Plan Your Visit


Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is administered by Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge from their Headquarters in Manteo, North Carolina.  Don’t miss the National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center on Roanoke Island and its state-of-the-art exhibits—all free!

While visiting the Outer Banks, venture to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a paradise for both birds and birders.  Drop the Visitor Center to view displays on local wildlife.  Then, try out one of the scopes trained on North Pond to view various species of birds found there seasonally.  There are two short, universally accessible wildlife trails on Pea Island.  The North Pond Wildlife Trail is half a mile long and terminates at a two level tower which offers spectacular views of the surrounding ponds.  The best birding is during the fall and winter.  This trail is located near the Visitor Center.  There is also a service road that completely encircles North Pond, and visitors may choose to walk the whole route, though insect activity and traffic along the portion on Highway 12 make this less enjoyable for some.  The Salt Flats Wildlife Trail is slightly shorter and located on the north end of North Pond, terminating at a disabled- accessible overlook providing views of the Salt Flats area and North Pond.  During the summer, join refuge staff for programs on topics ranging from sea turtles to life in the sound to bird adaptations.  The refuge also offers guided canoe tours around the sound during the summer months.   

Know Before You Go 

When visiting Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, it is always a good idea to bring drinking water, sunscreen, bug repellent, a light jacket, and a hat and sunglasses.  Depending on the season, the bugs can be bad along the wildlife trails.  Many visitors also bring their own scopes or binoculars and an identification guide for better wildlife viewing.  

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge provides numerous recreation opportunities to hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. People enjoy viewing the unique geology and diverse wildlife; the refuge is especially noted for birding opportunities.  Regulation of recreation activities allow for public enjoyment of the refuge while still protecting the wildlife and habitats. 

  • The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset.  
  • There are no refuge roads open for public vehicular access.  NC Highway 12 traverses the refuge from north to south.  Parking is allowed in designated parking areas only and within the NC Highway 12 right-of-way.  No overnight parking is allowed on the refuge.
  • Hiking is allowed in all areas open to the public. Wildlife observation and photography are encouraged. Several areas of the refuge are signed as closed areas to minimize disturbance to plants and animals. Additional areas are closed for public safety.  Bicycling is allowed only on designated public access routes and on the service road around North Pond.  Bicycles are not allowed on walking trails. 
  • Horseback riding is not allowed on this refuge.
  • Fishing is allowed in both the ocean and sound; however, the ponds and impoundments are closed to all activities.
  • Currently, there is no authorized hunting program on Pea Island.  Therefore, hunting is prohibited. 
  • Firearms and other weapons are subject to state law. At all times, persons possessing, transporting, or carrying firearms on the refuge must comply with all provisions of state law.  
  • Other prohibitions on the refuge are dogs off-leash; off-road vehicles; and collecting of plants, animals, minerals, antlers and artifacts.
  • All domestic pets must be properly confined, leashed (10-foot maximum) and under owner control at all times. On Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, pets are not allowed on the west side of NC Highway 12, except in parking areas and areas adjacent to parking areas (not allowed on wildlife trails).