Cumberland Island National Seashore off the coast of Georgia is one of more than 300 parks in the national park system. Along with its fascinating history and architectural ruins, Cumberland Island has more than 9,800 acres of congressionally designated wilderness. And herds of wild horses — it’s the best!
Some Island History
In 1803 Catharine Greene, widow of Revolutionary War hero Gen. Nathanael Greene, built Dungeness, a four-story “tabby” mansion. A century later, Pittsburgh industrialist Thomas Carnegie and his wife Lucy purchased the property and built their own mansion, which they also called Dungeness. Tabby refers to the building material made of sand, crushed seashells, water, and ash. The shells are visible on the exterior.
Reaching Cumberland Island
A concessioner-operated passenger ferry serves the island from the visitor center in Saint Marys, Georgia. The 7-mile ride takes about 45 minutes, and it is the only way to reach Cumberland Island. (Yes, technically, one could swim.) Be advised, the ferry does not carry cars, kayaks, or pets. Ferry schedules of operation change seasonably. Make sure to take bottled water on the boat. Even better, freeze your bottled waters the night before for cold water later.
Don’t Miss This Walk
The Southend loop is a combination of trails, roadways, and boardwalks that will take you through several of the main ecosystems and the largest historic district on the island. You can hike the loop either direction depending on the wind (you want the wind at your back on the beach).
Allow 3 to 4 hours for the Southend Loop walk meandering through the natural and cultural landscape of the island.
All beach crossings are signed and marked with a black and white pole. Stay on the paths and use boardwalks. You will be pleasantly surprised at how many shaded areas are on the hike through the park.
Wild Horses Couldn’t Stay Away
Walking off the Dungeness Wharf dock, I was excited to see Cumberland Island’s famed wild horses grazing in a field. We took tons of photos because I thought, perhaps, these were all the horses we would be lucky enough to see.
As we hiked forward under the southern live oaks draped with Spanish moss, we spotted another pony on the trail. But upon spotting the Dungeness Ruins ahead, there were about 25 horses grazing.
They were so beautiful in those rich green fields. We hung around the Dungeness area for a good hour to get videos and pictures. We were told to stay two bus lengths away from the animals, as feral equines can be quite feisty, so, of course, we stayed far away. Near the ruins, though, the horses would come and walk alongside me and were quite friendly. I even had two young ponies kissy-face right in front of me.
I hope you have the opportunity to visit Cumberland Island National Seashore. It truly is a national treasure. What national parks are your favorites? You can research all the parks here. Hope our paths cross soon. Stay safe!