Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:291 State Highway, South Wellfleet, MA
Hours:Trails: 8 a.m. to dusk daily (8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily in summer); nature center: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, Memorial Day through Columbus Day, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday
Fee: Adults, $5; children ages 3–12, $3; Mass Audubon members, free

massaudubon.org; 508-349-2615

Bathrooms: At the nature center
Water/Snacks: Next to the bathrooms

This sanctuary on Cape Cod is a magnet for wildlife with its salt marsh, sandy beach, pine woods, freshwater pond, and rare heath land.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
Photo by: Kim Foley MacKinnon

Five miles of trails on the sanctuary’s 1,100 acres offer a variety of habitats to explore—that is, if you can get your kids out of the nature center, which has two 700-gallon aquariums with displays revealing the underwater worlds of the salt marsh and the tidal flats, plus animal and plant exhibits, puzzles, and books about the Cape. You can also learn about green architecture, as the LEED-certified building features composting toilets, solar panels, and sustainable materials, all documented on display boards. An excellent gift shop offers books and fun nature items such as observation jars and hand lenses.

Outside are five main trails and a butterfly garden. Take Goose Pond Trail (part of which is wheelchair accessible) on foot or on snowshoes through pine and oak woodlands, by two ponds, past a coastal heath (low-growing shrubs and plants), and along the edges of a salt marsh. To get to the sandy beach, take Boardwalk Trail across the salt marsh to see what’s going on at the tidal flats. Kids will enjoy watching hundreds of fiddler crabs crawling about the flats near the boardwalk. An amazing 260-plus species of birds have been recorded at the sanctuary, so chances are good you’ll encounter some on your walk. Five species of turtles live here, so keep an eye out in the marsh and pond.

If you’ve been a Mass Audubon Society member for more than a year, you can camp at one of twenty sites (tents only, no fires) the sanctuary maintains from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, but be sure to book well in advance.

Remember: Every Tuesday at 10 a.m., you can join naturalists and birders at the nature center for coffee and pastries to view birds at the feeding station and learn more about the many birds that visit the sanctuary. Check out the recent sightings board where animals that have been seen are listed to help you decide which trail to take. A number of naturalist programs are offered for younger children.

Plan B:

The Cape Cod National Seashore, farther east on US 6, offers many trails, beaches, and historic lighthouses to visit. The refuge is a short drive from the Wellfleet trailhead of the Cape Cod Rail Trail (Trip 71).

Where to Eat Nearby:

Lobster shacks and other eateries are along US 6.


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