Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail

Site Information

  • Seasons: Migrations, Winter
  • Site Contact: (757) 891-2438
  • Site Access: Onancock Wharf: Free, Tangier Island: Fee, Seasonal May-October


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Site CES13: Tangier Island/Onancock Wharf


Tangier Island is situated in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay between the Eastern Shore and the Northern Neck of Virginia. The island's crab-fishing community, historically isolated, has developed an interesting culture and unique dialect. Measuring less than one square mile, the Town of Tangier is actually comprised of three low-lying islands joined by small bridges. The town is situated about four feet above sea level, but the remainder of the island is mostly comprised of tidally inundated marshland. The expansive marshes provide habitat for several heron species, glossy ibis and numerous clapper rails and seaside sparrows that can easily be seen in the marshes surrounding the town. Other habitats include an attractive small sandy beach at the island's southern tip, and scrubby woodland near the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's education facility at Port Isobel. In Onancock Harbor, ample opportunity exists to see gulls, common passerine species and ospreys nesting on the channel markers. The tour boat crossing to Tangier is likely to produce sightings of common, royal and Forster's terns, brown pelican, herons, egrets, and views of nesting birds. During the cooler months, you can expect to see diving ducks, loons, and northern gannets.


From Harborton Landing, return 3.0 miles on SR 180 to Pungoteague. Turn left on SR 178/Bobtown Road and travel 6.1 miles to Rt. 718/Cashville Road. Turn right on Rt. 718 and proceed 1.1 miles to SR 179/Market Street. Turn left on Market Street and drive 0.9 miles to Onancock Wharf. To access Tangier Island, take the seasonal tour boat that runs from Onancock from late May through early October. Seasonal tour boats also visit the island from Reedville, Virginia, and Crisfield, Maryland. A mail and passenger boat runs from Tangier to Crisfield year-round, but requires an overnight stay. Private boat and plane charters are also available.

Loop Map