The Captain Morse House

Video of Cumberland Island

Carnegie Ruins

Want a little taste of what your visit to Cumberland Island will be?  Take a moment to look at this video, made by Tastemade Travel.  

At approximately 30 seconds into the video, you will see the ferry departure point.  It’s only a short one-block walk from the Captain Morse House. Get up, eat breakfast, pack your lunch and stroll to the ferry for a day of beauty and adventure.


Cumberland Island

Take a step back in time and explore the ruins of antebellum mansions in Georgia's Cumberland Island.

Posted by Tastemade Travel on Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Great Walk With A Dog in St. Marys, Georgia

Our dogs are our kids.  We do have other real kids, but they are grown now (in years, anyway), have their own lives (unless they need something), and never listened to us as well as our furry ones do, anyway.  But traveling when you have a pet adds another level of anxiety to the planning stage.  Where can we board them?  Is it a good place? How much will it cost us?  (OMG, that much?)

One of the main reasons that we bought the Captain Morse House was our wish to have a vacation home where our pets could also enjoy a change of venue.  We did fence the backyard in, which really helps with late-night potty breaks.   But our collies know that the highlight of every day will be their walk through the downtown area to the waterfront park.  So they usually lay right by the front door and wait. And stare at us.  You know that look.

So at least once a day, we get out the leashes (with great joy and loud barking) and head out through the front picket fence.  My husband gets the collies —see the photo above — and I get stuck with our really grumpy 13-year old Lhasa apso.

We make a left and cross the street to Seagles Saloon.  Dogs are welcome there, so we usually stop and say hello to everyone.  Pauly’s, across the street, also lets pups sit with you while you enjoy a beverage or a meal. And the Market on the Square has a water bowl outside.

We then cross over to the water-side of front street, where the ferry runs.  Here is where the real fun begins.  When you have two collies, everyone wants to pet them.  And if you are a collie, you love this!  Carly and Cannon now even know to sit for photo ops.  (Keep in mind, me, with the grumpy lhasa, just hanging out in the background.)

Our walk eventually takes us the Howard Gilman Park.  We sit on the swings at the waterfront for a few minutes, then walk out on the pier.  The breeze keeps the dogs and us cool, even on the hottest days. Then up past the fountain, where there are always a few children playing in the spray (and more petting and photo ops.)

Exit the park, and cross the street to walk up Wheeler Street.  It’s shaded with beautiful trees, so cool on doggy feet. Then make a right on Stable Alley.  At this point, we are worn out.  Well, maybe not the collies.  But I am; I am now carrying Willow, whose little Lhasa legs gave out somewhere on the dock, where she just sat down and refused to go on.

At the end of Stable Alley, we can see our house! We cross the street, open the gate, and we are back home! A rush to the water bowl, and time to settle down for a long nap.  By the front door.  In case mom & dad want to do it again.

P.S.  Bring a doggy bag or two.  We keep some in the kitchen.


Get Creative! Take a Class at Lucy Gunn’s

As an artist myself, anything creative is is an added plus to my vacation plans.  I scope out the art gallery locations and exhibits prior to leaving for any destination.  And my art supplies are the first thing I pack.  I even have a travel art supply kit (named the TASK by my husband) that goes everywhere with me.  You just never know when the muse might hit you, right?

So I am pleased to tell you that within 20 steps from the Captain Morse House (OK, maybe 30) is the best-ever place for someone who likes to learn about new creative arts!  Ladies, hand the menfolk a cold beer, park them on our porch and walk over to Lucy Gunn’s Creative Lifestyle store.

Lucy’s is a really cool store if you like to shop, so do take some time to visit. But the best part of Lucy’s is in the back, where they host all kinds of arts and crafts classes, where local artists come to share their knowledge for a few hours.  Every time I look at their schedule, I wish I was there to participate.

If you are planning a trip to St. Marys, be sure to check out their list of classes and sign up!

Created by Captain E. F. Morse

A Little Bit Of History in St. Marys, Georgia

As the second oldest city in the U.S., there isn’t a little bit of history in St. Marys, but a lot!

St. Marys was established in 1787.  All the streets in the historic district are named for the original 20 men who bought a part of the 4 block area (at $38 a piece!)  It soon became a bustling seaport due to the natural harbor and was filled with 305 citizens (according to the 1790 census) and quite a few unregistered smugglers and pirates.

St. Marys’ location – on the Atlantic Coast just above Florida – led to its involvement in several of the major military conflicts in U.S.history:

  • Troops were sent from New York to the area during the American Revolution.
  • During the War of 1812, the Battle of Fort Peter occurred near the town, at the fort on Point Peter along the St. Marys River. The British captured the fort and the town and occupied it for about a month.
  • Union gunboats shelled its waterfront buildings during the Civil War.

Want to learn a little more? Take the St. Marys History Walk that outlines the history of St. Marys & Cumberland Island. You can pick up a printed self-guided tour brochure or walk layout at the St. Marys Welcome Center.

Created by Captain E. F. Morse

A Note about Service Fees

If you’ve searched for a vacation rental in the past year, you may have noticed it is much more difficult and expensive, at least on the major booking sites.

As property owners, we feel your pain. Prior to this year, we only advertised on VRBO and were always fully booked.  We paid a yearly subscription, and our guests paid none. We chose not to advertise on AirB&B, as they have always charged guests a service fee (but do not charge the owners.)

But things changed last year with the introduction of the HomeAway / VRBO service fee.  The service fee is charged by HomeAway/VRBO to the traveler and is calculated on a sliding scale of 4% to 9% of the rental amount. Keep in mind that they still charge the owners, too! 

To help explain this “double-dipping”, HomeAway introduced their “Book with Confidence Guarantee.” If you read through it and have rented from an owner before, you might just get a chuckle out of it:

  1. Premium customer service that is available 24/7 to help you if you have issues or questions regarding your stay.
    Sounds awesome! But . . . if you call VRBO customer service (in India), they have never actually seen our property and know nothing about the home.  They are going to call the homeowners.  As owners, we would much rather establish a friendly relationship with our guests prior to you arriving at our home.  If there are questions, we answer them. If there are any issues, we want our guests to call us immediately so we can take care of them.  

2. Rebooking assistance to help you find another vacation rental should your booking be canceled by an owner or manager at the last minute.
In most locations, moving a traveler to a comparable property is simply not possible.  Odd of that customer service rep across the ocean finding you another ocean-front, pet-friendly 6-bedroom house that you selected six months ago are slim to none. You’re going to end up in a Motel 6 by the highway. And personally, as an owner, the only time I have “canceled last minute” was due to an impending hurricane and a mandatory evacuation order.  And, of course, gave a full refund.  

3. Comprehensive payment protection that protects your full rental payment against listing fraud, phishing, property significantly misrepresented and more.
So, not really.  I just read the read the “fine print” of this protection and was appalled to see that a guest is not covered if they arrive and discover  that a) the property is excessively dirty, b) it’s located in a different place than you saw online, c) the interior is  “different than the description  in the listing” and/or  d) there is “a failure of the air conditioning, internet, phone service, grill, hot tub, or swimming pool.”  

Again, establishing a relationship with the owner is your best protection.  I would never want someone to think we falsely advertised our home’s location or interior.  And I would be horrified if they felt it was not clean enough; we would send the cleaner back out right away.  We had our washing machine break during someone’s month-long stay and had it replaced with a brand-new one the same day.

4. Security deposit protection to help you recover your deposit if it is wrongfully withheld.
After many years of acting as a vacation-rental host, I can guarantee you that the last thing responsible owners want to do is withhold even a portion of your security deposit.  In our five years of doing this, we have had to use a portion of the deposit only twice.  Once, when our guests broke the glass on our dining room table. And once, when we had really bad guests who let their dogs trash the house.  Most small accidents or issues are just the cost of doing business. 

We still advertise on all of the major booking sites.  If you feel more comfortable using them, regardless of the additional fees, then please do so. If you have started your reservation process through a third-party site, we will not suggest or allow you to cancel and book direct. That would be unethical, in our opinion.

Just do your homework before you book. The best price always comes from booking direct, whether it’s a hotel, airline or vacation rental. 

And most important, when renting a vacation property, the owner (and not the website you found the property on) is your best friend when it comes to ensuring the quality of your stay. 


Kayaking St. Marys

Paddle on the St. Marys River, along the marshes and through the harbor.   

Dolphins and Otters are common sights in the St. Marys, as are shrimp boats — and an occasional nuclear submarine at the mouth of the river as it heads out or returns from patrol. The docks on the St. Marys harbor are favorite spots of visiting manatees.

Take a look at the official guide:

There are 3 places in St. Marys that currently rent kayaks:
Google Link to Kayak Rentals

Coming for a Wedding?

Attending a wedding in St. Marys? It’s no surprise.

Every year, the Captain Morse House hosts many guests and wedding parties.  With four bedrooms, it is one of the largest vacation rentals in St. Marys. And since it is centrally located in the historic district, it’s the perfect place for bridal parties and large groups to gather to celebrate. 

It’s a short walk to the St. Marys Waterfront Park and the Orange Hall House Museum, two of the locations popular for nuptials.  

If you are attending a wedding on Cumberland Island, you are in good company! 

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette made their marriage vows in a tiny, white clapboard First African Baptist Church on Cumberland Island’s north end.

Cumberland Island Visitor Information

Cumberland Island

Winter 2017/18 Cumberland Ferry Times

The ferry service from St. Marys, Georgia to Cumberland Island National Seashore during winter 2017/2018 season is Thursday through Monday in the months of December, January, and February (no service on Tuesdays & Wednesdays).

The ferry leaves St. Marys at 9 am and 11:45 am Thursdays through Mondays, heading to Cumberland Island for the three month winter schedule. The return ferry for day trippers departs Cumberland Island at 4:45 pm. (There’s also a 10:15 am ferry departing the island, typically used by overnight campers).

 The Park Service and ferry concessionaire advise ferry reservation holders to arrive one hour early before departure time, to check in.  According to the NPS website, “All unclaimed ferry reservations will be cancelled 30 minutes prior to departure and those spots will be offered to walk-in visitors.”

Note that since Hurricane Irma, an alternative dock being used requires a bit more time for parking and getting to the dock. 

If you are staying with us at the Captain Morse House, you are centrally located to both the check-in point and the temporary departure dock. 

Bicycles can be transported on ferry for $10 fee (but space is limited), or rent a bike for $16 from ferry company (first come, first serve). 

Ferry tickets cost $28 plus tax per person, plus a $7 park entry fee. 

Where To Eat

low country boil

Fresh seafood.  It is synonymous with any visit to Coastal Georgia.

You can’t get any fresher seafood than in St. Marys.  Literally, it is caught in our waters, cleaned at Lang’s Marina then cooked up for you at Lang’s Seafood, one block down from us on the riverfront.  Fried shrimp is the specialty.

We also love the Riverside Cafe, also on Front Street.  A Greek restaurant (with awesome Mousaka,) it has a large menu with a little bit of everything; all of it great! Fresh seafood, also. And their desserts . . . OMG.

Pauly’s, which is two doors down from us, is always written up as one of the best restaurants in Georgia.  An Italian restaurant, but also amazing for seafood.  I love the shrimp salad there; it is in a vinaigrette dressing, so really different and yummy.  And their homemade potato salad is phenomenal.

Want breakfast? Try the Cedar Oak Cafe.  Two blocks west on Osborne, in the local art gallery.  Great coffees and a large variety of breakfast and lunch items.

Click on the map to open a Google Restaurant search result:

Kings Bay Naval Base

Kings Bay Naval Base, for those who are not familiar, is located 10 minutes west of St. Marys. The Submarine Base is the U.S. Atlantic Fleet‘s home port for U.S. Navy Fleet ballistic missile nuclear submarines armed with Trident missile nuclear weapons.  

St. Marys’ appreciation and support of the men and women who serve our nation is evident around town.  When we first came to St. Marys, we noticed that most downtown shops have a sign in their windows, “EDICCIMAD.”  To save you the time of an inquiry, this means “Every Day in Camden County is Military Appreciation Day.”  In most cases, those displaying this sign will offer a military discount.  As retired Air Force, just seeing those signs makes us feel a little warmer inside.

If you are a military member with proper ID, you can take advantage of the Commissary and other base features, such as a beautiful swimming pool and playground.  On any of our longer visits, we do our grocery shopping there.  

Many of our guests each year are the families of military members, attending a ceremony or coming to visit their loved ones stationed in Kings Bay.  As retired military, those groups are “our family” too, and we love the thought of sharing our home with them.


Advantages of the Captain Morse House

Consider renting the Captain Morse House for your visiting relatives.  

  • With four bedrooms, it is more economical than individual hotel rooms. 

  • Your family members have a gathering place (that’s not your house!)

  • With so much to do in downtown St. Marys, visiting guests will enjoy every minute of their stay.