Situated just outside of Savannah, Georgia, and only accessible by boat is the third-largest barrier island in the state. Ossabaw is owned by the government and is a heritage preserve.  Two separate entities manage the lands. The historic buildings are maintained by the Ossabaw Island Foundation and the remainder by the Department of Natural Resources. The island is home to a significant amount of wild and, in particular, birds. 

The barrier island consists of both high ground and wetlands. The total acreage is measured at 26,000, while just 9,000 is dry land. It is ten miles long from the north end to the southern tip, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Bear River, it is seven miles wide. 

What type of wildlife exists on Ossabaw Island?

  1. Sea Turtles- Every year, sea turtles come to lay eggs on Ossabaws beaches. The loggerhead turtle is most commonly found nesting in the sand. 
  2. Ossabaw Island Pigs or Ossabaw Island Hogs- Have been most likely brought to the island in the 16th century by Spanish Explorers, these American Feral pigs roam the land.
  3. Free-Range Donkey- Introduced to Ossabaw in 1965 are Sicilian Donkeys. Today they still wander about.
  4. Birds- Because of the five different habitats found on Ossabaw Island to include beaches, dunes, freshwater ponds, forests, and salt marshes, all types of varieties of birds can be found. The Audubon Society has labeled the island an “Important Bird Area” or IBA. 
  5. Whitetail Deer- As you venture through, you may catch a glimpse of a doe or buck whitetail deer. 

How do you visit Ossabaw Island?

Ossabaw Island in 1978 was designated as a Heritage Preserve because of its historical significance. Because of this, you must be in the presence of either an Ossabaw Island Foundation or Department of Natural Resources member. One exclusion does exist. A private boat can be anchored at the beaches, but you must remain below the tide line. 

Day Trips to Ossabaw:

Depending on the size of the group, a few varieties of day trips are available. They are educational experiences to learn the history and about the Ossawbaw Island wildlife. Walking and vehicle tours are available.

Visit the Ossabaw Island Foundation website to see all of the options.

Overnight Trips to Ossabaw:

With four separate camping areas, a Boarding House for you and your guests, which is equipped with a kitchen, and Club House with dormitory-style sleeping areas with a kitchen, you can find something suited to your comfort level. The prices vary based on what you select.

When you are planning to visit Ossabaw Island, an application must be completed to pre-register. 

Considerations when planning for your trip to Ossabaw Island:

  1. Once you’re on the island, you’re on the island. Bring everything you need because the convenience store you may be accustomed to is not around the corner. 
  2. The water on Ossabaw is untreated well water. If this is concerning to you, pack plenty of bottles.
  3. Everything you bring with you must return to the mainland in your possession, including trash and recycling. 


The island is rich in historical facts dating back to 5,000 years ago in addition to natural beauty. The members of the foundation are incredibly knowledgeable to educate you on Ossabaw’s extensive history. 

The land has been in the hands of many different owners through the years who have all left their unique mark, many of which can still be seen today. It’s no wonder why so many chose to call Ossabaw Island home with its gorgeous coastal views and fertile fishing grounds in areas like Ossabaw Sound and the tidal marshes and creeks scattered throughout. Fortunately, this lovely barrier island will be preserved for future generations. Plan a trip next time you’re in coastal Georgia.