Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Visit untamed beauty on a former rice plantation.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge alligator
American Alligator image by Becky Mathews.

The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge offers a variety of opportunities to explore and enjoy the great outdoors from sunrise to sunset every day. You can observe and photograph wildlife, fish, or during the season, hunt white-tailed deer.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge egret.
Egret image by Joe DeLorme.

Make the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center your first stop when visiting the refuge. Located on Hwy 17 between Hardeeville and Savannah, it is open Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but closed Sundays and all federal holidays.

Established in 1927, the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge protects old rice fields & numerous species of wildlife including ducks, birds, deer, & alligators. The 4-mile driving tour is free and open sunrise to sunset.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge former rice field
Former rice fields are preserved at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.

The Visitor Center provides visitors a more enhanced refuge experience. Friendly and knowledgeable staff and volunteers are always on-hand at the front desk to help get you where you need to go, as well as answer any questions you may have.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge rice trunk
Rice trunks are still in use.

While there be sure to watch the 10-minute video about the refuge, its history, and current management practices. The center also includes interactive exhibits to further your understanding of the refuge’s vast wildlife and habitat resources.

Outside you’ll find the Beech Hill Trail, which leads visitors along a short, paved interpretive pathway that borders the edge of a cypress swamp. There’s also a pollinator garden filled with plants that are beneficial to butterflies, bees, dragonflies and more. It’s most active from late spring through fall.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge egret
Egret photo by Vlad Hrybok.

A bird sanctuary contains a small arrangement of birdbaths, misters, and feeders that attract a variety of birds throughout the year; especially during the spring and fall when many birds are migrating through the refuge.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge rice field
Photo by April Zarzycki.

The Visitor Center has clean, spacious restrooms and ample parking for vehicles, including buses and RVs. Be sure to use the facilities here, because the refuge is a short drive away, and has no restroom facilities.

After a trip to the Visitor Center turn left on Hwy 17, then left again onto SC 170 to head to the refuge for a driving, hiking or cycling tour.

Wood Stork image by Julie Strickland.

Wildlife viewing is excellent for photography, especially during fall, winter, and spring, along the 4-mile Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive and adjacent hiking/bicycling trails.

The American alligator is king here, with upwards of 25 individuals having been reported seen during one visit. Many species of wading and marsh birds can also be spotted here throughout the year.

The trails adjacent to the Kingfisher Pond Recreation Area are great for watching woodland songbirds such as prothonotary warblers and American redstarts during spring and fall migrations. Summertime brings in purple gallinules in the managed impoundments and swallow-tailed kites soaring in the sky; both species nest on the Refuge.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge blue heron
Blue Heron image by Pamela Clisbee.

The Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive affords photographers of all skill levels excellent opportunities to photograph wildlife, especially American alligators and a variety of different wading birds. Visitors may also utilize the photo blind located along the Cistern Trail.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge drive
The drive into Savannah NWR.

The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is a part of the Savannah Coastal Refuges GeoTrail! There is a special geocache for each refuge in our complex to help you learn more about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex!

Blue Heron photo by Eduardo Burgos.

For more information on other attractions in the area visit the South Carolina Lowcountry Tourism Website.

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge trail map
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge trail map. Note: this map also shows the location of the Visitor Center.
Carmen Pinckney