It’s easy to island hop around the Amelia Island area. LOCATION! LOCATION! Amelia Island is uniquely situated, so visitors and residents alike can easily explore several barrier islands, a snug cluster near the Florida-Georgia border along the Atlantic coast.
Slightly north of Amelia is Cumberland Island, GA (a protected National Seashore), and to the south is Big Talbot and Little Talbot Islands (Florida State Parks). The Florida island state parks just south of Amelia are easy to reach by driving along Heckscher Drive (this is the road on the south side of the Nassau Sound bridge that leads on/off Amelia Island).
Big Talbot Island
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.
Little Talbot Island
With over five miles of lovely beachfront, Little Talbot is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Florida. Hike through maritime forest and see magnificent coastal dunes. The park’s natural habitat is rich with coastal wildlife. There’s potential opportunity to glimpse a large variety of native and migratory birds. Little Talbot does offers a campground (book campsites online via Reserve America). Frequent coastal nature education programs are offered by park rangers, call Little Talbot Island State Park for more info at 904-251-2320.
Fort George Island
An added bonus, Fort George Island is just 3 miles south of Little Talbot Island, home to the oldest surviving plantation house in Florida, the Kingsley Plantation. Read article, see photo gallery to learn more. Kingsley Plantation is an excellent historic site to visit, open daily, free to visitors with spectacular riverfront vistas, an informative history garden, slave cabin ruins, barn and gift shop).
Cumberland Island, Georgia
You really have to see Cumberland in person to fully comprehend its beauty and serenity. According to the National Parks Service, 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 America’s east coast. Daily visitors are limited to only 300 per day on this 17.5 mile long island that is bigger than Amelia Island.
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.) While the Florida islands mentioned above are all accessible by driving, one must take a ferry to reach Cumberland Island, GA.
For those with the time, devote a full day just for visiting Cumberland Island, one of the best experiences in the Southeast USA for nature lovers (history buffs, too). However, a trip to Cumberland is most suitable for those who can easily walk around to explore (or able to ride a bicycle) and less suitable for fragile seniors and pre-school children (under 6). Be sure to pack (and carry around) your own food and drinks, sunscreen and insect repellent. There’s no public transportation unless you take the $45 per person “Lands and Legacies” 6-hour van tour), no stores and no restaurants on Cumberland. There are some water fountains available and restrooms (but few on the island and far between). There are NO TRASH CANS so your empty drink containers, sandwich and snack wrappings, etc., must be carried back off the island.
St. Marys Ferry
The Cumberland public access ferry departure is located in St. Marys, Georgia (about a 45-minute drive north from Amelia). The spring/summer 2017 ferry to Cumberland departs at 9 am and 11:45 am from St. Marys, GA. You can transport your bicycle on ferry (but limited space) for $10 fee, or rent a bike for $16 from ferry company (first come, first serve). The 2017 ferry tickets cost $28 per person, reserve seats in advance online, plus a $7 park entry fee. DIRECTIONS TO FERRY DOCK: For driving to St. Marys, put the Cumberland Island’s visitor center address in your GPS, located near ferry dock, 113 St. Marys Street, St Marys, GA 31558. NOTE: In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, Cumberland’s Dungeness arrival dock still remains closed in spring 2017 with the ferry dropping day trippers at the Sea Camp Dock, about a mile north of the popular Dungeness mansion ruins. Read much more about visiting Cumberland Island, see photo gallery.