Explore the Beauty and Excitement of Sandbridge Parks and Refuges

refuges
Photo By Lago Mar

Visitors to Sandbridge Beach come for seclusion, pristine beaches, and the rare opportunity to be immersed in an unspoiled natural environment. Sandbridge Beach may be compact, but what it lacks in square mileage it more than makes up for in breathtaking wildlife refuges and family-friendly state parks.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 9,000 acres on the Currituck Banks Peninsula. The refuge borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Back Bay of Currituck Sound to the west. This salt- and freshwater refuge was established in 1938 to preserve a critical feeding and resting habitat for migrating waterfowl. As part of the Atlantic Flyway, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a temporary and permanent home to hundreds of species of birds.

Back Bay Refuge is also an important habitat for loggerhead sea turtles and other animals. During fall and winter, thousands of ducks, tundra swans, and snow geese stop at the refuge for rest and recreation. Visitors may also spot great blue heron, the elusive American bittern, American black ducks, osprey, deer, muskrats, river otters, bobcats, and raccoons.

Visitors can enjoy a diverse geography that includes sand dunes, marshes, ponds, beaches, and forests by hiking or biking the marsh trails, strolling the boardwalk, or walking the beach. A good first stop is the Visitor Contact Station, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. For a broad overview of the refuge before you dive in on your own, take a ride on the Blue Goose Tram, which offers an excellent guided tour through Back Bay and False Cape State Park.

Want to learn more about this special place? The refuge offers educational and public service programs, including Clean the Bay Day, fishing clinics, turtle conservation programs, the Pond Explorers program, and marsh nature hikes. Canoes and kayaks can be launched at Horn Point, and fishing is available off the dock and the beach.

False Cape State Park

False Cape State Park lies between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This is a primitive, undeveloped park that was once home to Native Americans and the historic Wash Woods community. The park is accessible only on foot, by bicycle, tram tour, boat, or beach transport. If you are looking for quiet and seclusion, this is a wonderful park for kayaking, camping, hiking, beachcombing, and trail biking.

False Cape State Park is on the two-hour tram tour that begins in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Overnight campers are welcome in the park, but be sure to bring plenty of water, insect repellent, and sunscreen and be prepared for pop-up storms.

Little Island Park

Little Island Park is a small but mighty park north of Back Bay Refuge. This beachfront park has a 400-foot fishing and crabbing pier, and an ideal surfing and swimming beach. Little Island has all the amenities families need for a fun day at the beach including picnic shelters, charcoal grills, a playground, canoe and kayak rental, restrooms, fishing pole rentals, concessions, and vending machines. Visitors can also check out sport and beach gear such as basketballs, baseball bats, corn hole boards and bags, Frisbees, soccer balls, volleyballs, and beach wheelchairs from the park office.

Little Island Park welcomes dogs anytime after Labor Day weekend and before Memorial Day weekend. Otherwise, dogs are allowed in the park and on the beach before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. the rest of the year.

Red Wing Park

Just a short drive from Sandbridge Beach you’ll find Red Wing Park, a 97-acre park that is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in Virginia. If you’re visiting in warm months, you’ll likely see outdoor weddings and formal wedding photography taking place. This park not only boasts a picturesque Japanese garden, but also plenty of picnic shelters with grills, playgrounds, a dog park, concessions, restrooms, and basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. Red Wing also allows visitors to borrow sports equipment from the park office.

For nature lovers, Sandbridge Beach is the perfect place to turn off the cell phone and get back in touch with Nature and what really matters most. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge has something for all ages and abilities — whether it’s an adventurous solo overnight camping trip or a relaxing, educational tram ride through Back Bay Refuge and False Cape National Park.

Sandbridge Beach has both primitive and thoughtfully appointed state parks for those seeking solitude or fun family outings. Pack a picnic and your sunscreen, then head for the hiking trails and uncrowded beaches of Sandbridge’s state parks and you’ll be set for a day you’ll remember for years to come.

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