Cumberland Island, Georgia

May 14th, 2013 | Posted by Erica House in Reviews | Travel

As much as I enjoyed seeing my brother on my trip to Gainesville this past weekend the primary focus for the trip was to visit Cumberland Island. I came across photos of the ruins on the Island years ago and have been dreaming of going there ever since. When I worked as an academic advisor I would sneak time in planning my dream trip. I calculated how much it would cost, travel times and everything I wanted to make sure I saw once I made it there. I’m not sure what drew me in so much about it but I was absolutely enchanted.

Happily, the actual visit there was just as dreamy as I imagined. The day started off early with a 5 a.m. wake up call in Gainesville. We headed out at 6 to make it to the ferry at St. Marys Georgia by 8:30 a.m.. The ferry ride took about 45 minutes and the weather could not have been more perfect for the outing.


Immediately after we docked I wanted to make it to the Dungeness Manor Ruins as quickly as possible. I hoped to get some great shots of the ruins before the other tourists arrived. We ferried over with about 50 other people and Josh and I were the second family there! I knew I was going to love the island the moment we started on the trail and saw this:

IMG_6527A few short minutes later and we approached the ruins. The Dungeness Manor was built in the 1880’s by Thomas Carnegie (brother of Andrew Carnegie.) It was modeled after a Scottish castle and had 59 rooms, pools, a golf course and 40 smaller houses to house the 200 servants that worked at the manor. After the stock market crash and the Great Depression the family abandoned the manor and most of it was destroyed by a fire in 1959 believed to have been started by a poacher who had been shot in the leg by a caretaker weeks before. Here she is in all her glory! (Photo credit)


And here is what remains of her today.


I got to admit I was pretty bummed that you couldn’t actually go play around in the ruins, but I’m sure it is a safety issue! This was as close as we were able to get:


I headed around back to check out the rest of the ruins and about fell over when we saw these wild horses just hanging out about 100 feet from the manor. I believe there are about 150 wild horses on the 18  mile long island so there is a good chance you will run into them while you are exploring.


After I calmed my inner 5-year-old girl at the sight of pretty horsies we started to wander around the island trails. We came across this collection of abandoned cars on our way to one of the cemeteries.


One thing we weren’t quite prepared for was the onslaught of mosquitoes! Thankfully I brought bug spray but they were still all over us. They were much worse on the trails than the roads, so we only stayed on the trail for about 20 minutes when we decided to get back on the main drag. Plus, Josh had to get a spider stick to knock the webs out of the way after he ran into a few face first earlier on the trail.


I also didn’t realize how diverse the island’s scenery would be. We’d be walking in thick woods and immediately come across a huge beach full of white sand dunes. Josh noticed these crabs first – hundreds of tiny little crabs with one giant hand that were absolutely hilarious to see.  I actually googled ‘tiny crabs with one giant claw’ to find out what they were when we got home and they are Fiddler Crabs. How cute is that?

There was a boardwalk overlooking the marsh that linked parts of the woods with another beach area.


Honestly, this is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. The day went by so quickly and I’d love to go back and spend more time there before I leave this area. You can actually camp on the island – How incredible would that be?!

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If you know of any abandoned places to visit in the South please let me know!

Have you ever visited ruins, or an island, before?

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36 Responses

  • Lisa says:

    wow, it looks like you had an awesome trip! :-)

  • Erin says:

    I would have been SO sad to have to stay out of the ruins, too! They look beautiful and perfect for exploring!

    I used to live in Arizona and one time as a kid my parents took me to a ghost town, but that’s about it. I have been to plenty of islands though!

    • Erica House says:

      Ohhh I’ve been to a ghost town in Arizona as well! My family drove out to California one year and we stopped at all the cool places along the way (Grand Canyon, Billy the Kid’s Grave,…) and my favorite was a tiny ghost town. Man, now I really want to go back to it!

  • Caroline says:

    Wow- the island looks beautiful! It’s too bad the house isn’t more intact. It looks like it would’ve been absolutely beautiful to walk through!

    • Erica House says:

      It took everything I had not to sneak in and roam around! If there weren’t so many other people around I definitely would have.

  • Wow that looks like a GORGEOUS place to visit! I’m so jealous!!

  • Oh you brought back so many awesome memories I have from when I visited so long ago. It’s so gorgeous! Glad you had a good time :)

    • Erica House says:

      I anticipated you would have been there already! I wish I had more time to pop over to another dream spot of mine, Savannah, but I’m hoping to be back again soon!

  • This is too cool! I think this is somewhere they should go on The Bachelor and see what those girls think of a place with at least some culture and a hell of a lot of bugs :p

    • Erica House says:

      LOL. I have a feeling that would weed out a lot of the girls for guys who are interested in outdoor activities!

  • Vicki says:

    Very pretty, glad the trip lived up to your expectations! I’ve never been to any ruins (that I can remember). As far as Islands I’ve been to St. Croix, USVI when I was in college and absolutely want to make it back there again some day!

    • Erica House says:

      I always thought I’d never visit any islands in the Caribbean since I’ve grown up in Florida and thought it wouldn’t be as impressive for me, but I’ve recently started looking at vacation deals in that area. I think it would be great to spend a few days exploring the tropical islands during the winter months here! Will definitely look into St. Croix.

      • Vicki says:

        Look into ‘cottages by the sea’. That is where I had stayed and loved it. It’s not on the ‘touristy’ side of the island, which means the same beautiful blue water with a less crowded beach!

        • Erica House says:

          Perfect! I think my disinterest in the islands stemmed from the belief that they would be one giant tourist trap, but I’m sure there is so much culture/experience to be had there that I don’t want to pass it up because of my own, unfounded, beliefs!

      • dotsie924 says:

        I love Florida, buuuuut…..the Caribbean is where it’s at, girl! My family is from Jamaica and Belize and I’ve been all over the’s beautiful! Key West comes close, since it’s the southern most part of the U.S. and it is quite beautiful there, but…it’s still not the same! :) I do understand the feeling of probably not being impressed by beaches since you grew up in a beach town..because that’s how I feel about AL and FL! haha! :D (although, when I went to Daytona, I loved the waves!)

        • Erica House says:

          I’m definitely over Florida – I’ve just been here for so long and I feel burned out. I need a change of scenery! I’d love to visit Key West, I didn’t even think about that as a possibility!

          • dotsie924 says:

            I’ve wondered recently what it’s like to be born and raised in the pandhandle…I always see old people when we visit–isn’t it the “retirement state?” There a girl at the gym from that area…want to say Gulf Breeze? She’s here for college. Of course whenever we visit it’s to go to the beach, not even the nightlife, so I have no idea what’s it’s like as a young adult to live there. Here everyone is about Frenchmen St. Magazine St., the Quarter, etc…”booze” sums it up well ;) haha

          • Erica House says:

            Honestly – the Florida panhandles is often referred to as ‘LA’ or Lower Alabama. It’s a total redneck riviera. It’s not what most people think of when they hear ‘Florida’ – it’s much more deep south/small town. The beaches are nice, but the tourists make it almost impossible to enjoy during the summer. The nightlife is so-so with a growing number of bars/restaurants downtown. I think my new neighbor, who moved here from San Diego, summed it up best when I asked her what she thought of Pensacola so far – “There’s a lot more churches, lawyers and strip clubs then I expected.”

          • dotsie924 says:

            Lawyers, churches and strip clubs–those all belong in the same sentence, haha!! :) I never knew that LA/Lower Alabama thing! How very interesting!!

  • omg so cool about the wild horses!

    • Erica House says:

      I love that the park employee who gave us all a briefing before we boarded the ferry said, “if you see a group of horses coming toward you get out of their way. They are well aware that they are much bigger than you.”

  • Andree says:

    So cool! There’s something about abandoned buildings/ruins that is just so eerie and awesome at the same time. I love the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey in York and and the Peveril castle in Castleton (Hell of a workout getting up there too!). I’ve been wanting to go check out an abandoned jail close to home. The only island I remember visiting was Heart Island in the Saint Laurence a long time ago as a kid.
    Your trip is a nice reminder that you don’t always need to go far to see interesting sights.

    • Erica House says:

      Wow – I just googled both of the places you mentioned and I’m putting them on my travel bucket list! There is something so romantic to me about ruins.
      I am also surprised that no one I’ve spoken with in the area has even heard of Cumberland Islands. I hope that a few people who are close to the area who read this may try to check it out sometime. It’s incredible to think of all the hidden treasures there are in your local area!

      • Andree says:

        York is definitely a place to have on your bucket list. Soooo much to see and so much history!
        Castleton is a cute little village and there are lots of caves and hills to explore.

        • Erica House says:

          I’ve yet to be anywhere overseas but York fits all of my preferred criteria (I speak the language, it’s full of outdoor activities and steeped in history/culture.) I need to find a solution as to what to do with Salem so I can start traveling more!

  • Jenny says:

    How cool! Beautiful and sad at the same time! I totally would have freaked at the wild horses! (In a good way!) And I think its awesome you’re getting to spend time with your brother!

    • Erica House says:

      It was the first time Josh and I had spent more than 12 hours together since we both lived at home … maybe 10 years ago? I had a lot of fun!

  • fridaywp says:

    How cool! I used to live in SC close to Hilton Head and this scenery brings back memories!

  • runnyc1024 says:

    Great photos – looks like a fantastic outdoorsy trip!

    • Erica House says:

      Thank you! I’m hoping to spend some more time soon learning more about my camera so I can keep improving my photography skills!

  • Looks like you’re having an awesome time! Jealous!

    • Erica House says:

      I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford it without being able to stay with my brother. Got to use family members for something ;)

  • Jae says:

    Thank you for sharing your trip. I have one comment though. Those houses you spoke of were not for “servants”and I was actually a little offended that you would call it that. Those shacks were for slaves and that “Manor” was a plantation. The “whitewashing” of history. Smh