Currituck NWR offers opportunities for outdoor recreation, focusing on the wildlife and habitats of the refuge. Visit right after sunrise or just before sunset for spectacular photography of shorebirds, waterfowl and raptors. Enjoy your four-wheeled drive vehicle along the beachfront and observe the fragile character of a coastal barrier island. Walk through the interior of the barrier island (access is restricted to foot traffic only) and admire the dune, dune vegetation and the maritime forest. Or, take a boat to visit the Monkey Island tract, a noted bird rookery with ideal nesting habitat for several species of wading birds.
Currituck NWR does not have any developed public use facilities such as roads, trails, restrooms, or visitor contact station. The refuge is open daily, from sunrise to sunset, throughout the year. Hiking, wildlife observation, nature photography, and waterfowl hunting are the primary wildlife-dependent activities that may be enjoyed on the refuge. Vehicle access is limited to the Monkey Island Tract and the Swan Island Tract. A four-wheeled drive vehicle is necessary since the only access is on the beach. During the summer, a beach parking permit may be required; contact Currituck County for more details.
For driving directions and other information about recreation, please contact the refuge office.
Before you go:
- The ‘Corolla Wild Horses’, feral mammals that are not a natural component of the barrier island, are occasionally seen and must only be viewed from a distance. It is unlawful to harm, approach, feed or kill any wild horse on the Refuge.
- All signage must be obeyed for safety and natural resource protection purposes. Signs delineate the Refuge boundaries, closed areas, hunting and archery zones as well as a Hunter Access Route.
- Pets must be on a leash or properly confined.
- Carry in carry out is the Refuge policy for waste and trash.
- Bug spray, sunscreen and drinking water are musts. There are no facilities on Currituck NWR.
Refuge trails are primarily administrative service roads and are infrequently maintained. Visitors may encounter tall, dense vegetation, downed trees, or other obstacles along the trails.
Access to the refuge is by 4WD vehicle or boat only. The public may park on the beach and walk to the refuge to access the Monkey Island and Swan Island Units. Visitors can also access refuge units by boat from Currituck Sound.
Please contact the refuge office if you have any questions about visiting.
Other Facilities in the Complex
The refuge is managed as part of the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuge Complex. A National Wildlife Refuge Complex is an administrative grouping of two or more refuges, wildlife management areas or other refuge conservation areas that are primarily managed from a central office location. Refuges are grouped into a complexbecause they occur in a similar ecological region, such as a watershed or specific habitat type, and have a related purpose and management needs.
There are 9 national wildlife refuges in the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges Complex. The Project Leader for the Complex supervises the Refuge Managers who are responsible for managing these refuges. However, there are five distinct and separate administrative offices. Alligator River and Pea Island National Wildlife Refuges are administered from the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Manteo, NC. An administrative office at the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Knotts Island, NC manages both Mackay Island and Currituck National Wildlife Refuges. An office at Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge administers Mattamuskeet, Swanquarter, and Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuges. Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and Edenton National Fish Hatchery each have separate administrative offices.
All of the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuges, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and Edenton National Fish Hatchery are open to public visits for nature-based recreational enjoyment. Priority public uses are hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education, and interpretation.
Rules and Policies
Vehicle traffic is restricted to the beachfront only. The rest of the refuge is accessed by foot only to help prevent damage to the fragile dune ecosystem.
Parking is allowed in designated parking areas only. No overnight parking is allowed on the refuge. All signage must be obeyed for safety and natural resource protection purposes. Signs delineate the Refuge boundaries, closed areas, hunting and archery zones as well as a Hunter Access Route.
Hiking is allowed in all areas open to the public. Wildlife observation and photography are encouraged. Please stay out of closed areas to minimize disturbance to plants and animals. Bug spray, sunscreen and drinking water are musts. There are no facilities on Currituck NWR.
Prohibited activities include: littering, cutting and/or removing vegetation, taking or collecting plants, animals, flowers, nuts, berries, or any other items, baiting or feeding wildlife, including the Corolla Wild Horses, all commercial activities, pets off-leash. There is no waste disposal on the refuge; carry out what you carried in.
The ‘Corolla Wild Horses’, feral mammals that are not a natural component of the barrier island, are occasionally seen and must only be viewed from a distance. It is unlawful to harm, approach, feed or kill any wild horse on the Refuge.
There are no buildings or other facilities on this refuge.
The refuge is located on the northern end of the Outer Banks, and consists of six separate units located between Corolla, NC and the NC/VA state line. To access the refuge, follow NC Route 12 north to its terminus in Corolla; traffic is then diverted to the beach (four-wheel drive is required) The first refuge tract is approximately ¾ mile north.
Currituck NWR is managed by staff at Mackay Island NWR.
Directions to the refuge headquarters at Mackay Island:
Take the free Currituck Sound Ferry in Currituck, NC on Route 168. The ferry lands at NC Route 615 at the south end of Knotts Island. Travel approximately 8.1 miles north to the refuge office at Mackay Island.