Visiting coastal northeast Florida or southeast Georgia? Outdoorsy types may like to try a camping adventure on Georgia’s largest barrier island. Some traveling around the Florida-Georgia border split their time between the extensive accommodations and amenities of Amelia Island, FL with exploration of the wilderness island next door, Cumberland Island, GA.
Camping at Cumberland Island National Seashore
A place known for its wilderness, wild horses, amazing sand dunes and empty seashore, some travelers opt for an outdoor camping adventure. It’s the perfect place to experience the wonder of sleeping under the stars with little light pollution. And being immersed in nature on this magnificent wilderness island.
Visiting this scenic Southern seashore is a unique experience, but a bit more challenging for those who decide to go camping.
Plan & Prepare
For those thinking about camping, definitely plan ahead. Be sure to book advance camping reservations to obtain a permit (up to six months in advance). Realize that Cumberland has a “pack in, pack out” policy, so all visitors to Cumberland Island, including day trippers, have to carry all leftover food and trash back off the island — there are no garbage cans. Visitors can camp for a maximum of stay of 7 days.
There are five campgrounds on Cumberland Island, two developed plus three wilderness camping areas.
# 1 — Sea Camp
The most developed campground is located at Sea Camp. This is the only campground with drinkable water (elsewhere requires treating the water, according to the NPS). After getting off the ferry at Sea Camp (departures from St. Marys, GA), it’s a half mile hike from the dock to the campground. Sea Camp reservations cost $22 per night for up to six people per campsite. Group sites are $40 per night (20 people maximum). Other fees are $10 per adult park entry fee, plus the cost of round trip ferry tickets from St. Marys, GA at $34.10 per adult with taxes and fee (age 16-plus).
Sea Camp Amenities
You can rent a cart to transport your camping gear and food supplies to Sea Camp (only). Bicycles (also available for rent), are allowed at Sea Camp. Sites offer fire rings with grill, and there are restrooms and showers at Sea Camp. But beware, no hot water. Taking a shower can be a chilly experience in the late fall and winter, especially. Note that campers are prime targets for island ticks, so be diligent with repellent and check yourself carefully. No-see-ums at times can be unpleasant, as well.
# 2 — Stafford Beach
A second, somewhat developed option is camping at Stafford Beach. However, this campground is a much longer hike, 3.5 miles (compared to camping at Sea Camp, closest to the ferry dock). Plus you have to backpack all your gear (no carts allowed, but bicycles are allowed at Stafford). There are fire rings with grill, cold showers, flush toilets and a water spigot (but water must be treated before drinking). Stafford Beach campsites cost $12 per night for up to six.
Backpacking & Remote Camping
For explorers ready to take longer hikes to areas where few wander, the more remote camping is located further north on Cumberland Island at three more sites (no amenities at all). Note that fires are prohibited (but camp stove for cooking is OK.) These are Hickory Hill (5.5 mile hike from Sea Camp dock), Yankee Paradise (7.5 mile hike), and Brickhill Bluff (10.5 mile hike).
Learn lots more about visiting, see related article, “Cumberland Island, Delightful Day Trip.” Also check out information about the St. Marys, GA ferry operation (see spring/summer 2020 ferry schedule, through September 30, 2020). Cumberland Island camping reservations can be made online via Recreation.gov website.