At a Glance

Hours:

  • Nature Park (south of Route 90) – 6 am to dusk.
  • WMA (north of Route 90) – open 24 hrs/day.

Cost: Free.

Tips: Bring a scope. ◾ The WMA north of Route 90 is an active hunting area. Be aware of hunting seasons and plan your visit accordingly.  ◾ Portable restrooms near the fishing pier in the park.

Best Seasons: The birds are great year-round, but the vacationing crowds are problematic during the summer.

Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Assawoman Bay SW

Local MOS Chapters: Tri-County Bird Club

Isle of Wight Park & Wildlife Management Area

St. Martin’s Neck Road, Bishopville, MD 21813
County Parks: (410) 632-2144 | MD DNR: (410) 543-8223

The Isle of Wight is located just west of Ocean City in Assawoman Bay, at the north end of Isle of Wight Bay. The St. Martin River flows into Assawoman Bay at the Isle’s west side. The Isle of Wight (some old maps and property records give the name as “White’s Island”) is straddled by busy MD Route 90, a high-speed expressway that carries traffic into the heart of the Ocean City report, and bisected by St. Martin’s Neck Road, which connects the Isle to the mainland to the north. Nonetheless, Isle of Wight offers spectacular views and a surprisingly quiet atmosphere. Essentially the entire 260-acre island consists of public lands: the area north of Route 90 is managed by the MD Department of Natural Resources as the Isle of Wight Wildlife Management Area, and the smaller section south of Route 90 is the Isle of Wight Nature Park, managed by Worcester County Recreation and Parks.

The Nature Park has a large paved parking area and two fishing piers. The east pier of the Nature Park is approached by a gravel path heading out of the loop at the easternmost end of the parking area. The east pier is T-shaped, with a long boardwalk running along the large rip-rap boulders of the shoreline, and a shorted extension out into the water. The south pier, which heads due south from the parking area, is a 6000 foot-long boardwalk through a swampy forest and open marsh and ending at the open waters of Isle of Wight Bay, overlooking the towering buildings of Ocean City to the east, the gentler suburban landscape of West Ocean City to the west, and to the south, the Isle of Wight Bay, dotted here and there with sandy islets, some of which are part of Sinepuxent Bay Wildlife Management Area. Both piers provide excellent exposure to habitats of open water, marsh, and forested swamp. In winter particularly, this area is often teeming with birds. In addition, the Nature Park offers a canoe and kayak soft launch and a couple of picnic tables. This is an extremely popular place for fishing, crabbing, and catching great sunset views.

The larger Isle of Wight WMA area north of Route 90 consists of about 224 acres of woods, forested swamps, and open marshes. There are no marked trails in the WMA but there is a small road shoulder pull-off on the east side of St. Martin’s Neck Road about ¼ mile north of Route 90, marked by a MD Department of Natural Resources sign. It is possible to park here and penetrate a short distance into the woods, but it quickly becomes too wet to do much walking. Remember that the area is used for hunting, so exercise caution during hunting seasons. Particularly on early mornings in spring, this is a good place to park to check the roadside woods for migrating songbirds.

Another possible birding stop is at the Isle of Wight Center (the only building on the island) on the west side of St. Martin’s Neck Road just north of Route 90. The building houses several Worcester County Government offices. You can pull in and park for a quick check for birds in the woods and swamp near the office building, but don’t overstay your welcome, as this facility is intended for official county business.

If you continue north on St. Martin’s Neck Road, you’ll come to a long causeway that connects the Isle of Wight to the mainland. Here, there are good views of marshes and open water, but unfortunately there are no shoulders or places to park. Note that the causeway may be under water during high tides or windy conditions; do not attempt to cross the causeway under these conditions. The fancy boardwalk that you can see to the west of the north end of the causeway belongs to a private country club, not open to birders.

Birdlife:

The eBird hotspot for Isle of Wight Park and WMA lists 196+ species.

With all the surrounding water, as you might expect, waterfowl occupy a prominent part of the Isle of Wight checklist, with 25 species reported. Most of these are wintering species; in the summer, only Canada Geese and Mallards are to be expected. In addition, there are Pied-billed and Horned Grebes and Common and Red-throated Loons. Red-necked Grebes are less common but are possible in late winter. Double-crested Cormorants are abundant year-round; Brown Pelicans are seen sporadically. The marshes support Clapper and Virginia Rails.

About 19 species of shorebirds have been reported; Willets breed locally, and American Oystercatchers probably do as well. Gulls include the usuals: Bonaparte’s (fall and spring); Laughing (April through October); Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed (year-round); and maybe a Lesser Black-backed in winter. The regularly occurring terns include Least, Common, Forster’s, and Royal, as well as Black Skimmer; Common, Forster’s, Royal, and Black Skimmer have all been confirmed breeding in the Assawoman Bay SW Atlas block. Wading birds include Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron (previously rare but becoming more prevalent), Green Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White Ibis (previously rare but becoming more prevalent), and Glossy Ibis.

Ospreys and Bald Eagles are in abundance. Northern Harriers might come through during migration. Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks may be found in winter. Eastern Screech-Owls and Great Horned Owls have also been reported in winter. American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon are all expected during migration.

Belted Kingfishers are easy to find. The woods hold Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in winter, and year-round populations of Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers and Northern Flickers. Hairy Woodpecker is less often reported but is a possible breeding species in this Atlas block. Pileated Woodpeckers have been reported from April through July and probably breed.

Flycatchers found in the woodlands include Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher and Eastern Kingbird. White-eyed Vireo is considered a probable breeder. Red-eyed Vireo is present, but mostly in late summer, and might not nest on the island. Blue Jays, American Crows, and Fish Crows are common all year-round, along with Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice. In the warm months, expect Purple Martins and Tree and Barn Swallows. Cave Swallows are a rare find during November. Also expect Blue-gray Gnatcatchers from April through August.

Wintering songbirds include Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatches, and Brown Creepers. White-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches can be found at any time of year.

In the wren department, Carolina Wrens are an abundant year-round resident and breeder. House Wrens have been reported during spring and fall and is a possible breeder. Winter Wrens are regular in winter; Marsh Wrens are occasional in fall migration or winter, but do not breed here; and Sedge Wrens are a rare find in winter.

Gray Catbirds can be found throughout the year, along with Northern Mockingbirds. Brown Thrashers are also easy to find in all but the dead of winter. For thrushes, we have Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins year-round; Hermit Thrushes in winter; and Swainson’s Thrushes during fall migration. Wood Thrush is absent. Cedar Waxwings might be found during winter, feeding on berries in mixed flocks with the bluebirds and robins.

House Sparrows are present in spring and fall. House Finches are found from April through November and are a probably breeder. American Goldfinches are abundant year-round. Pine Siskins may be present during the winter.

Sparrows include Chipping, Field, Fox, Dark-eyed Junco, White-crowned, White-throated, Seaside, Nelson’s (fall migrant), Savannah, Song, Lincoln’s (fall migrant), Swamp, and Eastern Towhee. Most of these are winter residents but Chipping and Song are breeders and Towhee and Field are probable breeders. Seaside Sparrows bred in the marshes of the area in the past but are probably no longer nesting there.

European Starlings are common year-round. Bobolinks and Baltimore Orioles come through during fall migration, and Eastern Meadowlarks have been found during spring migration. Red-winged Blackbirds are abundant year-round. Brown-headed Cowbirds are present from March through June and then during fall migration, but are relatively absent in winter. Common Grackles are found in large numbers except during the dead of winter; Boat-tailed Grackles might pop up in spring. Both grackles breed in this Atlas block.

Twenty species of warblers have been reported. Common Yellowthroat and Pine Warblers are probable breeders; the others are spring and fall migrants, except for Yellow-rumped, which overwinters in large numbers and can be found from October through May. Look for them on bayberry plants.

Northern Cardinals, Blue Grosbeaks, and Indigo Buntings all nest on the island; the cardinals are year-round residents.

Pet Policy:

Pets are allowed on leash; be prepared to pick up after your pet.

Wheelchair Access:

There are two reserved handicapped space at Isle of Wight Nature Park. The fishing piers at the park are wheelchair-accessible. The trail to the east pier may be difficult to navigate when it’s soft and wet. The few natural-surface trails in the Wildlife Management Area north of Route 90 are not wheelchair-accessible. Some roadside birding is possible from St. Martin’s Neck Road at the MD DNR sign on the east side.

Special Designations:

The Isle of Wight Nature Park and WMA lie within the Maryland Coastal Bays Important Bird Area (IBA), as designated by the National Audubon Society.  This large IBA encompasses the entire inland bay area along the Atlantic Coast of Maryland, and adjoins IBAs in Delaware and Virginia.

Special Features:

If you want to explore around the Isle of Wight from the water, you can launch a kayak or canoe from the sandy beach at the hard left turn as you enter the Nature Park from Route 90. There is no boat ramp for larger boats at the Isle of Wight. The nearest public boat ramp is the West Ocean City ramp on Sunset Avenue, just east of the intersection with Golf Course Road. The Sunset Avenue boat launch provides access to Sinepuxent Bay and Ocean City Inlet; the facilities include lighted, paved parking, 6 paved boat ramps, and a restroom. Another option is the public boat ramp at the end of Shell Mill Road on a tributary of the St. Martin’s River, which empties into the Isle of Wight Bay just west of the Isle. See the MD DNR Public Water Access Interactive Map for details. ◾ If you don’t have your own boat but want to get out on the water, check out water sports rental and outfitter information at the Beach & Beyond Worcester County Visitor website.

Fishing is excellent in the Isle of Wight Bay and Assawoman Bay and is a popular activity at the Isle of Wight Nature Park. There are numerous other fishing spots around the areas; consult the MD DNR Public Anglers Access Interactive Map for details. ◾ Ocean City and West Ocean City have a large selection of restaurants, ranging from little locally-owned casual places and take-outs to chain restaurants and up-scale dining rooms and nightspots. There are also a couple of fresh seafood markets in the Wests Ocean City area, selling fish and shellfish fresh from the boats.

The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Tri-County Bird Club, serving Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester Counties, and offering field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.

Multimedia:

Worcester County Tourism has a brief YouTube video that offers an introduction to the Isle of Wight Nature Park, hosted by Jim Rapp of Conservation Community Consulting.

Parking:

Paved lot for about 12 cars at the Nature Park. Road shoulder pull-off on the east side of St. Martin’s Neck road with space for two or three cars.

Directions:

The Isle of Wight is located along MD Route 90 just west of Ocean City.

From the south end of Ocean City (such as the Ocean City Inlet area): There are two options, depending on traffic conditions in Ocean City.

  • During the winter when traffic is light, the shortest (7 miles) and quickest route is to take Baltimore Avenue north from the Inlet. At 33rd Street, Baltimore Avenue will end and you will go west one block on 33rd Street and then turn right onto Philadelphia Avenue/Route 528/Coastal Highway to continue north to 62nd Street, where MD Route 90/Ocean City Expressway begins. Make a left turn to go west on Route 90. In 2.4 miles, turn left to go south on St. Martin’s Neck Road, entering the Isle of Wight Nature Park. Parking will be to the left.
  • During the summer when traffic in Ocean City is heavy, it may be best to take the long route (about 12 miles). Take US Route 50 west out of Ocean City. In 4.7 miles, turn right to go north on MD Route 589/Race Track Road for 2.5 miles. At the MD Route 90 interchange, follow signs to merge onto Route 90 eastbound toward Ocean City. The entrance to Isle of Wight Nature Park will be a right turn in 3.4 miles, and will take you south into the parking area for the Nature Park. Parking will be to the left.

From the north end of Ocean City (above 62nd Street): Use Philadelphia Avenue/Route 528/Coastal Highway to go south. At 62nd Street, follow signs to turn right onto westbound Route 90. In 2.4 miles, turn left to go south on St. Martin’s Neck Road, entering the Isle of Wight Nature Park. Parking will be to the left.

From points north, such as Delaware: Use US Route 113 southbound toward Berlin and Ocean City. At the interchange for MD Route 90, follow signs to exit on Route 90 eastbound toward Ocean City. The entrance to Isle of Wight Nature Park will be a right turn in 5.5 miles, and will take you south into the parking area for the Nature Park. Parking will be to the left.

From points south, such as Virginia: Use US Route 113 northbound toward Berlin and Ocean City. When you reach the interchange for US Route 50, remain on Route 113 heading north and prepare to exit in another 2.5 miles to go east on MD Route 90/Ocean City Expressway. The entrance to Isle of Wight Nature Park will be a right turn in 5.5 miles, and will take you south into the parking area for the Nature Park. Parking will be to the left.

From points west and north such as Salisbury, Easton, or the Western Shore: Use US Route 50/Ocean Gateway eastbound toward Ocean City. At Salisbury, follow signs for the Salisbury Bypass, picking up the continuation of US Route 50 eastbound on the east side of the city. Travel another 15 miles east on Route 50 and then follow signs for MD Route 90/Ocean City Expressway east toward Ocean City. The entrance to Isle of Wight Nature Park will be a right turn in 9.5 miles, and will take you south into the parking area for the Nature Park. Parking will be to the left.

Nearby Sites:

Worcester County: Assateague Island National Seashore & Assateague Island State Park ◾ Castaways RV Resort & Campgrounds ◾ E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area ◾ Heron Park (formerly Berlin Falls Park)Ocean City Inlet & Sunset ParkOcean City: Skimmer Island (4th Street Mudflats) ◾  Pocomoke State Forest – Hickory Point Cypress Swamp Natural Area ◾ Truitts Landing & Other Bayside Landings ◾ West Ocean City Park-n-Ride & Homer Gudelsky ParkWest Ocean City Pond

Wicomico County: Cedar Hill Marina & Park ◾ Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area ◾ Nanticoke River Wildlife Management Area – Nutter’s Neck ◾ Pemberton Historical Park ◾  Roaring Point & Nanticoke Harbor ◾ Tyaskin Park & Wetipquin Park ◾ Ward Museum & Schumaker Pond

Habitats:

Bottomland DeciduousConifers Sandy Beach or Dunes Forested SwampJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & StreamsSalt or Brackish Marsh

Features and Amenities:

BeginnersBoardwalkBoat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchFishingFree - No Entry FeeHiking/Walking TrailsHuntingObservation Platform or TowerParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families

Type:

Atlantic Ocean and Intercoastal WaterwaysAudubon Important Bird AreasCounty ParksHunting Areas