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Cape Cod & the Islands feature great nature and science centers

long point on martha's vineyard
Long Point Wildlife Refuge

Off Long Point Road West Tisbury (on the island of Martha's Vineyard), MA Phone: 508-693-7662

At more than 600 acres, Long Point is one of the largest publicly accessible properties on Martha's Vineyard. It encompasses beach, dune, and woodland. Popular in summer, the property is also an off-season treasure, especially for birders and other nature-watchers. The property has 2.1 miles of flat trails through woods and open areas, plus beachfront. Easy walking. Facilities: Public restrooms,picnic tables, bike rack, small visitor center.
Hours: Mid-June to mid-September, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mid-September to mid-June, daily, sunrise to sunset.
Admission: Mid-June to mid-September, $10 per car plus $5 per adult; pedestrian/bicyclist $5; children 15 and under, free. Mid-September to mid-June, free to all.
mashpee river reservation
Mashpee River Reservation

Quinaquisset Avenue and Meetinghouse Road Mashpee, MA Phone: 508-679-2115

This tidal river extends from Mashpee Pond to Pepponesset Bay. Its clean shoreline, spawning grounds, and clean water make this river a major Massachusetts source of sea-run brook trout. Miles of trails wind through the reservation.
Gay Head Cliffs

Lighthouse Road Gay Head, MA Phone:

This national landmark is a must-see for any Martha's Vineyard visitor. The cliffs, formed by glaciers, offer an almost other-worldly, multi-colored view.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Accessible only by boat, this refuge is home to more than 250 bird species. Visitors are also permitted to surfcast in certain areas. Commercial boats provide transport to the refuge in season.
Sandy Neck Great Salt Marsh Conservation Area

Sandy Neck Road Barnstable, MA Phone:

This is the largest salt marsh on the East Coast, some 4,000 acres, and there's a nine-mile (round trip) trail to Beach Point that takes about four hours to complete. Summer birders have a chance to see the nests of the endangered piping plovers in the sand. But it's best hiked in the cooler seasons, as this is a vigorous trek. Reach the area in Barnstable by heading to the end of Sandy Neck Road, where there's a parking lot.
Cape Cod Bay Marine Life Cruise

This sanctuary comprises 1,100 acres of salt marsh, sandy beach, pine woodland, and freshwater pond, and is home to a wide array of wildlife. For fun and healthful activities, families can begin at the new Nature Center, visit the butterfly and hummingbird garden, and then wander along the five miles of trails. Indoor and outdoor educational activities for kids and adults, including walks, lectures, and cruises.
Shellfish Hatchery

Winyah Lane Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, MA Phone:

A marine research and propagation center. Stairs lead down to the lagoon and a dock.
Walking in Cape Cod National Seashore - Photo Credit Paul Scharff
Cape Cod National Seashore

Various Locations Chatham to Provincetown, MA Phone: 508-255-3421

Cape Cod is a peninsula extending five dozen miles into the Atlantic. It was created by glaciers that pushed and dropped rocky debris in a broad curved shape, creating and embracing Cape Cod Bay. At the tip of the peninsula, you can face westward and watch the sun set over the mainland. The seashore embraces a huge mixture of marine, salt meadow, fresh water, and inland ecosystems. Marine and estuary systems include beaches, sand and tidal flats, and salt marshes. Freshwater systems include kettle ponds, spring pools, bogs, and swamps. Visitors also find pitch pine and oak forests, dunes, and grasslands.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary - South Wellfleet, MA - Photo Credit Mass Audubon
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

291 US Route 6 at West Road South Wellfleet, MA, 02663 Phone: 508-349-2615

This nature center offers a variety of educational programs for children and adults, including walks and workshops. Enjoy a naturalist-led bird walk on our property or listen to an evening lecture. This sanctuary has a nature center, walking trails, trail to Goose Pond, seasonal classroom, gardens, and a campground. Picnicking, birdwatching, restrooms, wheelchair accessible. Of particular interest is the boardwalk trail through the salt marsh. - Trail Info & Map
Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail

This relatively short trail takes longer than you'd expect because the half-mile return is through soft sand. Start at the Salt Pond Visitor Center, reached by taking Route 6 to Eastham, where the site is well marked with National Park signs. (There are restrooms here, as well as abundant interpretive information. Note that the center is closed from mid-January to mid-March.) The trail is well marked; it drops through a stunted oak and pine forest into a mature woodland, then takes a boardwalk loop through the cedar swamp. In summer, be sure to use insect repellent. You'll enrich the experience of this trail if you soak up information at the visitor site first, to learn about the wildlife and vegetation ahead. Expect to spend 45 minutes on this ramble.
Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge

Wauwinet Road Wauwinet (on the island of Nantucket), MA, 02554 Phone: 508-228-5646

Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is known for its historic lighthouse, white sand beaches, and world-class fishing. Rolling maritime dunes cover more than 200 acres. Refuge includes 16 miles of over-sand vehicle and walking trails and beach front. Gray and harbor seals feed in the Great Point riptide. Facilities include public restrooms between the Wauwinet Gatehouse and Great Point Lighthouse and at the lighthouse. Both are open May 1 to October 31. Bike rack at the Wauwinet Gatehouse. Seasonal tours of the Great Point Lighthouse and the natural wonders of the refuge. Hours: Year-round, daily, 24 hours (10 p.m.-5 a.m. - fishing access only). Cost: Free to all pedestrians and boaters.
Menemsha Hills

North Road, Chilmark Martha’s Vineyard, MA Phone: 508-693-3678

The highlight of Menemsha Hills is Prospect Hill, one of the highest points on Martha's Vineyard, whose spectacular view includes the village of Menemsha, the Elizabeth Islands, and Gay Head Light. Former woods roads and footpaths pass through several distinct ecosystems, including perched wetlands. At Menemsha Hills bluffs, a view of the Great Sand Bank provides a reminder of the Vineyard's glacial origin. Views are spectacular.
Directions: Starting from State Road in West Tisbury, turn right onto North Road heading westerly toward Chilmark and follow for five miles. Entrance, with parking spaces, is just past Tabor House Road, at right.
Taylor-Bray Farm

Bray Farm Road Yarmouth Port, MA Phone: 508-398-2231 Ext - 29

Picnic tables and walking trails offer you the chance to spend a leisurely afternoon. The farm was established in the late 1700s. It continues to be a working farm and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Open throughout the summer.
Crocker Neck Conservation Area

Ninety-seven acres of salt marsh to the east and a freshwater marsh to the south. Located on Popponesset Bay.
Indian Lands and Conservation Nature Trails

Scargo Hill Road East Dennis, MA Phone:

You'll find a plethora of Mid-Cape flora, marshlands, and views of Bass River along several trails. A 2½-mile round-trip trail to Cape Cod Bay at Crow's Pasture will take you past wild apple and cherry trees, honeysuckle, and beach plum. Don't miss Scargo Tower with views of Cape Cod Bay and beyond. A very romantic place. Follow Scargo Hill Road to the tower.
Great Island Trail

Chequesset Neck Road Wellfleet, MA Phone:

This is on the Outer Cape, on the Cape Cod Bay side (west). The shifting sands have built a pathway out to Great Island, which is restricted to only walkers and boaters. Talk with the rangers at Race Point in Provincetown about conditions and timing for the tides. Sometimes there are ranger-led trips to Jeremy Point, considerably safer than going on your own. To reach the start of the trail, take Route 6 to Wellfleet and follow signs to the town pier. Turn right onto Kendrick Road, then left onto Chequessset Neck Road. There's a parking lot at the end of the road. This trail is somewhat strenuous, moving through woods, dunes, and swamps. During high tide it may be wet in places. Expect to spend nearly four hours if you walk the full length of the trails.
Sandy Neck Trail

A 4.8-mile round-trip marked trail at takes you past salt marshes and dunes, leading to the beach. The views of Cape Cod Bay are awesome.
Beach Trail - Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary - Vineyard Haven, MA
Cedar Tree Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

Indian Hill Road Vineyard Haven, MA, 02568 Phone: 508-693-5207

This preserve along the Martha's Vineyard north shore features several trails with numerous scenic views.
Loines Observatory of the Maria Mitchell Association

Milk Street Extension Nantucket, MA, 02554 Phone: 508-228-9273

Open: Seasonally; call for hours.

Astronomy is the order of the day here. Programs include astronomy classes for children and lectures by astronomers of the Maria Mitchell Association. Open nights for telescope viewing are held year-round on Friday nights. There is an admission fee.
Beach Hiking - Felix Head Wildlife Sanctuary - Edgartown, MA
Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary

100 Felix Neck Drive Edgartown, MA, 02539 Phone: 508-627-4850

Vistors to this nature center will find plenty of self-guided trails, as well as live native birds. Of particular interest are ospreys nesting in their natural environment. There is an admission fee. - Trail Info
Rhododendrons - Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary - East Falmouth, MA - Photo Credit Winston O'Boogie
Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary

Ashumet Road East Falmouth, MA, 02536 Phone: 508-362-7475

Rare wildflowers line the eight-acre coastal plain pond; there are 65 kinds of holly trees here, along with vernal pools and migrating birds. More than 30 species of dragonfly can be found at Ashumet Holly.
Maria Mitchell Association Aquarium

28 Washington Street Nantucket, MA, 02554 Phone: 508-228-5387

Open: Seasonally; call for hours.

Satwater and freshwater tank exhibition and a gift shop with unique gifts for all ages. The aquarium is the starting point for marine ecology field trips led by staff members. There is an admission fee.
Maria Mitchell Association Natural Science Museum

7 Milk Street Nantucket, MA, 02554 Phone: 508-228-0898

The historic Hinchman House property features a museum of natural history, focusing on plant and animal life on Nantucket. A cross between a classic natural history museum, a zoo, and a science center, the Maria Mitchell Natural Science Museum is a great place to learn about the plants, animals, and birds of Nantucket. Classes, lectures, nature walks and other events are scheduled throughout the season. Gift shop. Hours: Open in summer, but science activities are offered year-round. Admission: Adults, $5; children, $4. Information: www.mmo.org/science-museum.html
Botanical Trails of the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth

Route 6A Yarmouth Port, MA Phone:

Stroll through outdoor splendor of 50 acres with oak and pine woods, berry plants, rhododendrons and other Cape flora. Located behind the post office on Route 6A, the trails are open throughout the year during daylight hours.
Bass Hole Boardwalk

Once the site of a schooner shipyard, the boardwalk will take you past marshlands to Gray's Beach. At the end of the boardwalk are benches overlooking Dennis's Chapin Beach.
Race Point

This beach walk is at the tip of the Cape. From the ranger station to Race Point Light is a two-mile westward ramble along the shore. Seasoned hikers may sniff at such a distance, but by the time you reach the lighthouse, you'll have sampled the extra labor of walking in sand and be glad for a lunch break! Return the same way, but by now the tide will have changed the look of things, and you've got a fresh view, out into the Atlantic, to keep you in awe of the water and weather. Be prepared for stiff breezes, and wear sun block.

There are walking tour maps available at the Provincetown Heritage Museum (% 508-487-0666) at Commercial Street and Center Street. It's open from mid-June to mid-October. Or just do it on your own by walking up and down Commercial Street, poking your nose into the harbor at MacMillan Wharf, and heading uphill to the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.

Lobster Hatchery and Brush Pond

Shirley Road Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, MA Phone: 508-696-0552

Learn more about the natural habitat and propagation of lobsters. The hatchery is open daily. Found just off County Road.