By Mary Ashton Mills
If you are looking to go off the grid and connect with nature, consider a camping trip to Georgia’s largest barrier island, Cumberland Island, where you can find peace and solitude in a variety of outdoor environments from marsh and ocean to maritime forest and freshwater lakes. By allowing only 300 visitors on the island per day, visitors will enjoy privacy without the commercial distractions of some beach vacations. Once you arrive in St. Mary’s, Ga., the ferry departs from the visitor center twice daily and can be boarded for day trips or overnight camping excursions with advance reservations.
Set among a canopy of tropical palms and live oaks draped with Spanish moss, sea campsites are well-kept and some are less distance than a football field to the beach. Visitors can spend the day beaching it, shelling, fishing, crabbing or enjoying hiking and biking trails.
The island, 18 miles long and larger than Manhattan, is the perfect backdrop for a history and science lesson all in one. Once home to Native Americans, British troops, Revolutionary War heroes, enslaved Africans and Spanish missionaries, the island’s rich history is apparent everywhere. If you are lucky, you can even catch your dinner and cook it over your own private campfire.
Distance: Augusta to St. Mary’s, Ga., where the Cumberland Queen ferry departs: 229 miles, 3 hours 45 minutes.
Budget: Two nights, sea camp fees and round trip ferry rides: $112 for a family of four. (This does not include food and camping supplies which you will have to bring.)
What to See: Alligators, deer, armadillos, raccoons, fiddler crabs, feral horses, wild turkeys, Dungeness Ruins and First African Baptist Church.
If You Go: Depart from Augusta early in order to arrive at St. Mary’s before 11:45 a.m. when the last ferry departs for Cumberland Island. Check in 30 minutes prior to departure time. This is a remote island so plan provisions accordingly—don’t forget the bug spray. Campsites book six months in advance—think spring or summer break. Spring and fall are high season. Bicycle rentals are available at the ferry dock for $16 per day. Light fishing tackle is allowed and a Georgia saltwater fishing license is required. Plan to pitch a tent and enjoy your spot on Georgia’s best-kept secret, Cumberland Island.
Visit www.nps.gov/cuis/index.htm or call 1-877-860-6787.
This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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