The barrier islands off the coast of Georgia are home to rugged forests, undeveloped beaches, and fascinating history worth learning about. The largest and southernmost one is Cumberland Island, which spans 9,800 acres of protected wilderness.
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But one of the most unique things about Cumberland Island is the wild horses that call it home. According to historical records, horses were brought here as livestock when the Spanish established missions here in the late-1500s. These horses played an important role on the plantations in the 1800s, but most of them were sold or removed during the Civil War. New horses were introduced as free-ranging livestock in the 1900s, and National Park Service surveys estimate there are between 100 and 200 feral horses on the island today.
Observe them, but don’t crowd their space within 50 feet because they are known to bite and kick! In addition to horses, there are also sea turtles that live on Cumberland Island, and conservation efforts are underway.
The town of St. Marys is considered to be a gateway to Cumberland Island, and the easiest way to get here is by ferry. The ferry departs from the mainland at 9am and 11:45am, daily in spring, summer, and fall and every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays in winter.
The ferry ride is about 45 minutes long and costs $28 for adults, $26 for seniors, and $18 for children 15 and younger. You can also travel to Cumberland Island in your own boat or kayak, and then you just pay the park entrance fee of $7 for adults over 16 (free for youth).
You can pitch a tent and camp on Cumberland Island for up to seven days and rent a bike on the island at Sea Camp Dock. You can also bring your own bike across on the ferry, but keep in mind there are no paved roads so you’ll need wide tires to get through the sand. For a fee of $45, you can take a Lands and Legacies Tour and learn more about the history of the island.
Pets are welcome on the island for day-use as long as you bring them over on your own boat and don’t camp overnight. There are so very few places like Cumberland Island that still exist in their natural form today, so come experience the magic and serenity of wild horses on the beach for yourself!
Cumberland Island National Seashore Information:
- Address: 101 Wheeler Street, St. Mary’s Georgia 31558
- Phone Number: 912-882-4336
- Website: https://www.nps.gov/cuis/index.htm