Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge


(757) 721-2412

Map Directions

Things To Do


Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located in Virginia and was established in 1938 to provide habitat for migrating and wintering waterfowl. The refuge contains more than 8,500 acres, situated around Back Bay, in the southeastern corner of the City of Virginia Beach. Because of its unique geographic location along the Atlantic Coast that provides overlapping ranges for both northern and southern species, biodiversity is high. Habitats include barrier island beach and dunes, shrub-scrub, woodlands, farm land and fresh and brackish marsh. Since 1939, an additional 4,600 acres of Bay waters within the refuge boundary have been closed to migratory bird hunting by Presidential Proclamation. Today the Refuge continues to be an important link in the chain of National Wildlife Refuges along the Atlantic Flyway. More than 300 species of birds have been observed at the Refuge. During the fall and winter months, large flocks of waterfowl use the Bay and freshwater impoundments. The Snow and Canada goose, Tundra swan, and many duck species are abundant. Migrating songbirds and shorebirds arrive at the Refuge each spring and fall. Brightly colored warblers dot shrub and woodland areas while shorebirds search for food in shallow waters. Habitats are also used by a wide assortment of other wildlife, including such threatened and endangered species as the Loggerhead sea turtle, Piping plover, Peregrine falcon, and Bald eagle.

Map of Back Bay NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 36.697879, -75.926428



  • Boating

    Small boats and canoes can be taken to the water (hand-carried). No launching facilities are available.

  • Fishing

    Surf and freshwater fishing is permitted in specific areas. A Virginia fishing license is required to fish in Back Bay.

  • Hiking

    For bird Enthusiasts this is a great destination to take a stroll through the marshlands and along the beach and observe the 300 species of birds that have taken refuge here. Other animals spotted throughout the Wildlife refuge include river otters, white-tailed deer, mink, opossums, raccoons, and the red and grey fox.

  • Hunting

    Lottery hunting available. On each day of the hunt, the refuge gates will open at 4:00 a.m. and close promptly at 5:00 a.m. no late arrivals will be permitted after 5:00 a.m. Standby hunters will be processed beginning at 5:00 a.m. Follow the directions of the parking attendants to find the appropriate place to park. You will park in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge parking lots, enter the visitor center to register, and listen to the mandatory pre-hunt briefing. All hunters must be out of the field for final pickup by 6:00 p.m. and must check out at the refuge check station.

    There will be a standby drawing to fill vacant hunter "slots" at 5:15 a.m. or earlier each morning. You are encouraged to come and hunt all days of the hunt as standby. Standby hunters must follow the same regulations as those who were selected in the lottery. Print the Rules and Regulations, sign the bottom portion and bring with you to the standby drawing.


Outdoor facilities are open daily dawn to dusk.

Park Partners



From I-64, exit on I-264 East. Exit onto Birdneck Road (Exit 22). Turn right onto Birdneck Road. Proceed 3-4 miles and turn right onto General Booth Boulevard. Proceed 5 miles and turn left onto Princess Anne Road. Proceed south about a mile until you reach Sandbridge Road. Follow Sandbridge Road until you reach the community of Sandbridge. Make a right onto Sandpiper Road. Proceed south 4 miles to the Refuge entrance. The Visitor Contact Station is one mile from the main entrance.

Phone Numbers


(757) 721-2412