Audubon Sanctuary and Center at Pine Island

    The 2,600-acre Donal C. O’Brien, Jr. Audubon Sanctuary and Center at Pine Island was the first Audubon center in the State of North Carolina. It protects a mosaic of marsh, sound, and forest in a region that was famed for waterfowl hunting and bass fishing and is now a popular vacation destination. The Center came to fruition when the National Audubon Society, through the generosity of Mr. Earl Slick and his family, received ownership of parcels of land on the Northern Outer Banks that now comprise more than 2,600 acres of marshes and uplands within a 5,000-acre area of the Currituck Sound.

    Named for Audubon’s legendary board chair Donal C. O’Brien, Jr., the sanctuary protects marshes along Currituck Sound, bottomland areas, and dry sandy areas and upland maritime forests. Audubon is working closely with community leaders to develop a vision for this sanctuary and educational center that will offer visitors an array of environmental experiences, from exploring the vast expanse of Currituck Sound to studying the smaller wonders of nature.

    Walking Trail – Open dawn to dusk.

    Tours of the Center are by appointment only.


    Robbie Fearn, Director
    Chandler Sawyer, Habitat and Resource Manager

    Charles Kuralt Trail (Mackay Island)

    In the mid-Atlantic Coastal plain of Virginia and North Carolina, mysterious, dark backwater rivers flow into estuarine sounds contained by the Outer Banks. Here, eleven national wildlife refuges and a national fish hatchery are working to conserve fish, wildlife, plants and their native habitats. The Charles Kuralt Trail has been established to help people enjoy these wildlands and to recognize the broadcast journalist who shared the delights and wonders of out-of-the-way places like these.

    Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge

    Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge is an 8,219 acre parcel located on Knotts Island. The refuge is a popular spot for bird watching, bicycling, photography, fishing, and kayaking. Home to many endangered and threatened species, including peregrine falcons and American bald eagles, Mackay Island is also an important wintering area for thousands of ducks, geese, and swan. Visitors can often view wading birds, shorebirds, and raptors, as well as a variety of reptiles and amphibians, within the refuge. There is one auto tour route and two hiking and bicycling trails that provide access to the refuge, as well as 20 miles of canals that wind through the swamp-like habitat.

    From mainland Currituck, visitors can reach Knotts Island and Mackay Island via a 45-minute ferry ride across the Currituck Sound. For a more indirect route, automobiles can travel through a section of southeastern Virginia and wind their way to the islands via land.