by Wendy Irvine
The Carnegie family bought this island and built a beautiful home on it more than 100 years ago. John F. Kennedy Jr. married Carolyn Bessette on this island. Yet the wild horses who’ve lived here for centuries, think the island belongs to them. Sprawling a few miles to the Florida-line in the southern part of the state of Georgia is a take-your-breath-away island experience.
The Greyfield Inn was built in 1890 for the Carnegie family. The beautiful inn has been transformed into the only overnight experience on the island by the seventh generation Carnegie heirs. Don’t visit Cumberland expecting to find gas stations, grocery stores or boutiques. This island is almost as untouched as it was in the early Carnegie years. You’ll find 18 miles of pristine beaches, mansion-ruins that you can visit from afar, and foraging wild horses. You’ll hear birds singing, and maybe the creak of a rocking chair on the inn’s front porch, but that’s about it. No modern sounds here – the family is dedicated to keeping this island – along with the National Parks Service — in its wild, natural state.
To access the Greyfield Inn you’ll drive to Amelia Island — that’s just miles away from Cumberland, but is in Florida proper – and take the Greyfield Inn’s private ferry to Cumberland. (When you make your reservation the inn will assist you with ferry reservations.)
Caveat: Visit in the spring or fall to score superb weather and swat fewer bugs. Mosquitoes seem to think that the island belongs to them June through September. However, sea turtles nest on Cumberland’s beach May through September making braving bugs totally worth it.
Also important to know: the island doesn’t have cell towers or phone lines, but Wi-Fi can often be accessed outdoors on the west side of the inn.
Today, the Greyfield Inn offers 16 rooms decked in high-end beach splendor in the main house and two cottages. Fireplaces, a shaded veranda, and a library – all sitting amid opulent dÃ©cor – add to this unique island experience. A handful of guestrooms connect making it possible to sleep at least four. Children must be five years or older to stay at the inn.
Guests at the inn receive a plethora of island activities including naturalist tours around the island, access to bikes and kayaks, and use of beach towels, chairs and umbrellas. Wrapped into the inclusive room rate are three daily meals including breakfast, a picnic lunch, and a three-course dinner.
Our Editor Loves
- Old-world luxury inn on untouched island
- Connecting rooms sleeping four
- 18 miles of untouched beaches; wild horses
- All Inclusive Rates
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
I have never felt so unwelcome at a hotel. I booked a room at the Greyfield inn last minute as a splurge after camping with my family on Cumberland island the night before. I was also planning a larger trip to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday and wanted to see if the Greyfield would be a good location for it. Because I had been camping, I arrived at the inn on foot instead of the typical ferry and I got there a few hours later than the other guests who had arrived that day. When I got there, the staff seemed very put upon when I told them I was trying to check in. I found myself apologetically asking someone if they could show me where my room was. She did less than the bare minimum in terms of making me feel welcome. Nobody smiled, nobody offered any information about how things worked, in terms of meals, drinks, activities. I asked if my husband could join me for a drink before dinner- the bar is self-serve and pay per drink, so I didn’t see why it would be a problem, I got conflicting answers. The staff members said they would let me know and then never followed up with me.
Not relishing sitting around during cocktail hour alone, I told my husband to join me but warned him that the staff was weirdly unfriendly. Sure enough, just as we had made our drinks out of their surprisingly poorly stocked bar, someone came up to my husband and told him very rudely that out of respect for the other guests’ privacy, he was not allowed to stay. As one of said guests, who was paying $800 for my room, and had just paid for his drink, I found their complete lack of accommodation on a relatively minor request to be quite appalling.
The food, which I had heard such rave reviews about was fine, but not innovative or anything particularly special. The service again was poor. The server asked what I wanted to drink and I had to request a wine menu. After she brought my drink she did not check back on me again until well into the meal.
Breakfast was standard bacon, eggs, pancakes. For the price, and hype, I had expected more. They also didn’t serve it until 8:30 and if you wanted something before then, you were stuck with toasting your own English muffin.
I had to check out earlier than the typical time to help my family load up camping gear. When I went to find someone for check out, I was told that I would have to wait 15 minutes to do so. When I told them I actually didn’t have 15 minutes to wait since I had to help my family load tents and get to the ferry, they again acted put out and handed me a bill. Who makes a guest wait 15 minutes to check out anyway?
Cumberland island is a beautiful place, and the Greyfield is one of the few places to stay on property without having to camp. Maybe because of this and the fact that gratuity is included in the cost, they have decided they don’t need good customer service. I don’t regret staying there, my bed was comfortable. But I honestly don’t think I have ever been treated so rudely at a hotel, luxury or otherwise. For the type and the price they are charging, I had expected much MUCH more. I will never go back and will look elsewhere for my mom’s 70th. I hear the inn at little St. Simon is nice.
Cumberland Island is the star here - a real star what with the wild horses outnumbering the people. The Inn, the only real lodging on the island, left me with mixed feelings. It certainly was exclusive with prices to match but left me with mixed feelings. The Inn may be a lovely historic structure but small, uncomfortable beds and barely functional baths do intrude on the comfort. Dinner was (all meals included in rate) excellent but note there are no options - everyone gets the same meal served in a noisy dining area. Absolutely nothing special about breakfast or lunch. There is a well stocked honor bar and a reasonable but excessively priced wine list. At times staff hard to find. Islamd touring vehicle is sitting in back of pickup truck. But it is famous.