Sapelo Island /ˈsæpəloʊ/ is a state-protected island (barrier island) located in McIntosh County, Georgia. The island is reachable only by airplane[ or boat, with the primary ferry coming from the Sapelo Island Visitors Center in McIntosh County, Georgia, a seven mile (11 km), twenty-minute trip.
Approximately 97 percent of the island is owned by the state of Georgia and is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; the remainder is under private ownership. The western perimeter of Sapelo is the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve (SINERR) which is part of NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve system (NERR). The University of Georgia Marine Institute, which is focused on research and education, is located on 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) on the south end of the island. The Reynolds Mansion, a Georgia State Park, also lies on the south end of the island. Visitors to the island must be a part of an organized tour or guests of residents on the island. The island also has a small private airport run by the state of Georgia
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) offers tours several days a week. These can be booked through the Sapelo Island Visitors Center. Additionally, many island residents offer private tours which can often be customized to fit the interests of individual tourists. A state campground is also available to groups of 15-25 people on Cabretta Island (adjacent to Sapelo Island).
Cornelia Walker Bailey, Sapelo Island resident and descendant of Bilali Muhammed, wrote the book God, Dr. Buzzard and the Bolito Man: A Saltwater Geechee Talk About Life on Sapelo Island, Georgia (ISBN 0385493770) which is a first-person account of growing up on Sapelo; co-author Christena Bledsoe. RJ Reynolds' grandson Patrick Reynolds and author Tom Shachtman co-authored The Gilded Leaf: Triumph, Tragedy and Tobacco - Three Generations of the R.J. Reynolds Fortune and Family (ISBN 0595366589), which offers an unvarnished view of RJ Reynolds Jr during the time he owned Sapelo. Author Tom Poland wrote a novel entitled Forbidden Island ... An Island Called Sapelo (ISBN 1425992021). Singer Larry Jon Wilson has recorded a song entitled "Sapelo" which is about the island on the album Testifying - The Country Soul Revue. Author T. C. Boyle set his 1990 novel East is East on a fictional island in Georgia, much of which resembles Sapelo Island, such as the presence of Hog Hammock and proximity to Darien.
An episode of ESPN's Outside the Lines was filmed on Sapelo Island and the Hog Hammock community in 2013, documenting the childhood of Allen Bailey and telling the community's story and current property tax issues.