The site was established in 1947 and covers areas of reed bed, lowland heath, lowland wet grassland, and shingle vegetation. The nature reserve is recognised for its high diversity of bird species and other wildlife and is used as a demonstration of successful reed bed management. It is known as one of the UK's premier bird watching sites.
The Minsmere reserve includes of reed bed habitat, representing 3.6% of the UK's reed beds, as well as areas of open water, lowland heath, grassland, scrub, woodland, dune and shingle vegetation. The reserve is an important breeding, roosting and feeding site for many bird species with over 100 resident species and around a further 240 species of migratory visitors being recorded at the site.