By Jan Schroder
I’m not much for public nudity, but didn’t hesitate to change into my bathing suit in the dunes at Cumberland Island. The 17-mile beach was totally deserted and my bare behind was more likely to be spotted by a feral horse than another human.
We were only day-tripper visitors to the Greyfield Inn on this barrier island off the coast of Georgia but in addition to our walk on the beach, we rode bikes through oak-canopied paths, ate a picnic lunch overlooking the marsh just a few feet from grazing horses and dodged low-hanging Spanish-moss filled trees during a jeep tour of abandoned mansions and ruins where previous generations of the Carnegie family had homes.
We also strolled down to the jewelry studio of Go-Go Ferguson, who makes jewelry from wax castings of natural forms, and designed the wedding bands for JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette, who chose this enchanting and secluded island for their wedding in 1996.
Not many 19th-century retreats manage to stay in the family but the gracious Greyfield Inn built by the Fergusons great-grandparents Thomas and Lucy Carnegie still welcomes visitors to this charming home, now a nine-room inn. Go Go’s brother Mitty and his wife Mary manage the inn and Mitty is also the boat captain of the Maine lobster boat that serves as a private ferry to the island from Fernandina, Florida.
On the trip over we were able to get a good look at a large portion of the island and hear stories from Mitty about spending his summers here as a child and their continued efforts to keep developers at bay.
You don’t have to be a guest of the inn to visit Cumberland. The U.S. Park Service owns ninety-five percent of the island and campers and day visitors with a reservation can go on a public ferry. Only 300 people a day are allowed on the island. And if you’ll lucky like me, none of them will be on the beach when you’re stripping off your shorts.
Cumberland Island: www.nps.gov/cuis/index.htm