Activities And Events

The Essentials Activities & Workshops Tours

Boat Excursions Food & Bev Youth Programs

Music & Chapel

The Essentials

Conference Planning Meeting

Availability: 4:00 p.m. on the Wednesday before arrival day for main season conferences, optional for September conferences and can be scheduled on request.
Duration: 1 hour

Conference leaders meet with Island staff to touch base about any last minute changes to the conference schedule and to discuss any previously unanticipated issues. For September season conferences, leaders should meet with Conference Services at the front desk 15 minutes before your first meal on island. Contact Justina Maji for more information.

Orientation Session (“Fire & Water”)

Fire and WaterAvailability: immediately upon arrival
Duration: 45 minutes
Location: Hotel front steps (dining room or Elliott in inclement weather)

All conferees are required to attend an orientation session, conducted by island staff to receive information on safety and island living. A separate conference orientation session, typically conducted by the Conference Chair, is recommended for introducing conference staff and programs.

Children’s Program Planning Meeting

Availability: 4:30 p.m. on Sunday for main season conferences with Children’s Programming

Location: Sandpiper or Elliott

Children’s groups leaders have an opportunity to meet with Island program staff to touch base about any last minute changes to the class schedules.

Land Acknowledgment

We encourage conferences to incorporate the land acknowledgement statement into their programming, especially at the start of the conference, and at what might be considered large all-conference events.

Star Island is within the waters of N’dakinna, the traditional lands and waterways of the Abenaki, Pennacook and other related Wabanaki Peoples past and present. We acknowledge and honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations.

Activities & Workshops

Art Director Support

Availability: Varies (available by request)
Duration: Varies
Location: Art Barn or other

Our island Art Director can lead art projects for adults or children, as well as provide support for any conference planned art activities. The Art Director can also be available to help in the Art Barn for “after hours” for those who would like to continue work outside of workshops. Contact for more information.

Artist in Residence Presentation

Availability: Friday 2:00 pm (main season conferences)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Elliot
The week’s Artist in Residence will give a presentation on their work. Depending on the artist, this could be a workshop, art talk, lecture presentation, or live demo.

Beloved Community Chapel Worship

Availability: Any evening or morning (choose one)
Duration: 30 minutes
Location: Chapel

Our Beloved Community Project Manager is an experienced ordained minister and would be happy to lead and morning or evening chapel service for your conference on the topic of growth or another topic of your choosing. Contact Rev. Christana Wille McKnight to schedule.

Beloved Community Workshop – The stories we Tell: John Smith Monument

Availability: Wednesday 3pm for main season conferences, September conferences by request
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Elliott

Our Staff Beloved Community Project manager will lead a workshop on the work of Star Island’s Beloved Community Project and the specific work we are doing around representation and contextualizing our history.  Contact Rev. Christana Wille McKnight for more information.

Bonfires/Marshmallow Roasts

Family Website Picture by Sean ElliotAvailability: Any evening (choose one)
Location: Approved site as directed by island staff

The location of the bonfire, determined by the wind direction, is decided by island management the day of the event. Pelicans will build and light the fire, then a designated conferee will oversee the bonfire. A portable extinguisher will be provided to douse the fire at the end of the activity. The Front Desk must be notified when it has been fully extinguished. S’mores supplies can be purchased through the Food Order Form. There is a supply of metal marshmallow sticks on the island, which will be provided upon request. A bonfire for a small group can be set up in a metal fire pit on the pier, which is a more accessible location.

Conference Photograph

Availability: Daylight hours, Sunday-Tuesday, preferably after a conferee mealtime
Duration: 20 minutes
Location: Front steps of hotel

Island staff will take a photo of the entire conference. Photos are available for download on the Star Island Website. It is recommended that a volunteer makes sure the photo makes it to the front desk if the photo is not taken by island staff. Conference leadership should designate a volunteer to connect with island staff to make sure the photo is accessible after it is taken.

Pelicans vs. Conferees Softball Game

SoftballAvailability: 3:30 p.m. Friday
Duration: 2 – 2.5 hours
Location: Softball field

Your conference team is pitted against the Pelican squad in this long-standing tradition. Some conferences have a separate youth vs. Pels game in addition to the normal game. Of course, you might also choose to have a conferee vs. conferee game as well. All games use low-flight softballs and are generally “slow pitch”. Star Island Corporation neither sponsors nor provides supervision for island recreation events; conferees and staff participate at their own risk.

Polar Bear Swim

Availability: 7:00 am each day
Location: Dock

The salty Atlantic Ocean provides brisk water for swimming. Anyone is welcome to dip their toes in the water along the pier between the dock and the shore. Lifeguards are on duty when swimming is allowed, which is generally 9 am to 5 pm. Swimming on Star Island also includes Polar Bear Dips before breakfast for those brave souls.

Community Meeting with the CEO

Duration: 1 – 2 hours
Location: Elliott, other

Our CEO Joe Watts is available to talk with your conference about any topic relating to Star Island. Please email Joe directly ( to set up a time.


Behind the Scenes: Underworld Tour

Availability: 2:00 p.m. Wednesdays (available by request in September)
Duration: 1-2 hours
Location: Meet at the Well House

Interactive tour conducted by the Island Manager or a member of the Star Island staff. Takes conferees “behind the scenes” through the kitchens, laundry, staff dining areas, and other areas of the island operation. Ask questions and chat about how the island is run as you walk.

Billygoat Tour

Availability: Varies (available by request)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Begins at Rutledge Marine Lab

Strictly for the agile and athletic. Good shoes and walking sticks are recommended. We’ll circumnavigate the island and explore some of its nooks and crannies. You’re likely to get wet and see things on the island you’ve never seen before.

Bird Walk

Availability: 6:00 a.m. Tuesday (available by request in September)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Begins on Front Porch

Early mornings are a quiet time on Star, and a time of peak activity for many species of birds. After the Island Naturalist led bird walk on Monday, interested conferees can continue bird watching on their own throughout the conference. Binoculars, bird guides, and birding checklists are available for use.

Botany Walk

Availability: 4:00 p.m. Thursday (available by request in September)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Begins at Rutledge Marine Lab

The Island Naturalist will conduct a tour of the vast island flora, including a discussion on edible and medicinal plants native to the Shoals.

Geology Walk

Availability: 4:00 p.m. Monday (available by request in September)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Begins at Rutledge Marine Lab

The geology walk provides some information about the fascinating geological processes that have shaped the Isles of Shoals into the islands they are today.

Ghosts and Graveyards Tour

Availability: 7:30 p.m. Friday (not available in September)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Meet at Vaughn Cottage

Spooky tour of the island’s cemeteries, led by the Vaughn Cottage Curator.

Historical Tour of Star Island

Availability: 1:30p.m. Monday (not available in September)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Meet at Front Porch

Interactive tour of Star Island providing an overview of the history of Star Island and the Isles of Shoals from the 1600s through the present. Learn also about the prehistoric era when Native Americans lived on the islands, as long ago as 4000 B.C.E.

Low Tide Walk

Availability: 30 minutes before low tide (available by request)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Begins at Rutledge Marine Lab

Explore tidal processes, intertidal zones, and the animals and organisms that are likely found in each. Specimens are often collected and brought back to the marine lab. For low tide times during your week: Gosport Harbor Tides

Island Systems and Sustainability Tour

island-institute-visit-kristen-giving-tour-of-water-tanks-webAvailability: 2:00 p.m. Tuesday (by request in September)
Duration: 1.5 hours
Location: Meet on the porch in front of the lobby

Do you wonder where the water you use on Star Island comes from, or where it goes when you flush the toilet? Ever thought about how the lights are powered, where your food waste goes when you finish a meal, or what happens to everything you put in island waste bins? Come along and find out on an interactive tour led by staff on the island’s environmental services team. Ask questions and engage in conversations about sustainability as you explore the water facility, power plant, solar array, garden, wastewater system, and resource recovery center.

Boat Excursions

The following trips are available to conferees wishing to experience the islands. Sign up on the writing desk in the lobby or see the front desk for more information.

Appledore/Shoals Marine Laboratory Tour and Duck Island Cruise

Availability:  Tentatively 2:15-4:30 PM on Tuesdays for main season conferences. Others by request to Justina Maji
Duration: 2 hours
Location: Meet at well house on front lawn.

Appledore Island is leased by the Star Island Corporation to Cornell University, which operates the Shoals Marine Laboratory jointly with the University of New Hampshire. The Vaughn Cottage Curator accompanies your group to the neighboring island, and discusses Celia Thaxter & fishing village era history, visits Celia’s Garden, and tours some of the Lab facilities. Return trip includes a cruise around Duck Island. The cost is $35/adult, $20/youth. Appledore does not have paved roads and mobility-impaired individuals may have difficulties negotiating the terrain.

Sunset Cruise

Availability: Mondays at 7:45 pm (June and July) and 7:15 pm (August)
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Meet at the dock

Enjoy a spectacular Star Island sunset aboard the Utopia while cruising around the Isles of Shoals. Cost is $30/adult, $15/youth.

Food and Beverages

Banquet Dinner

Availability: 6:30 p.m. Saturday (main season conferences)
Duration: 1.25 hours
Location: Dining Room

At the final dinner in the main season, most conferences dress up (and/or dress atypically), make final announcements, sing songs, and “clap out” the Pelican staff (please ask our host/hostess for a list of crews to clap out).

Coffee, Tea & Hot Chocolate (Morning Coffee and Midday & Evening Coffee)

Morning CoffeeAvailability: 6:00-8:00 a.m. (morning coffee); coffee break times vary
Location: Oceanic Front Porch

At morning coffee, early risers enjoy coffee, tea, and hot chocolate before breakfast is served. Midday and evening coffee breaks are generally scheduled to coincide with an intermission in a conference event, such as a lecture.

Fellowship/Social Hour on Star

Social HourAvailability: Usually 5:30 p.m.
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Newton and other locations

On Star Island, we proudly promote a culture of responsible and legal alcohol use consistent with our mission and values. Alcohol use is restricted on Star Island in a number of ways, not only because it is an important safety consideration given our remote location, but also because we care deeply about our community and how we interact with one another.

Fellowship/Social Hour is an event many conferences choose to host as it encourages safe and responsible behaviors around alcohol use. Alcohol use should never be the focus of this event – rather, Fellowship/Social Hour, as the name implies, is a time for people to come together to form and deepen community. In order to facilitate these goals, Star Island provides Rules and Guidelines Fellowship Hour.

Conferences are required to arrange events where alcohol will be present in a manner that prevents those under 21 years of age from acquiring and/or consuming alcohol, and also prevents those of legal age from over-consumption. Conferences assume responsibility for preventing underage and irresponsible drinking at their events and must designate a Fellowship/Social Hour Coordinator, possibly supported by additional individuals, to serve alcoholic beverages to those 21 and over, as indicated on name tags. Each conference, and its Fellowship/Social Hour Coordinator, is responsible to stress that absolutely no exceptions to this policy may be made. See Alcoholic Beverages Policy for more information.

Conferences are strictly forbidden from selling alcohol – any violation is in violation of NH State law. Voluntary contributions may be solicited verbally for refreshments provided during fellowship/social hours, but no suggested amount of donation may be written anywhere. A contribution basket may be put out during a social hour, but it must not be placed on the table at which the alcohol is being served.

All alcohol must be purchased in the State of New Hampshire (otherwise, by law, it cannot be transported by our boats). SIC has no liquor license; thus no member of the staff can purchase alcoholic beverages for conferees.

Alcohol use on Star Island is restricted to a few locations – the majority of Star Island is dry/alcohol free, including the dining hall and on the grounds (including the waterfront). Alcoholic beverages may be consumed legally (21+) and responsibly in the following spaces during conference functions and privately in the evenings: Newton Centre, Lindquist Deck, Stone Village lawn, Pink Parlor, Brookfield, and the Summer House. Additional spaces for conference functions will be considered on a case by case basis.

Clams and Mussels at Fellowship/Social Hour should be scheduled for Thursday whenever possible.

Each conference, and its Fellowship/Social Hour Coordinator, should review and follow the Rules and Guidelines for Fellowship/Social Hour.

Ice Cream Social

Ice Cream SocialAvailability: Varies (available by request)
Duration: 30 minutes-1 hour
Location: Snack bar alcove

Our staff sets up ice cream and toppings for your full conference in the snack bar alcove. The ice cream is self-serve or served by conference volunteers.

Legacy Society Toast

Availability: 15 minutes before social hour on Thursday (Main Season)
Location: Lindquist Deck

An informal gathering for current members of The Legacy Society and those interested in learning more about Star Island’s planned giving program and the impact of Star’s endowment (SIC’s Permanent Trust).  A great opportunity for Star Island board, staff, and fellow Shoaler’s to raise a glass in appreciation of those who help secure the island’s future by including Star in their estate plans. Contact Laurie Contrino for more information. If a different date, time, or location is necessary, please contact Laurie at least one month before the start of your conference.

Lobster Dinner

Lobster at the OceanicAvailability: 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays (main season and september) and Saturdays (September *Sunday for Labor Day weekend)
Location: Dining Room

Lobster dinner is served to conferees once a week for an additional fee of $18/lobster (added to conferee room and board bills). A non-lobster meal is also served on this evening. Lobster tickets must be purchased in advance at the Front Desk.

Meal Times

Meal TimesAvailability: 8:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m.
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Dining Room and Front Porch

Meals are served buffet style. Mobility-impaired individuals and families with young children are welcome to enter the dining hall five minutes or so before a meal.

Tea Party

Duration: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Location: Pink Parlor, other

A smaller group of conferees enjoys an afternoon tea party.

Welcome Wagon

Welcome WagonAvailability:Conference arrival time
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Front porch

Drinks and snacks are set up on the front porch for conferees to enjoy as they arrive and check in at the Front Desk. Conferees can feel free to bring cookies and snacks to add to the offerings.

Programs for Children and Youth

Art Activities for Children and Youth Programs

Availability: AM or PM slots available Sunday-Friday
Duration: 30 minutes to an hour and a half
Location: Varies

For all ages of youth, we offer a variety of arts and crafts activities with our island Art Director. Contact for more details.

Beloved Community Activities for Children and Youth

Availability: Monday-Thursday
Duration: 30-90 minutes
Location: Classrooms and Smith Monument
While our smallest children might enjoy a trip to the edge of the island, this conversation and tour is tailored for children and youth in fifth grade and older. The activity can include age-appropriate discussion on historical representation and context and will also include a trip to the Smith Monument. Contact Rev. Christana Wille McKnight for more information and to schedule.

Environmental Education Activities for Children and Youth Programs

Availability: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday
Duration: 30 minutes to an hour
Location: Varies

Environmental education activities are available for all ages. Group leaders can choose from a variety of activities highlighting island sustainability including: sustainability scavenger hunt; solar pizza box oven snacks; story time in the garden; garden yoga; recycling relay race; and others. Each activity can be paired with a mini sustainability tour of any of the following locations: island gardens, solar viewing deck, chicken coop, resource recovery center, water tanks/cistern, poop plant overlook. Contact for more details.

History Education Activities for Youth and Children

Availability: 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Duration: 30 minutes to an hour and a half
Location: Meet in Vaughn or youth classrooms

For all ages of children and youth, there are a variety activities offered by the Vaughn Curator, including walks to the rocks, scavenger hunts, Smuttynose stories, ghost stories, history lessons and story book reading. Contact for more details.

Island Systems/ Sustainability Tour for Kids

Availability: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday
Duration: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Location: Meet in youth classrooms

While kids are welcome on the conference tour, this is tailored to youth. A tour, or portion of this tour, can also be offered with other environmental education activities. Topics include sorting trash and recycling at our resource recovery center, water, garden, poo plant, and power. Contact for more details.

Marine Lab Children & Youth Programs

Family Website Picture by Bob LevineAvailability: 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Duration: Variable
Location: Rutledge Marine Lab
The littlest conferees can come by the lab to hang out in our kids’ corner, which features age appropriate experiments, coloring books, reading materials and more! Children in the toddler program all the way through the senior teen program also enjoy our display tanks where they can get up close and personal with sea creatures of all varieties. We are also happy to arrange age appropriate programs and workshops for all groups. Contact for more details.

Music Activities for Children & Youth

Availability: 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. by appointment
Duration: 30 minutes to an hour
Location: Meet in youth classrooms
For all ages of children and youth, there are a variety activities offered by the Music Director including songwriting, percussion play, sing-alongs, and African drumming. Contact for more details.

Pelicans in Training – Underworld Tour for Kids

Availability: By request
Duration: 30 mins
Location: Meet at the Well House
Interactive tour of the kitchens, laundry, staff dining area and other areas of the island operation. Contact for more details.

Music and Chapel

For information and scheduling questions, please email the Music Director at Our Music Director is available June-August only.

Candlelit Chapel Services

Candlelit ChapelAvailability: 8:00-11:00 p.m. (some exceptions), every evening of your conference
Duration: 20 minutes-1 hour
Location: Chapel, Elliott Hall, Newton Centre

Candlelit chapel services are a cherished tradition on Star Island. Conferees gather at the end of the front porch to form a procession, carrying candle lanterns as the villagers of long ago carried their whale-oil lamps up the same winding path. Inside the chapel the lanterns hang on brackets providing the only source of light. Your conference plans each service and Pelicans hand out the candle lanterns on the porch outside of Gosport in time for the start of your procession. When multiple conferences are on the island, please keep evening services short so that each conference can have time for a service each evening.

Conferences provide chapel bell ringers. Please ensure that all bell ringers are reminded that this bell is our alternate fire alarm, and the chapel bell should be rung with measured strokes (8 seconds between each ring). You may want to recruit conference volunteers as path lighters (with flashlights).

By request, we can set up a broadcast of the service to Elliott for those who are unable to access the chapel.

Candlelit services may be held in the following locations:

  1. The Chapel can accommodate up to 91 people, with bench seating outside for up to 30 additional people. The Chapel has an organ.
  2. Newton West can accommodate up to 136 people with a procession and full candlelit service. Newton is accessible via the island ramp network and has a piano.
  3. Evening services without candles may be held in any location, though the Chapel does not have electric lighting.

Day Time Chapel Services

Location: Chapel, alternate chapel location

Indicate which chapel services you would like our Music Director to be available on your conference schedule. If you intend to have a conference chorus or choir that will perform at chapel services, please specify during which services, if any, you would like our Music Director present. As soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours before the chapel service provide the following information in writing (or by email) to our Music Director: hymn number(s), whether a prelude or postlude is needed and, if desired, additional music (to be provided by conference and attached to the note). Please provide as much lead time as possible in order to ensure that our Music Director has ample time to learn the music.

Conference Chorus or Choir

Location: Chapel, Elliott, Pink Parlor, other

Many conferences choose to have a conference chorus, and some even have a Conference Music Director (distinct from the island Music Director). If you would like our Music Director to lead or otherwise be involved with a conference chorus, please specify days and times on your schedule.

Conference Shows & Concerts

Talent ShowLocation: Elliott, Lobby, other

Many conferences choose to have a conference talent show, musicale, and/or concert, and our Music Director may be available to accompany performers at these events. As soon as possible, but no later than forty-eight hours before the event, performers should provide the following information in writing to our Music Director: name, time and place of performance, if/when rehearsal is requested, and whatever piece(s) of music need to be played (to be provided by performer and attached to the note). For more complex pieces, please provide as much lead time as possible in order to ensure that our Music Director has ample time to learn the music.

Grand March

Grand MarchAvailability: 8:00 p.m. Friday
Location: Front porch, and/or front lawn

Many conferences have the tradition of the Grand March, where conferees process. Please select a conferee to give our staff cues to begin and end playing the piano. Any part of the Grand March in which more than 100 people would be marching in one space (generally the end of the march) should take place on the front lawn though it is fine to wind through the lobby during the march.

Pelican Show

Pelican ShowAvailability: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
Duration: 1 hour
Location: Lobby

This variety show put on by Pelicans for the conferees traditionally features a number of musical acts and skits. The show generally culminates in a performance by the Pelican Chorus, led by the Music Director.

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