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A Short Guide to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Visitors to the Cape look forward to the beach with its unique and varied wildlife. One of our guests' favorite places to explore nearby to "get back to nature" is the secluded Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
Established in the 1970s, this research and conservation destination has a mission to protect migratory birds and waterfowl and study marine life in Massachusetts waters. Look no further than Monomoy for awesome birdwatching or other wildlife viewing & photography.

General Information

What Wildlife Can You See? 

Much attention has been given in the press to the great white sharks of the Chatham area, but the horseshoe crab, gray seal, and harbor seal also make their home in the cold waters here. The refuge is also a bird-watcher's paradise. Along with the more typical sea-dwelling birds you will see over the ocean, Monomoy Island is the critical habitat of a broad range of species, including:
  • Piping Plover
  • American Oystercatcher
  • Roseate Tern
  • Common Tern / Least Tern
  • Rufa Red Knot
  • Sandpiper
  • Saltmarsh Sparrow

Morris Island

Morris Island lies at the southernmost tip of Cape Cod, forming the northern section of Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. This is the most accessible peninsula of the refuge and doesn't require a boat to reach.

Here, you can walk the 1.6-mile Morris Island Loop trail, take some snaps of the Stage Harbor and Chatham Lighthouse, and birdwatch on the shore.


While you might not initially expect a wildlife refuge to be a great place to go hunting, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is an excellent place to bag a bird. Just make sure you have the necessary permits and equipment.

  • Hunting is not allowed on refuge islands or inland waters. Waterfowl hunting is permitted in the offshore sections of Nantucket Sound. This is west of South Monomoy Island.
  • Dogs are allowed in the retrieval of game or fowl.
  • Leave no trace. Remove all trash while hunting.

Keep up on your hunting rules for the refuge so you don't interfere with tourist activities.

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge Boat Tours

For guests who want an unforgettable experience of undisturbed nature on a quiet Cape Island, head over water to Monomoy Island for a secluded beach experience or a fun ride through the waves with a spectacular view of the coast. Here are a variety of options for transport and access, according to your preferred activities:

South Monomoy Island Ferry

Hop on the boat with Captain Keith Lincoln and he'll take you for a day trip around Monomoy Island! You'll get out of the boat for walking tours around the island where walking tour guides will show you the historic Monomoy Lighthouse, popular animal sighting locations, and the flora and fauna of the island. Be sure to bring a set of binoculars!

Fishing Charters

Your fishing captain will take you to some of the best fishing spots around Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. You can fish with a group of up to 6 for half the day if you'd like. Because fishing charters have so many different pricing options, we encourage you to check out their websites for more complete details.

Many visitors take advantage of the ever-popular whale watching tours to see some of the world's largest and most fascinating creatures in the world, but around Chatham and Harwich Port you can also get up close and personal with a variety of other marine life too!

Seal Tours

Looking for a more affordable tour that will still wow you? Seal Tours head out to Monomoy Island and the shoals where seals like to congregate, often in the hundreds. Once heavily hunted but now under protection, the gray seal population has rebounded and thrives here, prey mainly to the sharks that also now abound. For a seal tour in an open boat to see these impressive creatures hauled out on the bar, you'll want to bring jackets, binoculars, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Don't forget your camera strap, or a waterproof neck pouch for your phone!

Shark Tours

Do you like a bit of adrenaline to go with your day trips? Book a great white shark tour for an unforgettable boat tour experience. Because every boat is accompanied by a professional shark spotter flying a plane, the tours are quite a bit pricier than some of the others.
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