Sewee Visitor & Environmental Education Center
Southeast Region

Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

  Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Credit: Karen Beshears
  Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Credit: Karen Beshears

Established in 1932 as a migratory bird refuge, Cape Romain's 66,287 acres encompass a 20-mile segment of the Atlantic coast and includes a fascinating expanse of barrier islands, salt marshes, intricate coastal waterways, long sandy beaches, fresh and brackish water impoundments, and maritime forest.

The refuge's original objectives were to preserve in public ownership habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and resident species. In recent years, objectives have expanded to include: managing endangered and threatened species, protecting the 29,000 acre Class I Wilderness Area, and preserving the Bulls Island and Cape Island forests and their diverse plant communities. Currently, the refuge is actively working to aid the recovery of the threatened Loggerhead sea turtle.

The refuge headquarters on US Highway 17, Sewee Center and Garris Landing are the only mainland sites. The remainder of the refuge is accessible only by boat. Points of interest include Bulls Island, Cape Island, and Lighthouse Island where two lighthouses, no longer operational, still stand.

Bulls Island has been the scene of much historical activity. Bulls Bay and the creeks behind Bulls Island were reputed hideouts for pirates plundering ships along the coast. The remains of the "Old Fort" are believed to have been a martello
or lookout tower built in the early 1700's. During the Revolutionary War, British warships used the island as a
resupplying station.

  Boneyard Beach. Credit: David Okey
  Boneyard Beach. Credit: David Okey

Bulls Island, at 5,000 acres, is the largest of the barrier islands within the refuge. It lies nearly 3 miles off the mainland and can be reached by boat from Garris Landing. The broad, open beach is shell strewn and seems to stretch endlessly north and south. Inland are woods and large ponds. Over the centuries, the ocean has washed away a lighthouse, a cape, and many acres of forest.

Refuge Access


The refuge is open sunrise to sunset, seven days a week, year-round. The only facilities accessible by automobile are the refuge office, Sewee Center, and Garris Landing. A private ferry service takes visitors to Bulls Island on regularly scheduled days. Visitors desiring to visit Bulls Island should contact Coastal Expeditions at (843) 881-4582 or by viewing Bulls Island Ferry Service.

Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge


  Life in the Wild
  Life in the Wild Volume 4
  Life in the Wild Volume 3
  Life in the Wild Volume 2
  Life in the Wild Volume 1

South Carolina Lowcountry Refuges Complex - News from "Life in the Wild"

The South Carolina Lowcountry Refuges Complex is home to four national wildlife refuges - Cape Romain, Waccamaw, Santee and Ernest F. Hollings Ace Basin Refuges. With over 115,240 acres, these unique public lands encompass pristine barrier island beaches, rich salt marsh estuary and riverine ecosystems, and forested freshwater wetlands. Read the complex newsletter Life in the Wild to learn about how we manage these special areas for wildlife and people. The latest edition, Volume 4 pays tribute to our Avian friends who grace our skies, waters, forests and marshes. Volume 4 looks at the birds intriguing beauty and behaviors as well as management measures undertaken to assure that these animals find sanctuary in some of the most beautiful and unique habitats in the world. View the newsletter and earlier editions by clicking on the Volume links.


Last updated: January 28, 2015
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