Exploring Cumberland Island National Seashore off the Georgia coast is a little easier now that the park has begun offering interpretive tours via van and open-air tram.
The tours started last week, and take visitors to historic locations around the seashore, including Plum Orchard Mansion, the Settlement (including the First African Baptist Church) Cumberland Island Wharf, and other sites along the main road. They are being offered daily.
“We are excited to start these tours,” said Cumberland Island Superintendent Fred Boyles. “Many features of the Island that are rarely seen by visitors will be more easily reached. Our goal is to build a new appreciation among the public for the natural beauty and rich historic resources that are Cumberland Island.”
Those planning to take the tour can make reservations by calling 912-882-4335 Monday through Friday any time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Reservations are strongly encouraged, as the number of visitors that can be accommodated on a daily basis is limited. Tours will operate rain or shine but may be canceled due to extreme conditions on the island. (Visitors can also make ferry reservations by calling the ferry reservation office at the same number listed above.)
Tours will not be offered on Christmas Day, scheduled hunt days, or Tuesdays and Wednesdays from December 1 through February 28. The charge for the tour will be $15.00 per person with a reduced fee of $12.00 for seniors over the age of 62 and for children under 16. This fee is in addition to the standard park entrance fee of $4.00 per person and the ferry fee of $ 20.00 for adults, $18.00 for those over 65 and $14.00 for children 12 and under.
Tours will leave from the Sea Camp Visitor Center just after the ferry arrives at 9:45 a.m. and will last approximately six hours. This is expected to be a physically demanding, arduous trip and visitors should plan accordingly. Visitors will need to bring provisions such as food and water and may bring one small personal bag or pack.
Space on the tours is limited and large camera bags, tripods, hard-sided coolers or large backpacks will not be permitted. There are limited restroom and water stops along the tour route. There will be a short break for a picnic lunch. Hikers and campers will not be permitted to use the vans as a shuttle to access additional areas in the seashore.
Although this is a motorized tour conducted by National Park Service personnel, visitors should understand that it takes place in a difficult outdoor environment and should be prepared. Sunscreen and bug spray are highly encouraged along with comfortable hiking clothes. A handicap accessible van is available for those visitors with special needs.
In addition to the lands and legacies tour, a south end shuttle will operate between the Dungeness Dock and the Sea Camp area. This is a drop on/ drop off shuttle and is intended to help visitors traverse the difficult area.
Federal legislation passed in 2004 requires a minimum of five tours and a minimum of eight tours daily to the north end of the Island. After completing a Transportation Management Plan and required environmental compliance resulting in a Finding of No Significant impact in May 2009, the park was cleared to start the tours. Lack of funding to support the full initiative prompted the park to seek permission to pursue a more modest proposal for a limited time to assess the effectiveness of the program.
For those seeking more information about Cumberland Island National Seashore or the Lands and Legacies tour, please call 912-882-4336 ext. 254 or visit the Seashore’s website at www.nps.gov/cuis
Cumberland Island is the largest barrier island off the coast of Georgia, encompassing more than 36,000 acres of maritime forests, salt marsh and beaches. The island is also home to over 9,800 acres of congressionally designated wilderness. The island’s natural and cultural resources provide a rich and diverse habitat for wildlife and offer a glimpse into the long history of coastal Georgia. The seashore is accessible by foot-only, passenger ferry from the historic community of St. Marys, Georgia.