Visitor Activities

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We encourage you to get outdoors in the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, you will be amazed at what you'll experience.

  • Fishing and Boating


    The “backcountry” waters within the boundaries Great White Heron NWR contain over 123,000 acres of prime fishing habitat. In fact, these are some of the best waters for saltwater recreational fishing in North America. Visitors come from all over the world to fish here. Saltwater fishing activities in the backcountry areas include recreational hook and line for finfish and lobstering. Saltwater fishing regulations are governed by the state of Florida. See Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for full details click here.

    There are lots of boating opportunities within the boundaries of the Great White Heron NWR. Propeller driven boats, row boats, kayaks, canoes and sailboats are permitted. There are vessel prohibitions that apply to use of personal watercrafts (jet skis), hovercrafts and airboats. There is also no water skiing or pulling of tubes, or other similar devices.

    Know the regulations: Some areas have restricted access and no entry zones marked by buoys. Some areas have idle speed or no-motor zones. For a full list of Wildlife Management Areas within Great White Heron NWR and their regulations, click here.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    wildlife viewing gwhnwr

    Opportunities abound for wildlife viewing in the Great White Heron NWR. We’d suggest bringing along your binoculars and if taking photographs, using a zoom or telephoto lens.

    The mangrove islands of the GWHNWR are home to over 250 species of resident and migratory birds. Birds use the protected mangroves to nest, rest and provide easy access to feeding grounds. The shallow marine waters contain sand, mud and seagrass flats that are used extensively by foraging wading birds. Species diversity and number vary seasonally with winter months hosting the most wading birds, pelicans (white and brown) and shorebirds. Sea turtles, manatees, and dolphins all live within or visit the refuge seasonally. They are commonly spotted, but travel around so much that you aren’t always guaranteed to see them. 

    Florida Keys National wildlife Refuges Bird List

    For residents, there is also a newly established refuge photography club (Florida Keys Wildlife Refuges Photography Club) that meets monthly, with monthly field excursions to various places on the refuge and beyond. The park ranger participates in these activities. This club provides a great opportunity to educate visitors and residents about the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges. There is also a newly created Photo Club Facebook page and a photo display at the visitor center.

    If you are interested in viewing our Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Bird List, you can access it here