In mid-November, I needed an escape. I was already feeling the pressure of the upcoming holidays. With some last minute reservations; our family ran away to Cumberland Island National Seashore, off the coast of Georgia, for a couple nights of camping. While it’s not recommended that you visit during the mosquito-infested heat of July, August & September; our November trip was an ideal adventure.
Cumberland Island National Seashore proved to be the perfect getaway for an adventurous family that enjoys a sense of solitude and exploration. It was still warm enough to wade/swim in the water, for the first three-quarters of our trip. A cold front moved in toward the evening of our last night on the island and ended ocean play. Frequently, we found ourselves alone on the beach, with no one in sight for as far as the eye could see. We rarely ran into other folks and that mostly happened around Sea Camp, the island’s camp ground. That’s to be expected, since the bathhouse and all the campsites (with the exception of back country sites) are all located at Sea Camp. The camp sites are all surrounded by plenty of trees and foliage that provide a good amount of seclusion and privacy from the other sites and the paths. I’ll provide some more information about Sea Camp toward the end of the post.
We walked the full mile from Sea Camp to the Dungeness Ruins by way of the unpaved road and didn’t run into another soul. Once we reached Dungeness, we were rewarded with glimpses of the wild horses that roam the island. Unless you are highly interested in the historical significance of the island or just like long boring walks, I would not recommend making the hike to Dungeness. I was on the island primarily to relax in a semi-remote and secluded environment and I could have done without the hike out to Dungeness. However, we hiked back to camp via a mile-long stretch of entirely empty beach. It was pretty amazing to walk that amount of distance along a gorgeous natural beach without seeing another person.
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I traveled to the island with Pete and my sons, J Bear (10) & Crazy Horse (11). We caught the morning ferry out to the island and after hauling our gear to the campsite, we spent the rest of the day on the beach near Sea Camp. This was the only time we really saw any other folks on the beach. There were a few children with a family. Other than that, we had the place to ourselves. We explored and within the first 15-20 minutes, the boys had collected a treasure trove of shells and natural items to examine. We were able to find really beautiful unbroken shells because the beach isn’t combed as often, or by as many folks, as other beaches in the area. The boys also requested the Jr Ranger booklet from the Park Ranger and received the Cumberland Island badge at the end of our trip.
As Pete cooked a camp supper for us, I ventured out onto the beach alone. Completely alone. There wasn’t another person in viewing distance and if there were any human made noises, they were completely drowned out by the crashing waves. It was quite a spectacular experience to stand out there between the sky and the ocean utterly alone. I highly recommend the experience to anyone who craves that ultimate sense of solitude.
We camped for two nights. They sell next to nothing on the island. I think the only things for sale were firewood & bug spray. So, it goes without saying, that you really need to be prepared. You must pack in all your equipment, food, and camp supplies on the ferry. You’ll have to haul your stuff from your car onto the ferry. But, once you reach the island, you can load your things onto a cart that you can push out to your campsite. I would recommend packing light, yet prepared for the stay, if you choose to camp. Be sure to bring bags for trash as you will be expected to pack out all of your camp garbage.
The camp sites, like I said, are surrounded by foliage for a good sense of privacy. The bathhouse has plenty of showers. I didn’t take a shower in the bathhouse, but from what I understand, it is only supplied with cold water. The bathrooms are fine and dandy and there is drinking water available as well as a dish cleaning area.
Visitors must either take the Cumberland Queen ferry or arrange for their own transport to the island. An adult round-trip ferry ticket will cost you $20, a child’s ticket is $14 and a senior’s is $18. You will also need to pay a day use fee for each individual ($4) and camping fees if you plan on camping. For more info on the park and to make reservations, visit the Cumberland Island National Seashore website.
If you have visited or plan to visit, please leave your comments for myself & others!
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