Located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Georgia, Ossabaw Island is one of the Sea Islands and Georgia’s third-largest barrier island. It was once owned by Northern industrialists and indigo and cotton planters.
Now it’s a state-designed Heritage Preserve that boasts biodiverse maritime forests, oak-shrouded pathways, freshwater ponds, and white-sand beaches that are open to the public. It’s a great playground for nature and wildlife enthusiasts and those who prefer serene, uncrowded places.
Location, Access, and Stay
Ossabaw Island is located about 20 miles south of Savannah’s historic district, between Wassaw Island on the north and St. Catherines Island on the south.
There is neither bridge nor causeway connecting the island to the mainland so you can reach it only by boat from Tybee Island. It can be either a day trip by boat, or a hunting trip conducted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, or an overnight stay arranged with the nonprofit Ossabaw Island Foundation. There are three primitive campgrounds and two distinct lodges.
To protect the island’s environmental and cultural excellence, visitation is limited so you must plan your visit in advance. You can take an organized tour or go in a private boat – in this case, you’re allowed to drop anchor anywhere along the island’s unspoiled beaches and stay there from sunrise until sunset as long as you don’t cross the high watermark.
If you’re sanctioned to go beyond the beach and into the maritime forest, you can see many wild things there. Wild boars are everywhere, deer and armadillos are plentiful, alligators snooze in the ponds and swales. There are also donkeys, mink, and many smaller mammals.
Birdwatchers will be excited to see dozens of bird species including ospreys, herons, ibis, merganser ducks, vultures, wood storks, and bald eagles.
Ossabaw Island has about 13 miles of pristine, unspoiled beaches where you’re are permitted to go in a private boat. The beach is vast, flat, and offers plenty of space. Shelling is amazing here, you can collect a variety of intact shells. On the beach, you can spot loggerhead sea turtles and their nests if you travel during the turtle-nesting season. The water is bright blue and clean.
Ossabaw Island inspires painters, photographers, musicians, and writers. The Ossabaw Island Writers’ Retreat is held on the island each year; it attracts writers of all styles. You can also participate in volunteer clean-ups, overnight art retreats, and a New Year’s Eve overnight trip.
Driving Time (till Tybee Island)
- 1 hour 40 minutes from Brunswick, GA
- 2 hours 25 minutes from Charleston, SC
- 2 hours 30 minutes from Jacksonville, FL
Additionally, there's a number of beaches near Ossabaw Island Beach which you can visit: