Wildlife comes first on national wildlife refuges. All human activities must be compatible with the needs of wildlife. Six priority public uses are encouraged when they do not interfere with the individual refuge's mission. These are: hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and interpretation.
The refuge offers excellent opportunities for bird watching and hiking. Foot trails wind through a variety of habitats, from spruce-fir woodlands to grasslands to freshwater and saltwater marshes to mudflats. On Petit Manan Point, the Hollingsworth Trail is a 1.5-mile loop with views of heaths and cobble beaches. Interpretive signs offer insight into refuge wildlife, habitats, and management. The Birch Point Trail (four miles round trip) begins in a blueberry field and leads to the salt marshes of Dyer Bay, passing through a mixed-wood forest. The Gouldsboro Bay Division offers a 1.6 mile (one way) Salt Marsh Trail hike through rolling conifer forest with two views of a saltmarsh and Corea Heath Division offers a 0.4 mile universally accessible trail to an observation platform overlooking the heath.
Seabird islands are closed to the public during the nesting season, April 1 - August 31, to minimize disturbance to the birds. Commercial tour boats provide views of nesting seabirds on Petit Manan and Machias Seal islands.
Portions of the refuge are open to in-season hunting. The Gouldsboro Bay and Sawyer's Marsh divisions are open to migratory game bird and waterfowl and small and big game hunting. Bois Bubert Island is open to white-tailed deer hunting only. Many refuge islands are open to migratory waterfowl hunting, please contact the refuge for more information. The Petit Manan Point Division is open to muzzleloader hunt season only.
Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Hunting Regulations (pdf)