April 5-14, 2012... Cumberland Island, GA

Beautiful, isolated, wild, peaceful. Most of Cumberland Island is national park. The ferry comes a few times a day with day trippers and campers, but after the last ferry leaves at 4:45pm, quiet settles over the island. The only sounds those of the wild turkeys gobbling, the seagulls crying, and the big plops of rays as they break the surface and drop back into the water. There are no services, so you are on your own anchored here. Our solar panels kept the batteries topped up, and we had enough food to live on, so we stayed till we felt we had kayaked and hiked enough.

The island is magnificent. The west coast expands and recedes with the 7-foot tides, exposing miles of marshland. The forests of live oaks, thickly hung with Spanish moss, and understory palms, take your breath away. And the east coast sand dunes on the ocean side, are starkly beautiful. We hiked till our hips hurt, but it would takes weeks to discover all there is to know about this place.

We alternated hiking days with kayaking days. The currents are very strong, and if wind opposes, you can get lots of chop, so sometimes there was much moaning as sore shoulders pulled against the water. But, how wonderful to paddle the marshes, watching the tides flood the grasses and open new waterways to us. We were sometimes challenged to find our way out of the channels before the low tides left us stranded. Dolphins were everywhere and they would come close when we kayaked in open water. We thought they would stay longer if we sang to them, so they got loud, off-key versions of masterpieces such as the Flintstones theme song.

We took some time to visit the remains of the human habitations on the island. The Carnegie family left the biggest imprint. We started with the ruins of the Dungeness mansion built in the 1880s, which eventually burned to the ground. We both had the same thought; this was Mandalay - the fictional home of the DeWinters in the movie Rebecca! Not much left there to see but the gate, the walls, the cemetery, and the wild horses (one of which almost ran us down.)

We also went to Plum Orchard, a house that is intact, and was built as a wedding gift for a Carnegie son in the 1890s. Tiffany lamps were commissioned for this house, lots of modern conveniences built in. It overlooks the Brickhill River, so we paddled the 8+ miles to get there.

Finally, Cumberland Island is just across the sound from Kings Bay submarine base. We watched submarines being escorted in and out of the base 4 times while anchored there. It is quite a spectacle, and no secret. How things change.


  1. Hi John and Patti - Your Cumberland Island visit sounds like heaven. Your photos are wonderful and really capture the isolated beauty of the island. We loved it there and can't wait to go back and spend more time. Hope to see you somewhere, sometime... soon!

    Maddie and Skip
    s/v Saralane

  2. John and Patti, Cumberland Island seems to have inspired some of your most evocative, beautiful writing and great photos too. It is almost demeaning to call such writing a "blog." Travel poetry, no less! The adventure continues. Bill H.

  3. I enjoyed your photos and comments. I have visited every year of my life (so far)and always look forward to returning each Spring staying in our home on the island. If you work your way as far north as Brewer Sakonnet Marina, Portsmouth, RI stop in at Nordhavn office and say hello. Ben Sprague (ben.sprague@nordhavn.com)