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5 Tips When Visiting the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pea Island National Wildlife refuge is almost 6000 acres. 13 miles ranging from one mile to half a mile wide. The refuge comprises ocean views, marshy sound accesses, and wildlife galore. Many traveling south on Highway NC 12 pass through the area without ever stopping to witness the beauty around them. We have compiled a list of 5 things you should know about Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. If you find yourself driving southbound on Highway 12 en route to Hatteras Island, stop in and explore the wildlife refuge and all it has to offer!


1. Ocean and Soundside Views

You can catch a breathtaking sunset over the water, even on the East Coast. Many traveling to Hatteras Island often pass through this long stretch of land, admiring its beauty from the comfort of their car. Although there are no homes to rent or places to eat, Pea Island is remarkable in its own way. Find yourself on the island at sunset, kayaking through the sound side waters. Or, spread a blanket on the shoreline and spend the evening in the warm Outer Banks salt air as the sun begins to fall behind the earth. Wake up early and get your day started the right way with a sunrise on the beach! Choose a secluded spot to play in the waves uninterrupted all day.

2. Free Parking

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge offers pristine coastlines and a variety of wildlife. If you are looking for parking in the area, do not expect to locate parking lots. Alongside the highway offers miles of free parking for your enjoyment. If you are a 4x4 vehicle, find a sandy spot to pull into. While those without the option of pulling off into soft sand, a nice grassy area will do fine. Pack a light cooler and a chair, then venture over the dunes on one of the many natural pathways to relax in a quiet spot on the sand.

3. The visitors center

The Pea Island National Wildlife Visitor Center is located on the north end of Hatteras Island on Highway NC 12. As you pull off into the parking lot, you will see restrooms and a walkway to the beach. There are informational trailheads for those who enjoy getting lost in nature. Venture off into the refuge and admire the natural charm and wildlife in the area. Learn more about the animals and types of fowl you will see at the National Wildlife Refuges Gateway Visitor Center on Roanoke Island. The interactive and hands-on exhibits are a great way to amp yourself up for what you are about to experience.
Photo credit: OuterBanks.com

4. Bring Your Camera

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to over 350 species of birds and various other wildlife. While exploring the water, hiking on the terrains, or relaxing on the beach, keep your eyes peeled. Bird watchers will delight in a variety of beautifully colored fowl to photograph. The refuge highlights a variety of animals. Find deer grazing in the marsh, dolphins swimming in the water, and sand crabs on the beach!

5. When You Should Visit

If you wonder when the best time to visit Pea Island is, we recommend spring, summer, and fall. While winter on the Outer Banks is a beautiful site to see, it is not the best time for catching the true elegance of the area. The plants come back to life during the springtime, and the animals scurry around during the day. Summer tends to be a bit more packed, with locals looking for the best surf break and beachgoers searching for a secluded spot in the sand. Fall is the absolute best time for exploring the southern beaches. As the kids go back to school and the summer months start to fade away, Pea Island becomes a desolate place to disappear to for the day. Bring your bug spray if you are coming to the area and planning to spend a full day. While the marsh is beautiful, you will need something to keep the mosquitoes at bay. 

Book your next vacation on Hatteras Island and take your time driving through the refuge. Or, choose to stay in one of your favorite towns on the Outer Banks and take a day trip to explore the sanctuary and witness the beauty yourself.