Visitor Activities

  • Fishing, Crabbing & Clamming

    Clams in a basket - USFWS.

    Fishing, crabbing and clamming are some of the most popular activities at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and are fun for the whole family. These activities are permitted in designated areas throughout the refuge and specific regulations must be followed regarding catch size. Please visit our Fishing, Crabbing & Clamming page to learn more about designated areas and take limits.

    Fishing, Crabbing & Clamming

  • Hunting

    Hunter with his kill - UFSWS.

    Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is one of over 550 National Wildlife Refuges whose objective is to provide habitat for the conservation and protection of all species of wildlife. The harvest of surplus animals is one tool used to manage wildlife populations at a level compatible with the environment, provide wholesome recreational opportunities, and permit the use of a valuable renewable resource. The various habitats found on the refuge include dune-grass community, shrub community, upland maritime forest, fresh water marsh and salt marsh. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge manages its hunt through a permit system.

    Learn more about hunting on the refuge.

  • Wildlife Viewing/Birding

    Visitors with binoculars - USFWS.

    Because of its position on the Atlantic Flyway, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is an ideal place for birds to rest, feed, nest, or winter. This makes the refuge a great place for bird watching, as well as other species of wildlife and plants.

    Some of the popular sites to observe wildlife are at Swan Cove Pool along Beach Road. Herons and egrets can be seen in the borrow ditches around the refuge. The Woodland Trail is an excellent place to observe songbirds, Delmarva Fox Squirrels, Ponies and Snow Goose Pool, in the Wildlife Loop, is a popular spot for many bird species.

    Visitors may also borrow a pair of binoculars, free of charge, from the refuge visitor center, to help with their birding experience.

    Learn more about trails on the refuge.

  • Interpretation

    Marsh Trail - Murray Barkley.

    The refuge maintains several miles of trails for either hiking or biking. Major recreational activities include wildlife/wildland observation, photography, education, and sheer enjoyment of the outdoors. About half are paved while the rest are open to foot traffic only.

    Visit our Trails Page to learn more.

    Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge hosts a number of interpretive events throughout the year that are fun for the whole family. Check out our Events Calendar to find out about upcoming events on the refuge!

  • Environmental Education

    Environmental education on the refuge - USFWS.

    Expand the boundaries of your classroom to include Assateague Island. Choose from a variety of programs from the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague National Seashore that provide students with opportunities to discover and explore the island’s wildlife and habitats from beach to bay.

    For information or to request a ranger guided program please contact the Environmental Education coordinator at 757-336-6122. For information or to request a bus tour, contact the Chincoteague Natural History Association at 757-336-3696.

    Learn more about environmental education opportunities on the refuge on our For Educators page.

  • Photography

    Child taking pictures - USFWS.

    Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has much to offer the amateur and professional photographer. You can expect to see and photograph a variety of herons, egrets, and other wading bird species, several ducks, numerous shorebirds, snow geese and mammals such as sika elk, cottontail rabbit and of course, the famous Chincoteague ponies. Chincoteague’s varied ecosystems also provide a variety of opportunities for photographing landscapes from the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean to salt water marshes and loblolly pine forest.

  • Over-Sand Vehicle Use

    Promo - OSV Zone

    The Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) zones at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge feature miles of unspoiled beach managed by the National Park Service to accommodate OSV enthusiasts and other beach goers. The South Zone is open for general use. The North Zone is for fishing only and is open seasonally (March 15 - August 31st). In the event of hazardous driving conditions the OSV zones may temporarily close for your protection. Status updates for the OSV zones can be found here:

    In order to safeguard threatened and endangered species, part of the South OSV zone closes to all access from March 15 – August 31, or until the last nesting shorebird can fly.

    Learn More
  • Horseback Riding

    Refuge visitors on horseback - USFWS.

    Horseback riding is allowed along the beach in the South Over Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone. The South OSV zone may be closed due to hazardous conditions or wildlife management practices, and horses will not be permitted in this area during such closures. Horses are not permitted elsewhere on the refuge, including the trails or on Beach Road.

    Horseback Riding Map (272kb, PDF file)

  • Shell Collection

    Child collecting shells - USFWS.

    Shells can be a beautiful souvenir of your visit to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Each person is allowed to take one gallon or less of unoccupied shells. Driftwood and sea glass may not be collected.

    Learn more about the recreational beaches.

  • Campfires

    Child roasting marshmallows over a campfire - USFWS.

    A cookout, complete with s’mores, hot dogs, and hamburgers, or a bonfire on the beach, are nice ways to end a day in the sun. However, certain regulations must be followed. Open campfires are allowed only in designated sites located along the beach. Visitors may obtain a fire permit, free of charge, and a site assignment from the Toms Cove Visitor Center. For more information please contact them at (757) 336-6577.

    Fires are not allowed elsewhere on the refuge.

  • Boating

    Boating - Renee Stephens.

    Boating is an exciting way to explore Assateague Island and the waters surrounding the refuge. Boats are allowed to land at Toms Cove Hook between September 1st and March 14th or as otherwise posted. Boat ramps & docks are available in the Town of Chincoteague; see the town website for details.

    Boats and floatation devices are not permitted in the refuge’s impoundments and borrow ditches.

    Personal Watercraft (PWC) Use Map (171kb, PDF file)
    Note: PWC are personal watercraft which use an inboard, internal combustion engine powering a water jet pump as its primary source of propulsion. Includes vessels such as jet skis, waverunners etc.

  • Kayaking

    Child kayaking - USFWS.

    Kayaks, canoes and paddleboards can be launched and landed only in designated areas as described in the Boat Use Map. This includes Toms Cove Hook between September 1st and March 14th or as otherwise posted. Kayaks are not permitted in lifeguarded sections of the beach, nor are kayaks allowed in refuge impoundments or borrow ditches. If you will be kayaking during your visit, watch carefully for swimmers in both the ocean and the cove. 

    Boat Use Map (331kb, PDF file). Note: PWC refers to vessels such as jet skis, waverunners etc (see Boating above).  

    The refuge does not rent kayaks. However, there are many places in Chincoteague that do rent kayaks. Please contact the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce for suggestions and information at (757) 336-6161 or visit their website at

  • Camping

    Camping promo symbol (150x118)

    There are no campsites available at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. If you would like to include camping as part of your visit, please contact the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce at (757) 336-6161 or visit their website at for a list of nearby campgrounds.

    Camping is allowed on the Maryland side of Assateague Island through the National Park Service, Assateague Island National Seashore. Please contact the Barrier Islands Visitor Center in Maryland at (410) 641-1441 or visit the website at for details.