U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
Banner graphic displaying the Fish & Wildlife Service logo and National Wildlife Refuge System tagline

Cape Romain
National Wildlife Refuge

American Oystercatchers thrive at Cape Romain.
5801 Highway 17 North
Awendaw, SC   29429
E-mail: caperomain@fws.gov
Phone Number: 843-928-3264
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Gray horizontal line
Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

Cape Romain NWR extends 22 miles along South Carolina's Atlantic coast and encompasses 66,267 acres of barrier islands, salt marshes, intricate coastal waterways, long sandy beaches, fresh and brackish water impoundments, and maritime forest. Established in 1932 as a migratory bird refuge, original objectives were to preserve habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and resident species. In recent years the refuge mission has expanded to include endangered species recovery, protecting and managing the 28,000 acre Class I Wilderness Area, and preserving the Bulls Island and Cape Island forests and plant communities.

Currently, the refuge is actively working to aid the recovery of the threatened Loggerhead Sea Turtle, a frequent summertime visitor to the refuge's beaches. Points of interest include Bulls Island and Cape Island, where Loggerhead Sea Turtles lay their eggs and shorebirds nest on the refuge.

If you are interested in volunteering for the Loggerhead Sea Turtle program, contact Patricia Midgett at the refuge headquarter at 843.928.3264.

Lighthouse Island's two lighthouses (no longer operational) still stand as historic sentinels of days gone by. If you have personal watercraft, you can travel to Lighthouse Island during daylight hours. Located seven miles from the mainland, departure from McClellanville will be the shortest route through the Wilderness estuary. The Refuge offers four public tours annually. Contact concession Coastal Expeditions at 843.881.4583 to schedule your tour.

The Refuge receives 289,000 visitors annually and has six permanent staff and two complex staff.

Getting There . . .
The Refuge Headquarters and Sewee Visitor Center are on Highway 17, about 20 miles north of Charleston, South Carolina. The ferry to Bulls Island departs from Garris Landing.

Directions to Garris Landing: About 17 miles north of Charleston just off U.S. Highway 17. From U.S. 17, turn right onto Sewee Road. Follow Sewee Road for 5 miles and turn right onto Bulls Island Rd. for 1.5 miles. The road ends at the Garris Landing parking area and boat dock.

Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:

Your full starting address AND town and state OR zip code

Google Maps opens in a new window

NOTE: When using this feature, you will be leaving the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service domain. We do not control the content or policies of the site you are about to visit. You should always check site policies before providing personal information or reusing content.

These driving directions are provided as a general guide only. No representation is made or warranty given as to their content, road conditions or route usability or expeditiousness. User assumes all risk of use.

horizontal line

Wildlife and Habitat

Cape Romain Refuge has invested more than 30 years in efforts to recover the threatened Loggerhead Sea Turtle. The refuge supports more than 1,000 nests each year, the largest Loggerhead Sea Turtle rookery in the U.S. north of Florida. The Refuge includes designated critical habitat for threatened Piping Plover, and habitat that supports Least Tern, endangered Wood Stork, American Alligator, and Sea Beach Amaranth.

Cape Romain's Bulls Bay and a number of lesser bays are some of the least developed and most productive estuaries on the East Coast of the United States.

The refuge supports the largest wintering population of American Oystercatcher and Marbled Godwit in the U.S. The refuge also has one of the largest Eastern Brown Pelican and Least Tern rookeries in the State.

Learn More>>

Sewee Indians inhabited the area before the arrival of the settlers. The tidal creeks and bays provided the natives with ample supplies of fish, oysters, and clams. Several native middens are located on the Refuge. English settlers in South Carolina made their first landing in the New World on Bulls Island to resupply their stocks of wood, water, and food before proceeding further south. They eventually established the first permanent European settlement in South Carolina at the present location of the City of Charleston.

Learn More>>

    Recreation and Education Opportunities
Environmental Education
Wildlife Observation
Learn More >>

Management Activities
The refuge's marsh wetland units, both natural tidal marshes and those impounded by dikes, interspersed with upland ridges provide a remarkable complex of habitats that support a wide variety of animals.

Wildlife management focuses on recovery actions for the threatened Loggerhead Sea Turtle and protection and monitoring of shorebirds, wading birds, and other waterfowl.

Cape Romain NWR has supported the recovery of Loggerhead Sea Turtles for more than 30 years. These efforts have yielded the largest population of Loggerhead Sea Turtles north of Florida. Each year between 500 and 800 sea turtle nests are moved away from unstable areas on the beach to protect them from beach erosion and overwash, and to prevent predators from destroying them.

Migratory and resident waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds, and many other types of wildlife thrive in this setting. Impoundments on Bulls Island offer high quality, undisturbed areas for nesting and feeding. Shellfish management regulations are developed and implemented to protect important feeding areas.

Although the refuge encompasses only 10% of South Carolina's coast, the refuge supports the majority of shorebirds, seabirds, and sea turtles in the state. Cape Romain NWR is 1 of only 20 Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Hemispheric Sites of International Importance in North and South America. The refuge supports 18-22 shorebird species in the Atlantic Flyway including Red Knot, American Oystercatcher, Wilson’s Plover, Whimbrel, and Least Tern. The refuge's undeveloped and undisturbed coastal habitat supports 2/3 of the State's total wintering population of American Oystercatcher, and 57% of the State's nesting population. The refuge also supports the largest population of Marbled Godwit on the Atlantic Coast during southbound migration. Researchers use the refuge to study the American oystercatcher and other species.

Management for nesting habitat includes predator control, parasite reduction measures such as spraying for ticks, and closures of nesting areas to human access. Habitat protection is coupled with monitoring activities to ensure that habitat and wildlife values are not compromised.