The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset for a variety of activities, from hiking and bicycling to birding and wildlife photography. Bank fishing and boating are also popular on the refuge. The refuge offers special hunts during the fall for white-tailed deer and waterfowl.
All portions of the refuge are open to wildlife-dependent recreation from March 15 through October 15. Most of the refuge is closed to public access from October 16 through March 14 to reduce disturbance to wintering waterfowl. Mackay Island Road from NC 615 to the Dike Gate, the Great Marsh Loop Trail, the Kuralt Trail Overlook, and the Marsh Causeway are open year-round.
The road to the Visitor Contact Station and Hegge Impoundment Overlook is open 10am to 4pm Monday through Friday, contingent on staffing availability.
Special "Open Roads Day" events are held throughout the year where visitors may drive the dike and trail system around the refuge impoundments to view wildlife. These are publicized in advance through local media and on the Events page.
Roads throughout the refuge are graveled and visitors must maintain the posted speed limit of 15 miles per hour. Parking is allowed in designated parking areas only. No overnight parking is allowed on the refuge.
Insect repellent and sun screen are a must. Wear sneakers or comfortable walking shoes. Be aware that cottonmouth and other venomous reptiles call Mackay Island home.