Cumberland Island, Georgia may be the most magical place on earth. Only accessible by boat from Amelia Island, Florida, the island is 19,000 acres of beach and maritime forest. Dirt “roads” lead one to mansions built by prominent American families, one burnt to the ground in the ’60s remains as “ruins.” One such mansion is now the Greyfield Inn, built by Thomas Carnegie for his daughter, Margaret. The original furniture still furnishes the house today, the library is full of old books that they read. Outside the window, feral horses graze the grounds, and further in the forest alligators roam the marshes. The bike ride to the beach is like a tunnel through tangled oak trees and spanish moss; the beach remains completely undeveloped — not one home, hotel, and sometimes, no other person, obscures the natural coastline.
The “main” road through the island is a dirt path which has survived from the Revolutionary War. I rode along this relic of a road in the back of a pick-up truck, weaving through the forest at 60 mph. Those of us in the back had to duck (often unsuccessfully) from large tree branches that could take off our heads.
Freed African slaves set up a settlement in the middle of the forest, and the first African Baptist Church, built in 1893, still stands today. To walk inside is both spiritual and surreal, an old Bible was turned to the book Jeremiah, the original floors creaking under each step. It’s the famous sight where John F. Kennedy Jr. married his beautiful blonde bride, Carolyn Bessette.
It’s a place of no television sets, no cell phone service, and hardly a car. It’s a place of spiritual growth and relaxation, a place I look forward to returning often.