Visiting the Elizabeth Islands, which are a less well known part of Cape Cod and the Islands, takes some planning. Many of the islands are private with restricted access. But every summer, Mass Audubon’s Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary offers a series of day tours to Cuttyhunk and Penikese Islands, sure to please naturalists and history buffs alike.
The fun begins once the boat leaves the dock at Woods Hole. Birdwatchers will need to keep an eye out for seabirds as well as migrating songbirds and birds of prey. Mass Audubon staff provide commentary on the history, both natural and manmade, of the Elizabeth Islands along the way. Or just enjoy the variety of working and recreational boats traveling through the waters of Vineyard Sound.
Penikese Island: Cape Cod History and Wildlife
Once utilized by the local Native American Wampanoag tribe, Penikese Island was also home to the Anderson School of Natural History and a leper colony. Founded by Louis Agassiz, Professor of Geology and Zoology at Harvard, the Anderson School closed in 1875.
Visitors can tour the remains of the leper colony, which was active from 1905 to 1922, wander through the cemetery and learn more about the history of the island from the Mass Audubon Staff. Today the island hosts the Penikese Island School for teenage boys.
The island is also home to a reintroduced population of endangered American burying beetles as well as the Penikese Wildlife Sanctuary with Leach’s storm petrel and tern colonies. Learn about the native wildlife of this island with the help of the Mass Audubon naturalists leading the trip.
Cuttyhunk Island: More History, More Birds and Some Shopping
Once the boat gets to Cuttyhunk Island, there are choices to be made. Mass Audubon’s Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary staff offer two guided walks. The long walk focuses on the natural history and wildlife of this most public of the Elizabeth Islands.
The shorter walk is tailored to history buffs but also leaves plenty of time to explore the shops of local artists and artisans or grab a snack at the town dock before heading back to Woods Hole. The return trip often takes a different route among the islands so there may be new sights to see and, of course, another chance for migratory bird sightings.
Tours to Cuttyhunk and Penikese Islands – Sundays September 11 and 18
Tour to Cuttyhunk Island only – Sunday September 25
Preregistration required (508–385–7657) or call the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary line for more information (508–362–7475)
Mass Audubon's Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary 345 Bone Hill Road Barnstable, MA 0 Phone: 508-362-7475 Email: email@example.com