Can You Visit Midway Island?

credit: USFWS

Midway Island has various beautiful wildlife, amazing beaches, and a long military history. The Island consists of two halves that form part of the Hawaiian Pacific islands. But with its strong military history, can you visit Midway Island?

Midway Island can only be visited if a special use permit is acquired from either the U.S. Military or the U.S Fish and Wildlife Services. The Island is a wildlife refuge and accommodates 60 staff that stays on the Island. The airport on the Island allows for air transfers to Honolulu, Hawaii.

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Are Visitors Allowed On Midway Island?

Entry to the Midway Island Atoll is very restricted, and a special-use permit is required to visit. The permit can only be obtained from the U.S. Military or USFWS (U.S Fish and Wildlife Services). Unfortunately, this permit is predominantly for scientists and educationalists, but there is a visitors program for civilians.

The visitor’s program was set up by the USFWS to accommodate small tour groups interested in visiting the Island. A permit must be obtained, and groups are limited to 16 persons at a time. It is essential to contact the USFWS to determine access availability to the Island.

Does Anyone Live On Midway Island?

There are currently no permanent residents on Midway Island. The USFWS has four staff members that stay on the Island for 3 to 4 voluntary stays. Forty staff members from the Alaskan Native Corporation (ANC) reside on the Island to run most of its facilities. Two firemen and a Physician Assistant are based at the airport.

Who Does Midway Island Belong To?

The United States has owned Midway Island since 1867. In 1903 president Theodore Roosevelt declared Midway Island a seabird conservation site. It was later used as a residency for the workers laying the trans-pacific telegraph cable. The U.S. built a naval base on the Island shortly before entering World War II. However, the Island was returned to civilian control in 1996 in an effort to restore the surrounding ecosystem.

How Do You Travel To Midway Island?

A private air charter company based in Honolulu, Hawaii, provides travel to Midway Island. They use a 19-seat Gulfstream with a capacity of 3,200 lbs to ferry the staff and supplies between islands. For tourists with permits, many smaller aircraft charter companies will travel to the islands.

There is a harbor on Sand Island that can accommodate ships. But, all vessels that enter the restricted conservation area must provide proof of having their hulls cleaned before entering. The Henderson Field Airport is fully FAA certified and is kept fully operational for emergency landings on Trans-Pacific flights.

How Do You Get Around On Midway Island?

If you are one of the lucky few to receive a permit to visit Midway Island, then you will need transport on the Island. Bikes and golf carts are available for rent, and the prices are very reasonable. The terrain on the Island is flat and perfectly suited for walking. The roads are limited, so getting lost should not be a problem.

What Is There To Do On Midway Island?

The most common activities on Midway Island are nature viewing, photography, kayaking, snorkeling, and touring the World War II historical sites. Scuba diving and fishing are prohibited on the Island for visitors to protect the recovering ecosystem.

The North beach is open to visitors, but all other beaches are restricted. The restriction on beaches is due to the sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals that come ashore to breed and lay eggs.

What Wildlife Can Be Seen On Midway Island?

Midway Island is full of wildlife, so be sure to pack in a camera and a set of binoculars. There are 17 species of seabird that nest on the Island. This includes a massive flock of over two million Laysan and black-footed Albatrosses. A flock of 500 feral canaries live on the Island, which was introduced by the Commercial Pacific Cable Company.

There are endangered Hawaiian monk seals that nest on the beaches. These massive sea mammals can reach 7-8 feet in length and weigh over 500 pounds. Giant green sea turtles weighing over 400 pounds will lay their eggs on the beaches. A pod of around 300 spinner dolphins lives just off the atoll and will often entertain staff and visitors with their amazing water acrobatics.

Are There any Shops On Midway Island?

It may surprise you that there is a small ship store on the small Island. The store carries essential items such as snack foods, cold drinks, and alcohol. There is a small gift store across the ship store where you can purchase postcards, T-shirts, and other memorabilia.

Is There Accommodation On Midway Island?

There are no chain hotels or guest houses on Midway Island. All visitors that will overnight there are the old naval barracks that have been refurbished into hotel rooms. These rooms are all on-suite, comfortable, neat, and clean. Beverages and ice are available in the lobby.

For visitors staying on the islands during the winter and summer months, it is recommended that you take along a set of earplugs. During this time, the Albatrosses are in their peak breeding season, and there is a constant sound of whining, grunting, and squeaking.

Are There Any Restaurants On Midway Island?

Due to the small land mass, minimal personnel, and limited visitors on the Island, there is only one eatery. The Clipper house serves as the Island’s galley, and meals are served 3 times a day at specified times.

There is a local bar at the old naval barracks that serves alcohol for 2 to 3 hours on specific days.

The Island is not ideally set up for tourism but rather for a “small taste of home” for the staff that resides on the Island for prolonged periods.

Is Midway Island Safe?

Crime on Midway Island is non-existent, and anyone attempting to commit a petty crime has nowhere to run. But there is an old navy brig that can be used as a jail, just in case. There is no police presence on the Island, but rather an authority figure appointed by the USFWS.

There is no doctor on the Island, but there is a Physician Assistant and an EMT-trained airport staff member based at Henderson field airport. There is an ambulance golf cart and a small clinic with an emergency room. The most common injuries on the Island are sunburn, dehydration, and the occasional sprained ankle.

All major emergencies are evacuated off the Island to Honolulu, Hawaii. It is recommended that all visitors to Midway Island have travel insurance if they are required to evacuate.