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Cumberland Island with children?

Nashville
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Cumberland Island with children?

We are interested in camping at Cumberland Island for 2-3 days in March over spring break with our three children (12, 10, and 8). Any advice? Would there be any smaller size bikes available for rental?

Asheville, North...
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1. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

Cumberland is beautiful. The island is not developed at all which makes it a magical place. I would suggest a day trip on the ferry from St. Mary's instead of camping on the island. The mainland has a lot to offer as well. Fernandina Beach is a must visit. Bike rentals are on a first come first serve basis and are rented from the ferry deck. Take bug repellant with you.

Birmingham, Alabama
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2. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

I went camping on Cumberland for several days when I was 11 or 12. I absolutely loved it. It's one of the most tranquil and relaxing places I've ever been.

Nashville
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3. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

Thanks for the feedback. We enjoy camping, so actually that part excites us. Just wondering if there were bike rentals for kids--or if we need to explore finding a way to bring theirs.

Birmingham, Alabama
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4. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

I don't think they allow personal bikes on the ferry, so to bring your own you would probably need to arrange for a private transfer to the island.

Fernandina Beach...
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for Cumberland Island
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5. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

The last time we rented bikes, they had smaller ones, but no child size bikes. You could call Lang's, the vendor, 912) 882-4452, to ask. They are also the charter co., that brings guests to CI.

Have fun!

Athens, Ga
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6. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

I would recommend you call the NPS and ask them. I have heard the ferry operator rents bikes but that traveling the soft sandy roads is difficult on a bike.

Asheville, North...
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7. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

I have been on a bike on Cumberland. There is a dirt road which is hard packed and easy to ride on. Not all the sand is soft and hard to ride on. It is a wonderful place to ride a bike since there are no cars.

Nashville
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8. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

Thanks to everyone who replied earlier. Below is a (lengthy!) summary of our recent trip for anyone interested in camping with children:

Our family of five just finished a fabulous four day / three night camping trip to Cumberland Island. It was a very memorable experience and deserves a little shout-out to any other families who might be considering such a trip for the first time.

We are veteran “car campers” with kids ages 8, 10, and 12. In light of this, we were not up for hiking the unpredictable length (3.5 miles) to Stafford or (5 to 11 miles) a backcountry site, but were delighted to secure a site at Sea Camp for the duration of our visit. We had to book 2-3 months ahead and were lucky to get consecutive nights (actually we didn’t originally, but somehow our middle night was made available one week prior to arrival, perhaps from a cancellation). Others apparently book as many as 6 months in advance. Ironically, despite the apparent “capacity crowd,” there were numerous empty sites adjacent to us for the entire stay.

Sea Camp is an idyllic setting with large, private sites scattered among the live oak groves, about 100-150 yards from the Atlantic Ocean beachront. As you can read about on the park service website, there are plenty of amenities (such as potable, if slightly sulfur-tasting water; cold showers, a wash sink, and two picnic tables and a firepit with grill per each site. The bugs at this time of year (aside from some ticks) were not a big problem. The raccoons do come out in force at dusk, so take advantage of the secure food boxes and the picnic tables (which can conveniently be lifted up on top of your cooler) to prevent any unwanted thievery. A cheap ($10) solar shower was a nice perk to have with us as well.

Sea Camp is a half mile away from the Sea Camp dock, where the ferry arrives three times daily. There are push carts which can be used to haul your gear the half mile or so from the dock on the other side of the island. Although we loved the relative solitude of the island (only 300 visitors a day to the Park, most of them daytrippers), we did also enjoy the benefits of walking back over to the dock for an afternoon Ranger presentation (4pm) and to purchase ice and some extra firewood (and a cold drink!) from the ferry. I am told that the ferry crew will coordinate a “beer or bait run” if requested as well!

The beach is amazing! Tide pools, gentle surf, and loads of shells—both live and empty. (I saw more live conchs than I’ve ever seen in my life!). It is at least 100 yards wide at low tide and stretches endlessly in both directions. Although there were small clumps of people near the Sea Camp portion of the beach, we literally encountered several times not far away where we were the only people we could see in either direction. There were occasional, interloping “wild” horses, but that actually adds to the charm (depending upon your point of view). Just don’t forget your sunscreen!

As for transportation, we actually chartered a private boat (through Lang’s, the same service that organizes the ferry and runs the seafood restaurant in St. Mary’s) for $225 for five people in order to be able to bring the kids’ bikes ($15 extra per bike) because the bike rental is expensive ($16 for a six-hour “day” or $20 for 24 hours) and did not offer kids’ sizes.

Overall, we were glad we brought the kids’ bikes, but it was difficult at times to get consistent traction in the sandy roadbeds to which bikers are currently restricted. Our youngest was unable to bicycle successfully all the way down to Dungeness (1.5 miles) for the Ranger-led naturalist/historical tour, and had to walk his bike for sections of the road. It was definitely worth doing, however. The road conditions may improve if there is some rain to pack down the dust and dirt. One day I biked by myself the 7.5 miles (one way) up to Plum Orchard and back. At a steady pace with only one break, it took about an hour each way.

We brought some fishing gear. Not experienced saltwater fishermen, we did not surf fish, though I saw several who did with fair success. Instead, our kids were satisfied to fish off the Sea Camp pier with fiddler crabs, which roamed with abundance on the mud flats below.

In terms of island-related reading, others on TripAdvisor had recommended “Cumberland Island: Strong Women, Wild Horses,” and my wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed it. It gave an excellent historical, cultural, and ecological background to the place that made us appreciate it all the more.

In sum, Cumberland Island is a magical place, and Sea Camp is a perfect venue for families of small children to get a “taste” of this unique wildnerness area. As one other TripAdvisor commented, it’s “the Alaska of the Eastern U.S.” I heartily agree!

vcv
Tennessee
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9. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

Thanks for posting your TR; glad you had such a successful visit.

Manchester...
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10. Re: Cumberland Island with children?

so glad to read this. I am planning a trip there either fall break or right as school lets out in may this year with my 13, 11 and 6 year old boys! Looking forward to it,,,trying to decide if we are hauling the bikes! Was really glad to read a post from someone with kids close to the ages of mine! thanks!!

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