Off the coast of Georgia, Cumberland Island National Seashore was established in 1972 and is only accessible by boat. While kayaks and private boats are allowed, most visitors arrive by ferry from St. Marys (reservations recommended). Much of the northern half of the island is designated wilderness with backpacking campsites dispersed near places where freshwater is available for filtration. Bicycles can be rented once you arrive on the island (they are not allowed on the ferry) and are permitted on the many miles of roads, but not on the trails or beach.
Dungeness Ruins, Ice House Museum, Marsh Boardwalk, First African Baptist Church
While it is fun to spend time beachcombing, what really sets Cumberland Island apart are the trails that cut through the maritime forest of twisty live oak trees. Watch for feral horses, white-tailed deer, armadillos, turkeys, and other birds along the way. Alligators can also be seen in the freshwater ponds. Fossilized shark teeth are commonly found on the island, especially on the roads. Guided tours in vans can be reserved, which can be a good option on rainy days or if you want to make it to the 1890s African-American settlement at the northern end of the island.
The island has more than 50 miles of trails and you can form loops of varying lengths by walking the beach and the inland Parallel Trail. The trails are very well packed though sandy, and not as hard to walk on as we imagined. The only deep sand we encountered was on the designated dune crossings between the beach and the inland forest.
Dungeness is the name of a mansion built by the Carnegie family that burned down in 1959. It was constructed atop the ruins of a house of the same name previously owned by Revolutionary War General Nathanael Greene.
$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass, plus the charges for ferry tickets and overnight campsites
Roads are packed sand and heavily rutted, but unless you own property on the island or take the van tour you will not have to worry about their spine-rattling condition.
Reservations are required for all overnight stays, including at the privately-owned inn. Sea Camp offers cold showers and potable water a moderately short walk from the ferry dock. There are numerous backcountry campsites, but all camping is limited to seven days.
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