I love kayak camping on barrier islands. Charleston has a few, like Capers and Morris, that I’ve camped on several times, but I have always heard that Cumberland Island is a different experience. After leaving Charleston, this was one of the main destinations we were excited for on our way to the Gulf Coast. However, the government shutdown in January cast some uncertainty about whether or not we’d be able to go.
We planned to take the ferry to Cumberland Island and camp at Sea Camp. Cumberland Island was still open during the shutdown, but the ferry was not. We were disappointed at first, but it turns out this may have been a blessing in disguise. After doing some research, we found that we could kayak from our RV campground, Crooked River State Park. It is a 6 mile paddle each way, but if you time your paddle with the tide, it’s not bad at all. We ended up changing our landing spot from Sea Camp to Plum Orchard, which was a closer.
We ended up having the island to ourselves for the most part. I didn’t see Hunt Camp listed on any of the maps, but a local kayak shop told me about it before we left. It ended up being amazing. Our campsite was a short walk from the dock with awesome views. To top it off, the campground was stocked with split firewood. We brought foil packet dinners, and cooked over the fire.
On our paddle in, we noticed a sailboat anchored in the creek. While we were watching the sunset, the boat owners came back in their dinghy. They swung by the shore on the way in and invited us aboard for a drink. Oddly enough, our night kayak camping on a barrier island turned out more social than an RV park. The couple was really interesting. They were from South Dakota and had just bought a boat in Charleston. Self-proclaimed YouTube sailors, they were starting a year-long sailing trip. Although we love being on the RV, we were definitely a little jealous.
As soon as the sun came up, we went for a hike across the island out to the beach. Cumberland Island is known for its wild horses. Of course, we wanted to make sure we saw them. Everyone we asked assured us that wouldn’t be a problem. Somehow we never did! Our trip felt a little incomplete without seeing them. The walk across the island was beautiful though. Cumberland Island really just feels like a special place.
A big difference between Cumberland and some of the barrier islands in Charleston, is that there is some development. Nothing was open because of the shutdown, but we did see the Plum Orchard Mansion. It was impressive, but also kind of creepy. Buzzards were everywhere.