Visiting Cumberland Island is an out-of-the-ordinary experience regardless of how you receive there; but kayaking to Cumberland Island is the most exciting and spectacular way to enjoy this jewel of a barrier island. Though kayaking to Cumberland Island is not really a trip for newbies, experienced kayakers with self-rescue skills needs to have not a problem crossing the Cumberland Sound or Intracoastal Waterway and making their in the past from each day on the island. Here certainly are a few day-trips for experienced kayakers who would like to spend each day on Cumberland Island, but don't want to take the ferry.
From Crooked River State park to Plum Orchard on Cumberland Island: Put-in at the Crooked River State Park boat ramp at high-tide, or at the very least before the midst of the out-going tide - about 3-hours after high tide. You will be heading East with a very good out-flowing current taking you to Cumberland Island. A little greater than a mile from the put-in, the Crooked River makes an almost 90-degree turn to the Southeast and then back once again to the East after about another mile. Following the turn to the Southeast, stay over the left side and try to find the big left turn. As you continue out the Crooked River, you will be heading East toward the tree line on Cumberland Island and will undoubtedly be in a position to begin to see the white-structures at Plum Orchard.
The trip from Crooked River State Park over to Plum Orchard is approximately 6-miles and should take less than 2-hours. Ideally, you must try to find an earlier enough high tide to get you to the island and give you the required time for sightseeing before needing to head back. You actually desire to be back at Crooked River by high tide - or by dark if high tide is after dark. Keep in mind that even strong, experienced paddlers will see it impossible to really make the trip contrary to the strong tidal currents in the Crooked River.
From St. Mary's to the entrance of Beach Creek: Put-in at the boat ramp at the St. Marys waterfront at or after high tide to create this 4-mile trip out the St. Marys River and across the Cumberland Sound to the location close to the entrance to Beach Creek. The outgoing tidal currents in the Cumberland Sound will be pushing you toward Amelia Island and the Atlantic Ocean, so you'll want to monitor your ferry angle as you cross the Sound. Beachcombing on this element of Cumberland Island usually produces pocketfuls of shark teeth and frequent wild horse sightings. There's no navigation to this trip; take the falling tide from the St. Marys River and cross the Cumberland Sound to reach Cumberland Island. Enjoy Cumberland until after low-tide and then take the incoming tide, or flood tide, back once again to St. Marys. This trip should take about an hour to an hour and a half each way depending on winds and paddling speed.
From Amelia Island to the South end of Cumberland Island: The shortest, but many treacherous visit to Cumberland Island is from the boat ramp at the north end of Amelia Island straight across to the south tip of Cumberland. This route crosses the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and the Cumberland Sound in a place with abundant, heavy boat traffic, so safety and attention to details is important. The crossing itself is less than the usual mile; but this can be a mile of potentially BIG, scary water. Go to Cumberland Island on an incoming tide and return to Amelia Island on an outgoing tide. Two important factors to keep in mind are: First, there are extremely swift currents in this area of the Cumberland Sound and ICW; and, second, the wind and weather will change while you're on the island - making surface conditions for the return trip unpredictable. This really is not really a trip for newbies and self-rescue skills certainly are a must.
Before going, call a local outfitter and check tide times and wind and weather forecasts. Also, make sure you have plenty of drinking tap water and something to eat in addition to having appropriate gear and clothing for the trip. The majority of the year, sunscreen and insect repellant top the set of items to remember for the trip. There's a $4.00 fee for landing on Cumberland Island which is often paid at the Cumberland Island National Seashore Headquarters in St. Marys, or at one of many honor boxes situated on the island. With only a little preparation, a day-trip to Cumberland Island will be a lot of adventure and fun for an affordable price!