Riding Bikes on Empty Beach, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia
Riding Bikes on Empty Beach, Cumberland Island National Seashore

If you have a “bucket list,” jot down Cumberland Island, Georgia.  Perhaps you can’t make it there anytime soon, but it’s worth putting on life’s agenda.

Lands and Legacies Van Tour

Always a natural place of wonderment, there’s more intrigue with the addition of van tours to see historic sites located in remote northern areas that were previously difficult for the public to reach on Cumberland Island.

Highlights of the “Land and Legacies Tour” are Plum Orchard, a Carnegie mansion, and the remains of Robert Stafford’s plantation that once grew sea-island cotton. Plus, “The Settlement,” along with a tiny church that became world famous as the location of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette’s wedding.

A main attraction of the “Lands and Legacies Tour” is visiting the gorgeous Plum Orchard, a former Carnegie mansion. Circa 1898, built by Lucy Carnegie, the home is a magnificent “Classical Revival” mansion of 22,000 square feet. Step through the grand entry into another era of southern comfort. The beautiful Plum Orchard mansion underwent a multi-million dollar repair by the National Park Service to be able to open it for public viewing.

$95 Day Trip Costs With Van Tour

UPDATE: Price per person in 2019 for Lands and Legacies tour is $50.85 per person with tax and fees, plus getting to Cumberland Island will cost $34.10 round trip ferry ticket per adult (with taxes and fees) from St. Marys, Georgia  departure dock. Plus there’s also a $10 National Park entry fee. So figure $95 per adult for this Cumberland Island day trip and van tour excursion.

Also read feature article about touring Plum Orchard with photos.

Cumberland’s Lands and Legacies van tour provides access to “the Settlement” area in High Point, dating back to the late 1880s, a small village enclave of former slaves and their heirs.  This is also the location of an historic 1890s First African Baptist church, the tiny timber chapel that became famous worldwide as the location where John F. Kennedy Jr. wed Carolyn Bessette in September 1996. It’s said JFK Jr. loved visiting Cumberland Island, a secluded place he escaped to many times since he was a teenager.  The couple’s wedding reception was held at the island’s only lodging establishment, the lovely Greyfield Inn, run by Carnegie heirs.

Bumpy Ride

The Cumberland Island park service forewarns potential passengers to expect a “long and arduous” van tour.  It’s around 30 miles round trip, to the northend of Cumberland Island, accessing a remote area of this amazing island. The park service indicates the tour will take five to six hours.  The Lands and Legacies tour traverses the main island corridor through maritime forest — Grand Avenue — an unpaved road with rough surface in spots, so be prepared for a jarring ride along the way. This tour will not be easy for all, and not suitable for young children or people with some health issues. Restroom stops will be limited.

Also realize that there are no concessions or restaurants on Cumberland Island. You must bring food and water for the day, be sure to pack sunscreen and bug repellent, and you will be required to carry all trash back to the mainland. Passengers on the van tours may only bring a small backpack or bag (no hard coolers or camera tripods), due to limited space.

Read a detailed Amelia Island eMagazine article covering Cumberland Island highlights, Is Tranquility the Tonic You Seek? Cumberland Island, a Feast for Eyes and Soul.”

Ferry To Cumberland Island

The Cumberland Island National Seashore public access ferry departure is located in St. Marys, Georgia (about 45-minutes drive north, or an hour with traffic, from Amelia Island). See the Spring and Summer 2019 Cumberland Island ferry schedule (through September 30, 2019), and watch National Park Service video explaining the ferry check in process and parking.