Exploring Cumberland Island Georgia – A step back in time

Cumberland Island, GA

You have the beach all to yourselves on Cumberland Island

If you ever want to drop out from the real world and get away from it all, a visit to Cumberland Island Georgia should be on your bucket list. Exploring this remote island’s beautiful landscape and history will transport you back to a time and place when life was probably a little more difficult, but at the same time far less stressful.  

Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest barrier island along the Atlantic coast and is now a National Seashore protected by the National Park Service. In the early 1880s, Thomas Morrison Carnegie and his wife, Lucy Coleman Carnegie, came to the Island where they established the family’s lavish winter homes and hunting lodges.

The Island is only accessible by boat. You can visit the island by the NPS operated ferry from St. Mary’s Georgia, or charter boats.  We boarded the Lucy R. Ferguson in Fernandina Beach, Fl for a short 40-minute ride to the Greyfield Inn, one of the Carnegie mansions now converted to an Inn.

The Greyfield Inn, established in 1962, is still owned and managed by members of the Carnegie Family. It offers beautifully decorated vintage rooms with all your meals and island tour transportation included during your stay. My wife and I stayed in the Porch Suite, a corner suite, on the third floor. The inn’s interior, as you might expect from a Carnegie mansion, was spectacular, taking you back to the early 1900’s. Evenings at the Inn were highlighted by what I would call a 5-star dinner with wine parings. A fantastic dining experience with other guests at the inn after a day filled with nature and history.


The island’s remote white-sand beaches and century old oak tree forests provided hiking and biking opportunities that are truly unique to the area. There are no paved roads on the island, and feral horses roam its entire 17.5-mile length. The beautiful beach was just a short ½ mile bike ride or walk from the Greyfield Inn. We explored the beach on bikes and enjoyed daily sunrise beach walks all alone on the beach. No people, other than an occasional beach camper riding by on bikes, no condos, no beach houses. Only the horses, deer, and crabs accompanied us on our walks.

One afternoon we traveled the “Main Road” by Greyfield Inn transportation, to the Dungeness Mansion, a former Carnegie Family Mansion that burned to the ground in 1959. The property is now managed by the National Park Service, and provides a great opportunity to look back at the island’s history.

We also toured the Plum Orchard Carnegie Mansion, partially restored and managed by the National Park Service. The NPS tour paints a picture of the luxurious lifestyle the Carnegie family lived in their winter homes that will certainly surprise you.

At the North end of the island is the famous First African Baptist Church. During the 1890’s, the “Settlement” was established for African American workers. The First African Baptist Church was established in 1893 and then rebuilt in the 1930’s. In 1996, John F Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette were married in the little church.

After an enjoyable three day stay, it was time to return to the mainland… and back to the real world.

May your adventures be many, and the remarkable photos of your adventures always be yours.



6 thoughts on “Exploring Cumberland Island Georgia – A step back in time

  1. Beautiful photos Chuck. I’ve been wanting to make this trip, if not just to see the horses. The photo of the storm brewing over the white sandy beach could be an award winner. It’s fabulous.

  2. Move over Rick Steves!
    Your photos and write up are spectacular! Cumberland Island is now on my list for 2018.

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