North and South Monomoy islands were once part of the barrier beach off Chatham’s eastern shore. A storm in 1958 separated a stretch of land, and another in 1978 split that piece into North and South. A powerful nor’easter in February 2013 accentuated the split. Limited accessibility available only by boat.
It was designated a 7,600-acre wildlife refuge in 1944, granting respite to 285 species of birds, many of which depend on this delicate land form to succeed in their migrations, including piping plovers and roseate terns. From April to mid-August, some beaches close to protect nesting populations. It’s the second-largest nesting colony of common terns on the Atlantic seaboard. In the winter, seals take refuge on these islands.
The only sign of humans is a refuge headquarters and visitor center on nearby Morris Island. You can see the Monomoy islands from a 3/4-mile nature trail.
Tours available through Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (508-349-2615).