The Bell Island Pier is a popular destination for birders, anglers, crabbers, and photographers. Visitors can also explore the refuge’s shorelines, marsh islands, and Pamlico Sound waters by boat, providing opportunities for hunting, photography, and wildlife observation. No motorized vehicles are allowed within the Swanquarter National Wilderness Area, offering a tranquil space to experience nature without human intervention.
All of the refuge, including the entrance road and Bell Island Pier, is open for daylight use only (sunrise to sunset).
There are no designated trails on Swanquarter NWR. A two-mile long gravel road south of Highway 264 leads into the upland portion of the refuge and to the site of the 1000-foot Bell Island fishing pier. Visitors may walk, drive, or bike this road. All other access to the refuge is via boat only.
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
- Air boating
- Jet skiing
- All-terrain vehicles
- Molesting wildlife
- Collecting plants, flowers, nuts or berries
The refuge is located on the north shore of Pamlico Sound, east and west of the village of Swan Quarter. Except for the Bell Island Unit, the refuge is accessible by boat only.
Directions to the Swanquarter National Wildlife Refuge Bell Island Pier Parking:
Driving South from Columbia, NC: Start out going south on S Broad St/Alligator River Route/NC-94 toward Branning St. Continue to follow Alligator River Route/NC-94. In 27.93 miles turn right onto Piney Woods Rd. In 9.20 miles turn right onto Turnpike Rd. In 3.31 miles turn left onto US Highway 264/Pamlico Scenic Byway/US-264 E/NC-45. In 1.02 miles turn right onto Bell Island Rd. In 1.94 miles parking for Bell Island Unit Fishing Pier is at the end of the roadway.
Driving East from Belhaven, NC: Start out going northwest on W Main St/US-264 Bus W toward Quidley Ln. Take the 3rd right onto US Highway 264 Byp/Pamlico Scenic Byway/US-264 E. Continue to follow Pamlico Scenic Byway/US-264 E. In 22.83 miles turn right onto Bell Island Rd. In 1.94 miles parking for Bell Island Unit Fishing Pier is at the end of the roadway.
Driving West or North starting from Engelhard, NC: Start out going west on US Highway 264/Pamlico Scenic Byway/US-264 W toward Roper In 24.88 miles Turn left onto Bell Island Rd. In 1.94 miles parking for Bell Island Unit Fishing Pier is at the end of the roadway.
Swanquarter NWR is administered by Mattamuskeet NWR. The refuge headquarters and visitor center are located at Mattamuskeet NWR.