Penikese is a great place to visit. I lived there, on and off, for five years. I was a teacher and shift leader at the school. The island is still owned by the state, and is administered by the Mass. Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife, meaning that it is not okay to just walk anywhere anytime. There are areas of the island that are common tern colonies, areas that are roseate tern colonies, and areas that are set aside for other vulnerable populations, and this should be borne in mind when walking on the island. Dogs
should never be on the island unless leashed.
The island is 75 acres in extent, and was a leper colony from 1903-1921 (approx.), and has a great deal of history
, as the site of an early school of biology (headed up by Louis Agassiz in the late 1800s), among other things. There are native american structures on the island, the ruins of the leper colony's buildings, as well as the buildings of the school for troubled boys, which are current
, and maintained.
The school plans to resume operation in the summer of 2013, and will continue to have a caretaking staff on the island until that time. This should not deter you from visiting, as the school is open to having visitors - indeed, the presence of the school on the island, with its staff and students serving as the caretakers of the island, safeguards the island against those who would damage it.
Camping is permitted on the island, but only in certain places. Though it is technically public property, the Dept. of Fish
& Wildlife regulates the island's use, and the public (and the school) must abide by their standards of use. This means that one is welcome to visit, but not to walk just anywhere.
The anchorage in the cove is deep but small, and quickly becomes shoal. As long as one stays roughly N-NE of the dock (straight out from it), all is well. But to enter too deeply into the cove will run one aground, even in a shoal draft
The approach from the North of Buzzards Bay is complicated by the reef known as Gulls, and requires one to remain alert.
Currents alongside the island are often swift.
It takes about an hour walking steadily to circumnavigate the island.
I would not hesitate to visit the island. Good luck with your cruise