Barrier Island Hopping: Amelia Island, Cumberland, Talbot Islands

It's easy to island hop in northeast Florida. Barrier Islands: Cumberland, Amelia, Big Talbot, Little Talbot

It's easy to island hop in northeast Florida. Barrier Islands: Cumberland, Amelia, Big Talbot, Little Talbot

It’s easy to island hop around the Amelia Island area. LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION! Amelia Island is uniquely situated, so visitors (and residents) can easily explore several barrier islands, snugly located together for logistical ease. Slightly north of Amelia is Cumberland Island, GA (a protected National Seashore), and to its south is Big Talbot and Little Talbot Islands (Florida State Parks). Fort George Island is just 3 miles south of Little Talbot Island. (The Florida islands/state parks are located off Heckscher Drive which is the only road leading on/off Amelia Island’s southend.)

For those unfamiliar with the area, Little Talbot Island offers over five miles of lovely beachfront. This island is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida. Hike through maritime forest, see magnificent sand dunes, and enjoy undisturbed salt marsh on the western side of the island. The park’s natural habitat is rich with coastal wildlife. There’s potential opportunity to glimpse a large variety of native and migratory birds, and possible sightings of river otters, marsh rabbits, bobcats, gopher turtles, armadillos and more. Little Talbot has a campground (book campsites online via Reserve America). Frequent coastal nature education programs are offered, call Little Talbot Island State Park at 904-251-2320.

Big Talbot Island is known for its unique “Boneyard Beach.” This visually interesting shoreline is the resting place of dead trees that have been weathered into natural works of art — a photographer’s fantasy land. The salt-washed skeletons of live oak and cedar trees that once grew near the shore transform the Big Talbot Island beach into an intriguing place to explore with camera in hand. The Florida Park Service warns that the use of a metal detector is prohibited in the park and removal of driftwood or artifacts from the park is also prohibited.


Photo courtesy of: EcoMotion Tours "Island Exploration on Segway"

Photo courtesy of: EcoMotion Tours "Island Exploration on Segway"

Rather not walk? How about a cool ride? Visitors can now explore the beauty of these barrier islands as never before—on Segways®. EcoMotion Tours is one of Talbot Islands State Parks’ visitors service providers operating on Little Talbot Island and nearby Fort George Island. For those who are unfamiliar with a Segway, it’s a two-wheeled, battery-powered device that you step onto and drive around, responding to the way you lean. “These eco-friendly transporters are quiet and easy on the trails, providing a wonderful way to explore nature without disturbing its inhabitants, ” according to Florida State Parks. The tours are narrated, and Segway riders are equipped with a wireless headset so the guides can point out the fascinating plant and wildlife life.

Ecomotion Tours provides helmets, orientation and training to ensure everyone has a relaxed and safe experience. While no experience is necessary, there is a minimum age requirement (13 years old) and a weight requirement (between 100-250 pounds) to participate on a Segway tour. Also, those under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED. Call Ecomotion Tours for further information 904-251-9477.



Cumberland Island, Georgia is located just off Amelia Island’s northern tip. (You can clearly see this island across the Cumberland Sound from Amelia Island’s Fort Clinch State Park — another wonderful, natural park to explore here.) Drive north on I-95 from the Amelia Island area and take the St. Mary’s exit (about a 30 minute drive from Amelia Island). A ferry, the “Cumberland Queen,” provides round trip service from St. Marys, Georgia to Cumberland Island (get further Cumberland Island ferry schedule information by calling 912-882-4335).

According to the National Parks Service, Cumberland Island, GA is one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. Cumberland Island has one of the largest maritime forests remaining in the United States and one of the largest wilderness areas in a National Seashore on the east coast. Daily visitors are limited to 300 per day (this is a 17.5 mile long island — it’s bigger than Amelia Island).

You really have to see Cumberland in person to fully comprehend this island’s beauty and serenity. If you have the time, devote a full day just for Cumberland Island, one of the best experiences available to those visiting the area (weather permitting), but most suitable for those physically fit who can easily walk around to explore (or able to ride a bicycle). When you arrive via the Cumberland Queen Ferry, you will be walking around the island. Be sure to pack your own food and drinks, as well as sunscreen and insect repellent (no public vehicles, no stores, no restaurants on Cumberland Island). READ MORE ABOUT CUMBERLAND ISLAND IN AMELIA ISLAND LIVING’S TRAVEL GUIDE SECTION.

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In past lives Wendy worked for a newspaper, was a managing editor at an investment research publishing firm, an Associate Financial Consultant Series 7 licensed, and Florida real estate licensee. She now enjoys living near the beach, coastal nature, and photography. eMail: