AOL.com ranks Cumberland Island’s “secret beach” in nation’s top 10

Story Excerpt From Jacksonville Times Union.com

ST. MARYS – A stroll on the beach at Georgia’s largest barrier island can be like being shipwrecked at the most desolate place on earth.

Often, there are more wild horses than humans on the beach. Visitors who stroll north a mile or two can have a stretch of sand with nobody and no structures in sight.

But now the secret may be out. An AOL.com travel story titled “Secret Beaches of the U.S.” ranks Cumberland Island’s beach among the nation’s top 10 getaways for those who want solitude, sun and seashore at the same time.

“We knew it was special,” Cumberland Superintendent Fred Boyles said. “I guess other people are going to know about it, now. Stories like this reach a much larger audience.”

Boyles is uncertain what impact the AOL story will have at the island.

Ferry reservations to the island, accessible only by boat, are often filled on weekends, he said.

On weekdays, however, it’s usually easy to reserve ferry seats to the island, which allows only 300 visitors a day, he said.

People looking for tourist attractions, golf courses and large crowds will be disappointed, Boyles said.

Once they arrive, visitors should be prepared for a wilderness experience. There are no concession stands selling suntan oil, insect repellent or food and beverages. There are no motorized tours, but the Park Service is planning for them.

Day visitors can get by with a picnic basket or small backpack with beverages, food, bug spray and a blanket to sit on the sand.

The beach is a leisurely half-mile walk from the boat ramp at the south end of the island. The trail to the beach is shaded by a canopy of live oaks, some with branches so large they sag to the ground and extend another 20 feet or more.

The trail takes visitors past the Dungeness ruins, an old mansion built by the Carnegie family that was destroyed by a fire in the 1950s. There is a strong likelihood visitors will see wild horses, armadillos, turkeys, shore birds and other wildlife while they are on the island.

St. Marys Tourism Director Janet Brinko said the island’s designation could have a positive impact on restaurants, gift shops, motels and bed and breakfast inns.

“The allure of Cumberland Island has always been a fabulous draw for tourists to St. Marys,” she said. “With more than 30 million subscribers to AOL worldwide, we can expect this latest designation to bring even more visitors to our area seeking a secret island experience.”

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