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Take a ride on Nantucket’s wildside

A bumpy beach road leads visitors to the stunning Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.

Take a ride on Nantucket's wildside, Sept/Oct Cape Cod Life |

photograph by Jennifer Dow

Drivers attempting to make their way out to the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge and Great Point Light on the northern tip of Nantucket are well advised to follow protocol should they wish to make theirs a return trip. At the Wauwinet Gatehouse, just south of The Wauwinet resort, drivers are instructed to deflate the tires of their vehicles to 12 to 15 pounds per square inch before proceeding further; one might call this Nantucket’s deflate-gate.

It is also recommended that only those in four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles attempt the journey, and a high clearance between frame and ground is a must. Edging forward, leaving Wauwinet Road behind for the unpaved sandy-ness beyond, a sign states “Caution: Extremely soft sand.” Another commands, “Deflate now.” In short order, one understands the concern.

With Fred Pollnac of the Trustees of Reservations behind the wheel of a truck made for the cause, the vehicle bounces up and down while our contingent proceeds slowly along the road, a continuous wave of small-but-steep hills and deep-sanded valleys. If you think the driving was tough, imagine the note taking!

Why go through all this trouble for some simple sightseeing? Pollnac, a relative newcomer to Nantucket, explains. “I think this is one of the most unique and best preserved beach habitats in the New England area,” he says. “It is just a fantastic place. The public that comes here really appreciates the property.” He adds that visitors who come to Nantucket a lot, and really know the island, claim the refuge is the best part of the island. And when it comes to driving through the sand in an attractive—albeit remote—coastal landscape, Pollnac focuses less on the bumps, more on the recreational benefits. “There aren’t that many places in the United States where you can do this,” he says. “People get a kick out of it.”

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