St Marys GA, Gateway to Cumberland Island
St. Marys serves as an itinerary of captivating Victorian charm and a gateway to Cumberland Island and the Okefenokee Swamp.
Do not bypass St Marys Georgia. Close to the Florida border, the charm of its Victorian homes, the nearness of both the seashore and the wilds of the Okefenokee Swamp combined with a variety of outdoor sport and fun make it a destination worth exploring.
Take some time and stop by the Cumberland Island Visitor’s Center for friendly advice and comprehensive maps. Whether you are in the area for a few hours or a few days coming here, and talking to the experts – first – allows you to make the most of your time.
Coastal Georgia Town Attractions
Located on Georgia’s southern coast, just off I-95 near the Florida state line, St. Mary’s, Georgia is a quaint river town with a history that goes back more than 200 years. It’s also the access point for the Cumberland Island National Seashore and just minutes away from the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Is it any wonder, then, that St. Mary’s is a renowned headquarters for outdoor activities? Camping, hiking, kayaking, and birding (on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail) are just the start. There’s also fishing, both freshwater and deep-sea charter fishing, boating, swimming and sunning on the beach.
Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base
Surprisingly, tucked in with all of those outdoor sports is one of only two Trident submarine bases in the world, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, and some of the country’s most elegant hotels, like the Greyfield Inn, built in 1900 as a home for one of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie’s children.
Downtown historic district
St. Mary’s has a downtown historic district, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, that includes a 36-site Braille Trail, the only tour of its kind in the South designed for the seeing impaired. Among the many homes and buildings in the historic district is the Jackson-Clark-Bessant-MacDonnell House, built in 1801, where Vice President of the United States Aaron Burr stayed after his infamous duel with Alexander Hamilton in 1804.
Stretch your legs as you meander up Osborne Street. A diversity of shops selling items from antiques to books, cigars and a moon pie or two invite browsers and shoppers alike. It is small-town Americana at its best.
Orange Hall Museum
Along the historic area visit the Doric columned Orange Hall Museum. A one-time grove of sour oranges gave the Greek revival mansion, circa 1838, its distinctive name. Thanks to an active collection of local volunteers, and its inclusion onto the National Register of Historic Places, the house and grounds transport visitors to the antebellum era.
St Marys Submarine Museum
Along the nearby waterfront, you will come to the largest submarine museum in the South. With Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, the Atlantic home port for ballistic missile subs, a few miles away -it is no wonder such an interesting facility, like the St Marys Submarine Museum, is here. Over 20,000 artifacts, photos, and other memorabilia can be found here. The proud history of submarines and the men who sailed in them is heralded. You will understand the close, often claustrophobic, conditions under which sailors have lived and worked. WWII buffs pay special attention as almost 100% of all previously classified patrol reports can be found here.
St. Marys River
If you like your water fun in a different way – St. Marys can provide more thrills. Kayak the St. Marys River and byways during the day or at night under a moonlit sky. Catch fish either inshore or offshore with a plethora of charter boats. Scuba diving is a sport offered for both beginner and advanced from a variety of companies, and for a real easy cruise try the water taxi down to nearby Fernandina Beach just across the state line in Florida.
Perhaps the lure of ghostly spirits lurking around windswept seagrasses, lonely sand dunes or an old house is more your idea of fun. Green Elephant tours offer chills for all on the weekends.
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
If experiencing Mother Nature at her best is your calling then the region delivers with a diversity of topography. Less than an hour away lays the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Said to have been inhabited since 2500 B.C. the National Refuge offers visitors a modern look at a prehistoric place with plenty of wildlife and creatures from possums to deer to of course alligators and as a strange albeit beauty abounds from spindly trees covered in wispy Spanish moss.
From alligators to wild horses and loggerhead turtles the National Seashore of Cumberland Island offers spectacular beach vacations.
The largest barrier island on the Georgia coast can be reached via the ferry, which departs throughout the day from St. Marys. With its picturesque setting among ancient live oaks the Greyfield Inn has welcomed the famous, infamous and the average citizen for decades. Once a private retreat, in the early 1960’s the structure was converted to the romantic inn it is today.
The southeastern Georgia area is perfect for anyone during any season.
Attractions in St. Mary’s
- St. Mary’s Submarine Museum, 102 W. St. Mary’s Street – an extensive collection of submarine artifacts including a working periscope, sonar panels, reading and reference rooms and a gift shop
- Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum, 129 Osborne Street – displays of the island’s history include the Timucuuan Indians, the Carnegie family and the mansions they built, and the last battle of the War of 1812 called the Forgotten Battle
- Orange Hall House Museum, 311 Osborne – daily tours of an antebellum Greek Revival mansion built between 1829 and 1833
- Cumberland Island Visitor’s Center, 113 St. Mary’s Street – displays on Cumberland Island’s three distinct ecosystems, loggerhead turtles, whales, dolphins and wild horses
- Howard Gilman Memorial Park and Tilden Norris Marsh Walk, West St. Mary’s Street on the river – fountains, swings, children’s play area and a great place to watch the river traffic and marsh wildlife
- Cumberland Queen, the dock on West St. Mary’s Street – ferry to Cumberland Island, takes 45 minutes
- Lang’s Marina, West St. Mary’s Street – full-service marina and a deep-sea charter fishing fleet
For more information about St. Mary’s, things to do in the area, and to obtain a walking map of the historic district, contact the St. Mary’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, 406 Osborne Street, (912) 882-4000.