Fun things to do in Savannah : Sapelo Island, GA. Sapelo Island

75 Miles 2.3 Hours

Sapelo Island is a state-protected barrier island located off the coast of Georgia. The island can only be reached by airplane or boat. You can also take a ferry which departs from the Sapelo Island Visitors Center (see Ferry Schedule). The ferry ride takes about 20 minutes to reach Sapelo Island which is 7 miles away.

Sapelo Island is about sixty miles south of Savannah and lies in the center of coastal Georgia's chain of barrier islands. The 16,500-acre island is Georgia's fourth largest island in the chain. Located on the island is the 434-acre African American community of Hog Hammock, the University of Georgia Marine Institute, the Richard J. Reynolds Wildlife Management Area and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Tobacco heir R. J. Reynolds bought Sapelo Island during the Great Depression in 1934, and continued the tradition of agricultural experimentation of the previous owners. Reynolds and his family used his private island paradise as a part-time residence for three decades, consolidating the island's African-American residents into Hog Hammock. Many worked as servants in South End House, later renamed the Reynolds Mansion by the State of Georgia.

The R J Reynolds Mansion was originally designed and built by Thomas Spalding in 1802. Spalding purchased the south end of the island and built the mansion from tabby, a mixture of lime, shells and water. In 1912 Howard Coffin purchased the mansion but due to financial problems from the depression sold Sapelo Island to Richard J. Reynolds, Jr. in 1934. Sapelo Island remained in the Reynolds family until his widow sold Sapelo to the state of Georgia in separate transactions in 1969 and 1976.

On Sapelo the most readily accessible beach is Nanny goat with its white sand, cascading waves and shorebirds. This undeveloped beach, except for a pavilion, is surrounded by pristine maritime forest.

There are two lighthouses on Sapelo Island. The first lighthouse was built in 1820 (restored in 1998). In 1898 a hurricane left the lower part of the lighthouse under eighteen feet of water for several hours causing severe damage to the foundation. Therefore, a second lighthouse was built in 1905 to replace it. This lighthouse is open to the public.

If you are looking for solitude and peace, Sapelo Island is the place. Walk along the shore and enjoy the beauty. Do not forget to bring your camera. The driftwood offers many wonderful and artful opportunities for photographs.