cumberland island

dungeness plantation

Neil and I celebrated our five year wedding anniversary on Friday (hard to believe it's been that long!), and for the occasion we drove two hours south of Savannah and camped on Cumberland Island in late October.

Cumberland Island is Georgia's largest barrier island. The island is 18 miles long and inhabited by an assortment of deer, alligator, bobcats, armadillos, and hogs. Loggerhead sea turtles make nests in the dunes every summer, and feral horses have roamed the island for over 500 years, delivered to its shores by the Spanish. Its history has many layers, from the original Timucuan tribes receiving visits from Franciscan monks who brought both Christianity and smallpox, to pirates hiding from the law in the 17th century, to Georgia founder James Oglethorpe and Revolutionary War general Nathanael Greene later building homes on Cumberland.

In the late 1800s, the Carnegie family built Dungeness Plantation on the southern tip of Cumberland. The family employed over 300 servants for their winter home. At one point, the Carnegies owned 90% of the island. The 1920s saw the death of the family matriarch Lucy Carnegie and with plenty of property of their own, the children allowed Dungeness to fall into disrepair. In an act of waste, everything was left just as it was. Today, you can still see the family cars rusting away outside the garage.

Dungeness burned down in the 1950s, leaving forlorn ruins that serve as a reminder of an era gone by. Even today, Carnegie descendants still own and manage the Greyfield Inn, a former Carnegie residence on the island.

Cumberland Island's history and its isolation are what makes the island such a magical place to stay (it was this isolation that inspired John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette to wed on the island in a one-room church at the north end). As a national seashore, the island's natural beauty is fiercely protected by the government. Cumberland is only reachable by ferry, and no more than 300 people are allowed on the island at any given time. During our stay, the beaches were completely empty.

Here are some photos from our trip.

dungeness plantation dunes african american baptist church robert stafford's grave wild horses plum orchard mansion sea camp sea camp river trail the overlook