Washburn Island Day and Camping Use Guide
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), manages the island as a part of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The Reserve’s main purpose is to foster research and education on coastal systems. We support recreation as a way to allow people to become more familiar with these special places.
Washburn Island is one of the last large undeveloped coastal properties on Cape Cod and a jewel within the Reserve. Habitats consist of a barrier beach, oak and pine forest, and coastal salt ponds. Most of the present vegetation on the site dates from after World War II. Today, the island has ten campsites supported by three composting toilets – nine family sites and one group site that is limited to 25 people. There are also trails on the island for nature viewing and exploration.
The island, while accessible only by water, is very popular with day users and campers. Visitors come by private boat – they either beach their boats or anchor and wade ashore.
To reach the Island: You must have your own boat to access the island!
It is recommended that you launch at the Town of Falmouth White’s Landing located on the Childs River (see driving directions for location). Overnight parking is permitted, however unattached trailers are not allowed over night. Once in the Childs River, proceed south to Seapit point. Round Seapit Point and travel north up the Seapit River. Once in Waquoit Bay turn south out of the Seapit River. The undeveloped land to the south and west of Waquoit Bay is Washburn Island. The campsites are located about halfway down the eastern side of the island, overlooking Waquoit Bay. The distance from White’s Landing is less than 3 miles.
More information: General information about all Massachusetts Forest and Park Campgrounds can be found on the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s website at www.state.ma.us/dcr. Further information specifically about Washburn Island and the Waquoit Bay NERR can be found by calling the Reserve Headquarters at (508) 457-0495, ext. 100 or visiting Reserve Headquarters on Route 28 in Waquoit, East Falmouth.
Primitive campsites are available by reservation only and available Mid-May through Columbus Day (mid-October). Reservations must be obtained prior to your arrival on the island. There is a one night minimum and two week maximum stay. A reservation is required to camp on Washburn Island.
Reservations may be obtained online up to 6 months in advance at:
Please contact Reserve America to make all of your camping reservations.
The call center is open everyday 8am to 8pm from April 1 to early Sept. and Monday through Friday, 9am to 7pm from Sept. to March 31. The Reserve Headquarters does not take reservations for camping.
Site designation and capacity:
Sites 1-8 & 10 are family sites – max of 4 campers/2 tents per night; Site 9 is a group site – max of 25 campers/10 tents per night
Sites 1 & 2 are very close together-Perfect for two families who want to be near each other. Sites 4, 5 & 6 also allow for close proximity; Sites 6 & 7 are about 500 feet apart. Families wanting to be close together should not reserve these sites.
Sites 3, 7, 8, 10 are the most secluded.
Family sites (1-8, 10) – up to 4 people (2 tents); $8.00 Out of State Residents and $8.00 for Massachusetts Residents
Group Site 9 – up to 25 people (10 tents); $ 25.00 per night
NOTE – There is a $8.65 transaction fee for each reservation transaction.
You are asked to cancel reservations if your plans change. Without a prior cancellation or notification, your reservation is invalid as of 10:00 am on the 2nd day of the reservation, your site can then be reassigned.
Arrival on Washburn Island:
Remember to bring along your Reservation Number when coming to Washburn Island!
Upon arriving, please check in with the Island Managers. Managers live on the island during the camping season. Their campsite is shown on the map. Check in time is 1:00 pm, check out is 11:00 am. Staffing is sporadic in non-summer months.
Fires are not allowed except at the campfire site. – Do not bring wood to the Island to prevent transporting insects
Only portable stoves and charcoal grills with a cover are allowed at the campsites. You may only use charcoal, propane, or white gas (no wood or artificial logs) at your site.
Commonwealth regulation 304-12.05 prohibits alcoholic beverages on DCR property.
Pets are permitted in the campground, but not on the campground beach. Dogs must be leashed at all times on the Island. Owners are responsible for the removal and proper disposal of pet feces. Pets are prohibited from the outer beaches on Vineyard Sound (see map). This must be enforced to protect federally threatened nesting species.
Please stay off of dune areas as they serve as protection for the island. In the campground areas please use stairs and designated paths to help prevent erosion.
Shellfishing is permitted in the bay with a license. Closure information and licenses can be acquired from the Town Halls in Falmouth and Mashpee.
Day visitors are required to leave the island by 8:00 pm. Quiet hours 10:00 pm to 7:00 am.
Violations of any of the above regulations will result in your being asked to leave the island and could effect your ability to camp in the future. The island is a special place; please help us manage it for the enjoyment and safety of all.
Important Reminders for Campers
You must bring an ample supply of your own fresh water, as it is not available on the island.
This is a carry in/carry out camping area. You are responsible for carrying out ALL of your trash.
Two composting toilets are located adjacent to the campsite areas. Their locations are shown on the map. Toilets are fully stocked and operational Memorial Day – Columbus Day.
Camp at your own risk! During the summer months Island Managers are stationed on Washburn Island. They carry a cell phone and can call for assistance. It is recommended that you carry a cell phone when camping in non-summer months.
Authorized sites only:
Camping is only permitted on authorized sites. Please minimize your impact by leaving the site in better condition than it was when you arrived.
Ticks/ Poison Ivy:
Tiny deer ticks are common on the island so check yourself carefully. You can pick up further information about Lyme Disease (carried by deer ticks) at Reserve Headquarters or from the Island Managers. Poison Ivy is widespread on the island. Be able to identify it and avoid it.
Conditions on the water can vary and change quickly. Be prepared for all weather and sea conditions and be sure to carry safety equipment on your boat.
You may use dead and downed wood to have a small campfire or purchase wood from the island managers for $5 per bundle. Do not cut any standing trees alive or dead. Make sure your fire is completely out when you go to bed or leave your site. Also please refill the bucket from the beach and leave the provided fire shovel nearby.