“Tell me again why we aren’t supposed to be scared of gators?” I asked my husband as I watched a fairly determined looking fella swimming towards me through the gently rippling waters off Cumberland Island. He assured me that as a veteran of a multi-day canoe trip in the Okefenokee Swamp where he counted 120 gators that they had no interest in us. Fine by me. We had taken the kayaks from Greyfield Inn for a morning of paddling through the marshes lining the island, getting a bit lost among the bright green undulating marsh grass. That was just one of the highlights of our weekend away at this gorgeous barrier island accessible only by boat.
As we were packing Sunday morning to reluctantly leave, I laughed at myself for all the books I’d dragged along. Although we did manage to spend the last hour reading on one of the huge swings on the 100-foot-long porch, we had barely slowed down the whole weekend.
There’s nothing wrong with lounging on that magnificent porch, lulling away the hours between the two-course breakfast, picnic lunch or cocktail hour followed by three-course dinner. But there’s so much else to do.
After taking a moment to marvel at our gorgeous room and sitting area and making a mental date with the claw-foot bathtub later, we hopped on a nature tour to explore the north end of the island.
Bouncing around with two other couples on long wooden seats in the back of a pick-up truck, we ducked the low-hung branches of beautiful live oaks while chatting between stops. One couple was on the end of a long honeymoon while the other was celebrating a 44th anniversary. Greyfield is that type of place – romantic, special, luxurious.
We visited the charming, tiny church where JFK Jr. got married, watched fiddler crabs scurry along a creek bed at low tide and powered our way over sand dunes before heading back along the wide, deserted beach. Just before our turnoff we stopped to watch an osprey dive bomb and attach a bald eagle who was just hanging out watching the waves. With such a huge beach you’d think they wouldn’t have to fight over fish, but that’s nature for you.
Here are just a few other activities we enjoyed on our island sojourn in September.
Biking on Cumberland Island
Greyfield Inn has plenty of bikes for touring the island and heading to the beach, where you’re likely to be the only people on it. This is the main road of Cumberland, where the only traffic you’re may encounter could be an armadillo, the wild horses that run free on the island or a turtle wandering in and out of the roadside brush.
Relaxing on the Front Porch
Boasting possibly the most inviting porch in the U.S., guests lounge away on the two huge daybed swings on either side, or grab a drink at the honor bar and relax during nightly cocktail hour.
Kayaking on Cumberland Island
Single and tandem kayaks await guests who want to take off to paddle around the island. Innkeeper Mary Ferguson advised us on where to go and when to expect high tides and grabbed life jackets and paddles for us from a shed out back.
Visiting the Ruins
Greyfield wasn’t the grandest home on the island at one time. Dungeness was a huge manor home built by Thomas and Lucy Carnegie in the late 1800s. But Thomas died before it was complete and Lucy lived there with her nine children. The home was destroyed by fire in 1958 but you can visit the ruins.
Jewelry on Cumberland Island
Family member Gogo Ferguson and her daughter Hannah run a jewelry business, designing pieces from items found on the island. One couple delightedly showed off their purchase over cocktail one evening, earrings make with coon peckers. Gogo has her first museum exhibition in January 2013 at the High Museum of Art.
Family member Gogo Ferguson and her daughter Hannah run a jewelry business, designing pieces from items found on the island. To shop at the island store, you just stroll or walk down to a shed where cases and cases of gorgeous jewelry are for sale. One couple delightedly showed off their purchase over cocktails one evening, earrings make with coon peckers. Gogo has her first museum exhibition in January 2013 at the High Museum of Art. Gotta love an island that’s larger than Manhattan that doesn’t have a coffee shop, traffic light or restaurant. But it’s got a jewelry store.
Meals at Greyfield Inn
Three meals a day are included when you stay at Greyfield. Breakfast is a sit-down affair and includes a fruit plate and hot breakfast., although you can opt for a quick cold breakfast if you’re heading out early on a birding tour. Our last morning we were served lemon cottage cheese pancakes, applewood smoked bacon and organic scrambled eggs. Lunch is a picnic that guests pick up in the kitchen in a basket with their name on it. Our had sandwiches, salad, chips and freshly baked cookies. Non-alcoholic drinks are complimentary and guests help themselves from behind the bar. Dinner at Greyfield is a more formal affair. Gentlemen wear jackets and ladies dress up as well. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres are served in the library each evening from 6:15 to 7:30. Each night at 7:30 the dinner bell rings and guests made their way downstairs to sit at a large communal table or one of the small ones. A gourmet three-course dinner is served by friendly staff. If you somehow manage to get hungry between meals, you can wander into the kitchen and help yourself to fruit, chips or more of those fresh cookies.