Facility Rules and Policies

Visitors are reminded of the following regulations:

  • The refuge is open from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset.
  • Pets are not allowed at any time of year (effective April 1, 2011), with the exception of service dogs.
  • Visitors must adhere to all signs.
  • Swimming, surfing and sunbathing are not permitted on the Refuge beach.
  • The use of motorized and non-motorized aircraft, including drones and kites, is prohibited.
  • The North Mile and all dune areas are closed to public access.
  • The beach vehicular ramp is closed to the general public. Pedestrian beach access is available via the Seaside and Dune boardwalk trails.
  • With the exception of shell collecting on the beach, collection of any plant, animal or historic artifact on the refuge is prohibited.
  • The Dike Trails are closed seasonally, November 1 – March 31 to fulfill habitat management objectives.
  • Fishing is permitted in designated areas. A Virginia freshwater license is required to fish on Back Bay and in the D-Pool fishing area. A Virginia saltwater license is required for surf fishing along the Refuge oceanfront. Fishing licenses can be purchased through the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources at GoOutdoorsVA.com.
  • Hikers and bikers must stay on designated trails at all times. Please note that the boardwalk trails are narrow and bikes should be walked along these paths (or left at the provided bike racks) to ensure the safety of all visitors.
  • Commercial activities, such as commercial photography/filming and kayak tour operation, are permitted with Special Use Permits only.
  • Metal detecting is not permitted at any time of year.
  • Handling of wildlife is strictly prohibited for the safety of visitors and the safety of wildlife.
  • Due to limited space in the refuge parking lot, trailers cannot be accommodated. False Cape State Park campers must park at Little Island City Park, just north of the Refuge boundary.
  • Vehicles are not permitted past the Visitor Center and parking area, with the exception of vehicles with handicapped tags visiting the D-Pool fishing platform (two parking spaces are provided)
  • Open fires are prohibited at all times.
  • The consumption of alcohol on refuge property is prohibited.

Several activities require Special Use Permits at Back Bay NWR. Commercial activities, such as commercial photography, commercial filming and kayak tour operation, are permitted by Special Use Permit and when in line with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy. Special tram tours, weddings and conservation-related special events are permitted on a case-by-case basis. Fees for these activities are as follows:

  • General Special Use Permits (group events, weddings): $35.00
  • Special Tram Tours: $200.00
  • Commercial Photography: $35.00 (see Commercial Photography section for further details)
  • Commercial Outfitters:     
    • 1-5 trips/season: $20/trip
    • 6-10 trips/season: $100/season
    • 11-20 trips/season: $200/season
    • 21+ trips/season: $300/season 

Biological research and collection are also permitted when approved by refuge biologists and management. Please contact the Visitor Services Specialist at (757)301-7329 ext.3106 to inquire about Special Use Permits. Fees may apply. 

Commercial Photography

Commercial photography on the refuge requires a Commercial Special Use Permit. Interested photographers can contact the Visitor Services Specialist at (757)301-7329 ext.3106 to obtain a Permit. Permits are valid for one year from the date of issue and cost $35.00, payable by cash or check.

Night Surf Fishing

Night surf fishing permits may be obtained for the month of October. Night fishing permits go on sale in mid-September and are valid October 1-31. They cost $35.00, cash or check. Fishermen must show a current fishing license and photo ID to obtain a permit.