About Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
Discover this ruggedly beautiful coastal environment where deer, raptors, and shorebirds play. Explore sand dunes and small coastal forests, salt marsh and tidal ponds, on 16 miles of trails and sand roads.
What makes Coskata-Coatue a special place?
Comprising a pair of long, fingery peninsulas, Coskata Coatue (“co-skate-uh coat-oo”) Wildlife Refuge is both a popular summer vacation destination and a fragile, wild and semi-remote coastscape. Most easily accessible by boat or oversand vehicle, the refuge also draws trampers and naturalists eager to observe shorebirds, raptors, and Great Point Light.
A Haven for Wildlife on Nantucket
The greater coastscape, which includes the federally owned Great Point Lighthouse and Nantucket Conservation Foundation land, remains a popular destination for saltwater anglers in search of striped bass and bluefish. Yet this double-fingered peninsula jutting northward between the Atlantic Ocean and Nantucket Sounds is so much more: a blend of sandy beach, rolling dunes, and forest uplands both rugged and serene.
The refuge provides multiple habitats for an array of coastal plant and animal species, including heather and beach plum, a maritime oak forest and savannah of red cedar – the largest of its kind in New England – which offer shelter to deer. At the beachfront, watch for horseshoe crabs advancing in extremely slow motion, seals basking in the sun, and shorebirds skittering above the surf line.
And a trip to Great Point at the extreme northwest tip of the refuge is recommended, as is a visit to the lighthouse (open seasonally), which has been aiding mariners across three centuries.
16 miles of oversand vehicle routes and walking trails – including the popular Beach Trail, Inside Trail, and Coskata Woods Trail – plus miles of beach front. Strenuous hiking (walking across soft sand for long periods can be arduous). Free to pedestrians.
When to Visit
Open year-round, daily, 24 hours (10PM – 5AM, fishing access only). Property is patrolled from April through October. Sections of the refuge may be closed seasonally to protect endangered nesting shorebirds. Allow a minimum of three hours.
Seasonal portable toilets at Wauwinet Gatehouse and Great Point Lighthouse.
Regulations & Advisories
- Refuge is located more than a mile by foot from gatehouse.
- Oversand permits required for vehicles.
- Dogs are not allowed between April 1 and September 15.
- Sections of the refuge may be closed seasonally to protect endangered nesting shorebirds.
- Warning! Seals are wild animals and can be dangerous. Seals in this are will chase fish caught on a line. Seals are attractd to fish that are being filleted. Stay Safe:
- If fishing: bury any fish remains and be careful at the water's edge if cleaning anything with fish remains.
- DO NOT APPROACH OR FEED SEALS (STAY 50 YARDS AWAY)
- Be aware of your surroundings, seals will come up to your vehicle if you have fish.
- Watch children. Children playing at the water’s edge are at risk of cutting off a seals escape; Seals can weigh up to 800 pounds, move quickly and have serrated teeth.
- Consider fishing at a different location on the property where seals are not so prevalent: Marker 6, Marker 5, Marker 4, or the North Parking lot.
Nantucket, MA 02554
Get directions on Google Maps.
From Nantucket town rotary, take Polpis Rd. east for 6 mi. Turn left onto Wauwinet Rd. and continue to end where gatehouse is located.There is no parking area. Access is by oversand vehicle (permit required) or foot.
When to Visit
Open year-round, daily (10PM – 5AM, fishing access only). Allow a minimum of three hours.
Free to all pedestrians and boaters.
Oversand vehicle permits: After May 15, permits may be purchased for $140 from gatehouse attendant daily (8AM – 6PM). Permit is valid April 1 to March 31. A complimentary family membership to The Trustees of Reservations is issued with each permit purchase. There are no membership discounts for OSV permits. Membership in The Trustees of Reservations is not transferable; member cards may not be used by nonmembers to qualify for member discounts on oversand vehicle permits. In lieu of a permit, day use fees are $65.
As was the case on Martha's Vineyard, 17th-century European settlers arrived to find the Wampanoag people had been living on this island for thousands of years. The Indians called their home Nantucket, "the land far away at sea" and their chief was Wauwinet, whose name now graces the gateway to the refuge. Coskata and Coatue also derive from Wampanoag place names, meaning "at the broad woods" and "at the pine woods," respectively. Colonists were content to establish themselves closer to the inner harbor, clearing and burning land for homesteads and grazing – but for the most part leaving this part of the island to its lovely isolation.
Property Acquisition History
Original acreage a gift of Mrs. J. Allen Backus and Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Sziklas in 1974. Additional land given by Christopher K. Lohmann and Pamela Fezandie Lohmann in 1983 and 1989 and by Backus Trust in 1986. Partial interest in 125 acres given by the Lohmanns in 1989 and 1993, completed in 1998.
See our schedule of Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge tours for the 2013 season.
All proceeds support ongoing conservation work at Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, including conducting wildlife research, protecting endangered species and their habitats, and maintaining the structure of the lighthouse.
Please call the Wauwinet Gatehouse at 508.228.6799 to book a tour or for more information. Email Nantucket@ttor.org for more information.
Tours fill fast so make reservations early. You will be called if a tour is cancelled due to weather or other causes. Pre-registrants who must cancel should call 508-228-6799 as soon as possible to ensure that those on waiting lists may be contacted. 50% Cancellation fee applies.
Note: For all tours, please arrive on time! Tour vehicles depart promptly on-schedule. Smoking and alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the tour vehicle. Appropriate clothing recommended. Bring binoculars, camera, film, refreshments, sun block, sun glasses, and insect repellent. You are traveling to a remote location, so remember that medical or emergency facilities are not available. However, all tour vehicles carry two-way radios.
Conservation and Stewardship
While The Trustees own the largest part of the reservation, Coskata-Coatue is in fact a joint effort, along with the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, which owns the area of The Haulover, gateway of the peninsula; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which owns the Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge at Great Point. In all, more than 21 miles of vital and vulnerable shoreline have been preserved by this private, local and federal partnership.
Following Mr. Hannah
On May 13, 2009, a satellite transmitter was fitted to a male Osprey named Mr. Hannah on Coskata-Coatue. For now you are able to follow Mr. Hannah's travels on the island as he searches for food to feed his family. When Mr. Hannah begins his migration, you will be able to follow its journey to who knows where (quite possibly South America!). We are able to track Mr. Hannah thanks to a generous donation from an anonymous friend of Coskata Coatue and The Trustees of Reservations. Click here to follow Hannah.
Management Planning for Our Properties
Since 1891, The Trustees of Reservations have worked to protect special places in Massachusetts and maintain them to the highest standards. To ensure these standards are met, a program of careful planning and sound management is essential. Comprehensive property management plans are created for each reservation and are completely updated approximately every ten years. We often work with volunteers, property users, and members of the community to carry out this planning, which typically involves several steps:
- Describing in detail the site’s natural, scenic, and historical resources; identifying management issues related to the protection of those resources.
- Describing how visitors use the property; outlining the opportunities that the property provides for people to become involved in the work of conservation and caring for their community.
- Developing a detailed list of management recommendations, a work plan, and a description of financial needs for implementing the actions.
- Developing a prescribed routine management program for the reservation that will guide staff work plans, volunteer involvement, and the allocation of human and financial resources.
View Coskata-Coatue management plan.
Maps and Resources
Free trail map distributed from gatehouse and by patrolling rangers (also included with OSV permit). Please understand that supplies periodically run out. We recommend that you download a trail map before your visit. Some publications are also available for purchase at the Islands Regional Office at 508.693.7662.
Get out and explore with our Woods Quest!
Tell Us What You Think
We’d love to hear about your visit. Click here to take our visitor survey. If you have a question for us about this reservation, you can use this form to send it to us, too.
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