Last week’s column focused on a beach close to home at Don Carter State Park. This week, we will take a look at two additional peaches, Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island and the beaches of Cumberland Island
Romantic: Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island
What is it about beaches and driftwood? By itself, a beach is sand and sun and water. But throw in a little driftwood and the “romance” factor goes up. Why is driftwood romantic? I don’t know, but it is – and the best place to find it is (get ready) at Driftwood Beach on the extreme north end of Jekyll Island.
Driftwood Beach is just what the name suggests. That name comes from a forest of driftwood that seems to emerge from the sand. This driftwood forest formed over the years as the north end of the island has gradually, but inexorably eroded away. (In fact, the whole island is actually creeping south as the north end erodes and the south end grows.) As the north end has receded and forest has been displaced by beach, the trees that once grew on the displaced land succumbed to the salt and became driftwood-in-place. The result? A driftwood forest. It’s enchanting and beautiful.
Driftwood Beach is easy to access from the Clam Creek picnic area. You’ll also find a number of beach access points on North Beach View Drive; simply park in one of the designated parking areas and make the short walk north along the shore to the Driftwood Beach.
When you visit Jekyll Island, note that you’ll need to purchase a parking pass. This pass gives you access to many of the island’s public outdoor areas. Daily, multi-day and annual passes are available. Bicycles and pedestrians can enter at no charge.
In addition to Driftwood Beach, there are other beachgoing opportunities on Jekyll Island, too. But for sheer romance, Driftwood Beach simply cannot be beat.
Learn more about visiting Jekyll Island at www.jekyllisland.com.
Remote: The beaches of Cumberland Island
For many beach lovers, Georgia’s ultimate beach experience is found on Cumberland Island, the state’s southernmost barrier island. Thanks to Cumberland Island National Seashore, you have the opportunity experience backcountry adventure and explore beaches that must be seen to be believed.
A trip to Cumberland Island begins at the town of St. Marys, Georgia. From there, a ferry takes you to the island. Once on the island, you’ll find a variety of beach experiences waiting for you.
Day visitors will want to focus on Sea Camp Beach near the south end of the island, just over a half-mile from Sea Camp Dock. It’s a perfect destination for a day trip, and you’ll have plenty of time for beachcombing before returning to the ferry for the trip back to St. Marys.
Of course, you may want to reserve a spot at Sea Camp Campground and stay longer. The largest and most developed of the campgrounds on Cumberland Island, Sea Camp features restrooms, cold showers, drinkable water, fire rings with grills and picnic tables. Just note that campsites there are in high demand, and this campground is often fully booked. Make reservations early.
Want a little more wilderness with your beach adventure? Check out Stafford Beach Campground about 3.5 miles from Sea Camp Dock. It’s smaller and more primitive than Sea Camp, though it too offers restroom facilities, cold showers and fire rings. Water is available, but must be treated. A short trail leads from this campground to the beach.
For those seeking the ultimate in solitude, there are three primitive campgrounds (Hickory Hill, Yankee Paradise and Brickhill Bluff) even farther north within the island’s designated wilderness area. This is totally an on-your-own hike-in adventure – as the National Park Service website puts it, “Campers should be well prepared, have proper gear, be knowledgeable in its use and self reliant.” There are no restrooms, no showers and no campfires permitted (portable camp stoves must be used for cooking). Water comes from nearby sulphur wells and must be treated before use. It’s not for the faint of heart.
But if you’re up to the challenges, the Park Service adds, you’ll find “solitude, beauty and an escape like no other.”
I’ve camped at some of those sites, and it really is a unique experience that you’ll never forget.
And the beaches, as you might imagine, are exquisite.
If you’re camping, note that you are responsible for transporting your gear from Sea Camp Dock to your campsite – in other words, you have to carry it in. But you won’t mind the hiking. It’s a small price to pay for a beach experience like the one waiting for you on Cumberland Island.
Learn more about Cumberland Island National Seashore at https://www.nps.gov/cuis/index.htm.