Of the eight large barrier islands off the coast of Georgia, only four can be accessed by a bridge. Sapelo Island is one of the islands that can only be reached by water and visiting it has been on my bucket list for years.
Sapelo is the fourth largest Georgia barrier island. Most of the island is owned by the state of Georgia. The state owned portion of Sapelo is home to the RJ Reynolds Wildlife Management area on the north end of the island, the University of Georgia’s Marine Institute, and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.
The remaining 434 acres is the privately owned community of Hog Hammock. Many of the 70 residents there are descendants of former African-American slaves. Today, some property owners live elsewhere and a few of the houses are managed as vacation rentals.
We spent Friday night in Darien so we wouldn’t have far to go for our early Saturday morning ferry. We enjoyed a delicious fried shrimp and crab cake dinner Friday night at Skippers Fish Camp on the Darien waterfront. During our after dinner walk beside the water we spied 3 baby alligators on the banks of the river and a manatee behind a shrimp boat.
On Saturday morning, it didn’t take long to get to Sapelo Visitors Center from Darien. After purchasing our tickets for the Sapelo Ferry we learned a little about the history of the island from the interpretive displays and enjoyed the views from the deck.
The ferry departed at 9:00, right on schedule. Pelicans were busy diving for fish as we made our way to the island.
Our guide Yvonne Grovner took us around the island in a small air conditioned van. Yvonne grew up on Sapelo in the Hog Hammock community and told us many interesting facts about the island. We went from paved roads to narrow dirt trails as we traveled around the island.
We climbed the 77 steps to the top of the Sapelo Lighthouse.
Our last stop before returning to the mainland was Nanny Goat Beach. It was a Saturday and there were a few people enjoying the white sandy beach. Our guide told us sometimes on weekdays there is no one else there.
If you are planning a visit to Sapelo Island, you must make reservations for the ferry in advance. Reservations are also needed to take the tour. If you would rather explore on your own, golf carts and bicycles are available for rent. A few homes are available for rent and group camping is available. Reynolds Mansion can also be rented by groups.
More information about visiting Sapelo Island can be found at Visitors Center – Sapelo Island