Visitor Activities

Snowy owl resting on South Monomoy Island - Valerie Bourdeau / USFWS-512x219

Check the 2019 Public Access Map (pdf) before planning your visit to Monomoy's offshore wilderness.

  • Fishing and Shellfishing

    Surf fishing on Morris Island - USFWS -140x105

    The refuge is one of the best fishing spots on Cape Cod!

    Surf fishing is open under State of Massachusetts regulations, and a state fishing license is required. The Town of Chatham, where the refuge is located, manages shellfish harvest on the refuge. With a Town permit, visitors can harvest soft shell clams, razor clams, sea clams, and quahogs. These wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities allow people to enjoy the outdoors, and don’t detract from the Service’s fish and wildlife conservation mission.
    To protect food sources for shorebirds and waterfowl, horseshoe crab harvest has not been allowed for nearly 20 years, and the refuge has never been open to mussel harvesting. 

  • Wildlife Viewing

    Common terns in flight - Sarah E. Devlin / USFWS

    Monomoy is listed as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Regional site and an Important Bird Area due to its importance to migratory shorebirds. Download the bird brochure (pdf)

    On the Morris Island trail, you can see songbirds, shorebirds, horseshoe crabs, and the occasional seal. On offshore portions of the refuge, an abundance of breeding, wintering, foraging, and resting birds can be observed year-round, as well as the largest grey seal haul-out on the U.S. East Coast. Be sure to keep at least 150 ft away from seals and carefully observe the seal watching guidelines

    If you find a stranded or entangled marine mammal please call the International Fund for Animal Welfare at (508) 744-2000.

    If you find a sick or injured bird please call Wild Care at (508) 240-2255.

  • Interpretation

    Monomoy NWR Visitor Center - Crystal Bradley/USFWS

    The refuge offers a trail map and self-guided walk on Morris Island. At each numbered stop there is a write-up and informative panels alongside the trail. In the summer months when staffing allows, there are guided hiking tours around the trail loop. 

    At the visitor center, there is an exhibit room with information about the native wildlife of Monomoy, as well as some hands-on games and a children’s room with scavenger hunt backpacks. Binoculars are available to borrow.


  • Wilderness Hiking

    A rainbow over dwarf pines on South Monomoy Island - Amanda Adams / USFWS

    Three local boat operators are specially permitted to transport hikers and wildlife observers to Monomoy’s Wilderness Islands. The visitor will experience the solitude of wilderness through varied habitats of ocean beach, windswept sand dunes, salt marsh, and freshwater ponds, as well as an abundance of wildlife.

    Boat operators are Monomoy Adventures (508-292-3060), Monomoy Island Ferry (508-237-0420), and Outermost Adventures which specifically takes visitors to North Monomoy (508-945-2030).

  • Wildflower Viewing

    Beach mallow in bloom - Amanda Adams / USFWS

    The refuge offers two display pollinator gardens: one across the driveway from the Headquarters public restrooms and the other on the left (south) side of the Visitor Center. Visitors can see over 25 species of native flowering plants, which bloom from early spring to late fall, and the pollinators that benefit from them.

  • Photography

    Harbor seal - Sarah E. Devlin / USFWS

    A 3/4-mile nature trail is located on Morris Island and winds through a variety of coastal habitats. Overlooks on the trail provide views of the refuge's North and South Monomoy Islands as well as South Beach Island, Chatham. Along the trail, one may view least terns, common terns, willets, piping plovers, and the occasional snowy egret in the summer, and numerous sea ducks in the winter. 

    Launching, landing, or operating an aircraft to include unmanned aircraft (drone)from or on lands and waters administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service is prohibited, 50 CFR 27.34

  • Hunting

    Snow geese in flight - USFWS

    Waterfowl hunting by boat for duck, goose and coot is available in the open waters west of South Monomoy Island. Seasons and bag limits are in accordance with state of Massachusetts regulations. Dogs are permitted for retrieving game. Uplands are closed to all hunting. See our Hunt Plan page for more information and ensure that you follow all rules and regulations.

    Cape Cod Sea Duck Hunting (508-237-9796), a local commercial guide, holds a special use permit to take hunters to the waterfowl hunting area west of South Monomoy Island.