Jeremy and I had the pleasure of checking out the Cumberland Island National Seashore during a weekend trip. We stayed in the cutest little town, St. Marys, Georgia. St. Marys is the second oldest town in the United States, or so we were told by the owner of an antique shop. Once we arrived, we parked our car in front of our bed and breakfast and we didn’t touch it until the day we left. Everything in the town is within walking distance, including the ferry that takes you to Cumberland Island.
Cumberland Island can only be reached by boat; it’s about a forty-five minute ferry ride from St. Marys. When the ferry docked, we stepped off the boat and the first thing we saw in the distance were the wild horses that Cumberland Island is known for. They were not what I expected. I had a clear image in my mind of what a wild horse was: the sun beating down, dirt flying behind hooves, and manes whipping in the wind. I was disappointed; wild horses stand around and eat grass like every other horse on earth.
One of my favorite things about the South is the marsh: the green reeds, the smell of the mud, and the brackish canals that run through it. As we walked along the water, we saw the horses in this setting and it made me realize, yes, they are wild. Horses with their hooves sunk down into the pluff and eating the long grass was a sight that I will never forget. Horses are majestic and noble creatures but when you get close to them you can see fear run through them as they stand perfectly still—only their eyes following you. They are used to people from a distance, but they are not domestic—their bodies are battered and scarred from thorns, branches, and predators. First thoughts are not always right, the horses are beautiful and absolutely worth seeing.
During our time at Cumberland we saw horses (of course), snakes, alligators, deer, wild turkeys, crabs, stingrays, geckos, and squirrels. There are also many different types of landscapes to explore: the forest, the swamp, and the beach.
But more than nature, Cumberland Island is wrought with history. It was the home of two forts from the Spanish Missions. It also still holds the ruins from Dungeness, the magnificent family home of the Carnegie Family. The Carnegie family had many slaves to run their estate and after the Civil War, Cumberland Island became home to hundreds of freed men.
The history of the place is rich—you can feel it as you walk and see random bricks, cemeteries, rusted vehicles, and live oaks that are thick and twisted with age. Cumberland Island is more than a fun day trip, it is a beautifully hidden part of America’s history. If you ever get the chance to go, please do.