Coskata Coatue Wildlife Refuge
May 12, 2023
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  • Location: 107 Wauwinet Rd, Nantucket, MA 02554, US
  • Contact: 508-228-0006
  • Website:

The Coatue Wildlife Refuge is a stunning natural sanctuary covering 395 acres of the barrier beach that serves as a safe haven for Nantucket Harbor from the Sound. It is home to many rare plants and birds and boasts some of the island’s most impressive beaches, minus a few private holdings.

This area is overseen by the Foundation for Conservation, and Coatue is part of a larger 104-acre refuge system at The Haulover, owned by the Foundation. Additionally, the 916-acre Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is owned by the Trustees of Reservations, and the 42-acre Nantucket National Wildlife Refuge at Great Point is run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A truly remarkable and diverse spot, the Coatue Wildlife Refuge is essential to the island’s precious ecosystem.

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is a special place, made up of two long peninsulas, with rolling dunes and hundreds of acres of bayberry, beach plum, heather, and beach grass. It is a popular summertime destination and a wild, remote barrier beach.

The refuge is a constantly shifting landscape, with the north shore and east ocean beach bearing the brunt of strong winds and stormy tides. This ever-changing beach provides essential habitat for wildlife and plants adapting to these conditions. Gray and harbor seals feed on the fish and other creatures in the Great Point riptide while also utilizing the nearby beach as a spot to rest and haul out.

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge Tours

Embark on a journey of exploration with a Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge Tours over-sand vehicle (OSV) beach tour. They will be offering tours during the 2023 season. Click here  to discover more and book a spot. Discover the remarkable flora and fauna of the refuge, and explore the diverse salt marshes, barrier beach system, and ocean. Watch for bird species such as ospreys, northern harriers, American oystercatchers, piping plovers, terns, and seals.

Each tour is approximately two hours long and departs from the Wauwinet Gatehouse in an OSV. If you need to cancel your tour,  give at least 24 hours’ notice. 50% of the fee will be refunded.  Cancellations made within 24 hours of the tour departure and no-shows cannot be refunded. Traveling in the OSV is done so at your own risk. As a bonus, purchase an OSV seasonal permit and get a complimentary Family-level Trustees Membership.

A permit is required all year round to drive onto Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, and they can be obtained at the Wauwinet Gatehouse on Wauwinet Road between May and October. Last season’s permits will expire on March 31, 2023; new ones for April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024, will be available for purchase online from February 2023 here. When you buy your permit online, your vehicle details will be available on the gatehouse database within 24 hours – no additional paperwork is required. You must present your vehicle to receive your permit.

The gatehouse will open on May 2023 with regular opening hours of 9 AM-5 PM through October, with extended hours in July and August. Visiting the refuge is restricted to soft-sand roads that can only be navigated by four-wheel drive vehicles.

Those driving an All-Wheel Drive (“AWD”) vehicle are not permitted on the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge due to the difficult terrain, which includes soft sand and rutted ground. This ensures visitors have the best and safest experience possible.

A day-use fee of $50 applies to all rental vehicles, and these must also have a permit that states ‘COSKATA-COATUE WILDLIFE REFUGE’ placed by the rental company. If you rent for more than a day, each additional day is only $10. This can be purchased at the gatehouse or pre-booked through the rental car company.

Day Passes are available for those with personal vehicles, but owners must contact the rental car service for more information. If you’re looking for assistance regarding rental cars, we recommend you check out their FAQ page, it’s the best resource for getting the answers you need.

In order to protect nesting shorebirds, seasonal vehicle restrictions are in place during the breeding season at Coatue. There may also be restrictions due to erosion. While vehicles are restricted, pedestrians are welcome but must follow fences and signage and remain out of restricted areas. Signage has been posted at the property for the purpose of providing visitors with the necessary safety precautions, requirements, and rules.

Here are a few pieces of advice and rules to keep in mind.

Beach driving on the island can be both beautiful and challenging. Paths to Coatue’s tip are especially arduous due to the deep sand, so make sure your 4WD vehicle is up for the task. There is a 15mph speed limit to be followed, and all existing vehicle tracks should be respected – don’t drive through the dunes or create new trails. This protects the natural beauty and allows all beachgoers to enjoy the majestic scenery. Enjoy the view, but stay safe on the sand.

Canines can’t be around from April 1st to September 15th. Photographers and their clients must become Supporting Level Members before conducting any portrait sessions at this site. To find out more information and to request permission, please click here.

Be warned that seals are wild animals and can be a hazard. They will pursue fish that have been caught on a line and are drawn to fish that are being filleted. To remain safe, do not approach or feed seals. Be aware of your environment; seals may come up to your vehicle if you have fish. Additionally, keep an eye on children, as they are at risk of cutting off a seal’s escape if they are playing near the water.

If you are looking for a comprehensive list of regulations for this refuge, the Rules and Code of Conduct provide all the details you need. Take a few moments to review it, and be sure to follow the guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.

Discover the incredible Coskata Coatue wildlife refuge! Tours are designed to give you a fantastic experience and help you make the most of your visit. Take the chance to create memories that will last forever. For all information, check this website. 

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