Red knots feeding along the shore of Hog Island, Virginia Coast Reserve.
Shorebirds Red knots feeding along the shore of Hog Island, Virginia Coast Reserve. © Peter Frank Edwards for The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

Virginia Coast Reserve Barrier Islands


The longest expanse of coastal wilderness remaining on the east coast.


The Virginia Coast Reserve’s 14 undeveloped barrier and marsh islands help to protect Eastern Shore communities from storm surges and sea level rise, as well as providing critical wildlife habitat. The mainland and island preserves of VCR offer visitors unique natural experiences. 

The barrier islands shelter more than 250 species of raptors, songbirds, and shorebirds, which find food in the adjacent bays and salt marshes. 

For over four decades, VCR's migratory bird program has managed and protected coastal habitats for the bird species that depend on them for survival. 


Most Conservancy owned islands at the Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR) are open to the public for low-impact, non-commercial, recreational day use, such as hiking, bird watching, surf fishing and photography. 

These include Hog, Cobb, Myrtle, Parramore, Smith, Sandy, Revels, Rogue, Godwin and Mink Islands, and the Conservancy owned portions of Metompkin and Cedar Islands.

Little Cobb and Ship Shoal Islands are CLOSED to visitor use at all times for scientific research and safety reasons.

Download the barrier islands visitation policy brochure (pdf)


The following restrictions are in place from April through August to protect nesting birds.

  • Remain at the water's edge and below the high tide line at all times in all areas on the barrier islands.
  • Do not walk on or traverse upper beaches, dunes or mudflats.
  • Respect posted areas and corridors.

Download the beach-nesting bird brochure (pdf)

Know Before You Go
  • Pets, motorized vehicles, camping and campfires are PROHIBITED on all islands at all times.
  • Harvesting of shellfish is prohibited in all TNC / Virginia Marine Resources Commission shellfish sanctuaries.
  • View preserve guidelines
Welcome to VCR VCR's coastal wilderness is one of the most critical migratory bird habitats on Earth.