Daytrip Destination: Monomoy Island

Monomoy Light. Photo Tom Richardson

Monomoy is one of the great natural wonders of New England—a world apart from the rest of Cape Cod, or any place else for that matter. The ever-shifting sand island (recently a peninsula until the “Southway” inlet re-opened in 2013) is part of a 7,604-acre National Wildlife Refuge, and an important stopover for many species of migratory birds. The interior serves a rookery for gulls, plovers, terns, and other resident and seasonal birds.

The rips off Monomoy’s eastern shore produce excellent fishing for striped bass. Photo by Tom Richardson

Surrounded by shallow Bahamas-clear sand flats on its western side, Monomoy an otherworldly place to visit by boat—as long as you respect the tide. Many a careless mariner has anchored here, only to find himself, and perhaps his family, high and dry for the entire afternoon. Of course, if you don’t mind your boat spending a few hours on its side, then you’re still good to go! Study your charts and tide tables, and make sure you have a GPS in case the fog rolls in, as it often does here, being so close to the chilly open Atlantic.

Once securely anchored, break out the kayaks or a dinghy and explore the wonderland of flats and channels. The crystalline water teems with crabs and baitfish, as well as predators such as striped bass and bluefish. And you’ll likely see a seal or two (or 10) cruising the shallows, as the island is home to one of the largest harbor seal colonies on the East Coast.

Monomoy is home base to a huge colony of seals, most of which haul out on the island’s Atlantic side. Photo Tom Richardson

Boaters are welcome to picnic on the exposed sand flats and beaches, but note that the interior of the island is off-limits through much of the season to protect nesting shorebirds.

Nearby launch ramps to western Monomoy include the Oyster River ramp in Chatham (best for smaller vessels and kayaks; parking for non-residents along the side of Barn Hill Rd.) and the Saquatucket Harbor ramp in Harwich. The former is free, although parking can be limited, while the latter has a $10 launch/parking fee and plenty of parking.

Stripers patrol the sand flats along Monomoy’s western shore. Photo Tom Richardson

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