Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia

from Off the Beaten Path | 318
Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia© 2009 Shutterstock/iofotoCumberland Island is one of the country's last unspoiled barrier islands, a treasure trove of pristine beaches, maritime flora and fauna, and ghostly ruins glimpsed through gnarled live oaks.

From Rte. 40 in St. Marys, turn right at waterfront to visitors center, Georgia

This historic sandspit, the southernmost of Georgia’s sea islands, has been inhabited for some 4,000 years. In the 16th century the Spanish built a fort here to protect their Florida holdings. Their religious faith was buttressed also—by the establishment of a Franciscan mission and the conversion of many Timucan people. The Spanish called the island San Pedro.

In the 18th century the island’s present name was proposed by a Native American who had visited the Duke of Cumberland in England. Gen. James Oglethorpe, the founder of England’s Georgia colony, accepted the suggestion.

There were no further significant developments until after the Revolutionary War, when Gen. Nathanael Greene bought a large tract of land on which his widow built an imposing mansion. After the Civil War, Andrew Carnegie’s brother, Thomas, built a handsome home, which still stands. Plum Orchard, a mansion built for Lucy and Thomas Carnegie’s son in 1898, can be toured on the second and fourth Sundays of the month.

This small island, about 171/2 miles long and 3 miles across at its widest point, supports a fascinating range of ecological zones, each with its own population of plants, birds, and animals. The beach is spangled with shells and frequented by shorebirds that follow the tides. Where the soil is deepest, a maritime forest of oaks, magnolias, red bay, and various pines is established.

The sloughs and ponds are home to alligators, otters, and minks; feral horses, left behind by residents, may also be seen.

Ferry runs daily Mar. –Nov.; Ferry does not run Tues. and Wed., Dec.–Feb. For ferry schedule and reservations (suggested), call (877) 860-6787.

www.nps.gov/cuis

(912) 882-4336