Tangier Island: Sights

What’s There to See on Tangier Island?

Waterman Life

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.

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Piles of crab traps next to a waterman's shanty. These traps are dropped through the Chesapeake Bay to catch the bay's famous blue crabs.

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.

Tangier Island Museum
Tangier Island Museum is worth a visit. Islanders pulled generations of items from their attics to contribute to the display which show Tangier life & history.
Tangier Island Museum display
A display inside the Tangier Island Museum. Give yourself time to visit.

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 kayakers
Tangier Island is popular with kayakers because of the many water trails through the marshes and the natural beauty of the island. You can bring your own kayak for an extra charge on the ferry or rent one on the island. But the turnaround time is tight if you’re than on a day trip. You might consider a charter boat if you want time to kayak.

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.

Tangier Island home with family cemetery
Many homes that have been passed down through generations have family cemeteries in the front, side or back yards. You can find this Chesapeake Bay tradition on the mainland too.

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.

Tangier Island's first mobile home
First mobile home on Tangier Island has a plague on the amazing feat. It was brought over by boat and pushed in place by islanders. There’s no heavy equipment on the island to handle the task.

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.

Tangier Beach

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.

Tangier Island's public beach
Waves lapping on Tangier Island’s public beach. The sand is white due to quartz rock in the area.

Walkabout

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.

Tangier Island walking paths
Walking around the island is very easy. It’s flat and strolling the entire island takes about 20 minutes without stops.

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.

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