Photo by Gordon Campbell | At Altitude Gallery

Dawson Shoals

Owned and managed by: Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

Dawson Shoals is open for low-impact recreational use, such as bird watching, photography, primitive camping and surf fishing. All visitors, pets and activities must remain outside of seasonally posted bird nesting areas. Please help protect sensitive habitats and wildlife by observing all visitation policies and seasonal restrictions.

Visiting Dawson Shoals

The Seaside is a dynamic landscape with constantly shifting tides, sands and weather. Safety is a top concern when visiting this remote area with limited accessibility and services. Stay alert, come prepared and be aware of island use policies.

Open for recreational DAY use:

   Photography   Wildlife viewing   surf fishing   camping

Prohibited at ALL times:
No vehicles
Seasonal restrictions (April through August):
  • CLOSED above high tide line. Remain at the water’s edge and below the high tide line at all times in all areas to avoid bird nesting habitat
  • Do not walk on or traverse upper beaches, dunes or mudflats
  • Respect posted bird nesting areas

For information about our policies, please contact the Virginia Virginia Marine Resources Commission

Suggested access points

Dawsons Shoal is a dynamic island located in Wachapreague Inlet. Generally, it is most easily and safely accessed on the west side of the shoal, however boaters should exercise caution when approaching as water depths and safe anchoring spots are constantly changing.

Dawson Shoals

Photo by Gordon Campbell | At Altitude Gallery

About Dawson Shoals

Dawson Shoals is a dynamic sand island that changes in shape and size following major storms events. It is void of vegetation and in the summer can support hundreds of nesting seabirds. Its close proximity to the mainland makes it a popular destination for visitors, and managers aim to balance recreational use with the protection of the breeding birds. Before visiting, please familiarize yourself with site use policies and obey the seasonal signage.

Dawson Shoals is part of a vast system of ungranted state lands that is owned and managed by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). During the bird breeding season, VMRC and the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) share in the management of nesting seabirds and shorebirds. Dawson Shoals is open year round to the public for bird watching, photography, primitive camping and fishing. Please help protect this sensitive habitat and the birds that nest there by observing all visitation policies and seasonal signage.

Discover a Coastal Wilderness

The Atlantic coastline of Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a unique coastal wilderness that spans 70 miles from the Virginia/Maryland border to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The region is characterized by vast, mostly undeveloped marshes, barrier island beaches and coastal lagoons that support globally important populations of migratory birds, are the site of intensive large scale oyster reef and eelgrass restoration projects, and provide extensive recreation opportunities in remote settings. Learn more about the natural history of this amazing coastal landscape.



Virginia Marine Resources Commission

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) serves as the steward of the Commonwealth’s marine and aquatic resources, and protectors of its tidal waters and homelands. It manages recreational and commercial saltwater fishing and works to create and maintain sustainable coastal fisheries. VMRC also manages a significant portion of the state’s tidal marshes and water bottoms to ensure the long term protection and productivity of these sensitive habitats.

Explore Our Seaside Partners

The seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore is almost entirely owned and managed by non-profit, state and federal agencies. These partners share the common goal of protecting natural resources, while balancing sustainable recreational and economic use of the seaside. Learn more about our partnership.