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.
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.
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
South Point 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