Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor’s Center is open year-round from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m during the summer months. Friendly volunteers are always on hand to provide refuge and wildlife information, and a list of birds that flock to the area. At the Visitor’s Center, you can also sign up for one of the refuge’s many seasonal programs, including guided bird walks, canoe tours, turtle talks, and hands-on explorations of the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Find it online at

Pea Island Quick Facts

  • The refuge was established in 1938.
  • The refuge is approximately 13 miles long and encompasses 5,834 acres of land and 25,700 acres of boundary waters.
  • The refuge is comprised of ocean beach, dunes, upland, fresh and brackish water ponds, salt flats and salt marsh and is home to more than 365 species of birds, 25 species of mammals, 24 species of reptiles and 5 species of amphibians

Located on both the east and west sides of NC Highway 12 from the Bonner Bridge to the village of Rodanthe is the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 13 mile Pea Island Subsetlong eco-system with over 360 species of birds that flock to this gorgeous stretch of North Carolina shoreline every year.  The different types of wildlife that can be found on the refuge are amazing! As a result, bird watching is a very popular activity throughout the year as different species migrate to and from the Outer Banks.

The refuge was established in 1937, and since then it has become a must-see attraction to thousands of photographers and Outer Banks visitors hoping to catch that postcard worthy picture of a rare white pelican, a great blue heron, or just a gaggle of Canadian Geese. Even Hatteras Island visitors who don’t stop their vehicles to walk the refuge still get to enjoy the miles of scenery and flocks of birds that can be spotted easily from a car window.

The refuge consists of 5,834 acres of land and 25,700 acres of water, with marshy areas, ponds, beaches, and maritime forests in between, making it an ideal resting point for all kinds of migrating birds. Depending on the season, visitors can expect to spot concentrations of ducks, geese, swans, wading birds, shore birds, raptors, and even a few tropical species of migrating birds.

In addition to offering several public parking areas, bird watching stands, and a photography blind, the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge also features two wildlife trails that are open year round during daylight hours, and are disabled-accessible. 

The North Pond Wildlife Trail is a half-mile trail which offers spectacular wildlife Pea Island Mapobservation in any season. The trail is located near the Visitor’s Center and parking area, which is approximately 3.5 miles south of Oregon Inlet. Most visitors walk this trail to the end - a double-level tower - and then retrace their steps to the Visitor’s Center and their vehicles. The Salt Flats Wildlife Trail is a slightly shorter trail close to Oregon Inlet that ends at a scenic overlook stand. 

Whether you decide to take to the trails with a top-of-the-line camera and tri-pod for the best nature photography opportunities in the Outer Banks, or simply slow down and glance at the flocks of birds on your way to your vacation home, the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is a stunning, natural attraction that is uniquely Hatteras Island.