Distinctively Nantucket, Coskata – Coatue Wildlife Refuge

With over 17,163 acres of conservation land, Nantucket is truly a unique landscape. As part of our efforts, we have the Trustees of the Reservation, who are responsible for preserving some of our more scenic landscapes and spaces for the enjoyment of those visiting. 

The Trustees is a group of people all over the state of Massachusetts who tend to the care of protected spaces. On Nantucket Steward, Diane Lang is responsible for caring for the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is 16 miles of trails and sand roads that house protected species and offer an extraordinary place to explore during any season. Diane shared with us what makes the Refuge so unique and how visitors can book tours in season for the full experience. 

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. 

What type of Widlife can you expect to see in the Refuge? 

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. 

Trails 

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, sunrise to sunset (10 PM – 5 AM, fishing access only). Property is patrolled year-round. Sections of the Refuge may be closed depending on environmental conditions. Allow a minimum of three hours.

Tours

See our schedule of Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge tours for the 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@thetrustees.org for more information

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