Staphylococcus aureus displays a clonal population structure in which horizontal gene transfer between different lineages is extremely rare. This is due, in part, to the presence of a Type I DNA restriction–modification (RM) system given the generic name of Sau1, which maintains different patterns of methylation on specific target sequences on the genomes of different lineages. We have determined the target sequences recognized by the Sau1 Type I RM systems present in a wide range of the most prevalent S. aureus lineages and assigned the sequences recognized to particular target recognition domains within the RM enzymes. We used a range of biochemical assays on purified enzymes and single molecule real-time sequencing on genomic DNA to determine these target sequences and their patterns of methylation. Knowledge of the main target sequences for Sau1 will facilitate the synthesis of new vectors for transformation of the most prevalent lineages of this ‘untransformable’ bacterium.