Plan Your Visit

Visitor Center

The Basics

Who Can I bring? We are open to everyone, but we ask that you leave Fido at home. All pets are prohibited (even in your vehicle). Service dogs as defined by the ADA permitted on a 6 ft. leash.

What is the Fee? Daily entrance to the refuge is $10 per vehicle. We also offer and honor a variety of other options as described on our Fee page. Please remember that an entrance pass is required all times of day throughout the year, except for posted fee free days.

When Can I Visit? The refuge is open 7 days a week following this seasonal schedule:
5:00 A.M. - 10:00 P.M. from May through September.
6:00 A.M. - 8:00 P.M. the months of April and October.
6:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M. from November through March.

Where Should I Go? The Trail Map will help you get oriented and get some basic information about the refuge. For more detailed information, check out the Visitor Activities section of our website.

Anything else? Be sure to check Planning Your Visit During COVID-19 prior to your arrival to see any COVID-19 related changes in operation.

Points of Interest

Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center

We encourage you to start your visit at the Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center. There are a variety of exhibits, displays, brochures and wildlife-oriented programs. Refuge staff and volunteers are available to answer questions and help plan activities.

Videos are shown by request daily in the visitor center auditorium, and programs on a variety of topics are offered during the summer. Inquire at the information desk for further details.

The gift shop, with a selection of books, clothing items, and jewelry, is located in the refuge visitor center and is run by the Chincoteague Natural History Association.

The Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center is open 7 days a week. The hours are:

9:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. in the Summer
9:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M. in the Spring, Fall & Winter
*Closed December 24th, 25th, 31st and January 1st.

8231 Beach Road
Chincoteague Island, VA 23336
Telephone: 757-336-6122

Assateague Lighthouse

In 1833, the first Assateague Lighthouse was constructed to warn ocean travelers of the dangerous shoals offshore. Construction on a taller, more powerfully illuminated brick lighthouse began in 1860 but was delayed by the Civil War. After the war, work resumed and the lighthouse was completed in 1867. The light was also upgraded that year, to a first order Fresnel lens. In 1891, a separate oil storage building was built, and a new assistant keeper's house was constructed in 1910. In 1929, the keeper staff was reduced. In 1933, the lighthouse’s oil lamps were replaced by an electric lamp, and the original keeper's house was removed.

Today the 1910 assistant keeper's house is used as seasonal staff residence. The oil storage building is used as an art gallery during summer months. In 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the light as an active navigational aid, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is responsible for preserving the lighthouse. The Assateague Island lighthouse is listed on the Virginia Historic Register. In 2008, restoration of the lighthouse began to preserve this historic treasure. Extensive work was done including repairs to the gallery deck so that visitors can safely enjoy the view from the top of the lighthouse and a new paint job that can be enjoyed while admiring the building from the ground.

Learn more about climbing the lighthouse.


A variety of paved trails are open to hikers and/or bicyclist. These trails include the Freshwater Marsh, Woodland, Bivalve, Black Duck, Swans Cove and Lighthouse Trails as well as the Wildlife Loop. The Wildlife Loop is also open to vehicles after 3:00pm until dusk. Remember to secure your valuables out of sight and lock your vehicle.

Learn more about the trails on the refuge.

Recreational Beach

Some of the most gorgeous beaches found on the Atlantic Coast are located here at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The white sandy beaches of this windswept barrier island are a major reason for visitors to flock to this area. For beach lovers, there are many miles of seashore to enjoy, including a recreational beach, wild beach and the Toms Cove Hook, also referred to as the Over-sand Vehicle Zone (OSV).

Learn more about the refuge's beaches.

Know Before You Go

Mosquito levels can be high dependent on time of year, rainfall, wind velocity and time of day. The refuge does not treat for mosquitoes and the refuge is dominated by marsh and wetland systems that serve as important wildlife habitat but also create mosquito breeding areas. Plan your visit accordingly.

Ticks are also present in refuge vegetation and can carry disease. Avoid tick bites and mosquitoes by:

  • Staying on trails
  • Use repellent
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants while exploring the area
  • Inspect yourself carefully for “hitchhikers”

Poison ivy is abundant on the refuge. Please stay on refuge trails to avoid contact.

Raccoons, and other mammals on the refuge may carry rabies. Enjoy all wildlife from a distance, especially if they seem friendly.

Chincoteague Ponies, although they may appear tame, are unpredictable. Please be cautious as they may kick or bite without warning.

When leaving your vehicle, secure your valuables out of sight and lock the doors.