Just an hour north of Jacksonville sits Cumberland Island National Seashore. The island is only accessible by ferry from St. Marys, Georgia and it makes for a great day trip with kids. You can also camp on Cumberland Island. That trip requires a little bit more planning, but you can read all about our experience here.
Cumberland Island is Accessible by Boat
If you decide you want to visit Cumberland Island, the first thing you’ll need to do is book a ferry ticket. Be sure to make a reservation online. Ferry space is limited and books up fast. We do not recommend showing up without a reservation the day of your visit. Time on the island will be limited. Because of this we recommend you book the earliest ferry of the day for the ride over and the last ferry back.
When you check in at the visitor center be sure to pick up a free Junior Ranger book for the kids. Several of the activities are easy to complete as you explore Cumberland throughout the day. Kids can turn in their completed booklet before heading back at the end of the day. They’ll earn a free Junior Ranger badge!
There is Tons to Do on the Island
The ferry ride to Cumberland lasts approximately 45 minutes. On the way, there are lots of birds, and even dolphins that can be spotted from the boat. Even on a windy day the water is pretty calm because you’re just crossing the channel from mainland Georgia over to Cumberland Island.
There are no concessions on Cumberland Island. Because of this, you’re going to want to make sure you pack plenty of snacks, a lunch, and bring your refillable water bottles. You can find several spots where you can refill throughout the southern part of the island and there are several bathrooms scattered throughout the area. In addition, there is no trash on the island so whatever you pack in you’ll need to pack off.
Bring Everything You Need for A Day on the Island
In addition to food and snacks, you’ll want to make sure you pack other essentials. Be sure to pack sunscreen and bug spray. You’ll also want a hat, an extra jacket or layer if it’s windy or cool out. And don’t forget a towel or small blanket to use for a picnic.
While the ruins of Cumberland Island are a major attraction, you’ll want to be sure to spend some time out on the beach. The shell collection is phenomenal. Even though it’s a National Seashore, you can take home any empty shells or shark teeth you find during your visit.
You Might Get to See Wild Horses
One of the main attractions on Cumberland Island National Seashore is the population of wild horses that inhabits the island. While horse sightings are not guaranteed, be sure to remain aware of your surroundings during your visit. Horses have been known to show up anywhere and at any time. You are not allowed to approach, touch or feed the horses. For your safety, always make sure you keep a safe distance at all times.
Cumberland Island National Seashore offers visitors a chance to explore at an unspoiled coast, historic ruins, and miles of undisturbed land. It makes a great day trip from Jacksonville that kids and adults will love.