Kayaking to Cumberland Island, Georgia, is indeed a great adventure! Cumberland Island has a rich and storied history that draws thousands of visitors each year. But most people come for the abundant marine and wildlife as well as for the stunning views. As if seeing Cumberland Island wasn’t spectacular enough, it is even better when viewed from the cockpit of a kayak. Kayaking gives you an up-close and personal connection with the nature you’ve come here to enjoy — a priceless connection that only paddlers would understand.
Dolphin are abundant in the waters between St. Marys and Cumberland Island, as are River Otter. During the warmer months, Manatee and Loggerhead Sea Turtles can often be seen feet from your kayak. If it seems like they’re “playing” with you, they probably are. These animals are curious and social, and are likely to come up and check you out or just “hang around” awhile as if escorting you along your way. Not as social, but certainly remarkable, are the giant Manta Rays we often see FLYING out of the water in the Cumberland Sound. These rays are huge — spanning several feet across and making tremendous splashes when they land.
Once on the island, you’ll be greeted by wild horses simply walking around practically everywhere you look. Alligators are another island resident that you may see as you approach the island by kayak, but are more likely to be viewed in a freshwater pond on the island. Raccoons and armadillos are perhaps the islands most abundant animal residents; but, by far, ticks, no-see-ums and mosquitos are the most abundant creatures on Cumberland. I wouldn’t worry about the larger animals; but definitely take insect repellant no matter how you get to the island!
Kayaking to Cumberland Island also gives the adventurous paddler access that others simply don’t have. Places like Plum Orchard and Brickhill Bluff are miles North of the northernmost Ferry dock — much too far for the average visitor to hike to and from before their ferry leaves for the mainland. But kayakers can paddle right to Plum Orchard in less than 2-hours. Plum Orchard is not in ruins like the Dungeness mansion nearer to the ferry docks. In fact, there is often a volunteer actually living in the mansion and giving tours certain days between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
For campers, the paddle to the most remote campsite on Cumberland Island — Brickhill Bluff — is only about 12-miles (approximately 4- 4 1/2 hours for most people). This is definitely not a trip for beginners; but with a little training, anyone can do this trip. The campsite is right on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), so paddlers can camp right out of their boats without having to pack and hike inland to their campsite. Tired from a long day of paddling, you’ll be delighted to listen to the Dolphins blowing in the Brickhill River as you drift off to sleep.
All in all, Cumberland is truly a gem of nature; and the best setting for that gem is the one you create by putting yourself in a kayak and heading East to Cumberland. If you’re a kayaker — or simply a nature lover — you need to add a kayak trip to Cumberland Island to your list of things to do. This is one paddling adventure you’ll want to repeat again and again.