What to Do When Visiting the Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge

One of the best parts about Nantucket is the way the island’s residents work tirelessly within not-for-profit organizations to preserve the most untouched parts of nature. We’re fortunate to have places like the Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge to enjoy our island in its most natural state.

How is so much of Nantucket protected from development? The tireless work of conservationists. Among the most prominent conservation groups on the island are the following:

  • Nantucket Conservation Foundation: Founded in 1963, NCF has acquired and now maintains more than 9,000 acres which is nearly one-third of the island of Nantucket!
  • Nantucket Islands Land Bank Commission: A 2% fee is added to all real estate transactions on Nantucket island, and this commission is responsible for administering the funds. Now the second largest landowner on the island, the Land Bank Commission acquires, holds, and manages open space land for the general public to enjoy.
  • The Trustees of Reservations: While it’s a not-for-profit that serves the whole state, the Trustees of Reservations play a large part in the wildlife refuges on Nantucket. They own a large tract of land which includes Great Point, Coskata, and Coatue.

Through the hard work of these foundations, and the many generous donors over the years who live and visit Nantucket Island, the wildlife and natural beauty of the island has been protected for many more generations to live, work, and play in the great outdoors.

One of the most beautiful spots on Nantucket, if not on the East Coast, is the Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge.

Great point lighthouse nantucket hero

What is the Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge?

The Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge is free for all pedestrians and boaters to explore. If you want to drive your vehicle on the soft sand roads to get to the lighthouse, there is a $75 per day permit you can purchase at the Wauwinet Gate.

If you live on the island and visit the refuge often, there is a year-long permit you can buy for just $160. To drive on the sand, you must have a 4X4 vehicle; you’ll need to let some air out of your tires, which you can do at the gate.

Before the island was settled by the Europeans, the Wampanoag people lived on the island. The refuge is named using words from their language. Coskata means “at the broad woods,” and Coatue means “at the pine woods.” The name of the gate, “Wauwinet,” is after the Chief of the Wampanoag tribe.

Aside from exploring, there are a few different things you can do at the refuge.

Enjoy the Woods Quest

Designed by students to help you get out and explore the refuge, this map and instructions are downloadable to your phone. Or, if you prefer, you can print them before your trip. Make sure you are exploring at low tide or some of the things you’ll be looking for will be underwater. You can check to see when low tide is expected on your day of adventure here.

This quest leads to a treasure box at the end. There, you can sign your name and get a special stamp. The treasure box stays put so that the next explorer can accomplish the quest as well!

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge

(Photo by: @james_xox)

Schedule a Tour

You can schedule a natural history tour of the Coskata and Coatue Wildlife Refuge as well. The experienced tour guide will drive you in one of the tour vehicles all around the refuge and to the Great Point Lighthouse.

The tour generally lasts around two hours and all of the tour guides are interesting and knowledgeable. Be sure to make reservations, as tours fill up fast. Remember, at certain times of the year, vehicles have to stop about two miles from the lighthouse because of nesting areas for protected animals; you may have to get out a walk a bit.

Pricing for tours are as follows:

  • Member Costs: Adults $40, Children $20 (tours are not recommended for children under the age of five)
  • Nonmember Costs: Adults $60, Children $30
  • Private Tours: For up to 8 people $350

Reservations can be made by calling (508) 228-6799 or emailing nantucket@thetrustees.org

If you’re hoping to schedule a trip to experience all of the hundreds of acres of protected lands and wildlife Nantucket Island has to offer, your first call should be to Congdon and Coleman Real Estate Brokers. We can help you get the perfect rental property, whether it’s for a short vacation, for the summer, or if you’re looking to make the move more permanent. We can help you buy a property, too.

Call our offices today and take the first step toward experiencing all the nature Nantucket has to offer.

Nantucket Congdon and Coleman Real Estate


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Stephen Maury

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