We left the cruise and did an overnight in Saint Augustine, a city that dates back to 1556 when it was discovered by the Spanish. There’s a lot of attractions built around the early missions, Ponce deLeon, and the early settlement of the area. Our highlight was a late lunch of O.C. Whites a restaurant that dated back to 1790, our selection was their Shrimp Abaco, a generous portion of shrimp sauteed with garlic, mushrooms, diced tomatoes and artichoke hearts, simmered in a light garlic cream sauce served over angle hair pasta.
The next day we drove up the highway to Amelia Island and stayed at the Ritz Carlton on the Club level, all courtesy of our Visa points program. It was a relaxing day will all our food and drink supplied by the Club Room. I did a self guided bike tour of the island and housing developments and considered island living.
We were at the dock early the next morning for our boat trip out to Cumberland Island.
In the 1880s Thomas Carnegie, brother of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and his wife Lucy bought land on Cumberland for a winter retreat. In 1884, they began building a mansion on the site of Dungeness, though Carnegie never lived to see its completion. Lucy and their nine children continued to live on the island, naming their mansion Dungeness after that of Greene. The last time Dungeness was used was for the 1929 wedding of a Carnegie daughter. After the Crash and the Great Depression, the family left the island and kept the mansion vacant. It burned in a 1959 fire, believed to have been started by a poacher who had been shot in the leg by a caretaker weeks before. Today, the ruins of the mansion remain on the southern end of the island. The Carnegie family owned 90% of the island.
Lucy Carnegie had additional estates built on the island for her children. These include:
Greyfield, built in 1900, now a private inn where we spent the night and had dinner and island tours. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to live as the American Aristocrats lived, but it did come with 1900 plumbing, beds, and heating and air conditioning.
Plum Orchard, donated to the National Park Service in 1972, which maintains it, but it’s vacent and contains some of the original furnishings.
Stafford Plantation, not currently maintained, but partly occupied by one of the Carnegie descendants.
In 1955 the National Park Service named Cumberland Island as one of the most significant natural areas in the United States. In 1969 a developer tried to turn Cumberland Island into a commercial area. This caused environmental activists and the Georgia Conservancy to band together and push a bill through the US Congress that established Cumberland Island as a national seashore. The bill was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972. The Carnegie family sold the island, not including the Greyfield property, to the federal government. With donations from the Mellon Foundation, Cumberland Island became a national park. It is one of the most undeveloped places in the United States.
Our Island tour, in the back of a pick-up took us over 80% of the island spotting many of the wild horses, wild turkey, pig, armadilla, and many birds. We returned to the Inn at 35 mph down the beach.
We caught the 3:30 ferry back to Amelia Island and drove up to Jekyll Island. In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to become an exclusive winter retreat for America’s most elite families, known as the Jekyll Island Club, where we spent the night. For more than half a century, the nation’s leading families, including the Rockefellers, Morgans, Pulitzers, and Goulds, came to Jekyll Island “to secure an escape.”
Today the Jekyll Island Museum tells their stories, giving an inside look at what life was like for both club members and their employees. Offering exhibits, tours, and a museum store, the Jekyll Island Museum provides an introduction to the vibrant cottage life of the historic district and beyond.
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