Cumberland Island: Travel guide to Georgia's island paradise

Man and woman walk on shaded sandy path on Cumberland Island, Georgia

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What is Cumberland Island?

Located off the most southern corner of the south Georgia, Cumberland Island is one of the best kept secrets of the south. It's a beautiful, raw, untamed island where wild horses roam the beaches and you could spend an entire day lounging on a beach without ever seeing a soul. Cumberland Island is a place where you'll find castle ruins hidden down Spanish moss lined bike paths perfect for bike cruisers. There's no cell service, no gift shops, and no high rise hotel obstructing the natural views of the island. It's one of the few places left in the south that feels raw and wild, just waiting to be explored by those who are willing to go the extra mile and ferry ride to discover all it has to offer.

Wild feral horses relax in the shade on Cumberland Island, Georgia

Where is Cumberland Island?

This captivating island, the largest of Georgia's Golden Isles, is situated off the Atlantic coast, providing an idyllic getaway from the bustling city life. Accessible only by ferry, with departures from the quaint town of St. Marys, the island offers its visitors an unexpected encounter with untouched nature and history, whisking you away into a world where time seems to stand still.

How to get to the island

Find Cumberland Island on Google Maps or by using GPS coordinates: 30.753997, -81.473623

By car

Driving to Cumberland Island is the most efficient mode of transportation for most east coasters like ourselves. Do keep in mind that if you are driving to Cumberland Island, you'll still have to take the ferry to the island itself. All of these routes and distances are to St. Marys, Georgia where you'll catch the ferry to the island.

Atlanta, GA to Cumberland Island, GA - 5 hr 6 min / 343 miles | Google Maps

From Savannah, GA to Cumberland Island, GA - 1 hr 51 min / 115 miles | Google Maps

From Jacksonville, FL to Cumberland Island, GA - 42 min / 40 miles | Google Maps

From Orlando, FL to Cumberland Island, GA - 2 hr 41 min / 180 miles | Google Maps

From Charleston, SC to Cumberland Island, GA - 3 hr 29 min / 214 miles | Google Maps

By plane

If you're planning to fly in to visit Cumberland Island, you'll want to fly into Jacksonville, Florida (JAX). American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, WestJet, Delta, United, LATAM Airlines, KLM, and Allegiant Air all fly non-stop to Jacksonville.

Once you arrive in Jacksonville, I'd recommend renting a car to get to St. Marys, Georgia and surrounding areas. The trip to St. Mary's is ~45 minutes from Jacksonville making it quite far for ride share drivers. If you're planning to visit some of the other great places nearby such as Savannah, Georgia or Charleston, South Carolina, the rental car will serve you well for getting around.

By private boat

If you have a boat (including a canoe or kayak), you can dock for free at one of Cumberland Islands three different docks. All boats must be under 25 feet long and visitors are still required to pay the admission fee upon arrival. If you have the American the Beautiful national parks pass, you don't need to pay the entrance fee. No overnight docking is permitted at Cumberland Island. For complete rules and map of docking at Cumberland Island, be sure to visit the private boating page on the official website.

Charter boat services are available and should be made through the official NPS concessionaire by calling 912-882-4452.

Girl in blue dress walks down road leading to the castle on Cumberland Island, Georgia

What is the best time of year to visit Cumberland Island?

Weather on Cumberland Island is relatively moderate because it's on the coast in the south. While the island is open to visitors year around, we'd highly recommend visiting in the spring or fall. March-May and September-early November are you best chance for beautiful weather on Cumberland Island.

Weather image courtesy of NOAA


It can get cold in the winter, but generally if you dress appropriately (check the weather ahead of time!), you can greatly enjoy a day on the island in the winter. The biggest perk of traveling in the winter months is the lack of bugs which can be pretty overwhelming in the summer months. The coldest part of visiting in the winter will be the ferry ride to the island, so be sure to pack a hat, gloves, and coat to keep you warm!


In my opinion, spring is the best time to visit Cumberland Island! The days are warm enough to enjoy the outdoors without being too bundled up, plus it'll be warm enough to enjoy the ferry ride over to the island. Bugs will be coming back to life, but with them will be greening trees and blooming flowers.


While my Georgia native self loves a good, hot summer day, I recognize sweating through your clothes under the glaring sun isn't most people's favorite kind of weather. Summer gets very hot and humid in Georgia, but on Cumberland Island you'll get a pretty consistent breeze most days making it pretty bearable. Plus the island is home to miles and miles of secluded beaches perfect for taking a dip on a hot summer days. Summer in Georgia also means lots of bugs (and snakes) so watch your step and bring bug spray. While technically hurricane season starts in June, the most active part of the season is September-November. Always check the weather before you visit, but typically summer you'll be in the clear from hurricanes.


Fall on Cumberland Island can bring beautiful, crisp days with fewer bugs and less heat. However, fall is peak season for hurricanes, so you'll definitely want a plan A, B, and C if you're booking a trip in the fall, just in case the island is in the path of one of these powerful storms.

Dungeness "Castle" Cumberland Island, Georgia

What to pack for your visit to the island

There are no concessions on the island itself, so you'll want to come fully prepared for your trip. If you're planning to camp on the island, make sure you double check your packing list to ensure you don't forget anything!

Here's our basic packing list of gear that both day trippers and overnighters should pack for Cumberland Island:

Girl walks with bike down sand path covered by Spanish Moss covered trees

Can I drive to the island?

No, you cannot. Cumberland Island is a secluded National Seashore and is not connected to the mainland. However, there are two ferries available daily that will take passengers from St. Marys to Sea Camp Ranger Station (where the ferry departs for the island).

Cumberland Island Ferry docked in St. Marys, Georgia

What to expect on the Cumberland Island Ferry

The Cumberland Island Ferry is an experience in itself! The ferry departs from St. Marys, Georgia and takes about 45 minutes to get to the island. The ferry makes two stops on the island: Dungeness Dock is the first stop followed by Sea Camp Dock. The Sea Camp Dock is the main entrance to the island and is where you'll begin most guided tours as well as rent bikes.

On the ferry ride you can expect stunning views of the coastal marshes, creeks, and wildlife of Georgia's barrier islands as you make your way across the waters.

Note: There are three wheelchair spots available on each ferry.

Do I need a reservation to visit Cumberland Island?

No, you do not need a reservation to visit the island itself, but the ferry commonly sells out, especially during peak season so reservations are highly recommended.

Horses roaming on beach on Cumberland Island, Georgia

How handicap accessible is Cumberland Island?

Cumberland Island has worked to make the island more accessible, but it has a ways to go to be considered 100% accessible. The NPS makes available sand accessible wheelchairs at both ferry for visitors (non-motorized) upon request. Restrooms and showers at campsites are wheelchair accessible, as well as the Lands and Legacies Tour vans which can accommodate two wheelchairs at a time.

For a comprehensive overview of accessibility features on the island, visit the Cumberland Island accessibility web page.

Are pets allowed on the island?

No, pets are not allowed on the island. Only service animals are permitted on Cumberland Island.

Wild horses eating grass on Cumberland Island

How much does it cost to visit Cumberland Island?

There are two main costs associated with visiting Cumberland Island: the islands's entrance fee managed by the National Parks Service, and the ferry ticket to get to the island (unless you're boating yourself over). If you plan to stay overnight on the island, reservations for The Greyfield Inn and campgrounds will be an additional fee, but we talk more about that later in this article.

Island entrance fees

  • Adults 16 and over = $10
  • Children under 16 are free

Ferry ticket prices

*All ferry tickets are roundtrip

  • Seniors (62 years and up) = $38 + tax
  • Adults (ages 16-61) = $40 + tax
  • Youth (ages 6-15) = $30 + tax
  • Children (ages 5 and under) = $0
Two bikes sitting on path

Where to stay on the Cumberland Island

Camping on the Cumberland

There are six different campgrounds on Cumberland Island: (3) wilderness campgrounds, (1) group site campground, and (2) campgrounds with basic amenities including pit toilets and water.

Wilderness campgrounds

Both wilderness campgrounds have no amenities but there is well water nearby that must be purified before using. No wildfires are permitted and campers must hang all food and trash. All permits for wilderness campgrounds are good for up to six people.

Campgrounds with basic amenities

These campgrounds all have basic amenities including flush toilets, cold showers, and water spigots with potable water. All sites have fire rings and food storage lockers are available to keep food away from raccoons and other wildlife. All permits for campgrounds with basic amenities are good for up to six people.

Note: Sea Camp Campground is the most popular campground on the island and regularly fills up.

Group sites

The only group campground on Cumberland Island is located at Sea Camp Campground. The group sites have access to the same amenities are the regular campsites including flush toilets, cold showers, drinking water, and a dish washing sink. Group site permits are good for up to 20 people.

Hotel on the island

There's only one hotel on Cumberland Island. While there's only one option, it's an incredibly beautiful hotel called the Greyfield Inn. I haven't been able to stay here yet, but I would really love the opportunity to one day!

Due to the remote location of the inn, the hotel is all inclusive (alcoholic beverages are not included). Not only are all meals provided, but guests also have access to sports equipment, beach gear, and fishing equipment. The all-inclusive rate includes a private ferry from Fernandina Beach, Florida.

The Greyfield Inn is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Its luxury level accommodations combined with the limited cell connectivity, all inclusive style leaving nothing to plan or worry about, plus its beautiful surroundings make it the perfect place to escape.

Be sure to checkout the Greyfield Inn's website to learn more about this amazing property, or read a review of Greyfield Inn by Color by K.

Greyfield Inn: Google Maps | Address: 4 N 2nd St, Cumberland Island, GA 32034 | Website:

Navigating your way around Cumberland Island, Georgia

Before you set off to explore Cumberland Island, make sure you have the maps you need to get around. Go paper free and download these maps of Cumberland Island to your phone before you leave the mainland since cell service is almost nonexistent on the island. This map of Cumberland Island features all the trails on the island, potable water stations, bathrooms, campgrounds, and ferry docks.

Cumberland Island trails map
Cumberland Island trails map courtesy of

What to do on Cumberland Island

Enjoy the beach

Cumberland Island is home to miles of secluded, beautiful beaches. As if the beautiful, quiet beaches weren't enough, there are also wild horses roaming free on Cumberland Island which makes it feel like something from a dream! I've never been anywhere else where you'll have [nearly] private beaches with horses wandering around on the sand 200 feet away. Don't forget to pack the sunscreen!

Feral horses on Cumberland Island


Cumberland Island is home to all sorts of wildlife, most famously, Cumberland Island has wild horses roaming free! As of today, there are roughly 150-200 wild (feral) horses that call this secluded island home. Along with the wild horses you'll find alligators, hogs, sea turtles, armadillos, snakes, and a variety of birds perfect for bird watchers.

While most of the wildlife on the island is harmless, do watch your step and be aware of snakes and alligators. When we were on the island for one day we saw four snakes. All were non-venomous, but still, all of them made me jump!

Note: Never approach the wildlife on the island! This includes the horses on Cumberland Island. All of the animals are wild and approaching them is unsafe. Observe from a safe distance and take only pictures.

Curious how the feral / wild horses found their way to Cumberland Island? You can learn more about the horses's story here.

Official tours

Currently there are five tours and/or ranger led activities on Cumberland Island.

Footsteps Tour

Cumberland Islands Footstep Tour is a wonderful way to see and learn about the most iconic spots on the island, specifically the Dungeness Historic Area. It is not guaranteed that the tour will run each day seeing as occasionally the park can be short staffed on rangers, but generally speaking the tour is offered daily. The tour is not a loop route, so anyone who takes the tour should have the physical ability to walk the 1-1.5 miles back to the ferry dock.

When: 10:00 am and 12:30 pm

Where:  Begins are Sea Camp dock and ends at Dungeness Historic Area

Length: 1-1.5 hours

Cost: Free

Plum Orchard Tour

Tour the beautiful Plum Orchard estate which is one of four mansions constructed by the Carnegie family on Cumberland Island. Guides will open to doors 15 minutes before each tour so participants can look around the Great Hall. The only way to reach Plum Orchard is by foot or biking, so plan accordingly. (Note: The Lands and Legacies Tour includes a visit to Plum Orchard and includes a ride in a van). It is not recommended that pedestrians who are visiting for only the day try and venture as far as Plum Orchard by foot. If you miss the ferry, you're stuck on Cumberland Island overnight!

*Note: Plum Orchard is closed on the days when managed hunts are underway on the island. Managed hunts on Cumberland Island are a few days a week October-January each year. Be sure to check Cumberland Islands managed hunt dates to ensure there isn't one during your visit if you plan to visit Plum Orchard.

When: Daily at 11:00 am, 1:00pm, and 2:00 pm

Where: Plum Orchard (7 miles north of Sea Camp dock)

Length: 45 minutes

Cost: Free

Dockside Program

Rangers offer a free 30 minutes educational talk everyday right before the ferry departs back to the mainland. The talk is a chance for rangers to educate visitors on the area and give a brief history of the island. This is an easy one to visit since we recommend arriving early for your ferry since you don't want to miss it and be abandoned on the island overnight! The Dockside Program is offered at

When: Monday-Saturday at 2:00 pm & 4:00 pm, Sunday at 4:00 pm only.

Where: Sea Camp Ranger Station

Length: 30 minutes

Cost: Free

Lands and Legacies Tour

This tour is operated and led by a NPS approved concessioner and is the only tour that will drive you around the island in an interpretive van showing you the most famous sites on Cumberland Island including Cumberland Island Wharf, Plum Orchard Mansion, and the Settlement (featuring the first African American Baptist Church). Note that tours operate everyday the ferry operates and will run rain or shine unless the weather is abnormally rough. Reservations are strongly encouraged since the Lands and Legacies Tour regularly books up.

When: Shortly after the 9:00 am ferry docks

Where: Begins and ends at Sea Camp Ranger Station

Length: 5-6 hours

Cost: $45/person + tax

Reservations for Land and Legacies Tour can be made here

Molly's Old South Walking Tour

This is another tour led by a NPS approved concessioner. This walking tour of the Dungeness Historic Area and talks extensively about the history of the island and its various inhabitants over the last 500 years. Explore "the castle" of Cumberland Island and hear why this island is so special.

When: 12:30-2:30 pm everyday the ferry runs

Where: Begins at Dungeness Dock, the first stop the Cumberland Island Ferry makes

Length: 2 hours

Cost: $40 per adult (ages 13+), $25 per child (ages 5-12)

Reservations for Molly's Old South Walking Tour can be made here

Cumberland Island rental bikes parked at bike stand at Sea Camp dock

Go biking

Biking the island is the best (and most efficient) way to experience Cumberland Island. There are no paved roads on Cumberland Island, all surfaces are a sandy mix so only bikes with wide tires are suggested (no road bike tires). Visitors are welcome to bring their own bikes to the island on the ferry for $10 per bike, or you can rent bikes at Sea Camp Ranger Station. If you choose to rent a bike on Cumberland Island, the rates are $16 per day or $20 for overnight rental. You can now reserve a spot for your bike on the ferry in advance which we highly recommend since there is only room for 10 bikes per ferry.

For more information regarding biking rules, visit the Cumberland Island webpage all about bikes on the island.

Man with backpack walks on boardwalk trail


There are more than 50 miles of trails to enjoy on Cumberland Island making it a hikers dream. Most paths are shaded and potable water can be found periodically around the island (be sure to check the maps for water locations).


Cumberland Islands offers opportunities for stream, lake, shore, and deep sea fishing. Whatever your fishing preferences, you can give it a go on Cumberland Island. Just make sure you research and secure the appropriate fishing licenses ahead of time!


It's hard to beat photographing the Spanish Moss lined paths and wild horses roaming on the beaches. Cumberland Island offers all sorts of opportunities for photography, and nothing beats those morning and evening golden hours on the island! To catch the best lighting for photography on the island, we'd recommend staying overnight either camping or at the Greyfield Inn.

*Note: The National Parks Service has changed its photography and filming rules and permitting. Any sort of commercial filming or photography requires a permit, this includes anyone uploading any content to Youtube, Instagram, TikTok, etc.

Dungeness "castle" under palm trees

See the famous "castle"

Cumberland Island is home to what many refer to as a "castle," but in reality is what's left of one of the Carnegies four mansions they built on the island. The Carnegies aren't the only people to have build a sort of "castle" at Dungeness over the centuries, they're just the ones who have most recently occupied the spot. The ruins from their 37,000 sq/ft mansion are all that remain after the property burned down in 1959.


Every year from October to January, Cumberland Island is open for managed hunts to control the hog and deer populations on the island. Registration for the hunts opens July 1st every year and will remain open until all spots are filled, or until 3 days before the scheduled hunt (whichever comes first). There's no limit to the number of hunts a person may sign up for.

I know absolutely nothing about hunting, so I will refer you to the official Cumberland Island hunting page.

Small red fishing boat docked in St. Marys, Georgia

Boating & kayaking

Boaters and kayakers are permitted to dock on Cumberland Island, but are still required to pay the visitor fee (or provide the America the Beautiful Pass). Kayaks are not available to rent on the island, so anyone who wishes to bring a boat to Cumberland Island should depart from the mainland. Do note that the currents are strong around the island and the tides are significant. Only skilled kayakers should make the trip and should know their athletic ability.

If you plan to camp while on the island, all kayakers must have a camping permit before arrival. Boats are not allowed to remained docked overnight, so only manual boats (kayaks and canoes) are allowed to stay overnight. All boats should be drug ashore at certain places and not remain at the dock.

For more information about bringing your boat to Cumberland Island, visit the official NPS page.


Cumberland Island's beaches and fields offer wonderful stargazing opportunities due to its remote location and dark skies. Visitors are welcome to bring their own telescope to the island to enjoy the views above.

Spanish Moss covered oak tree on Cumberland Island

Fast Facts and FAQ

How big is Cumberland Island?

Cumberland Island is ~16 miles long and ~3 miles wide and is 56.9 square miles in area.

Where is Cumberland Island?

Cumberland Island is at the very southern tip of the Georgia coast, just north of Fernandina Beach, Florida.

Can you camp on Cumberland Island?

Yes! Reservations are required and regularly book in advance. Tent camping only, no RVs or other type of camper/vehicle is allowed on the island.

How do you get to Cumberland Island?

To get to Cumberland Island, Georgia you'll catch a 45 minutes ferry (each way) from St. Marys, Georgia.

Who lives on Cumberland Island?

There are a handful of homes located on Cumberland Island still. Most are inhabited by descendants of the Carnegie family, but a few are heir to the Coca Cola founder, Asa Candler. The Greyfield Inn is the only historic home that welcomes guests.

Does it get hot on Cumberland Island?

Yes! Due to Cumberland Island's location in the deep south, the island is subject to very hot and humid summers. Thankfully most of the pathways are lined with large trees keeping much of the island shaded. The beach is fully exposed though so visitors should be prepared for extreme heat. Pack a water bottler and refill your bottle at the potable water spigots located around the island.

Man and woman hold hands and walk down sandy shaded path on Cumberland Island, Georgia

Final thoughts

Cumberland Island is truly a hidden paradise! While I love all of the major national parks in the USA, there's something truly special and understated about Cumberland Island. A trip to this Georgia gem is well worth your time if you are looking for a restful time in nature surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches and trails the deep south has to offer!

Like this post? Checkout these other travel guides for places near Cumberland Island!

Cumberland Island, Georgia - Travel guide to Georgia's secret island paradise

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