Tangier Island lies in the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia waters. It was discovered in 1608 by Captain John Smith. Years later, in 1666, John West "bought" the island from the indians for two overcoats. He later sold part of the island to John Crockett who settled there in 1686 with his wife, eight sons and their families. They farmed the land and raised livestock and little Crocketts. By the 19th century the island's population had grown to some 100 residents and half of them were Crocketts. Today Tangier's 800 or so residents, yes there's still some Crocketts around, depend on the Chesapeake Bay for their livelihood, with crabs being the primary catch. The residents, often called Tangiermen, like to boast that Tangier Island is "the soft-shell crab capital of the world". When entering the harbor you'll see crab shanties on both sides of the channel. The shanties are where the crabbers keep their supply of harvested peeler crabs. When the peelers shed their hard shells, they'll be harvested as soft-shell crabs and shipped off to the markets.
The Chesapeake Bay's strong currents have caused severe erosion over the years and have reduced the island to where it's only about a mile wide by three miles long. The land is flat and marshy with the highest point on the island at about seven feet above sea level. Island residents are clustered in three communities known as "ridges", connected by roads that are little more than pathways. Most people get around by foot, bicycle or motorized golf carts. Besides houses, the island has two churches, a school, a post office, a fire house, two grocery stores and a handful of restaurants and gift shops.
Tangier Island has become a tourist attraction in recent years which has added much needed revenue to the local economy. It seems that many people are drawn there seeking a change in pace from the rigors of everyday life. Life on Tangier Island is at a slower pace and it's like stepping back in time. The islanders isolation has left them with a distinct accent that still rings with the Elizabethan tones of their forebearers. The surroundings are serene and picturesque as you would expect a small fishing village to be. Combine all this with a scenic cruise to get there and you have all the makings of an exceptional outing.
Most people stay on the island for only a couple of hours, which gives them enough time to get a seafood lunch and see some of the Island. There are scenic tours which provide transportation via golf carts. But if you want to stay longer, there are several B & B's that can provide for a longer stay. With more time you can rent a small boat and explore the island and its surrounding salt water marshes and beaches or you can go fishing, crabbing, birding, etc.
To get to Tangier Island you can take any of three ferries:
- Crisfield, Maryland, The Steven Thomas, departs daily at 12:30 P.M., @12 miles
- Onancock, Virginia, The Captain Eulice, departs daily at 10:00 A.M., @14 miles
- Reedville, Virginia, The Chesapeake Breeze, departs daily at 10:00 A.M., @17 miles
Tangier Island Lodging: