Visiting Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, NC
There are many reasons why I love coming to Hatteras Island, and it’s the only place I’ve made an annual tradition with my children. One of my favorite reasons is the little places we discover along the island. Each year, we find something new.
If you’re fortunate enough to be exploring the island for the first time, stop in at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. It’s small, but packed with information about the natural habitat of the island. These small visitor centers are especially great for younger children, with many displays designed for the younger crowd.
There are four aspects to the center: the main building, the boardwalk into the marshes of the Pamlico Sound, beach access across the street, and some seriously awesome guided ranger programs.
Pea Island Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
In the main building, you’ll find several exhibits for kids, including a sand tray with shells from the nearby beach, nicely labeled so kids can make the connection between the shell and the living creature. They also have a scavenger hunt: fill out the sheet and get a prize, which tempted even my 14-year-old. Lining the back of the center is a wall of windows with a gorgeous view of the Pamlico Sound and binoculars set up so you can look for wildlife.
I usually avoid all gift shops, but the little one in the Pea Island Visitor Center has the coolest gifts for kids. Plenty of nature kits for exploring, with proceeds benefiting the Wildlife Refuge, so you can’t go wrong there. The Visitor Center is open from 9 am to 4 pm every day, as long as there are volunteers available. The refuge itself is open from dawn to dusk every day.
Walk Through the Pamlico Sound
For a close up view of Pamlico Sound, take the boardwalk located at the end of the parking lot. It’s no more than a half mile round trip and leads directly into the marshes, ending at an elevated observation deck. We saw huge turtles as we crossed the bridge, many beautiful egrets, and even a snake!
Easy Beach Access and Ranger Programs
There’s easy beach access right across from the Visitor Center if you want a quick dip. The ranger-led programs, both for adults and children, are some of the best parts of the Visitor Center. The bird walks may be best for patient kids who can wait it out in silence so as not to scare the birds, but there are also programs to learn about turtles and other local wildlife.
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Andrea is a single mom in Arlington, Virginia with a 15-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. Her children took their first trips when they were just four…