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Zeke's Island Reserve


The Zeke's Island complex is one of four sites that comprise the NC National Estuarine Research reserve. The 1,635-acre site includes a tidal basin and creeks that draw large numbers of wintering waterfowl that can be seen from the boat access parking area or from the water in a canoe, kayak or small boat. Salt marshes on the mainland side of the basin have some trails that allow visitors to search for sparrows, wrens, wading birds and shorebirds. The dense thickets and maritime forest habitats are also wonderful places to search for migrating and wintering songbirds and raptors. A long line of rocks separate the Cape Fear River. 'The Rocks,' as this line is called, offer great views of several kinds of shorebirds and the waters on both sides of the rocks host wintering waterfowl. The rocks are difficult to navigate and crossing them is not recommended. Traversing the rocks is not necessary because birding is excellent from the mainland where the rocks begin.

Species of Interest (Full Bird List)

Wilson's Plover, American Oystercatcher, Marbled Godwit, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, Painted Bunting


maritime forest and shrub, salt marsh, mud flats, beach and dune

Special Features/Concerns

Nesting sea turtles and shorebirds are present during the summer. Please respect the posted areas for nesting birds and turtles. Sea beach amaranth, an endangered plant, also grows in the dune system. Please avoid disruption of any dune plants. Hunting is allowed on the reserve during legal seasons. Birders should be aware of current hunting regulations and seasons and take adequate safety precautions during those times. For more on hunting season safety precautions, see the hunting season information at the beginning of this guide.

Access and Parking

The reserve boundary begins at Federal Point and extends south to include a barrier beach spit, Zeke?s Island, North Island, and No Name Island. The NC Wildlife Resources Commission maintains a public boat ramp at the northern boundary of the reserve (Federal Point). The New Hanover County Parks and Recreation Department maintains a pedestrian beach access facility and vehicular dune crossover on Federal Point. The entrance for these is on US 421, just north of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Access within the reserve is primarily by private boat, though the barrier spit is accessible by foot or off-road vehicle. The reserve is open to public visitation year round. Kayak rentals are available in Carolina Beach. The beach and vehicular access are maintained by the NC Division of Parks and Recreation at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area (not New Hanover County). A permit must be purchased for vehicular access and hours of use are limited during nesting season.


From Wilmington, take US 421 south to its terminus beyond the town of Kure Beach, just south of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, the Fort Fisher Aquarium, and the Fort Fisher ferry terminal (Federal Point).

Google Directions

Delorme Gazetteer Page


Bird List

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