7 miles NE of St. Marys
Nowhere else on the East Coast are peace and unspoiled natural surroundings so perfectly preserved as at Cumberland Island. Since 1972, most of this island has been a National Seashore administered by the National Park Service.
Cumberland Island reached the peak of its prestige in the Gilded Age. In the 1880s, Thomas M. Carnegie, brother of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, bought land on Cumberland for a winter retreat. Their lavish home, dubbed Dungeness, burned to the ground in 1959 and only ruins remain. Most of the other major buildings were built by the Carnegie family: Classical Revival Plum Orchard, completed in 1898, is still standing, and managed by the National Park Service; Greyfield, built in 1900, now a private hotel and the Stafford Mansion, built for Lucy Carnegie in 1901, and still privately owned by one of the descendants of the family. Not only the Carnegies wielded power here, but also the Rockefellers and even the Candlers of Atlanta (founders of Coca-Cola). The island was also the top-secret site of the 1996 wedding of John Kennedy, Jr., and Carolyn Bessette. After the publicity generated in the aftermath of that wedding, Cumberland became famous around the world.
To visit Cumberland Island, just 16 miles long and 3 miles across at its widest point, is to step into a wilderness of maritime forest, salt marshes alive with waving grasses, sand dunes arranged by wind and tide into a double line of defense against erosion, and wide, gleaming sand beaches. It is to enter a world teeming with animal life, where alligators wallow in marshes, white-tailed deer bound through the trees, wild pigs snuffle in the undergrowth, armadillos and wild turkeys roam freely about, more than 300 species of birds wheel overhead, and wild horses canter in herds.