Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest, and southernmost, barrier island. Located approximately two hours south of Savannah, the island can only be reached by passenger ferry from the town of St. Marys, or by private boat. This limited access helps preserve the island’s 36,400 acres (including 9,900 acres of designated wilderness) of marine forests, salt marshes, freshwater lakes, sand dunes, and pristine beaches. These are home to a diverse array of wildlife, including feral horses, alligators, armadillos, raccoons, loggerhead turtles and pelicans. The island can also be reached by paddling from Crooked River State Park or St. Marys. This provides access to several secluded beaches and camp areas.
Situated on the southern end of Cumberland Island, Sea Camp Campground is the most easily accessible camp area. Getting there requires a 0.5-mile walk from the Sea Camp dock. All camping gear must be packed in, or transported via cart. The campground offers 18 individual tent sites and 2 group sites, all of which have picnic tables, fire rings with grills, and food storage lockers. The campground has drinking water, flush toilets, and cold showers, however trash service is not available. All waste must be packed out. There are no services on the island, so visitors should come prepared with everything needed for their stay. Camping reservations are required; regular sites are $22/night; group sites are $40/night.
With no motorized transportation available, exploring the island must be done by foot or bicycle. Visitors can bring their own bikes on the ferry, however the sandy roads are not suitable for narrow tires. Beach cruiser bikes can be rented at the Sea Camp dock. Several short- and moderate-distance hiking trails are available near Sea Camp for visiting the Dungeness Historic District—which includes the ruins of an early 1700s mansion—and the local forest, beaches and dunes. A longer trail leads to the northern wilderness area, and its myriad tidal creeks, lakes and wetlands. There’s also fishing for bluegill and bass, as well as shrimping and crabbing, at many of the lakes and marshes.
This was my second time camping on Cumberland Island but the first time was 12 years prior at the then primitive Stafford Campground. (That site now allows fires and has running water.) I decided to do Sea Camp this time because I was camping with my mother and my three year old. It's the perfect campground for those who don't want to forego basic amenities.
Each site has a good amount of privacy and comes with a fire ring (and grill on top), picnic table, and food cage. We had one of the smaller sites - but it still had plenty of room, even with the tent and the hammock. Some of the sites are big enough for multiple tents.
There are showers and toilets at this campground that are in pretty decent shape. The best part is that it's just a hop and a skip to the beach, and an easy hike (on a hard pack road) to the Dungeness Ruins. We took a wagon to carry to our stuff (and the kid) but the road terrain was pretty rough. If anyone is planning to bike on the road, I'd recommend they ensure their bicycle can handle that sort of surface.
We went in spring just before the busy season officially started, so rates were still low and we were able to reserve a spot at the last minute. I highly recommend reserving in advance as it's very popular.
The wildlife is one of the best parts of visiting Cumberland Island. The only animals we saw at the actual campsite were armadillos and raccoons, the latter of which were bold enough to walk right up to our campfire when we started cooking. Elsewhere in the island are all sorts of other animals such as wild boar, wild horses, deer, and various types of birds, just to name a few. The resident volunteer led an info session on armadillos which was educational and fun and really added value to our trip.
One other important thing to note is that the only way to the island is by ferry, which is a big reason to pack light and efficiently. (We used a wagon.)
Overall, this is a perfect non primitive campsite in one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.
Waking up to the sound of the waves can't be beat! Prep for a steady breeze (not fun when cooking unless you like sand in your food). Amazing place to just get away but to avoid crowds pack a sweater and visit on the off season! Very little natural shade and bring sturdy tent stakes! Closest site to the Ice House Museum. Sea Kayaking beautiful here on a calm day.