Great Point Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
Current Driving Status: Closed to vehicle access north of Marker 3.
Current Beach Conditions: Please call 508 228 5646 #2 for up-to-date property conditions for Great Point.
Rules & Regulations
- Fishing is permitted with a state license, which can be purchased here
- Dogs are not permitted from April 1 – September 15. Great Point is privately owned and managed by the Trustees of Reservations.
- Bonfires, campfires, and fireworks are not permitted.
- No kites (of any kind) or drones within 200 meters of any fenced shorebird habitat.
- Alcohol is not permitted on public property.
- Glass is not permitted on public beaches.
- Smoking is not permitted on public property.
- Please do not dig holes deeper than the waist. Fill in any holes before you leave the beach.
- Beachgoers must stay at least 150 feet away from any marine mammal.
- A valid beach driving permit must be purchased from the Wauwinet Gatehouse in order to drive on Great Point
Great Point is a large, undeveloped barrier beach protruding from the tip of Nantucket, home to the iconic Great Point Lighthouse. It is approximately 7 miles long and is the only way to access Coatue. Great Point is a fantastic area for naturalists and bird enthusiasts, and offers a variety of environments including the ocean, maritime oak forests, and rolling red cedar savannah. It is popular with anglers and by no coincidence is one of the best places to see Grey Seals. Great Point is privately owned by the Trustees of Reservations and only valid permit-holders may drive onto Great Point. Permits are purchased from the Trustees here and are required year-round. The Town of Nantucket beach sticker does not give access to Great Point. For a full list of rules and regulations related to Great Point, please visit the Trustees website.
Directions and Access Information
From the Milestone Rotary, drive onto Milestone Road and take a prompt left at Polpis Road. Follow this winding road about 4.5 miles, almost all the way to Sconset. Across from Windswept Cranberry Bog, take a left onto Wauwinet Road. Follow Wauwinet past Squam Road until you reach the Gatehouse with the dirt parking lot on the right. Pull into the parking lot and Gatehouse staff will direct you from there. There is a fee to drive onto the beach, including for rental vehicles, unless you are a year-round permit holder. There is no fee to walk onto Great Point.
Beach Driving Information
Great Point offers some of the most beautiful and also some of the most difficult beach driving on the island. The sand is thick and very soft, especially during winter months. Beaches can often be steep and narrow, and the trails leading down to the tip of Coatue are notorious for their soft sand. It is very difficult for tow services to access Great Point and Coatue, especially during busy summer months, so make sure that your vehicle is 4-wheel-drive and worthy for a difficult day in the sand. In addition, make sure you are well equipped with a tire gauge, shovel, tow rope, and jack with jack boards. The recommended tire pressure is between 12 and 15 PSI and please operate in the “4 HIGH” setting. Additionally, if your vehicle is equipped with a “traction control” setting, please turn it off to prevent interference with the 4WD system. A beach driving permit, which can be obtained from either the Trustees website by clicking here, or purchased in person from the Wauwinet Gatehouse, is required in order to drive onto Great Point. There is a strict speed limit of 15mph when driving on the beach, which is reduced to 5mph when you are anywhere within 100 yards of a pedestrian. Great Point and Coatue are very productive areas for nesting shorebirds and as such experience seasonal vehicle restrictions during the breeding season. There may also be restrictions in place due to erosion. Please stay within existing established vehicle tracks; driving through dune vegetation or creating new trails is not permitted. You may stop and park anywhere along the beach, however make sure to pull off the main trackway so that traffic can get by. Pedestrian traffic is welcome after a vehicle restriction is in place, but pedestrians must obey fencing and signage and continue to stay out of restricted areas. Please respect boundaries and rules established by private property owners on private property. A full trail map of Great Point is available here.
Swimming and Recreation
With beaches that face both Nantucket Sound and the open Atlantic, there are areas that suit all levels of swimmers at Great Point, however please be aware that there are no lifeguards anywhere along the refuge, and swimmers should remain vigilant when in the water. The calm, shallow water at the head of the harbor in Coskata is good for families with younger children, and the water tends to be warmer here as well. The west-facing side of the beach borders Nantucket Sound, and water is typically calmer here with low-energy waves. The east-facing beach faces the open Atlantic ocean, and it is best for experienced swimmers only. There is a sharp and deep drop off, the water is cold, and there may be currents running along the shore. There may be biting insects such as greenhead flies and mosquitos, especially on a day with little wind. Great Point is hugely popular with anglers, and is the hot-spot for fishermen during the annual Inshore Classic. Just about anything can be caught from various areas of Great Point, but the most popular fish are Striped Bass, Bluefish, and Bonito in the fall. Seals take full advantage of the good fishing, and can often be seen swimming along the east beach just offshore. Occasionally, seals will “haul out” on the beach to rest. They should not be disturbed during this time – please do not approach closer than 150 ft from any marine mammal. Seals are aggressive and will defend themselves if they feel threatened. More information about seals, including reporting a seal or other marine mammal in distress, are available from the Marine Mammal Alliance Nantucket. Grilling on the beach is allowed, preferably with a charcoal or propane grill (please do not leave charcoal briquettes on the beach). Fires are not permitted. Keep this beautiful beach clean - all trash and items are “carry in, carry out”, there are no trash receptacles on the beach so please bring any trash you create with you when you leave.
Shellfishing and Water Quality
To ensure the safety of Nantucket’s beaches during the busy summer season, the Town of Nantucket Department of Health and Human Services conducts weekly sea water testing. Done in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the samples are collected weekly for analysis at the Barnstable County biolab, and coliform bacteria levels monitored to ensure safe swimming conditions. Should levels exceed safe margins for two consecutive weeks, the beach will be closed to swimming and monitored until it’s safe to return.
The recreational scallop season runs from October 1 – March 31 and is open to all who carry a recreational shellfish permit from the Town of Nantucket. Permits are $35 for residents and $125 for non-residents, and are available at the Public Safety Facility at 4 Fairgrounds Road. Scallops taken must have a legal raised growth ring a minimum of 10mm from the hinge or are larger than 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) from hinge to shell. Quahogs and oysters can be harvested year-round under a recreational shellfish permit. Soft-shell and razor clam shellfishing is prohibited from June 15th – September 15th. A comprehensive list of Town of Nantucket Shellfishing Policy and Regulations, including daily harvest limits and shellfish sizes, can be found here. The following shellfish classification areas are available: Head of the Harbor, Coskata Pond, Nantucket Sound. For questions about any shellfishing closures, please contact the Department of Marine Fisheries directly.
Nantucket’s wildlife take full advantage of this natural beach, with a full cast of year-round and seasonal characters. Small songbirds like the Snow Bunting gather here in small flocks to forage on the beach, alongside Sanderlings and other Sandpipers. Herring and Great-black Backed Gulls loaf on the shore, and Turkey Vultures are often seen circling overhead, looking for a seal carcass to feed on. Deer browse through the tall dunes and often come on the beach. Throughout the year the Northern Harrier – also known as “Marsh hawk”, “Hen harrier”, or even as “Grey ghost” can be spotted cruising low over the dune in search of rodents or birds to prey upon. Spring and summer bring nesting Piping Plovers and a variety of tern species, most notably the Least and Common tern. Oystercatchers and numerous other shorebirds abound. The fall season brings an influx of migratory bird species like the Peregrine Falcon and its smaller relatives, the Merlin and American Kestrel. For a complete list of the bird life that can be found on Nantucket, click here. Seals can almost always be spotted offshore, and, if you are very lucky, you may even see a whale!
Important Phone Numbers & Web Addresses
Nantucket Police & Fire Department (emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 911
Nantucket Police Department (non emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–1212
Nantucket Fire Department (non emergency) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–2324
Beach Hotline/ Marine Dept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–7261
Natural Resources Department . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–7230
Coast Guard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–0388
Environmental Police . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(800) 632–8075
Marine Mammal Stranding Team (via Police) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(508) 228–1212