Photo by Gordon Campbell | At Altitude Gallery

Wreck Island Natural Area Preserve

Owned and managed by: The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Wreck Island is open to the public September through March for low-impact, recreational day use, such as hiking, bird watching, surf fishing and photography. The island is closed during the bird nesting season, April through August. Please help protect sensitive habitats and wildlife by observing all visitation policies and seasonal restrictions.

Visiting Wreck Island

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   Dogs on leash

Prohibited at ALL times:

No camping   No campfires   No vehicles

Seasonal restrictions (April 15 through August 31):
  • Wreck Island is CLOSED to public visitation from April 15 through August 31.

For information about our policies, please contact the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Natural Heritage Program Eastern Shore Region Steward:

Suggested access points

Wreck Island is most easily and safely accessed via the inlet beach at the north end of the island (Sand Shoal Inlet). Access to other parts of the island requires extensive knowledge of the waterways and is not recommended for inexperienced visitors. Please contact The VA Department of Conservation and Recreation for more information.

About Wreck Island

Unique along the Virginia barrier island chain, Wreck Island is part of the state’s Natural Area Preserve system managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Natural Heritage. The island was acquired by the state in 1960 and 1961 with assistance from the Philadelphia Conservationists Inc. and the Old Dominion Foundation and was dedicated a state Natural Area Preserve in 1991. Similar to other Virginia barrier islands, Wreck is managed to protect the sensitive natural resources that occur there such as nesting shorebirds, rare plant species and high-energy coastal habitats.

Wreck Island

Photo by Gordon Campbell | At Altitude Gallery

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 Department of Conservation and Recreation

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) conserves Virginia’s natural and recreational resources. DCR’s Division of Natural Heritage (Virginia Natural Heritage Program) manages the Virginia Natural Area Preserve System, established to protect Virginia’s rare species and ecologically significant natural communities. The Natural Heritage Program’s work focuses on science-based conservation to protect Virginia’s native plant and animal life and the ecosystems upon which it depends. Scientists collect data on natural communities and rare plants and animals, develop land conservation data and online mapping tools, and provide up-to-date information to enable timely conservation decisions. Virginia’s Natural Area Preserve System provides long-term protection and outdoor recreation access to some of the state and the planet’s most ecologically important lands. Our and our partners’ work focuses on ensuring the conservation of Virginia’s common, rare and endangered species and ecosystems. As a member of NatureServe, DCR’s Natural Heritage Program contributes to an understanding and conservation of global biodiversity.

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.