Friday, October 4, 2013

Your guide to visiting Sapelo Island

Before you go

Make reservations to visit, as visitors to the island must be a part of an organized tour or guests of residents on the island. See “how to get there”

Read God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man by Cornelia Walker Bailey. This beautiful cultural memoir will help you better understand the history of the island and its inhabitants.

Visit the Sapelo Island Estuarine Research Reserve Visitor Center at the mainland ferry dock in Meridian. In addition to providing valuable information about the coastal ecosystem, the area’s history and marine life, this will also be the best place to find answers to questions about tours and lodging.

**Public use is limited to the south half of the island unless accompanied by an authorized guide or a special DNR permit.

Source: National Estuarine Research Reserve Sapelo Island brochure

How to get there

The island is only accessible by boat or airplane (the small air strip is managed by the State of Georgia). The Sapelo Island ferry makes three round trips a day except on Sundays and holidays; for a complete schedule, click here. Reservations required, and they will be made by the tour organizer or your host.


Several privately managed properties are available for rental in the Hog Hammock community through sites such as, Sapelo Island Birdhouses or Geechee tours. Arrange transportation from ferry landing at time of booking.

The Reynolds Mansion has 13 rooms available for group bookings of 16-29 adults with a two-night minimum. Meals and transportation from the ferry landing included, visit the DNR website for availability and reservations.

Groups of 15-25 people may camp near the beach in Sapelo’s Cabretta Island campground. A comfort station is available, and transportation from the ferry landing is provided.

What to do/see

-Hit the beach. There are two beaches accessible by car or bicycle, Nanny Goat Beach (south end) and Cabretta Island (north), although in actuality the entire east coast is sandy beach. As this article is published the bridge leading to Nanny Goat is out and therefore it is a longer walk from the parking area, but there is also a short walk to reach Cabretta Island beach. Facilities at Nanny Goat include covered pavilions, restrooms and outdoor showers.

-Check out the almost 200 year old lighthouse and take in the view from the top.

-Stop by the Hog Hammock store at the east end of the East-West autobahn. You might get lucky and meet Mrs. Bailey, the author of “God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man.” If you took the south end tour your tour guide may have been Ms. Yvonne Grovner; her sweetgrass baskets and cookbook are also for sale here.

-Explore the Reynolds Mansion and grounds

-Search for alligators! You’re almost sure to spot one in the big pond across from the dorms near the Reynolds Mansion, but according to our tour guide a 10-footer prefers the tennis court to sun itself.

-Take a guided tour of the south half of the island featuring the Reynolds Mansion, the Sapelo Island lighthouse, Hog Hammock and Long Tabby. Reservations required, for more information contact the Visitor Center or Geechee Tours. (This is a great way to visit the island without staying overnight, but also a great way to explore the area if you are staying at one of the Hog Hammock rentals.)

-Watch the sun set at Long Tabby. Site of the 1809 old tabby sugar mill (of which the ruins are still visible), this is also where the island’s post office is located, and the view over the marsh is perfect for watching a colorful Sapelo Island sunset.

-Behavior Cemetery. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1805 cemetery is behind locked gates but worth the stop to see one of the most important African-American landmarks in Georgia.

-Take a guided tour of the north end of the island. Your host or the Visitor Center should be able to arrange a DNR certified tour guide to take you on the back roads of the island. Sites to see include the Shell Ring dating back to 2170 BC, Chocolate Plantation and the tabby ruins from 1819, and Raccoon Bluff: the First African Baptist Church built in 1900 and a view of Blackbeard Island.

-Birdwatch. From the osprey hunting the marshes near the lighthouse to the bald eagles that nest on the island, there are dozens of species that can be found. In addition to the shorebirds, marsh birds and birds of prey, we saw waterfowl and songbirds.

-Charter a boat for a fishing or sightseeing trip or to search for pirate treasure on neighboring Blackbeard Island with a private tour through Sapelo Sights.

-Rent a bicycle or kayak and see the island from a different perspective.

-Sample Lula’s cooking. Serving up authentic Geechee fare, Lula often cooks for the groups renting the Reynolds mansion. Check with your host, it may be possible to join in!

-Stop in The Trough, Sapelo’s only bar located in Hog Hammock, for a drink and a snack.

-Visit the Hog Hammock community center or library to learn more about the Geechee and Hog Hammock. A non-profit organization, Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society (SICARS) whose mission is to preserve and revitalize Hog Hammock, has created a community land trust and is considering development of a cultural village to attract tourists and acquaint visitors with Gullah/Geechee history, lore and crafts.

-Take a moonlit stroll on the beach. We had a full moon to guide us, but our host said on a clear night the stars are unparalleled.

-Enjoy every minute on this historic island that remains a pristine jewel of the Atlantic coast.

For more on Sapelo Island:


  1. holy moly, what a cool place to explore!

  2. How beautiful! I always love finding lighthouses to take photos of.

  3. You have some beautiful pictures posted here - thanks for sharing. I just found you via the Friends Around the World link - I look forward to reading some more here.


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