Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

The Outer Banks is a welcoming coastal attraction in North Carolina. It remains one of the most popular tourist destinations on the East Coast, with spacious Outer Banks vacation homes on the water and a whole assortment of seasonal activities for everyone.

Pea Island Wildlife National Refuge is a family friendly centerpiece to the whole region, with 2.7 million visitors coming to see the more than 5,800 land acres of the refuge every year.

Vacationers, kayakers, photographers, canoeists, travelers and wildlife enthusiasts of all backgrounds enjoy exploring this pristine region, while taking a welcomed break from the urban tourist areas.

pea island nc

Wildlife and Viewing

For the most part, the Pea Island Wildlife National Refuge is a choose your own adventure kind of place and is widely known as a “Birder’s Paradise.” You can explore many of the small water channels and habitats in the national refuge to find a vast diversity of species. This is a refuge not a park, so there may limitations on where you go, and these areas will be sectioned off or labeled with postings.

You can often find loggerhead sea turtles, green sea turtles, and leatherbacks in the area during sea turtle season. Even the critically endangered hawksbill, with its pronounced nose and wide spotted shell, can be seen. The protection of these turtles is taken very seriously – touching them or otherwise interfering with them can result in substantial fines.

Hundreds of bird species, 24 species of reptiles, 25 mammal species, (including alligators), and many marine animals, such as manatees, make up the extent of the gorgeous protected wildlife.

Off the Beaten Path

A 10-mile drive south of Nags Head or directly north of Rodanthe will find you entering the outskirts of this protected area. So, why make the trip from your Outer Banks vacation home to visit?

Pea Island Wildlife National Refuge is a prime place to find family friendly activities that are far from the tourism and bustle of many other parts of the Outer Banks. Visitors can take in the aforementioned endangered wildlife in an untouched natural setting.

The family friendly canoe tours can launch at Pamlico Sound, a popular starting point, but there are other launches along the many water channels.
Of all the Outer Banks activities available, turtle watching here during turtle season will probably make it to the top of your list as it has for many others.

Visitors will find many wildlife or turtle tours of Pea Island hosted by professional local services or the Pea Island Visitors Center, so families can learn a lot more about hawksbill turtles, bird species, loggerheads, and some of the other species.

For outdoorsy couples, romantic canoe or kayaking trips are popular. For the whole family, sunset tours on paddleboards, kayaks or small boats are a great option.

Turtle Talks

You can find the Pea Island Visitors Center at 14500 NC-12, Rodanthe, NC to start your adventure and learn more about what’s available – you may not find many guides or staff members throughout the refuge area itself.

The visitors center also features seasonal Turtle Talks, where visitors can learn about turtle conservation and work on a take-home craft. The Turtle Talks are free, but donations are welcomed. Other seasonal programs are available such as guided bird walks and tours.

Get more information about upcoming events directly.

For an outdoor adventure right by your Outer Banks vacation rental, hop in a car and visit the Pea Island Wildlife National Refuge – one of the top Outer Banks activities you won’t want to miss.

Please give us a call at (252)-573-2811 for more information about the Pea Island refuge, local tour providers or any questions you may have about Outer Banks accommodations.

pea island wildlife refuge


Cola Vaughan Realty
PO Box 1375 • Nags Head, NC 27959
Phone: 252.573.2811
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