The Preserves, Refuges & Conservancies were established on the Outer Banks to preserve large sections of the delicate barrier island habitats, but a secondary goal was to educate and engage the public into exploring these wild, undeveloped areas.
Several of these reserves, like the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge are famous destinations among naturalists or birders as they can be home to hundreds of different species of wildlife. Others, like the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, are so expansive that they take up miles of Outer Banks or Dare County territory, and serve as significant habitats for local endangered or threatened species, such as bald eagles and the dwindling American red wolves.
Many preserves or refuges have established nature trails as well as information centers so visitors can explore on their own accord, or with the assistance of an experienced reserve staff member. Virtually every area has their own preserved section of Outer Banks wildlife, like the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge or the Springer's Point Preserve in Ocracoke Island, which is always open for the public to explore at their leisure.