The 10 Best Places for Birdwatching in the South & Beyond
The spring and summer months are often the peak time to see birds as they migrate and nest. But where should you go to see the most variety and most stunning species? Here are 10 of the best places for birdwatching around the country, and in even better news, many of these sites are great vacation destinations that offer plenty of other beautiful sights and fun things to do.
Everglades National Park (Florida)
Florida’s most famous wetland area is truly one of a kind. This World Heritage Site is home to the Florida panther, manatees, and plenty of other endangered species. But Everglades National Park also provides a wonderful habitat for more than 300 different bird species. From wading birds to Bald Eagles and Barred Owls, you never know what you’ll see as you wander down (or paddle through) the Park’s trails.
Everglades National Park charges $30 for private vehicles, $25 for motorcycles, and $15 for pedestrians and cyclists.
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (Georgia & South Carolina Border)
No matter what time of year you visit the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll be able to watch a variety of bird species, according to their seasonal guide. Springtime sees the last wintering birds leave the area to make way for warm-weather residents. In the summer, the famous Purple Gallinule steals the show. When the weather begins to cool down in the fall, birds and butterflies from northern states stop by as they make their way south for the winter. But just because the weather gets cold in December and January, the bird-watching opportunities don’t stop. Be on the lookout for bald eagles and wood ducks during the winter months.
The driving tour is free, and there are several stops to get out and enjoy the wildlife.
Huntington Beach State Park (South Carolina)
For Palmetto State residents, Huntington Beach State Park is often viewed as the best spot to see birds in South Carolina because the marshy, beachfront area is home to more than 300 species. When you enter the park, you can stop by the park’s Education Center to pick up a birding checklist, and you can report back on what you see to help the park track what’s there and assist other bird enthusiasts who want to see certain species.
The park is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (10 p.m. during Daylight Savings Time) and admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children ages 6-15, and free for children 5 and under.
Radnor Lake State Park & Natural Area (Tennessee)
Located just a short drive from downtown Nashville, Radnor Lake is a destination for Middle Tennessee’s amateur ornithologists. The Park boasts roughly 1,400 acres and eight miles of trails for people to explore and enjoy wildlife. When visitors walk around the Lake Trail, they never know what they’ll find. There are more than 200 bird species found throughout the park, and two of the better-known ones, the Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron, had actives nests in 2022. So, make sure to bring your binoculars to scope out the trees. Also, be on the lookout for other animals, like owls, wild turkeys, mink, and otters. One other cool feature of Radnor Lake? It’s accessible to people with all-terrain wheelchairs.
There is no fee to hike and enjoy Radnor Lake.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee and North Carolina)
There are more than 240 species of birds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to the National Park Service (NPS) But what really makes the Park stand out from other bird-watching areas is the diverse climates and habitats present here. Dramatic changes in elevation and vegetation mean certain birds can only be seen in select areas. In other words, visitors often know where to look for some of their favorite species.
Unlike many of its counterparts, entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free.
Grand Isle (Louisiana)
There are always birds to see in Grand Isle, but the best time for bird enthusiasts is shortly after the arrival of springtime weather. When temperatures begin to warm up, billions of birds fly across the Gulf of Mexico as they migrate North for food and breeding, according to Nola.com. Many species stop and rest in Grand Isle, one of Louisiana’s southernmost points, before continuing their journey. This spring spectacle has become such a big deal that there is now an annual Grand Isle Migratory Bird Celebration.
Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary (North Carolina)
The Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary is an 8-acre piece of wetland just north of downtown Asheville. This park has a boardwalk that navigates the marshy area, allowing visitors to see the area’s birds as well as the butterflies and dragonflies that call Asheville home. The boardwalk also forms a complete loop that makes the park more accessible to all visitors.
Admission is free, and you can visit the park between sunrise and sunset, 365 days a year.
Big Bend National Park (Texas)
Much like Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Big Bend has several different habitats that allow a wide variety of birds to make this land their home. There are more than 450 species found here, but the NPS notes that only 56 of them are year-round residents. Spring is typically the busiest time for birdwatching, says the NPS, because many birds arrive, nest, and stay through the summer months. If you want to see something colorful, be on the lookout for the Painted Bunting, Scott’s Oriole, or the Yellow-breasted Chat.
Big Bend charges $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 per individual (normally bicyclists and pedestrians).
Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)
There are plenty of reasons to visit Mount Rainier. It’s the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 states, an active volcano, and home to abundant wildlife (including birds), according to the NPS. Birds are typically distributed by elevational zones, and while there are plenty of year-round inhabitants, many are only found in certain areas at certain times. From colorful finches and hummingbirds to large birds of prey, there are enough species to satisfy just about every bird-watcher.
Mount Rainier charges $30 per vehicle, $25 per motorcycle, and $15 per individual (normally bicyclists and pedestrians). An annual pass can be purchased for $55 if you would enjoy visiting regularly.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory (Michigan)
Whitefish Point is an area of land that pokes out into Lake Superior. It also happens to be a migration corridor for thousands of birds every spring and fall, according to Whitefish Point Bird Observatory. The peninsula’s status as a significant flyway means people can visit to see a wide variety of birds and rare breeding species. The annual migrations also give researchers the opportunity to count and track different species’ populations over time.
Bald Eagle State Park (Pennsylvania)
Bald Eagle State Park encourages new and experienced birders to grab a pair of binoculars and come visit at any point of the year. Due to the park’s diverse landscape (open fields, forests, lakefront, marshy areas, and streams), there are plenty of bird varieties. From springtime songbirds to cormorants and buffleheads in autumn, you can see some incredible creatures no matter which month you visit.
Access to the park is free, but you will have to pay to reserve a campground or cabin.
Before you head off on a fun road trip to see your favorite birds, make sure you’ve got the right auto coverage. Give us a call, visit our website, or stop by one of our stores to get a free quote today.