Little Raccoon Key glamping. Photo by @littleraccoonkey
Photo by @kberryphoto
Cumberland Island is an untamed paradise. The majority of visitors to the national seashore stay at one of the five campgrounds. But for the experience of living like the Carnegie family, whose descendants still call the island home, check into Greyfield Inn. The 1890 mansion-turned-inn features antique furnishings, all-inclusive gourmet meals, ferry transportation, and naturalist-led tours of the island.
Little Raccoon Key
Camping doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Little Raccoon Key is a glamping resort located off the coast of Jekyll Island on a 10,000-year-old reef. The private island formerly inhabited by Timucua and Guale tribes has everything you need for a cozy stay, including the safari-style canvas tent with a real bed and memory foam mattress.
Wash off in the outdoor shower before relaxing in the Adirondack chairs. An onsite chef can prepare your meals, or you can bring groceries from the mainland. Watch for dolphins and birds from your private retreat by day, or you can book a massage or fishing charter.
Photo by @_stephencook
The incredible barrier island was navigated by early Spanish explorers, and in the 1800s became a Sea Island cotton plantation. Upon the owner’s death, the enslaved people that worked there were freed and became a part of the Geechee community that still inhabits the island.
Today, Sapelo Island is only accessible by a state-run ferry. Visitors can go on an organized tour to learn about the area’s history, including stops at Hog Hammock and the 1820s lighthouse. But if a day isn’t enough, the island has unique accommodation options. Groups can stay at the Cabretta campground, a basic site tucked among the live oak trees in the R.J. Reynolds Wildlife Refuge. The Reynolds Mansion also hosts groups. If you want more privacy or are traveling with a few people, there are also privately owned rental homes like these treehouses on stilts.
Little St. Simons Island
Set between St. Simons Island and Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island was private hunting land of a wealthy family, passed down over the years before becoming a resort. Only accessible by boat, the all-inclusive stay includes 32 comfortable rooms in cabins and chef-prepared meals inside the main lodge. During the day, guests can visit the private beach or ride along with the naturalists to spot birds and other wildlife. There’s also a seasonal swimming pool and rentals of bicycles and kayaks.
Set on a 30-acre estate on Blackbeard Creek, Dunham Farms in Sunbury was originally a 1755 family farm. Detour for a rustic stay at the farm’s Palmyra Barn Bed and Breakfast, set in a pecan orchard in a 1930 barn. There are nine spacious rooms with private bathrooms, air conditioning, WiFi, and televisions. Guests can enjoy daily gourmet breakfasts and afternoon hors d’oeuvres. During the day, wander the trails, use the seasonal pool, and tour the gardens. The farm is also popular for biking and kayaking.
The Hostel in the Forest
Don’t let the name “hostel” fool you. The Hostel in the Forest in Brunswick is a longtime off-the-grid retreat with rustic treehouses, open-air huts, a bunkhouse, and campsites. Guests are asked to purchase memberships and to pitch in with chores. Vegetarian dinners are offered nightly as well as access to the kitchen.
Local coffee is also offered for a donation. Linens are provided. The hostel has outdoor showers, a sweat lodge, gardens, and acres of land to explore. It’s currently closed for summer 2020 but will reopen in the future.
Cabin Bluff and Ceylon Wildlife Management Area
The recently created Ceylon Wildlife Management Area in Woodbine is an under-the-radar place to explore with artesian springs, a historic cemetery, and abundant wildlife like protected gopher tortoises. The land was the site of a rice plantation and was later used for logging.
Nearby Cabin Bluff is a hunting and fishing retreat on the Cumberland River that dates back to 1928, hosting the likes of President Coolidge. The 20 lodge rooms and cabins have plush bedding, and guests enjoy nightly chef-prepared dinners. For those not interested in hunting or fishing, there’s also a golf course, swimming pool, and excursions to nearby Cumberland Island.