2 Sep 2019
If there is one activity in Sandbridge that will NEVER get old, and is always fun for everyone in the group, it is visiting Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge! With eight miles of scenic trails for visitors to enjoy, you can easily spend hours upon hours in this beautiful refuge.
Back Bay NWR was established in 1938 as a 4,589-acre refuge, and since 1988, it has grown to a whopping 9,250 acres! The habitats include beach, dunes, woodlands, agricultural fields, and freshwater marshes. This provides so many homes for all of the wildlife imaginable!
Approximately 10,000 water fowl will visit the refuge during the fall migration, with the largest number of them arriving in December and January. Snow geese and a variety of ducks are the most common of them to be seen. And let's be real, ducks are adorable.
While most people travel solo or with a few people, group educational opportunities are also available as long as it is scheduled in advance with the visitor center office. The visitor center is open from 8am-4pm Tuesday-Friday and 9am-4pm on the weekends. They are closed on Sundays between Labor Day and Memorial Day, as well as all holidays other than Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day. Outdoor facilities are open daily from dawn to dusk. Trust me; while this place is gorgeous at all times of the day, you must experience the refuge while the sun is setting over Back Bay (just be sure to start heading out after getting that perfect photo as the refuge does close at dusk). My lovely friend Haley (IG: @hales4ca) was able to send me a sunset photo since I haven't been able to make it down there recently! So. Much. Beauty.
There is a fee to enter the refuge between April 1st and October 31st. A single-vehicle day pass is $5.00, a hiker/biker day pass is $2.00, and any other specific types of vehicle/group charges can be found at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Back_Bay/visit/permits.html. Eighty percent of the money collected goes directly back into Back Bay NWR, and the remaining twenty percent is distributed to other stations that do not have a fee program in place so that they are able to make improvements as well. National passes associated with FLREA (Federal Lands Recreational Enhancement Act) are also sold and accepted here. Yay for convenience!
There are just a few more things to keep in mind before visiting Back Bay NWR. Sadly, but understandably, pets are not permitted in the refuge at any time during the year. Swimming, sunbathing, and surfing are not allowed. Fishing can only be done in designated areas, as long as the fisherman has the appropriate license (freshwater license for fishing in the bay areas & saltwater license for fishing in the ocean). Small boats and canoes that can be hand-carried to the bay's edge are permitted - there isn't a boat launch available for larger boats anywhere in the refuge. Canoeing and kayaking are the most fun in the bay anyways! They also don't scare all of the bay critters like a larger boat would, which is a plus in my book!
While we have only been talking about the bay side of the refuge, the beach side is great as well! When walking along the paths between the large sand mounds and dunes, I honestly feel like I am in another world, perhaps in a galaxy far, far away...
Throughout the years that I have been coming down here, the pathway to the beach portion of the refuge was old wood that was a bit questionable in my opinion. I was pleasantly surprised to see that much of the wood has been replaced with new wood, and most of it now has Mobi-Mat coverage to spare our feet and help preserve the pathway! I will admit that it isn't the most aesthetically pleasing thing in the world, but it is definitely there for the better (and it adds a nice pop of color - so fancy).
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located at the south end of Sandbridge (about 4 miles from the light at Sandbridge Road). If you are staying at The Sanctuary or in one of our south-end homes (anything south of the 3500 block), it would be such a fun bike trip down to the refuge! If you are feeling super adventurous, you could definitely bike down there from any of our homes (just be aware that the distance from the north end (2200 block) to the refuge is 5 miles). It is also a short drive from any of our vacation homes in Sandbridge!
Just do yourself a favor and take a trip to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge while you're staying with us in Sandbridge! Seriously... It's amazing at any time of the year and each experience is different from the last! Trust me on this.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
757.426.6262 | 1.800.933.4800
757.457.0050 | 1.866.933.4801
Photos/Story: Jasmine Ambrosio (IG: @jasmineambrosio | @sandbridgerealty)