A 24-acre island off the coast of Cape Cod has opened to the public for the first time in 300 years. Sipson Island has been privately owned, without public access, since 1711, when 11 English colonists bought the island from Tom Sipson, a local Native American sachem.

Kayaks on a beach on Sipson Island
The island is located in Pleasant Bay © Sipson Island Trust

Local residents joined with the Friends of Pleasant Bay and the Compact of Cape Cod Conservation Trusts to establish the nonprofit Sipson Island Trust, and they purchased the property for $5.3 million (€4.48 million) after it went on the market in 2018. The trust is maintaining the island, which is located in Pleasant Bay, and it aims to facilitate public access to the island and preserve its sensitive habitats. Eight acres on the property are still not in the trust's name, but it is hoping to ultimately raise the funds to purchase them.

Four people on a pier on Sipson Island
Visitors can enjoy hiking and snorkeling © Sipson Island Trust

Visitors can access the island from the eastern shore, although only shallow draft boats under 22 feet can land due to the water's sensitive ecosystem. They can also approach from the west via kayak or paddleboard, and can launch their kayaks from one of 15 public access points around Pleasant Bay. Once on the island, they can enjoy hiking and snorkeling, as well as chilling out on the sandy beaches or picnicking on the lookout deck, which provides 360 degree views.

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The trust plans to knock down three of the four dwellings currently on the island and fill in their septic systems, in order to create an open-air research and education center. This is to avoid maintenance issues and progress the goal of returning the island to its open, natural habitat. Ultimately the trust aims to promote outdoor recreation while restoring the island’s natural ecosystems and supporting environmental and historical research.

The welcome sign on Sipson Island 1
Sipson Island has been privately owned, without public access, since 1711 © Sipson Island Trust

“We are so excited about welcoming visitors to this extraordinary place,” says SIT president, Tasia Blough. “As we’ve been preparing the island for opening, I’ve been constantly amazed by the range of beauty we’re discovering. It’s like unlocking a secret garden. There are so many places to explore on the trail system and along the beaches — we can’t wait to share them with the community.”

Further information is available on the Sipson Island Trust website here.

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