Washburn Island

About Washburn Island

The 330-acre island in Waquoit Bay is part of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (WBNERR), which is jointly managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation state park system. The island is only accessible by boat and features a barrier beach, trails through an oak and pine forest and coastal salt ponds and marshes.

Permits are required to camp at one of the 11 wilderness campsites. Reservations may be made online at www.reserveamerica.com. During the summer months, island managers live on Washburn Island and interpretive walks are given on Saturday mornings. Ferry rides for the Saturday walks are available by reservation only by calling 508-457-0495.

The island has a rich history. It was an elegant summer estate for the family of Albert H. Washburn, who was once ambassador to Austria, until the main house was destroyed by fire in 1926. The family later abandoned the island. During World War II, the Engineer Amphibian Command at Camp Edwards trained on the beaches of the island. (Seacoast Shores was another training site for the landing craft.) Camp Edwards also had a bathhouse for convalescent hospital patients on the island.

Falmouth had an opportunity to buy the island in 1975, but voters rejected the taking, primarily because of the $2.57 million price tag.

Six years later, developers submitted plans for a luxury development of 50 homes on four-acre lots with a helicopter pad and yacht club. The new name would be Wind Echo Island. Residents reacted by organizing to fight the development. The efforts of the Citizens for the Protection of Waquoit Bay helped bring the threatened island to the state’s attention. The state purchased Washburn Island in 1983.