Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cumberland Island & The Greyfield Inn

Cumberland Island, off the Georgia coast, was cut away from the mainland before the last ice age. About one third of the island is marsh. Thirteen miles of the island are desolate ocean beach. In 1850, the island reached its peak in population at 520 residents, 65 white, 455 black slaves. The abundant live oak were used for ship building. In fact, the timber on the island was once more valued than cotton. As I step onto the island I cannot decide which fascinates me most, the rich, haunting history of slaves and Spaniards or the current symphony of neighing wild horses, scurrying fiddler crab and cries of nearby shorebirds. I am instantly caught up in the feeling that I am in an enchanted far away place. The primitiveness of the island living is evident in the battered pickup trucks, vintage hand pump well and slightly overgrown, but used daily, tennis court.I am no longer in the year 2009, but more like 1954 and certainly not in the United States, but more like Rhodesia before the war and name change. It is a foreign land, with foreign foliage and rusty bicycles.The pace is slow and easy. The ocean air is moist and salve to my soul. I am in another time and another world and 20 years younger. The canopy's of trees become a cathedral and a wild horse, my trusty companion. My veil is blowing in the wind and my sword hangs across my chest. "Cocktails"! Did someone say, "Cocktails?". I am interrupted by a boy in khaki pants informing me of the rules of the house. "Honor bar. Got it."
The Greyfield Inn was built in 1900. My room is rather predictable and more museum-esque than comfortable, but nice and pristine and all a part of the escape to another time. The crisp white bedding and spartan antiques take me back and I find myself day dreaming again. I spend most of my day on the huge pillow strewn swing on the front porch, slipping inside intermittently to freshen my cocktail, scribbling my order in a spiral bound notebook with a dull pencil and take another dusty book from the library shelf. I spend a lot of time in the parlor too, when no one else is there, starring at the picture of Lucy Carnegie Ferguson. You can read her story in "Strong Women, Wild Horses". She bears a striking resemblance to her granddaughter, Gogo who splits her time between the island, Morocco and Martha's Vineyard. You must find her and ask about her jewelry. She makes it in this tiny little white shed near the Inn. If you don't get a chance to see it there, be sure and visit her shop on Sea Island in the Harris Teeter shopping center.

The Inn is the only accommodation on the island. Rates are around $500/night and include breakfast, lunch, cocktail hour hors d'hoeuvres and dinner. The food is good, not excellent. My favorite part is cocktail hour, not because of the cocktails, but the extravagant oyster roast centered around it: shucking oysters, by a fire, on an island, on the lawn of the palatial Carnegie estate. Lunch includes a picnic and a "midday exploration". I had my picnic lunch at the Dungeness Ruins and suddenly found myself dreaming again about what this palatial estate what have once been like and wishing the remaining bricks could talk. Park Rangers provide pick-up truck tours and answers to all your questions.(The book below, Bed & Breakfasts & Country Inns offers a One Night Free coupon and can be purchased for around $15 on
One can also camp quite comfortably on the island. Do not go in the slap dab middle of the summer. You will burn slap up and you may die. There is nothing worse than a hot Georgia summer on an island in a tent with mosquitoes. I do not say this in jest. I am quite serious. Do not camp in June or July or August or even September. Consider yourself warned. You really need to make reservations if camping and pack light. Site costs are between $2 and $4 per person per night and are limited to a 7 night stay. About 10 miles from Sea Camp is a place called Brickhill Bluff that is a favorite for spotting dolphin and manatee. If you prefer restrooms and shower facilities, you may pitch your tents at the Sea Camp Campground. There you also have a grill, fire ring, food cage and picnic table.
$80 will cover round trip ferry rides, park admission, campsites and bicycle rentals for one couple for a day.
If you need to say overnight in St. Mary's, try The Spencer House Inn, owned by Mike and Mary Neff. 1-912-882-1872

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