Sea Camp Campground – Cumberland Island, Georgia

October 4, 2010
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Cumberland Island, GA is one of the most unique, beautiful places to camp in the nation, let alone the South. Ran by the U.S. National Park, and only accessible by Ferry (people only), Cumberland Island provides its visitors with an experience of a lifetime. This experience includes beautiful beach views of the Atlantic Ocean, fantastic undeveloped dunes with natural forests, and a near guaranteed chance to see Cumberland’s feral horses strolling across the beaches or feeding near the Dungeness Ruins along with various other wildlife viewing opportunities.

Without reservations to camp on Cumberland, one will be limited to seeing Cumberland Island between 9:40 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on any given day because on most days these are the earliest island arrivals and departures, respectively. Because the island has no motor vehicular access, and only limited bicycle access, only campers will get to experience some of the greatest sites on the island because some are more than twenty miles round trip to them. The easiest place to camp on Cumberland Island is called Sea Camp, Even from Sea Camp traveling to the northernmost part of Cumberland without primitive camping plans is highly unlikely, if not impossible due to the distance that needs to be covered, but Sea Camp at least provides an opportunity to visit many of the sites on the northern part of the island that are somewhat closer than 20 miles round trip.

About Sea Camp

Sea Camp is the “non-primitive” campground located on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Camping at Sea Camp can be made by making reservations with the National Parks Service at http://www.nps.gov/cuis/reservations.htm.  Camping will cost a fee of around $4.00 per person, per day. Do not plan on camping at Cumberland Island Sea Camp without a reservation. On my last trip, I only wanted to stay two nights at Sea Camp, and tried to reserve well in advanced (I could only get one night).

In addition to reservations on Cumberland Island, reservations for the Park Service Ferry also need to be made. The cost for this is around $17.00 per person, round trip. Please note, bicycles will not be allowed on the Ferry, so a private ferry must be rented if you want to bring your own bike. This probably is not worth it because bicycles (although not great ones) can be rented there, and biking is limited to a relatively short area on Cumberland Island anyway.

Once arrangements are made to get to Cumberland Island, Sea Camp is about half a mile (0.5 miles) from the Sea Camp Dock. For campers that like to pack heavy (which I am not an advocate of), there are miniature trailers to haul your gear from the Ferry to your campsite. Although, I must recommend packing light for Cumberland, too much gear can get in the way of the purpose of visiting such a remote, serene gift of nature. Take what you need, there are no garbage cans, and everything has to be packed out by the camper.

Arriving at Sea Camp Campground

After getting off the ferry, and going through a brief orientation at the ranger station, make your way down the Sea Camp Trail. You will cross over the Main Road and continue straight across it. After a few hundred yards or so, you will see the restrooms and bathhouse straight ahead. Your ranger will show you a map of how to locate your specific campsite number.

Camp Sites

The Camp Sites at Sea Camp provide a good amount of privacy, as each campsite tends to enter through a short narrow path and is surrounded by low trees and shrubbery.

Each Site has a fire ring, picnic table, and raccoon bins.

Campsites are typically situated on a hard sandy bed, and have a few oak tree limbs providing shade over the site.

Sea Camp is NOT located on the beach, but is located within easy walking distance to it. From the bathing and restroom area, sea camp is a beautiful walk across a boardwalk, and the long undeveloped dunes to the beach.

Along with Sea Camp Campground, the ranger station puts on daily seminars about the wildlife and nature on Cumberland Island.

Advice & Notes of Interest:

* VERY IMPORTANT: No matter the time of year, bring bug spray for your body. The biting bugs on Cumberland will make life a living hell without it, even if you wear jeans and long sleeves. I brought deep woods spray, but even standing outside my tent for 60 seconds in the morning before application, my ears and face got bitten by mosquitos. There will not be any opportunities to buy anything on the island, so check and double check that the bug spray is packed.  I cannot overstate this advice.

* Weather on Cumberland Island is not necessarily the same as weather on St. Mary’s. The rangers there frequently told us that they could rely very little on St. Mary’s weather forecasts for Cumberland Island. Also, it is typically very humid and warm in Sea Camp until at least the middle of October. So be ready for warm day and cooler evenings in October.

*If planning on building a fire in the camp sites’ fire rings, one may want to pack his or her own fire wood on to the island. While collecting driftwood is allowed, the number of campers at any given time is likely to make this a difficult task.  The ferry sometimes sells firewood on the island, but the availability is never guaranteed.

Trails on Cumberland Island

Dungeness Trail

South Point Trail

River Trail

Parallel Trail

Pratts Trail

Willow Pond Trail

Duck House Trail

Yankee Paradise Trail

Ashley Pond Trail

Lost Road Trail

Kings Bottom Trail

Tar Kiln Trail

Roller Coaster Trail

Oyster Pond Trail

Table Point Trail

Rayfield Trail

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17 Responses to Sea Camp Campground – Cumberland Island, Georgia

  1. [...] Sea Camp Campground [...]

  2. Rachel on July 7, 2011 at 7:05 am

    You are right about this being the most beautiful place to camp. I have only visited the island but it is a dream of mine to get to spend several days on the island and explore it from end to end. It is such a magical place, the wild horses and burned ruins of Dungeness give it an enchanted, fairytale feeling.

  3. Skip Johnson on September 27, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Its a wonderful place with lots of surprises. I was walking the beach at dawn and look up to find a wild horse coming toward me just as the sun was clearing the horizon. Very neat. Wide beaches, lots of wildlife to come across, beautiful forests.

    BUT!! We were there for two nights Sept. 23 and 24 and these evenings were the worst sleeping conditions I’ve ever experienced. Very, very humid. Hot during the day with rain showers off and on. Our clothes were damp all the time and we laid in our tents and steamed in our own sweat. My daughter and I headed off to the beach at midnight, simply to feel some breeze and cool down for a few minutes. It was miserable.

    Plus. The bug situation is serious. We all came back home with at least one tick each clinging to various body parts.

  4. Teresa M. Vazquez on January 11, 2012 at 8:37 am

    The National Park Service is working on a new, free-distribution brochure and web site for Cumberland Island National Seashore. We are considering using the photo of the campground scene in this article – could you please let me know if it is available for use?

    Thanks,

    Teresa M. Vazquez 304-535-6714

    • JP on January 16, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      You absolutely may use it on the National Park Site. We appreciate all that you do. I am sending you an email from a “Yahoo” email address that is my personal address giving you permission as well.

  5. heather on April 27, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Is there a time of year when the mosquitoes are LESS bad?

    • JP on April 30, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      I would say they are slightly less of a nuisance in the cooler months (Dec., Jan., Feb.; though, that far South, in that humid of an environment, they may not ever really disappear. My last trip to Cumberland was during the month of October, and we still had problems with them. Where I’m from in North Georgia, they are a non-issue that late in the year. The NPS offers similar advice in their FAQ’s:

      Q: When is the best time to avoid gnats and mosquitoes?
      A: The number of gnats and mosquitoes is dependent on the weather. The warmer and wetter the weather, the more the bugs are present.

      The biggest piece of advice I can give is do not leave any bare skin exposed without a good quality bug spray.

  6. Beth on June 24, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I just came home from a stay at Seacamp. Best advise I can give you is this: There are 5 to 6 really good campsites at Seacamp. Request one of those (campsites, twelve through sixteen) and you will have very few problems with pests. These include mosquitoes, gnats and racoons. These sites have continuous winds from the ocean, back up to the dunes and have a small amount of vegetation surrounding them. They are not as secluded as the back campsites one and eleven. If you are able to be lucky enough to get one of the campsites twelve through sixteen, you will have a great time.
    The back sites are completely overran with mosquitoes, gnats and racoons, and you will have a horrible time. We had site 8 and left ahead of schedule due to the fact that even with 10 bottles/cans of bug spray with 55% Deet in them did very little to deter the bugs and it felt like the racoons circled their wagons every night around our site. And, yes our food was completely secured in plastic contains tired together tightly with bungee cords, trash tired up away from our tents and food.
    In order to have one of the better sites, reserve early as they are assigned by date of reservation. I reserved in January and arrive at Seacamp on June 19, 2012. Six months later we were stuck with site 8. Reserve early.
    So, to answer your question, get one of the better sites and you will have a great time. You will still need bug spray but will not feel inundated with pests. Back sites, be prepared for days and night of miserable camping.

    • JP on July 2, 2012 at 5:59 am

      Thank you for your information regarding specific sites in Cumberland Island. In the future, I want you to know that I run this website alone, and personally approve of all comments. Because of the number of spam comments that I receive, I have to actually take time to approve these individually. When you submitted this comment, I was on vacation, and did not get a chance to approve it within the time period before you emailed me. I was making no attempt to censor you or your information, or to paint any sort of picture of Cumberland Island other than my personal experience camping there, I was simply enjoying the beach on vacation and not opening my laptop to check my email, or this site’s comment section.

  7. Susie on August 4, 2012 at 8:59 am

    I will be making reservations to camp here and am wondering if there is a way to rent a bike while on the island?

    • JP on August 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm

      According to the NPS site

      “Adult sized bikes are available for rent at the Sea Camp Dock for a fee of $16 per day and $20 overnight for campers.”

      I suggest asking the ferry deckhands as soon as you get on the boat in St. Mary’s about renting one to ensure you get one.

  8. kay lyon on November 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Are you open at thanksgiving and are there availabilities? Are the misquitoes bad then? do yo provide any camping equipment?

    • JP on November 5, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      Please note: SouthernHiker is not affiliated with Cumberland Island National Seashore. This site is an informational blog about outdoors in the south. Please got to their site here.

  9. Debbie Sanders on February 22, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    I have camped on Cumberland Island 5 or 6 times. I have been there 3 times in February and once in November and we had no problems with mosquitoes at either of those times.The weather was still warm enough for wading – although not for swimming. I made the mistake of going once in August and the bugs were terrible at the campsite. If you spend most of your time near or on the beach they are not so bad. The campsites closest to the dunes are definately better for keeping bugs away and you can hear the waves at night which is very nice.

  10. Ezee on March 2, 2013 at 9:26 am

    JP
    My daughter and I plan to visit CI during the week of March 24 and would love to send the night. Is it possible to hang hammocks either in the improved campground or in backcountry? Do we need reservations for the backcountry and can you give us a ‘heads up!’ on pest and weather conditions at that time?
    Thanks

  11. James Mosteller on April 20, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    Do you suggestions for food for a family of five of three days?

    Thanks,
    James

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