Important Info For Guests
We are looking forward to your arrival on the dock this coming summer!
This page contains information that will make your visit more enjoyable, and your planning more efficient. Island rules are covered in a mandatory orientation session when you arrive on Star, and in printed materials available on the island. We are highlighting selected rules here because we want to make sure you are aware of them prior to your arrival.
Getting to the Dock
So you’ve registered for your stay on Star or booked your day trip – and now it’s time to figure out how to get to the dock in Portsmouth! Your GPS is great, and here are our suggestions for traveling to the Portsmouth, NH area and hopping aboard the M/V Thomas Laighton or M/V Challenger out to Star.
Before we get started though, please note the final destination is 315 Market Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801 – the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company.
If you are a Star Island staff member or volunteer and need to visit the Star Island dock to board the M/V Utopia or M/V Shining Star please follow the directions above. Our dock is located directly next to the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company to the left, heading away from downtown Portsmouth.
Parking for conferees is available at the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company lot.
The parking fee for the dock in Portsmouth is $18 per vehicle per night – the fee will be added to your bill.
Late arrivals and early departures
If you park a vehicle in the lot, your key will be collected and securely stored at the dock – this is done in the event that your car needs to be moved in the event of someone else’s unexpected early departure. If you are planning to leave on a day other than the standard departure day of your conference, it is imperative that you notify the parking attendant before you park so that you aren’t blocked in by other vehicles. If you are arriving after your conference has begun, you must check in with the Steamship Company parking attendant to receive instructions about where to park. Please be advised that they may be required to park in the municipal garage on Hanover St., a couple of blocks from the dock.
Is there special needs parking available?
While we have some accommodation for special needs parking, it is relatively limited (10-15 spaces) and may require moving cars as conferees leave at different times.
The Thomas Laighton and the Challenger provide transportation for people registered for a conference. Contact your Conference Registrar for information about boat schedules including if you need to arrive and/or depart on a boat different than the conference ferry.
The Thomas Laighton and the Challenger make trips between Portsmouth and Star throughout the week during the conference season. Round-trip boat fare aboard the Thomas Laighton and/or Challenger is included in conference room and board fees, including conference overnight guest rates (see Conference Overnight Guests).
The Uncle Oscar also makes daily trips between Rye and Star throughout most of the conference season. Uncle Oscar boat fare is not included in conference room and board fees.
All checked bags must weigh 40 lbs. or less each. Multiple small bags and soft bags without wheels are preferable. This really helps our staff out, so thank you in advance for packing with them in mind!
In general, luggage should be checked instead of brought on the conference ferry. Consider the ferry as you would an airline – luggage is self-service limited to 1 carry-on bag or instrument and 1 personal item (like a small backpack) with one hand free to hold the railing at all times. Please check your baggage whenever possible.
Guests who need assistance with luggage should always have it checked on the luggage boat. Guests arriving mid-week who need assistance with luggage should let attendants know upon arrival.
Once on the island luggage is delivered to dedicated drop-off locations outside of the buildings. if further assistance is needed, please let staff know either in the dock in town of at the front desk on the island.
Although we make every effort to handle luggage with care, be advised that Star Island Corporation and Steamship Company assume no responsibility for the handling, damage, or loss of any luggage. Conferees are urged to leave valuable items at home or to handle them personally. Belongings should be securely packed; loosely packed items run the risk of being damaged or dropped in the water during handling. Conferees are not permitted to bring alcohol aboard the Thomas Laighton (so alcohol should not be packed in carry-on baggage). Neither Star Island nor the Steamship Company has professionally trained luggage handlers. Please pack any prescription drugs in your carry-on luggage.
We are in a remote location…
Star Island is a small island with access only by boat. The travel time to an off-island medical facility is a minimum of an hour and may be much longer depending upon weather and sea conditions. Although there is a first aid station on the island, it is equipped for only basic emergency and first aid treatment and may not be staffed at all times.
When should I *not* come to Star Island?
Star Island Corporation strongly recommends not participating in a program if you suffer from any medical condition which might reasonably require emergency medical response. This includes but is not limited to heart conditions, the last trimester of pregnancy, severe allergic reactions, dementia, and illnesses which require ongoing medical treatment or monitoring and other similar conditions. Star Island Corporation strongly recommends consulting your physician to ensure that Star Island is a suitable environment for you to visit if you have had or expect to have had recent surgery, are at greater risk for contracting communicable diseases (if you are unvaccinated, elderly, immunosuppressed, pregnant, etc.), neurological problems resulting in impaired mobility, mental health issues requiring use of medications or other similar conditions, or if you use or expect to use specialized medications, medical equipment, portable oxygen or other similar items.
Who is responsible?
Guests on Star Island are responsible for their own medical condition while on the island, including monitoring of health conditions and making sure that they have adequate medication to address any possible medical issues which may arise. If personal assistance is needed, please bring your own care attendant as Star does not have assisted living facility capabilities.
There are inherent risks in traveling to and staying on Star Island which cannot be eliminated, such as exposure to elements on a remote island including but not limited to inclement weather, wildlife and unmonitored terrain; the potential for others participating in conference programs to act in a negligent manner that may cause or contribute to injury, harm or death; and lack of access to a medical facility without extensive travel by boat and motor vehicle.
Guests who knowingly come to Star with a medical condition which might reasonably require an emergency medical response and then require emergency medical evacuation from the island will be charged for the full conference.
What about medications?
Bring enough of any needed medicine to cover the length of the stay plus an extra four days, and please pack your medications in your carry-on bags. All controlled medications must be locked up at all times (lock boxes provided through the First Aid Station). No prescription medications are kept on-island and there is no guarantee that we can get specific prescriptions filled.
What about COVID-19?
We are proud of how the Star Island Community has rallied together to form a Community of Care, which includes being mindful of not only one’s own health and safety, but also that of everyone else who comes to Star.
We have learned over the last few seasons that remaining flexible and making adjustments to our protocols based on COVID-transmission rates and other factors is key to having a successful conference season on Star.
Here are some important notes about what to expect this season:
Vaccination: Overnight guests who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are expected (but not required) to be vaccinated and up-to-date on boosters.
Testing: Overnight guests must be tested for COVID-19 prior to arrival. This can be either a rapid antigen (“at home”) test done within 24 hours or a PCR test done within 3 days.
Masks: All guests should pack masks for their stay on Star Island. Common sense prevails – we will be strongly recommending mask wearing if doing so is advisable.
Testing positive on island: Any person testing positive for COVID-19 on island must leave the island until an appropriate isolation period has been satisfied. This is essential in our close congregant setting, and we thank you in advance for your understanding and commitment to our Community of Care.
Other precautions: We have several other policies and procedures in place to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19 (which also help with other communicable diseases). For example, every person is required to wash and/or sanitize their hands prior to entering the dining hall, and we will continue to promote and facilitate outdoor dining, activities, and socializing whenever possible.
Star Island Cancellation Policy 2023
Star Island and Conferences offer a full refund of program fee and deposit up to 4 weeks prior to the start of the conference, after which time, both the program fee and deposit become non-refundable. There is a process for exceptions in the case of extenuating circumstances*.
Star Island Length of Stay (Proration) Adjustments Policy 2023
In the event you need to reduce the duration of your stay from the number of nights you originally registered for, Star Island will prorate the room and board charges up to 4 weeks prior to the start date of the conference. If less than 4 weeks before the conference, there will be no proration to the room and board charges. You will be charged for the number of nights you originally registered for. In the case of extenuating circumstances*, consideration for proration will be determined independently by Star Island Corporation.
*Extenuating circumstances are subjective and will be considered for approval by both the Star Island Corporation (for deposit) and the conference (for program fees) on a case-by-case basis. These will be independent approvals and one does not secure the other.
Alcohol, Tobacco Products & Illegal Drugs
Compliance is expected with all federal and state laws governing the use of alcoholic beverages by persons under 21 years of age, use of tobacco products by persons under 18 years of age, and the possession and/or use of illegal drugs. Consumption of alcoholic beverages is not permitted in public areas (except if included as part of a conference function). Alcohol and tobacco products are not available for sale on the island. Those who engage in excessive drunkenness or possess or use illegal drugs will be required to leave on the next boat and will be charged for the full conference period. Beyond the obvious safety issues caused by the use of illegal drugs, most people are not aware of the significant penalties associated with transporting illegal drugs in US waters – conferees should be aware that their luggage is subject to baggage screening as per all applicable laws. People attempting to bring illegal drugs to Star Island risk significant penalties including heavy fines and long-term incarceration, and they jeopardize the Star Island Corporation in the process.
Due to the limitations of the island’s electrical system, and for safety reasons, conferees should not bring appliances with heating elements (e.g. heating pads, hair dryers, hot water immersion heaters). Conferees with medical equipment electrical needs (i.e. three-pronged outlets, CPAP machines) should notify the conference registrar.
Fire Drills & Emergencies
If at any time you hear our emergency signal, you must evacuate to the flagpole on the front lawn and await instructions. Violators will be required to leave on the next boat and charged for the full conference period. We conduct weekly drills on the island. People with mobility concerns should notify the conference registrar.
Parents retain full responsibility for their minor children (under age 18) at all times. Minor children cannot come to Star without a legal parent or guardian unless a Minor Medical Release Form is completed and submitted to the conference registrar. Minors must have an adult responsible for them while on-island. Responsible adults must be 25 years or older. For more information on bringing children to Star Island, please visit the Young Shoalers page.
Fire is our chief concern, and thus smoking is only allowed while in the presence of a red butt can. Butt cans are located in designated areas and cannot be moved. Smoking and the lighting of any open flame are prohibited in all buildings. There is no smoking where combustible materials (such as propane tanks) are present. Due to the danger of brush fires, smoking is not permitted on the grounds on any part of the island, including the rocks. Violators of this policy will be required to leave the island on the next available boat and will be charged for the full conference period.
All used syringes or “sharps” must be disposed of in designated containers. If someone is “stuck” as a result of careless disposal, the individual responsible may be required to undergo blood tests.
Guests are discouraged from bringing valuable items to Star. There is access to some secured storage if necessary. Star Island Corporation is not responsible for lost or stolen articles.
Cellphones and Wi-fi
While we encourage guests to limit their use of electronics, we understand that you may need to remain in contact with the mainland. Cellphone coverage is okay around the island, but not the best. The west end of the front porch — the side closest to the mainland — is generally regarded as the best location for cellphone reception.
Permission to Use
Star Island is private property, owned and operated by the Star Island Corporation, dedicated to religious and educational activities. Guests to the island, whether attending a conference or as day visitors, come to the island with permission from the Star Island Corporation. This permission may be revoked at any time if, in the sole discretion of those in charge of island operations, such action is deemed to be in the best interests of Star Island Corporation, its employees or guests. Guests to the island are expected at all times to conduct themselves appropriately and in accordance with Star Island’s Corporations published rules and regulations.
A Note On Day Visits
A Note on Day Visits
Star Island’s open season runs from mid-June until mid-September.
Over 100 years old, the Oceanic House is the largest structure on Star Island; its main lobby, writing room, Pink Parlor and dining hall provide a glimpse into the life of the Grand Hotel Era when the Isles of Shoals attracted such notable artists and writers as Childe Hassam and Nathaniel Hawthorne. One of Star Island’s most prominent features is the chapel, a simple stone meeting house built in 1800 on the highest point of land.
Can I come out for a day trip?
Day trips are available from mid-June until mid-September. In addition, the boat company Isles of Shoals Steamship Company (“Thomas Laighton”) offers day visits to Star Island from Portsmouth.
The Uncle Oscar travels from Rye Harbor to Star Island about four times a day, allowing you to tour the island, have a picnic or enjoy lunch in our dining room at your leisure. You can also bring your own boat, although moorings are limited.
There are plenty of fun activities to do and locations to visit on Star Island. Learn more about what is available to do during your stay.
See our Day Guests page for more details.
How do the conferences work?
If you want to stay on the island for more than just a day trip, the conferences are where it’s at. We offer conferences and retreats lasting from 2 to 7 days on a variety of subjects — from photography to international affairs to family conferences in the spirit of the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalism. Each conference is independent and self-administered. See the conference listing page for more information, including contact information for each conference’s leadership.
How do I register for a conference?
All the details about how to register are published in our annual programming guide book, called the Blue Book. You can also email any conference registrar if you need help.