What’s There to See on Tangier Island?
On the way to and from the island, you’ll go past rows of watermen shanties. These are garages or sheds on stilts in the water just off the island. This is where the nation’s best blue crabs and Chesapeake oysters are processed.
Tangier Island History Museum
The Tangier Island History Museum contains artifacts dug out of attics and sheds by the locals. It tells the story of living on the island over generations. A short video, produced by an island native as a college project, does an excellent job explaining island life. You’ll learn that about 50 watermen working 15-hour days provide the livelihood for the island.
One of the more interesting exhibits is an oral history. Look for a white boat radio, and pick a button on the radio. You’ll hear different locals talk about their lives, and growing up-and-old on Tanger Island.
Kayaking Around the Island
The library is a shed–like building near the museum and loans not only books, but also about five kayaks so visitors can travel the island’s water trails. The museum has a map of several water trails.
Tangier Island Homes
Homes tend to be small and very old. Yards are manicured and typically fenced. Many homes have a family graveyard in the front, back or side yard, with cement tops to keep their relatives from floating up during high water. Some tops are buried, others lay above ground.
The first mobile home on the island has an historical marker. It came by boat and was pushed into place by locals on foot (no vehicles were used). That was a major feat for the islanders.
Keep in mind that all the material to build or renovate a home needs to be brought over by boat, and that can only be done during crabbing & oyster seasons. The waterway has frozen over during the winters, isolating the island from the mainland until a ice-breaking ship can get through. So homes stay “traditional” longer than on the mainland.
On the far side of the island is the public beach; far side on Tangier Island is a 20-minute walk. You may have to splash through some tidal marsh water to get there and walk over a dune created by Hurricane Sandy. It’s an amazingly natural, beautiful beach with sparkling off-white sand. The water is a clear blue-green. Click for more information.
Mainly, on Tangier Island, the best way to see everything is to stroll around. There’s not much time for anything else if you come by ferry for a day trip.
There’s only a few hours between the incoming and outgoing ferry, which leaves just enough time to walk about and have lunch. Most visitors have lunch first, and walkabout second, so there’s a big restaurant rush right off the ferry.