Bird Island Reserve

Natural features

Bird Island is an undeveloped barrier island located at the southwestern edge of the North Carolina coast, situated between the Town of Sunset Beach and the Little River Inlet in South Carolina. The Reserve site encompasses 1,481 acres consisting of approximately 135 upland acres and more than 1,300 acres of marsh, intertidal flats, and subtidal area. This site is also a Dedicated Nature Preserve, authorized by G.S. 143B-135.250.

The Reserve site represents excellent examples of barrier communities with several occurrences of rare species. The following barrier island biotic communities are present: upper beach, dune grass, maritime dry grassland, maritime wet grassland, maritime shrub thicket, maritime shrub swamp, brackish marsh, salt shrub, salt flat, and salt marsh. The most notable species of the island are nesting loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) and seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus), a plant of the foredune area. Both species are listed as threatened by the federal and state governments.

Visiting the site

Public access is primarily via the ocean beach on the Sunset Beach side, while boats may land on the beach associated with Little River Inlet on the South Carolina side. With the closure of Mad Inlet in 1999 following Hurricane Bonnie, the public may walk the length of the island at all times. The upland property begins at the boundary with Sunset Beach and continues about 0.9 miles until it meets the Corps of Engineers property approximately 0.4 miles from the state line. The sound and marsh areas of the Reserve may be reached by boat, depending on vessel draft and tide levels. Several tidal creeks (e.g. Bonaparte Creek, Clayton Creek, East River) are found within the site.

To reach Bird Island by foot, drive to the intersection of 40th and Main streets in Sunset Beach. Limited parking is available at the end of Main Street past the intersection. Overflow parking is along the street, provided the area is not marked as a no-parking zone and residential access is not blocked. Take the 40th street boardwalk beach access to the beach and turn right. Follow the beach until you reach signs indicating the boundary of the Reserve.

Camping and campfires are not permitted at this site. Be a responsible visitor: check out the reserve rules and policies before your visit. 

Site brochure

Site map