Sapelo Island – Georgia’s Jewel Barrier Island

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Island matriarch Cornelia Bailey shares information about the Geechee Sapelo Island Red Pea Project.

 A special place along the Georgia coast called Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island!  So many images come to mind when you hear the name. Two pristine beaches, a lighthouse which has stood the test of time and hurricanes, maritime forest and historic buildings reminiscent of times gone-by.

The most intriguing and interesting feature of experiencing Sapelo is the people.  Geechee residents have lived on their ancestral land for nine generations. They are the descendants of slaves brought from West Africa to work on the cotton and sugar cane plantations on the island.  Today their lives center around activities on the island, just as their ancestors years ago.


Nanny Goat Beach with the tide out. The beach is pristine and only a few people, if any, will be on the beach.


Harvesting whelks is a generations-old tradition on Sapelo. They are found along the seashore. Families go together with large buckets to collect them and bring them home to cook

Residents fish, harvest oysters and cast fishing Nets with the same tradition through the years.  On any given day you can find residents dropping a crab pod (a metal, wire mesh box used for catching crabs) into the water, with pieces of chicken several days old. That’s tasty eating for a blue crab! When the pod emerges from the water, there may be 10 or 12 crabs ready for a Low Country Boil or a simple boil, but not too spicy. Sapelo residents have been harvesting and preparing seafood for generations. It is part of their culture. Each year it is a Geechee tradition to take a ride up to the north end of the island and collect Whelks.  Known as the Georgia seashell, this gastropod makes a favorite traditional dish in the community.  Whelks harvested from the seashore are boiled until the meat comes out of the shell, and garlic is added in a saute and served for dinner.

Yvonne Grovner & Herbert J. Dixon 4.2.07 no. 072

The skillful hands of Yvonne Grovner weaving a sweetgrass basket with materials she harvested and processed from the pristine Sapelo forest.

A visit to Sapelo will provide a chance to meet and experience a group of people still connected to their land, family and culture.  You can find a master sweetgrass basket maker who teaches classes to those interested in learning this skills brought over to the island from West Africa.  Yvonne Grovner sells her baskets on the island and teaches classes on the mainland and the island too.

Interested in visiting?

There are vacation rental cottages available for couples, families and girlfriends getaway trips.

The Sapelo Island Birdhouses are your perfect stay.
Visit their website:

Explore Sapelo through the photos below.


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