Tangier Island: Overview

Tangier Island on the Virginia end of the Chesapeake Bay is a waterman’s island.  You visit the island to see a way of life unique to the Chesapeake Bay.

While islanders welcome tourists, there’s little change to fit tourism. And that’s what makes Tangier Island such an amazing place to visit.

About 500 people live on the mostly marsh island. It’s three miles long and one-and-a-half miles wide.

These are middle class working people. This isn’t an island of mansions. Nothing is prettied-up for tourists. Islanders are proud of their island and happy to share their lifestyle for a bit.

Homes are built on the island’s three ridges that run parallel long-ways down the island. A ridge is about five feet above sea level. If a home is even slightly off the ridge, the back yard eases into marsh. Many of the newer homes have short, hidden stilts to allow water to flow underneath during high-tides.

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Due to the lack of land on Tangier Island, families bury their dead next to the house in the front, side or back yards. Many are in half-buried crypts because of the possibility of high water.

The center of the island is tidal marsh with narrow, wood bridges going over the tidal streams. The island is 740 acres. Of that, a little over 80 acres is high enough to live on.

Boardwalk bridge across one of the many Tangier Island marshes.
Boardwalk bridge across one of the many Tangier Island marshes. It connects one ridge of homes with another.

 

What’s called Main Street circles the main residential and commercial areas. It’s a mile-and-a-half, one lane asphalt road. As the tour guide says, “You can’t get lost.” You won’t find a traffic light. People get around on bicycles, golf carts or foot.

Tangier Island golf carts
Golf carts are the primary mode of transportation on the island. You can rent them, hire a guide or use them like an Uber.

Locals must get permission from the city council to have a vehicle on the island (about 25 now) and they fill up at the marina fuel pump.

 

Gettting Around

You’ll find islanders sitting in golf carts near the ferry who’ll give tours of the island. It takes about 15-minutes around the island perimeter and is a good overview of the island. The ladies will tell you the rate before the tour starts.

Tangier Island buggy tours
Golf cart stand by for buggy tours

Golf Cart tours, most charter boats and such accept only cash. The island now has an ATM, approved by the city council in 2012. It’s located at Four Brothers Crab House.

Tangier Island transportation
Bicycles, scooters and golf carts are the primary mode of transportation on Tangier Island. Very few cars are allowed on the island.

You can also rent bicycles and golf carts. But you can walk anywhere on the island in 20-minutes.

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.

Kayaks are available at the island library. Here’s contact information.



What’s There to See?

Life on Tangier Island

Tangier Island Shops & Restaurants

Getting to Tangier Island

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