Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island Reserve and Reynolds Mansion (16,500 acres). Sapelo Island lies in the center of coastal Georgia’s well-defined chain of barrier islands, about sixty miles south of Savannah.

Sapelo Island is Georgia’s fourth largest, ocated near Darien Georgia and is accessible by ferry. Information about the Sapelo Island Lighthouses are here and here.

The island houses the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve; state Wildlife Management Area, and the University of Georgia Marine Institute. The Reserve and the Wildlife Management Area are managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.

The widow of North Carolina tobacco heir Richard J. Reynolds, Jr. (1906-1964) sold the family’s interest to the State of Georgia. All of this barrier island is owned by the state of Georgia except the 434-acre African American community of Hog Hammock.

The island houses the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve; state Wildlife Management Area, and the University of Georgia Marine Institute. The Reserve and the Wildlife Management Area are managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division.

Representatives of University of Georgia Marine Institute, University of Georgia School of Marine Programs, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, University of Georgia Marine Extension Program, Georgia Tech, and Georgia Southern University are among those pursuing research on Sapelo. [For more information: Encyclopedia of Earth]

Only reachable by boat, with the primary ferry coming from the Sapelo Island Visitors Center in McIntosh County, Georgia, a seven mile, twenty-minute trip.

On Sapelo, Thomas Spalding introduced the cultivation of sugar cane and the manufacture of sugar to Georgia.

Automotive engineer Howard Coffin owned one of the most palatial homes on the coast where many distinguished visitors were guests, including U.S. presidents Calvin Coolidge (1928) and Herbert Hoover (1932). Aviator Charles A. Lindbergh (1929) flew his plane to Sapelo Island. During this period Coffin and his young cousin Alfred W. Jones established the Cloister resort on nearby Sea Island.

From the Hog Hammock community Cornelia Walker Bailey is the champion of preserving the rich West African heritage — spiritual beliefs and folkways to the Geechee dialect once spoken by the island’s African American residents.  In 2000 Bailey published a “cultural memoir” God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man.   See Sapelo Island photos here.

October and November (annually), the Georgia Department of Natural Resources conducts controlled hunting for Ossabaw Hogs, deer, alligator, on various reserves including Cumberland Island, Harris Neck, Ossabaw Island, Sapelo Island, Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, and Wassaw Island. For more information.

Small barrier islands located just to the south of Sapelo include Wolf Island, a National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Refuge includes Egg Island and Little Egg Island.

Additional Resource:

Secret Seashore: Georgia’s Barrier Islands, Georgia Public Broadcasting