Wreck Island is part of Virginia's Atlantic coast barrier island chain. This pristine island preserve consists of beach, dune, maritime grassland/shrubland, salt flat and salt marsh habitats, and is an important nursery for colonial nesting birds. In fact, the preserve has been designated as an Audubon Important Bird Area as part of the Barrier Island/Lagoon System IBA, which extends from Assateague Island south to Fisherman Island NWR. This IBA is considered one of the most important in VA. Impressive dune-like mounds of ancient shells once paralleled much of the beach, but were completely flattened by Hurricane Isabelle. Wind, waves and ocean currents continuously reshape the island, which is slowly migrating towards the mainland.
Wreck Island Natural Area Preserve can only be accessed by boat. The preserve is open to the public September 1 through April 14, which includes prime surf fishing periods. The preserve is closed to all visitation from April 15 through August 31 to protect nesting birds. Hunting, camping, fires and unleashed dogs are prohibited year-round.