Tangier Island History Museum

A small museum front with blue door, flags, and signs for NPS affiliation.
Chairs in the shape of blue crabs greet guests of the museum.

Larry Syverson

Quick Facts
16215 Main Ridge Rd, Tangier, VA 23440
History Museum
Partner Site

Accessible Sites, Benches/Seating, Gifts/Souvenirs/Books, Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information, Internet/WiFi Available, Low-Vision Access, Restroom, Water - Drinking/Potable

An oasis among the waves

The Tangier Island History Museum tells the surprising story of a small island off the shore of Virginia. Like Smith Island in Maryland, Tangier Island has been a fishing community for hundreds of years.Today, the island remains a vibrant watermen community and receives hundreds of tourists every year seeking stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay and a taste of the island's unique culture and history.

Small island, big history

Native Americans utilized the Chesapeake's islands, including Tangier, as evidenced by plentiful stone points visible along their shores. John Smith and his crew were among the first Europeans to visit the island, catching sight of it during their 1608 explorations of the region. Smith named Tangier and its neighboring islands the "Russell Isles," after Doctor Russell, a member of his crew. The island's first settlers in the 1700s relied on farming for their occupation, but over the next century, harvesting seafood became the more lucrative profession. During the War of 1812, the British built Fort Albion on Tangier Island and used it as a staging area for battles further inland. Several enslaved African Americans escaped to Tangier Island and were given their freedom by the British. Some joined the Corps of Colonial Marines, an all-black unit who fought against the Americans. 

Visiting the museum

Getting there

Tangier Island is only accesible by private boat or ferry. Catch a ferry from one of these locations:

Onancock, Virginia (Eastern Shore)
Reedville, Virginia (Western Shore)
Chrisfield, Maryland (Eastern Shore)

Hours & Admission

The museum is open:
Monday - Saturday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Admission: $3
Free: Children under 11, Military Veterans, Active Duty, and Residents


(757) 891-2374

Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, Chesapeake Bay , Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

Last updated: February 20, 2024