From pristine, undeveloped beaches to a designated wilderness of tidal marshes, marine forest and freshwater lakes, from indigenous peoples’ cultural sites to the ruins of an 18th century mansion, Cumberland Island has plenty to see and explore. Located approximately two hours south of Savannah, Cumberland Island is the largest of Georgia’s barrier islands. It can only be reached by passenger ferry from the town of St. Marys, or by private boat. Day trips via the ferry are the most common way to see the island, but this only allows time for a small portion of the island to be seen. To explore the full extent of the island, and discover all its fascinating history, scenery, and characteristics, requires at least a few days—and this can only be done by camping on the island.
The Sea Camp Campground is the most popular destination for island overnighters. However, to escape the crowds for a more secluded island experience, head instead for the Stafford Beach Campground. This small campground can be reached by a 3.5-mile walk from the boat dock. This requires packing in all the food and gear necessary for your stay. The campground offers 10 tent sites under a canopy of shade trees, and is situated near a wide, sandy beach. Each site has tables and cooking grills, and the campground has flush toilets and cold showers, otherwise, the camping is pretty spartan. Water from spigots must be treated (boiled or filtered), and all food and scented items must be hung from trees. Trash receptacles are not available, so all waste must be packed out. Reservations are required; sites are $12/night.
From the Stafford Beach Campground, the beach is just a few minutes’ walk away. Here, you can soak up the sun, take a dip in the Atlantic, or cast a line in the surf for catfish, whiting, croaker, and bluefish. Bring your bike, or rent one at the ferry dock, and ride the park roads to the Dungeness Ruins, the site of a 1730s hunting lodge, or visit Plum Orchard for a guided tour of an opulent, early 1900s plantation-style mansion. Wildlife abounds on the island, much of which can be seen from the island’s hiking and biking trails, as well as the woods and wetlands. Watch for alligators, armadillos, raccoons, loggerhead turtles, snakes and pelicans. Don’t get too close to the feral horses—they bite!
This is a spot everyone should experience! The greenery is beautiful. We enjoyed waking around the island and exploring the old ruins. I definitely would love to revisit this spot and spend a little more time here.
I have lived next to Cumberland Island for 23 years. It is a must see for anyone that loves visiting a pristine island with wild horses and plenty of things to see!
Cumberland Island has something to do for everyone. There’s also different levels of camping such as front country camping, primitive camping, and backcountry-you’re-all-on-your-own-extreme primitive camping. There’s also a large variety of wildlife especially horses. They roam the entire island and they are not shy at all. There’s also gators, rattlesnakes, armadillos, brown snakes, and more. Those are just some of the creatures I actually encountered. some would probably be terrified but i was excited to have seen these animals in their natural habitat. Added to the whole primitive camping experience. Overall Cumberland Island was an awesome expirience, everythig from the 45 min ferry ride there and back to the biking along the coast on the beaches. (bike rentals are available). I recommend this adventure to anyone.
We absolutely adored this campsite. It is more quiet and there are less campers than Sea Camp but you still get amenities like showers, bathrooms, campfires, and a non-potable water source unlike the backpacking sites. We used a Grayl water filter for all of our water and had no issues.
The sites are very large with beautiful trees hanging over and providing shade. We didn't have as much of an issue with bugs as we did at Hickory Hill. Make sure you hang your food still -- there was a possum nosing around that had already torn into another camper's dry bag that was left on a log. We are not sure why some of the sites were marked as "closed" and were unreservable online so be sure to book them early if you can.
We used backpacking gear but did see some campers wheel in all of their items on a cart. The Park Ranger mentioned that in the future they may not allow campers to take carts to the "hike-in" sites including Stafford Beach, so keep an eye on the rules regarding that for your visit. Wheeling the cart looked like more effort than it was worth since the Main Road is very sandy and uneven, but if you are planning to stay for a few days you may find having more items is useful!
It was such a short walk to the beach from here! This is where we saw groups of wild horses as well. Since it was turtle egg-laying season we did try to spend time late at night at low tide and high tide to see loggerheads on the beach (make sure you follow the rules about keeping your distance and only using red-light headlamps/flashlights!). There were over 200 nests and reports every night of new ones, but we did not see any come up onto the beach.
We actually hiked out along the beach when we left instead of taking the Parallel Trail or Main Road and it ended up being a bit shorter -- just make sure you use plenty of sunscreen since you're much more exposed! Walking on the "wet" sand areas was sturdy and not difficult at all. There was much less people on the beach between here and Sea Camp and we saw many different kinds of birds.
Highly highly recommend this campsite over all others on the island -- there are less people around, you can still backpack it, there is a water source, and you are very close to the beach.
Almost everyone whom camps stays at Sea Camp and wheelbarrows in there stuff. However, this campground has a nice small number of sites that also is not too far of a hike from the dock: About three and a half miles from Sea Camp Dock, instead of less than a mile. Thankfully at this campground there are also restrooms, cold showers and water… Although, unlike at Sea Camp, it must be treated before drinking (boil, filter, UV, or chemical, etc…). Excellent tree coverage and a short walk to one of the most secluded beaches I’ve ever seen… Since there aren't any cash boxes in the backcountry sites you need to be prepared to hang your food and toiletries to avoid animal theft. Also plan ahead as you must backpack everything you will be using into Stafford and you also must pack it all out again, including your trash. There are(were) no trashcans, even in the restrooms.
This campsite was amazing. It felt like a tropical island. This place reminds you of Hawaii. This campsite is on the small side but is well worth it. Me and my wife absolutely loved it. The site will fit about 20 campers and fills up very fast. It cost 2 dollars a person. There is showers that are cold, and restrooms that are really clean as well. There is water but it is not treated and has to be purified before drinking. The visitor center told us to hang all food and trash on the trees because there are animals that do go through it.. All the campers were really friendly and they would always bring food over and share. Some campers slept in a hammock which was very convenient. There was Campers from Cape town and Russia. The site is not far from the beach and only takes about 5 minutes. The firewood is damp and it is difficult to start a fire here.