Plan Your Visit

anglers fishing from a boat just offshore of Breton Island beach

Breton National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) consists of crescent sweep of low islands located in Breton Sound off the southeast coast of Louisiana. All of the Breton NWR islands, except for North Breton Island, are part of the National Wilderness System. Travel to the Refuge is a bit of a challenge due to its remoteness, but the rewards for a visitor are a unique and wild recreational nature experience.

Phone Numbers/Email:
General Information: 985-882-2000
Law Enforcement: 985-882-2041

Mailing Address:
61389 Hwy. 434, Lacombe, LA 70445

How to get there:
The Refuge consists of a sixty mile long crescent of barrier islands located in the Gulf of Mexico south of Gulfport, Mississippi and east of New Orleans. The Refuge is accessible only by boat or floatplane. No regular commercial boat transport is available but charters can be arranged. Most waterborne visitors depart from either the Mississippi Gulf Coast or Venice, LA.

A properly equipped seaworthy boat and an experienced boat operator are needed to navigate to the islands. Gulf weather can change rapidly, the shallow waters of the sound can get very choppy, and wakes of passing ships and trawlers can be a challenge. Visiting the islands to wade fish or explore works best with a shallow-draft watercraft that can be anchored in very shallow water. Visitors will be required to wade through shallow water to reach the shore.

A boat launch plan will depend on which part of the Refuge you plan to visit:

To reach the north end of the Chandeleur Islands, a launch from coastal Mississippi across the open water of the Gulf of Mexico is the most direct route.

The shortest distance by water to reach the Refuge is from Venice, LA at the end of Hwy 23 southeast of New Orleans. From Venice, boaters travel east across the Mississippi River, continue through Baptiste Collette Bayou into the sound. From there, depending on the watercraft, it's about a half hour to Breton Island.

A shorter auto drive for most visitors is to take Hwy 46 southeast from New Orleans and launch from Shell Beach or Hopedale. From there it is a 25 mile boat trip down the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (the Ship Channel) towards Lake Athanasio and across the sound. Depending on conditions and your watercraft it is about a 1 - 11/2 hour run over open water to the islands.

Know before you go:

The Refuge is an important sanctuary for birds — hunting is not permitted. The Refuge is open year round during daylight hours. 

Day use only is allowed on the Refuge. Camping on the islands is prohibited due to the large amount of land lost to Hurricane Katrina and potential impacts to nesting birds.  

There is no shade or facilities on the islands.  Visitors should bring plenty of water, as well as protective shade clothing, sunscreen and insect repellent.

Approximately five percent of the islands are used by nesting birds. The nesting colonies are most active March through August. Nesting colonies must not be entered. Visitors may visit the island at any time of year but must obey posted closed areas and avoid disturbing nesting birds.

Boaters should be experienced with and equipped for open water crossings, strong currents, and be able to navigate shallow water. There are many unlighted oil well structures in Chandeleur and Breton Sounds.