Elizabeth Islands (Gosnold, Massachusetts)
The Elizabeth Islands, located northwest of Martha’s Vineyard and southeast of New Bedford, were discovered in 1602 by Bartholomew Gosnold. Gosnold, MA was first settled in 1641 and was officially incorporated in 1864. Historically, the islands were part of the extinct Dukes County, New York. The total land area of the Elizabeth Islands is 13.34 square miles.
These islands, known as the town of Gosnold, include the Forbes family-owned Naushon Island, which was purchased by John Murray Forbes. All of the Elizabeth Islands except Cuttyhunk and Penikese are privately owned by the Forbes family.
The islands of Gosnold, MA:
Naushon Island is owned by the Forbes family trust.
Weepeckets are a series of small islands owned by the Forbes family but publicly accessible. They were used as practice target for bombs, rockets, and machine guns from 1941 to 1957.
Pasque Island is owned by a subset of the Forbes family. It is 1.5 miles long and covered in poison ivy. A shallow tidal creek cuts part way through the island.
Nashawena Island is owned by a different subset of the Forbes family. It is 3 miles long and has grazing livestock.
Penikese Island was formerly home to a leper colony, today it houses a reform school.
Cuttyhunk is the last island in the chain, and much of the island is publicly accessible.
Nonamesset Island is the island nearest the mainland.
Uncatena Island lies just northeast of Naushon Island
Several prominent families have established compounds or estates on the larger islands, making these Cape Cod offshore islands some of the wealthiest resorts in the Northeast, yet they retain much of the early merchant trading and whaling culture. You can see some of these estates using windows live birdseye view or our satellite maps.
Channels and holes with strong tidal currents (up to 6 knots at times) separate the islands from each other and the mainland. The currents are driven by the different sizes and filling rates of Vineyard Sound to the southeast and Buzzard’s Bay to the northwest. This is not a place for inexperienced sailors to try to navigate at night. The rocky shores of these islands can be treacherous and with the strong tide here, any vessel that loses power will still be making way at 3 to 5 knots.
Robinson Hole separates Naushon Island from Pasque Island. Quick’s Hole separates Pasque Island from Nashawena Island. Canapitsit Channel separates Nashawena Island from Cuttyhunk Island. Nashawena, Cuttyhunk and Penikese shelter the body of water known as Cuttyhunk Harbor.
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