Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge

Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge

The Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge is located at the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It contains 1415 acres of maritime forest, myrtle and bayberry thickets, grasslands, and fresh and brackish ponds, important habitat for wildlife that changes constantly with the seasons.

In the fall, the refuge serves as a gathering place for migrating birds, which wait for favorable wind and weather to cross the Chesapeake Bay. Hawks, falcons, and songbirds are common on the refuge from late August to early November. The refuge also supports osprey platforms with a live video feed of nesting activity of one platform available in the Visitor Center during nesting season.

In the spring, shallow waters and moist grassy areas provide food for marsh and shorebirds. Throughout the year, black ducks and great blue herons feed in refuge marshes, and refuge woodlands provide year-round habitat for Carolina chickadees, great horned owls, eastern screech owls, Carolina wrens, and several species of woodpeckers and warblers.

Enter Your Location


The refuge is open from a half-hour before sunrise until a half-hour after sunset.

The Visitor Center is open:

  • Daily from April to November, 9:00am to 4:00pm
  • Daily in December and March, 10:00am to 2:00pm
  • Friday-Sunday in January and February, 10:00am to 2:00pm

Visitors Center is closed Thanksgiving day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)


There are no fees to visit any parts of the refuge and visitor center.


The southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula is an important migratory bird stopover location along the Atlantic coast. This narrowing peninsula created by the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean causes a funneling effect on the birds as they fly south.


The refuge is open year-round for hikes along the half-mile butterfly trail, and the half-mile Wildlife interpretive trail that loops through mixed hardwoods and past an old graveyard to a salt marsh overlook. Climb to the top of a World War II bunker for a panoramic view of refuge marshes, barrier islands, bays, inlets, and the Atlantic Ocean. The refuge also has a photography blind that overlooks a freshwater pond.

Visitors are encouraged to enjoy the refuge, but may not use metal detectors, picnic, and collect plants, animals, or artifacts.

At the visitor center, a wildlife viewing area provides an up-close look at waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds. A "touch table" enables hands-on interaction with remnants of different refuge habitats.


The refuge has a visitor center that includes several interactive exhibits and an auditorium, a headquarters building, trails, and photography blind and a two-lane boat ramp with access to deep water and 75 parking spaces.


The visitor center and refuge office are wheelchair accessible. Some visitor center exhibits contain audio or text only.  Trails are flat, although not paved, and are relatively easy to navigate. The photo blind is wheelchair accessible, but the observation overlook is accessible only by stairs.

Main image: Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge
Captain John Smith Trail