"Nature, History .... or the Beach, your Choice" Top 5 Page for this destination Cumberland Island by mtncorg

Cumberland Island Travel Guide: 45 reviews and 150 photos

Cumberland Island is one of Georgia's highlights. A wonderful combination of nature and history preserved. The island is one of the larger barrier islands that fringe most of the Atlantic and the Gulf coastlines of the U.S.. Barrier islands are constantly in a state of flux: a result of waves, winds and fluctuating sea levels. Growth occurs on the mainland sides of the island, while the island slowly washes away on the seaward side. Walking around on Cumberland Island, you may not be aware of this constant battle being waged unless you are there during or just after a hurricane. Plants and grasses work to stabilize much of the island's interior. Three distinct zones are found on the island: Beach and dune; maritime forest (salt tolerant oaks draped with Spanish moss) and the saltwater marshes on the landward side.
Humans have been involved with Cumberland Island for thousands of years: Indians and Spainards. Two small forts were built by the British to protect their colony further north around Savannah from Spanish threats from the south. This was the frontier.

Revolutionary war hero, General Nathaniel Greene bought land on the island in 1783 for what was to become the first Dungeness house. The house was completed after Greene's death by his widow, Catherine and her second husband. They lived off income from sea island cotton and other agricultural products. From the first Dungeness period, only a small tabby house remains - used as a business office during the second Dungeness period.

On the foundations of the first house, Thomas Carnegie (borther of Andrew Carnegie) built his wife, Lucy, a new and much grander version of Dungeness, in 1884. As with Greene, Thomas died before the house was completed, but Lucy and her 9 children stayed on, eventually building four additional mansions as island homes for her children - Plum Orchard Mansion, where you can stay - though you should be ready to part with a little extra cash, in order to do so - is one of the additional manisons that were built.

After the 1920's, use of the houses declined and when Dungeness burned in 1959, it had been unoccupied for many years.
You can wander about outside the ruins of the great mansion and the other associated buildings - Recreation Building: indoor swimming pool, squash court, gym, billiard room, beauty parlor for the ladies and barber shop for the gentlemen; there is the Carriage House which is the Park maintenance building and the Servants' Quarters, appropriately serving to house Park employees. You get the feeling of impermance, wandering among the ruins set in a tropical setting, perhaps sharing the scene with some of the wild horses that are results of the original horses brought over to work for the mansions.

The rest of the island is a magnificient natural preserve. I recomend that the daytripper walk the Dungeness Trail, through and past the mansion ruins to the edge of glorious shimmering salt marshes. The trail then disappears into the dunes, but the way ahead to the beach is obvious. Along the beach, you have a wide avenue north to the Seacamp - about 1.5 miles.

I was there following a hurricane and had great beachcombing opportunities. From the Seacamp, the Dungenness Trail picks up again to lead you through a dense oak-palmetto forest back to the Cumberland Sound side at Seacamp dock.

Any visit to Cumberland Island should be planned ahead. A passenger ferry runs from St Marys to the island. The number of people on the island is restricted by the number on the boat. No supplies are available on the island adn drinking water can only be found at the Visitor Center, the Ranger Station, the museum and Seacamp Beach campground (though if you are a guest of Plum Orchard Mansion, you might be able to get a drink there, too! ; -/).

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:History and Nature melded
  • Cons:A little planning needed; along with some bug spray
  • In a nutshell:A Georgia You Have Never Dreamed Of
  • Last visit to Cumberland Island: Sep 1999
  • Intro Updated Oct 29, 2003
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Reviews (6)

Comments (7)

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Jul 7, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    I have been close but never got to here. Thank you for the tips and pictures. Sea Island is a favorite if you have money to show off.

  • Nov 12, 2007 at 12:49 PM

    im related 2 him!!! omg!!!!! that is so totally weird!! but true. maybe one day i'll be rich just like him................................... i luv da ponys!!! oh yeah baby!!!!!!!!!!!!woooohoooo!!! oxxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

  • catalysta's Profile Photo
    Oct 3, 2004 at 9:15 AM

    Fascinating page, beautifully written (as usual, Mark). Haven't been out on the Atlantic barrier islands since I was a kid on Assateague & Chincoteague. But they've got BIG horses here!

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo
    Jun 9, 2004 at 5:23 PM

    I spent a very lovely and interesting day hiking here back in the 1980s. Thanks for the reminders. I love the historic deatil you give. Stephen

  • lichinga's Profile Photo
    Jun 4, 2004 at 3:31 PM

    Interesting, I'm very much curious about those islands bordering the US coast. They scarcely appear on the maps we are used to look at, but I'm beginning to have an idea of them.

  • XenoHumph's Profile Photo
    Apr 16, 2004 at 9:10 AM

    Pretty place to hike! Great page, as usual!

  • Aggeliki's Profile Photo
    Dec 10, 2003 at 12:39 PM

    this is a really an exotic island:) Great photos~~

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