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Magothy Bay Natural Area Preserve


This 445-acre preserve contains rich and diverse habitats that support breeding and migrating birds and butterflies. It forms the central core of a conservation corridor with the adjacent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands to its south and the Mockhorn Island Wildlife Management Area to its north.

The preserve offers visitors a 2-mile loop trail that meanders through shrub habitat (a former agricultural field restored to songbird habitat) and maritime forest. The trail then emerges onto a dike overlooking an extensive salt marsh and seaside lagoon with views of Smith and Mockhorn Islands. There is also a nice view of the Cape Charles Lighthouse located on Smith Island. The trail travels the length of the dike, then traverses maritime shrub habitat, before emerging onto a dirt and gravel road. Turn right (west) onto the road to return towards the parking lot while traversing high marsh, emerging forest, and the southern edge of the restoration site.

For those who desire a shorter walk, follow this trail through the shrub habitat/restoration site and then double back to the parking lot without continuing the loop.

This preserve provides habitat for a variety of coastal species. Look for resident and migrating songbirds within the restoration site and young forests. From the dike overlooking saltmarsh, look for wading birds, clapper rail, shorebirds, and waterfowl foraging for mussels, snails, fish and crustaceans. White ibis are frequently seen foraging, especially juveniles in the late summer. Other wildlife to find in the salt marsh include fiddler crabs, periwinkle snails, and diamondback terrapins.  Late summer brings showy plants like bright red glasswort, sea-oxeye daisy, and seaside goldenrod along with the migrating monarch butterflies that nectar on them.


  • There are no facilities on site.
  • The parking lot is small, with space for only five vehicles. If you arrive and the lot is full, please return later. Do not park illegally on adjacent private property, along the access road, within a public road right-of-way or in any other non-designated location.
  • Stay on the designated trail–do not trespass onto the bordering private land.
  • Wear insect repellent.


Physical Address: 4829 Bulls Dr, Cape Charles, VA 23310

From US-13 in Cape Charles, travel south 8.1 miles. Turn left onto Latimer Siding Rd, then right onto VA-600 South. In 0.3 miles turn left onto Bulls Dr. Continue 1.1 miles to enter the Preserve.

Location & Directions

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Site Information

  • Site Contact: Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, Eastern Shore Region Steward: 757-787-5989,
  • Website
  • Access: Open daily, Free

Birds Recently Seen at Magothy Bay Natural Area Preserve (as reported to eBird)

  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Brown Pelican
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • American Crow

Seasonal Bird Observations


  • Hiking Trails
  • Parking