Human activity on Sapelo Island spans over 4000 years. The earliest inhabitants were Paleo-Indians who used the island to fish and hunt. Their legacy is evident by the numerous shell middens located throughout the island, including a shell ring 15 feet high and 200 feet in diameter. In the early 1800's, Sapelo Island underwent significant change when Thomas Spalding, the son of a Scottish trader and planter, bought the island and developed it into a plantation. An amateur agriculturalist, Spalding sold live oak for shipbuilding, introduced irrigation ditches, and cultivated sea island cotton, corn, and sugar cane.
By the early twentieth century the International Road Races were attracting notables from the motor world to Savannah. One attendee was Howard Coffin, founder of the Hudson Motor Company in Detroit. Coffin became attached to the beauty of the Georgia coast, and in 1911 he and his wife purchased Sapelo Island. Like Spalding, the Coffins embarked on ambitious projects. Miles of shell-covered roads were laid, creeks were bridged, old fields were cultivated and large tracts were set aside for cattle grazing. The Coffins also renovated and enlarged the Spalding house, creating an island paradise unsurpassed on the coast. R. J. Reynolds, of Reynolds Tobacco Company, owned Sapelo from 1933 until 1965, and continued the tradition of agricultural experimentation of the previous owners.
Today, under the direction of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the island is home to the Sapelo Island National Esturine Research Reserve. The Reserve enables visitors to experience a typical barrier island natural community, from the diversified wildlife of the forested uplands to the vast expanses of Spartina salt marsh and the complex beach and dunes system. Exhibits and displays at the Sapelo Island Visitor Center interpret the island's natural and cultural history, while public tours enable the visitor to experience the African-American community of Hog Hammock, the University of Georgia Marine Institute and the Coffin-Reynolds mansion.
Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve
Visitation to the island is limited by ferry service. For schedule information, contact the Sapelo Island Visitor Center at (912) 437-3224 for public tours and the Sapelo Island Education Office at (912) 485-2300 for group tours. Public tours on Wednesdays (8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.) and Saturdays (9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.), September through May. Also on Fridays, June through August.
CLIMATE, RECOMMENDED CLOTHING
Summers are hot and humid. Winters are mild and normally pleasant. Recommend light clothing April to November. Inspect repellent recommended in spring, summer and fall.
The Sapelo Island Visitor Center and ferry dock is located 8 miles northeast of Darien, Ga. off Ga Hwy 99 (follow signs).
This map was created using MapQuest
Sapelo Island can be reached only by ferry. Transportation on the island is provided for those on the guided tour only.
FEES, COSTS, RATES
A fee is collected for transportaion on the ferry and for interpretive services.
FACILITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES
Sapelo Island Visitor Center at the mainland dock and Long Tabby Lab and Education Facility on the island
Nature trails at the Visitor Center. Beach boardwalk, nature trail, wildlife observation tower on the island.
Group and public tours, science education programs for school groups (grades 5-12) and teachers.
Lodging and Camping Facilities:
Pioneer group camping is available for up to 25 persons. (912) 485-2299
Extremely limited on island.
Limited accessibility facilities.
RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES/PARK USE
Marsh and bird walks, historic tours, bird and wildlife observation.
Reservation required for camping, tours, Reynold's Mansion.
ADJACENT VISITOR ATTRACTIONS
In addition to the Reserve, more information is available from the McIntosh County Chamber of Commerce at the Darien Welcome Center. Call (912) 437-6684.
For more information on archeology, visit the National Park Service
Southeast Archeological Center.
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