Georgia, the most southern of the original 13 colonies, was actually originally intended to be a rehabilitation zone for Britain’s debtors (to help clear out their prisons). So, I guess we’re in-”debted” to those Brits for the fun we had while here!
We actually spent the first four out of seven days on Cumberland Island National Seashore, something we’d long wanted to do! To get to the non-motorized island, you have to travel by boat – either ferry or kayak. We chose the latter, so had to pay attention to the weather, tides, and sun to arrive and depart safely. Please do not attempt this itinerary without doing proper research and talking with local experts. We offer a few tips here, but this is not a definitive source of information.
On our first day, we drove to Crooked River State Park, where we set up our camper to park for the few days we spent camping on the island. The park charges $5 a day for parking. There, we packed up our kayaks with camping gear and supplies and headed out for the Brickhill Bluff Campsite at the northern end of Cumberland Island.
The trip is 13 miles long and we needed to leave the park right around high tide so we could paddle with the tide. That day (February 11) high tide was around 1:30pm and sunset was around 6pm. We estimated about 4 hours of paddling, so we had to book it to be able to set up camp with sunlight remaining!
We began with a paddle down Crooked River towards the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW). The river is wide, dark, and not particularly remarkable – other than views of the Naval Submarine Base in the distance. We could hear their sirens as we paddled by. Apparently, they have trained attack dolphins that come after you if you get too close!
The ICW is a superhighway for boaters that traverses nearly the entire eastern seaboard from New York to the tip of Florida. When we crossed it, there was little traffic, but you should always be careful when crossing this major waterway.
The only place to stop en route is the halfway point at Plum Orchard, a historic home of the Carnegie family. Here, we got out to stretch our legs and snack before heading on. (We visited the home for a tour the next day – read below for details).
The rest of our paddle was a little more picturesque along the smaller, windier Brickhill River up to our campsite.
If you are reading this for tips on this trip, here is an important one! There are no signs for kayakers to let them know where the campsite is and the entire shoreline is covered in sharp oyster beds and deep shoe-sinking mud. If using Google Maps to navigate, aim a little south of the place the campsite is “supposed” to be; find the least oystery spot; and know it won’t be a graceful landing. But once you’re ashore, you’ll enjoy the view!
We did make it in time to set up camp before the sun set, but made our well-earned dinner with moonlight and headlamps.
On our second day, we were eager to get started exploring the island! While we ate our breakfast, we decided to hike north to see a few of the historic areas and then try to make it back to Plum Orchard in time for the 1pm tour (roughly 11 miles). Here is a link to the trail map.
One thing we’d read about Cumberland Island is that it is home to a great many wild horses. It didn’t take us long to see one – though we were warned that they can be very mean and to stay away!
We took the main road to the Terrapin Point Trail to see bluffs that overlook empty beaches where an old ferry line used to run.
Then, we took a road to a historic settlement with a cemetery and the First African Baptist Church, where JFK, Jr. was married!
After our visit, we continued south on the Bunkley Trail and met up with the main road again to hoof it to get to Plum Orchard in time for the tour.
We arrived JUST in time and were surprised to see a large group of people! Apparently, there is a very expensive hotel on the island called the Greyfield Inn and they were giving their own private tour of the house, so we just joined in!
After our tour, the rain looked like it was coming in, so we decided to head back to camp. We took the main road and Ashley Pond and Rayfield Trails to get back.
That evening, we enjoyed dinner with a spectacular sunset on our private beach!
On our third day, we decided to explore the eastern/Atlantic side of the island. We took the South Cut Road over to the beach. We were treated to a view of two horses enjoying some grasses as we climbed over the dunes.
We walked about 3 miles along the wide empty sandy shore, which was filled with amazing sea life, like purple starfish!
When we reached the Duck House Trail, we headed inland to the Tar Kiln Trail, which we combined with the Lost Trail and Roller Coaster trail to get back to the South Cut Road.
We saw nary a soul on the northern part of the island, which made for a very peaceful and relaxing day! We enjoyed another sunset dinner on our private beach and even had a guest visitor! This horse just idled by while we were eating!
On our fourth day, we were very fortunate that the weather was cooperating with low winds and a decent hour to leave. On the return, we needed to leave at low tide so that we could use the tide to paddle back in on the Crooked River. Low tide that day was 10am, so we enjoyed a leisurely morning of packing up and then headed out for the 13 mile return trip.
Perhaps it was the low tide, but we saw a lot more wildlife on the return trip – including a pod of dolphins who teamed up to run fish up on shore to eat! It was a spectacular sight!
That afternoon, we set up camp at the Crooked River State Park for the night!
On our fifth day, we headed just north of Crooked River to explore Jekyll Island State Park.
Jekyll Island is a fantastic place for a day trip! We decided to explore the island using their Jekyll Island Bike Trail, a well marked and safe 14 mile bike path around the island.
En route, we first stopped at Driftwood Beach, a hauntingly beautiful stroll among fallen trees on the beach.
We also visited the Horton House, a historic home made out of tabby, a common building material in coastal days of yore.
And finally, we visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a neat little museum with various opportunities to engage with rescued sea turtles.
That afternoon, we continued north to visit the Fort Frederica National Monument, which has recently been added to the list of national parks to be expanded!
That evening, we camped at Barrington County Park, a free boondocking site with showers along a river! We met some wonderful people and dogs there.
On our sixth day, we continued northbound to Savannah! Our first stop was the Pin Point Heritage Museum, one of the Georgia Coastal Societies (GCS) five museums in the area. You can buy a discount ticket for three – which we did!
We cannot recommend this museum enough! It features the Gullah-Geechee people, a tour of an old crab factory, and one of the most touching documentaries we’ve ever seen. Visit!
Next, we dropped our rig at a Boondockers Welcome host site and headed into town for a city adventure. One of our goals was to see as many of the town squares as possible. We found an amazing free parking spot at Forsyth Park and walked through the Saturday farmers market!
Our first visit was to see an exhibit of A Century of Hats at the Mansion on Forsyth Park. The little jaunty one was the favorite of one of the staff we met!
Next, we hoofed it to the Georgia Railroad Museum, one of the GCS museums, to make it for a 1pm train tour. The train ride isn’t very long, but we had the best seats in the house!
Right next door to the railroad museum is the Savannah History Museum, our final of the three GCS museums we visited. The museum features a breadth of information about the history of the city.
After exploring the inside, we went on a (pretty muddy) trail run around the fort’s perimeter and out to the old lighthouse.
After our run, we were ready for some grub and had been hankering for some deviled crab and oysters ever since we visited the Pin Point Heritage Museum so we stopped at the famous Crab Shack for some delicious grub!
To continue our exploration of Tybee Island, we visited the Tybee Lighthouse, where you can climb to the top for amazing views!
The ticket to the lighthouse also includes entry to an old battery converted into a local history museum across the street.
We finished our day with a final walk along a Georgia beach!
Please stay tuned for the corresponding YouTube video of our adventures!