How to Get to the Cumberland Island National Seashore:Unlike the nearby islands of St. Simons and Jekyll, which can both be reached by causeway, Cumberland is only accessible by ferry or by private boat. We booked our passage on the park service ferry several weeks in advance -- something I would recommend highly -- since the park allows a maximum of only 300 people on the island at any one time. By staying overnight in the nearby town of Saint Marys, it took us less than 10 minutes to drive to the park visitor center, which is located along the Saint Marys River. By 8:30am, there were already several dozen people mulling around, hoping to get on a waiting list or preparing to catch the ferry to Cumberland Island. Judging by the large piles of gear and equipment stacked along the dock, it was clear that most people were planning to spend at least a few days camping on the island. Armed with only a backpack and a camera, my wife and I looked conspicuously unequipped, even though we were only planning to spend the day.
From March through the end of November, the National Park Service ferry operates twice a day, leaving the mainland at 9:00am and 11:45am and departing Cumberland Island at 10:15am and 4:45pm. From March 15 to September 30, there is also a 2:45pm departure from the island Wednesday through Saturday. From December 1 through the end of February there is no ferry service at all on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and no 2:45 departure from the island at all.
About 15 minutes before our scheduled departure, a park ranger gave us a brief lecture on the facilities on the island and issued the following warning: "If you hear the boat whistle at 4:45 and you're not on the boat, your status just changed from day visitor to camper." The scenic 45-minute ferry ride to Cumberland Island took us down the mouth of the Saint Marys River and across the Cumberland Sound to the Dungeness Dock, located at the south end of the island.