Visitor Activities

Child with tortoise by Mary Lou Dickson

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of opportunities to explore and enjoy the great outdoors from sunrise to sunset every day. You can observe and photograph wildlife, go fishing, or during the season, hunt white-tailed deer.

  • Wildlife Viewing

    The diverse habitats at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge attract an abundance of wildlife throughout the year, providing excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Over 14 miles of hiking and biking trails are maintained to provide access to all parts of the refuge. 

    The refuge bird list contains over 250 species. The most popular and colorful to see is the painted bunting, a common summer resident in the island's brushy habitats. During spring and fall migrations, warblers and other migratory song birds are common among the live oaks and in the shrub/scrub habitat. A variety of raptors, shorebirds, and wading birds call the refuge home year-round. Pinckney Island NWR is one of the best places in South Carolina to see breeding yellow-crowned night herons. 

    Mammals include white-tailed deer, red fox, and bobcat. American alligators are also round in abundance on the refuge, particularly in and around the freshwater ponds. 

  • Photography

    Perhaps the fastest growing activity on National Wildlife Refuges in the past ten years has been wildlife photography. That’s not surprising when you consider the popularity of digital cameras and cell phones with ever-improving picture-taking abilities. The number of nature photographers has grown at a rapid rate. You don’t need to purchase expensive equipment or have any experience to get started. A small camera or basic cell phone will do just fine for most visitors.

    The 2-mile round-trip walk or bike ride back to Ibis Pond is sure to provide a wealth of photo opportunities; from shorebirds feeding in the salt flats to wading birds roosting in the Ibis Pond rookery. Visitors willing to make the longer treks to spots like Dick Point and White Point will be rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the majestic Lowcountry.

  • Interpretation & Environmental Education

    Make a connection to the natural world and learn about the history and current management of the refuge through self-guided interpretive exhibits located in the parking area and along the main trail.

    Guided interpretive programs are offered by a couple of local groups that maintain permits with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct these activities. Trained, naturalist guides can offer visitors a more enhanced experience by providing information on the natural resources and rich history of the refuge. Tours with these groups must be arranged directly through them (see contact info below).

    National Wildlife Refuges serve many purposes, and one of our most important roles is as outdoor classrooms to teach about wildlife and natural resources. Environmental education programs may be arranged for local schools groups with at least a month's notice to prepare and schedule staff.

    Coastal Discovery Museum (walking tours)
    (843) 689-6767
    http://www.coastaldiscovery.org

    Wilderness Southeast (walking tours)
    (912) 236-8115
    http://www.naturesavannah.org

  • Hunting

    Hunting is an important wildlife management tool that we recognize as a healthy, traditional outdoor pastime, deeply rooted in America’s heritage.  Hunting can instill a unique understanding and appreciate of wildlife, their behavior, and their habitat needs.

    As practiced on refuges, hunting does not pose a threat to wildlife populations, and in some instances are necessary for sound wildlife management.  For example, because their natural predators are gone, deer populations will often grow too large for the refuge habitat to support. Hunting programs can promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on lands and waters in the Refuge System.

    Pinckney Island NWR annually offers a one-day hunt for white-tailed deer every November. This is a lottery hunt with an application deadline of August 31 each year. For refuge hunting regulations, applications, and to purchase a refuge hunting permit, please visit the refuge's hunting web page.

  • Fishing

    In addition to the conservation of wildlife and habitat, the Refuge System offers a wide variety of quality fishing opportunities. Fishing programs promote understanding and appreciation of natural resources and their management on all lands and waters in the Refuge System. Every year, about 7 million anglers visit national wildlife refuges, where knowledgeable staff and thousands of volunteers help them have a wonderful fishing experience.

    At Pinckney Island NWR, saltwater fishing is permitted year-round in the estuarine waters adjacent to the refuge; freshwater fishing in refuge ponds is not allowed). The C.C. Haig Landing, located on the south-end of Pinckney Island (enter off of U.S. 278, directly opposite the refuge entrance), offers a public boat ramp, kayak launch, and fishing pier.

    Click here to download the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex fishing brochure.