Silence. Blessed silence. That’s the first thing that’s noticeable when you step ashore on Cumberland Island National Seashore, and it’s definitely something that I appreciate since I have so little of it aboard Lyra. (Cruising with kids is lots of things… quiet is not one of them.)
The second thing I noticed are the trees — glorious, old live oaks with their beautiful twisted trunks and branches that drip with Spanish moss and are highlighted with resurrection ferns. Cumberland Island, which is located on the Florida/Georgia border, is 17 miles long and has one of the largest remaining maritime forests in the US, and indeed, you could spend at least a week here and not see all of what the island has to offer.
Arriving here was a long time in coming as my husband, Green, had spent time here cruising as a child and had been telling me about it for years. His stories of the beaches and the trees and wild horses and finding fossilized shark teeth had given Cumberland Island a sort of mythical quality that would be difficult to live up to. But it does.
Since it was right before the holidays, the southern side of the island was pretty much empty, save for a ranger, and on our walk on the trail though the forest and sand dunes to the beach we saw no one. During our week or so stay there, the highlights included spending time on the gorgeous, totally empty beach on the ocean side, checking out Dungeness- a Gilded Age Carnegie mansion in ruins, spotting the wild horses, and searching for shark teeth on the sound-side shoreline.
RELATED: Cumberland Island photo gallery
The anchorage here is large with good holding and is easy to get to from Fernandina Beach (as an aside, if you are in the area and are looking for a place to keep your boat if you need to travel, we kept Lyra on a mooring at Fernandina Harbor Marina– nice people and reasonable rates) and from the St. Mary’s inlet (which is a great, deep, well-marked inlet that we entered with no problem at night, in the fog). You can tie your dinghy up during the day at the Sea Camp dock, which is right by the anchorage.
Cruising World associate editor Jen Brett lives with her husband, Green, and their two daughters aboard Lyra, a Reliance 44 ketch. Typically, they can be found in Newport, Rhode Island. You can follow along as Jen shares her family’s cruising adventures during this winter’s southern sojourn in this blog.