Visitor Information

dune at Sapelo Island

Becoming an Official Guest of the Marine Institute

Visitors may access Sapelo Island as an official guest of UGAMI.  Requests from official university classes and researchers with a reasonable need for access to Sapelo Island for education or research are welcomed. If you are interested in arranging a visit, please contact our Visitor Coordinator, Gracie Townsend.

Individuals, primary and secondary school groups, and other organizations wishing to visit Sapelo Island should contact the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

We strive to accommodate university-level classes that require access to Georgia’s sub-tropical barrier island and salt-marsh habitats, with preference given to those that provide deeper opportunities for experiential education. Although most classes that visit UGAMI are focused on natural science, we also host courses in social science and the humanities. All prospective classes must fill out an education request. Please download, complete and save the form, then email it to Gracie Townsend at

All prospective researchers must fill out a research request and an UGAMI Researcher housing request (please download, complete and save the form, then email it to Gracie Townsend at Requests for housing and space for graduate students should originate in writing from the major professor. Please also be certain your research meets the guidelines for the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

UGAMI serves as a host site for training workshops for teachers, environmental educators, and county agents. The Institute is also used for small meetings and professional societies. These meetings generally use the same facilities as class field-trips, but are concentrated on week days as opposed to the weekend. If you are interested in hosting a group please fill out an “other user” request. Please download, complete and save the form, then email it to Gracie Townsend at

UGAMI is unable to host K-12 groups. If you have a school group that is interested in visiting the Georgia coast, we recommend that you contact the UGA Marine Extension Service to inquire about their programs. Day trips to Sapelo Island can be arranged through the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

UGAMI cannot accommodate family members or pets. Special arrangements can be made for long-term visitors.

Getting to Sapelo Island

The ferry to Sapelo Island can be accessed at the dock adjacent to the Sapelo Island Visitor’s Center in Meridian, GA. Meridian is approximately 280 miles southeast of the main University of Georgia campus in Athens; the trip takes approximately 4-½ hours by car. Please plan to arrive at the ferry dock least 20 minutes before departure time. See detailed driving directions.

The Sapelo Island ferry is operated by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) under state and federal regulations. Reservations are required. See detailed ferry information, including schedule.


The tide gauge at Old Tower on Sapelo Island (8675622) is located near the mouth of Doboy Sound. Tidal predictions for this station:

Phone and Internet

Cell phone coverage is very spotty on the Island, so be aware that you may not be able to make or receive calls during your visit.

The main buildings are networked with fiber optic cable, and most core areas (including some housing) are served with wired or wireless broadband internet access. However, there are limitations on band-width that make it difficult to stream movies or to run data-intensive applications.

Packing Tips

Whatever you bring to UGAMI must be transported on the passenger ferry, where space can be at a premium. Here are some things to bear in mind:

  • Old sneakers or hiking boots (something you won’t mind getting extremely dirty), particularly if you are planning to go out in the marsh.
  • Old clothes
  • Flip flops are handy when you get back to the dorm.
  • Something warm (It can be cold at night, and many groups spend time riding in the open bed of a truck.)
  • Rain gear
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen and bug spray (depending on the season, this can be important!)
  • Camera
  • Flashlight
  • Towels: both bath towels and beach towels
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Any specialized medications, including epinephrine pins, Benadryl, asthma inhalers, etc.
  • Linens: Sheets, blankets and pillows are provided in all housing units, so there is no need to bring them unless you have a specific requirement.
  • Kitchen gear: Cooking facilities are available, including refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, and coffee pots. There are also dishes, standard pots and pans, etc.
  • Bicycles: Bikes are NOT allowed on the ferry. UGAMI has a fleet of bikes that are available for use by our visitors.


There is no grocery store on Sapelo Island, so food options are fairly limited. All of our housing units have cooking facilities and groups traditionally bring their own food.


UGAMI maintains a vehicle fleet and can assign you a vehicle for your visit. UGA employees as well as those who work for the University System of Georgia are covered by insurance and may drive vehicles. If you are from another University, an MOU and proof of insurance are required. Contact UGAMI Visitor Coordinator Gracie Townsend for more information.

Golf Carts
UGAMI has golf carts that can also be assigned to you for your visit. Drivers of golf carts must be 18 years or older and have a valid driver’s license.

Bicycles are also available for our visitors. Maintaining these can be difficult given the sandy and salty conditions. Help us take care of them and do not take them onto the beach.