Cape Cod Nature & Wildlife Areas
The raw natural beauty of Cape Cod is at the heart of its appeal. Devout naturalists and casual observers alike have a great appreciation for the incredible variety of habitats and landscapes that intertwine in the region. The seemingly endless supply of breathtaking “oooh” and “ahhh” inspiring settings are teeming with wildlife ranging from the cutest little starfish to beloved songbirds to the fear provoking yet ever elusive great white shark. Whether you choose to explore Cape Cod’s natural wonders on foot, on a bicycle, or even on four wheels, new marvels await around every bend.
Well-known as a premier destination for birdwatchers, Cape Cod also hosts an abundance of other wildlife including marine creatures large and small, amphibians of all sorts, and fury mammals. Pockets of land ranging from a few acres, like Spohr Gardens in Falmouth, to thousandsof acres that are dedicated to the preservation of a great variety of wildlife habitats, including beaches and marsh dotted sandplains, shady forests with tall oak canopies, and groomed gardens filled flowers and berries. While the wildlife is certainly a sight to see, these habitats themselves offer awe-inspiring views, spectacular sunsets, and beautiful landscapes.
Hundreds of different species of birds have been spotted at locations like Wellfleet Wildlife Sanctuary and Cornelia Carey Sanctuarynear Woods Hole, from the rarest shorebirds to common songbirds, migratory flocks, and majestic birds of prey. Many areas, like Long Point Wildlife Refuge near Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard or Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge on Nantucket are home to herds of deer, otters, rabbits, and more. At the Cape Cod National Seashore, you might spot the spout of a whale in the distance or the telltale fin of a shark off the eastern shores, or get an up-close look at starfish, crabs, and other little creatures in the shallow tide pools on the bay side near Wellfleet.Seals take the spotlight at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, as well as any other place where they can get hold of a meal. Herring are the foundation of many Cape Cod ecosystems, and their migrations inland then back to sea are also a natural wonder that visitors flock to see.
Most of these nature settings do require at least a short hike to really enjoy. If hiking in Cape Cod is not for you, there are other options. Cape Cod has miles and miles of paved paths that are suitable for bicycles and wheelchairs, as well as walking or running. These include the Provinceland Trails in Provincetown, Cape Cod Rail Trail from Dennis to Wellfleet, and Shining Sea Bikeway from Falmouth to Woods Hole. Each of these provides access to incredible views, bird and wildlife watching opportunities, and exposure to much of Cape Cod’s great outdoors. If you want a more intense nature experience, visit The AdventurePark at Heritage Museums & Garden. Here, you can traverse a network of ladders, ropes, platforms, and ziplines taking you high up in the forest of oak and pine trees. If you want a less strenuous experience, bring or rent a four-wheel drive vehicle and check in with the management offices of the Cape Cod National Seashore or Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge to get a permit that allows you to drive on the beach. The vehicle must pass an inspection and the permits are not cheap, but the ability to drive to a secluded spot on a remote beach may be priceless to some.
Regardless of how you get there and whether you go for the scenic views or the fascinating wildlife, be sure to get out and enjoy Cape Cod’s natural wonders. They are indeed some of the most accessible yet most awe-inspiring sights in the region.