumberland Island
Cumberland Island offers a unique and incredible opportunity to experience the diverse terrain, flora and fauna of an extraordinary barrier island firsthand. Although camping on the island or staying at the Greyfield Inn is one of the best ways to enjoy it since you’ll have the freedom to explore it on your own schedule, there are also ranger guided day tours of the island held throughout the year.
Popular activities on the island include hiking, fishing, kayaking, photography, swimming, biking, camping, wildlife viewing, bird watching, boating, hunting, star gazing and more. Over 300 bird species live at the island at various points throughout the year, making it one of the best birding destinations in the United States.
There are 50 miles of foot only hiking trails on Cumberland Island where you can explore it to its fullest and spend time exploring the wild beaches, marshes and forests. During your hike, you’ll very likely see some of the many wild turkeys and armadillos that populate the island.
There are very few facilities available on Cumberland Island, so you’ll need to bring food and beverages with you along with other necessities like sunscreen, insect repellant, and walking shoes. Restrooms and water fountains are available on the island, so it is recommended to bring a fillable water bottle.
The Greyfield Inn is a former Carnegie mansion that was converted to a luxury inn, and it offers all-inclusive hotel packages with three full meals each day, various necessities, guided tours of the island, and bikes and kayaks. However, you can expect to pay significantly more for this service compared to visiting Cumberland Island through the National Park Service.
Getting to Cumberland Island from Amelia Island
Cumberland Island is only accessible by private boat or through two ferries, one which runs from Fernandina Beach to the Greyfield Inn and another which runs from St. Marys, Georgia at 101 Wheeler St. to the island. Ferry reservations are highly recommended as the ferry is often fully booked.
The St Marys ferry is about a 40 to 45-minute drive from Amelia Island and it departs at 9:00 A.M. and 11:45 A.M. and returns at 10:15 A.M., 2:45 P.M. and 4:45 P.M. every day from March 1st to November 30th. The winter ferry schedule is the same except there is no return ride at 2:45 P.M and it operates on fewer days.
The Greyfield Inn ferry conveniently departs the Fernandina Marina near Centre Street three times daily at 9:30 A.M., 12:15 P.M. and 5:30 P.M. and it departs from the Greyfield Inn at 8:00 A.M., 10:45 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. Ferry service must be reserved and purchased ahead of time with the Inn.
Making Camping Reservations
Camping reservations are required prior to camping on the island, and reservations can be made by speaking to the Camping Office by calling (912)-882-4336.
If you have any questions about visiting this incredible and historic barrier island during your stay on Amelia Island or lodging options, please call us at (800)-741-4011.