New England nature lovers are never bored. In addition to the endless options for exploring nature solo, there are also numerous learning centers in each of our six states with an emphasis on kid-friendly education and entertainment.
Here is a list of five family-friendly nature sites that celebrate and preserve the relationship between nature and the ocean.
Acadia National Park
Spanning nearly 50,000 acres on the coast of Maine (including Mount Desert Island) Acadia National Park offers just about every activity you can think of, but in particular the seasonal park ranger-led programs (including walks, talks, hikes, narrated boat cruises, bike rides, and more) are a great way to keep kids informed and entertained. You can also take a 2-hour scenic boat ride into Frenchman Bay as part of the popular “Dive In Theater,” where real-time audio and sound of diving excursions are shown on deck, followed by a chance to see, touch, and even kiss (!!) some of the ocean-floor critters. On rainy days, head to the Lobster Hatchery at the Mount Desert Oceanarium.
Norman Bird Sanctuary
At 325 acres on the Rhode Island seacoast, the Norman Bird Sanctuary makes up the largest area of preserved open space in Newport County, and contains over 7 miles of hiking trails through hay fields, woodlands, alongside ocean and pond views. There is also a Visitor’s Center and 19th Century Barn Museum featuring displays about the wildlife for children and adults.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
With more than 5 miles of nature trails for visitors to explore — spanning salt marshes, pine woods, freshwater ponds, coastal heathland, sandplain, grassland, barrier beaches, and tidal flats — the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Massachusetts Audobon’s largest and loveliest spots. The Nature Center houses natural history exhibits, including a bird watcher’s corner, orientation map, habitat mural and a marine aquaria, and hosts year-round educational and entertaining programs. The Sanctuary also offers canoe trips, Monomoy Island tours, bird walks, workshops, day camps, and more. Leaving the Cape? For those heading out to Martha’s Vineyard, check out the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, known for its children’s nature classes, guided kayaking tours and stargazing.
Seacoast Science Center
Each year over 60,000 people visit the Seacoast Science Center in New Hampshire, housed on the rocky shores of historic Odiorne State Park, close to Rye and Hampton Beaches. In addition to the stunning ocean views, visitors can enjoy live animal and interactive exhibits, an indoor tide pool touch tank, aquariums featuring local species, and a humpback whale exhibit featuring a 32-foot whale skeleton. The Center also offers nature walks, summer concerts, vacation camps and more.
Hammonasset Beach State Park
Connecticut’s largest and (some say best) ocean beach includes two miles of sandy shoreline as part of its 919 acres, and greets more than one million visitors each year. In addition to swimming, strolling, and sunbathing, Hammonasset Beach State Park offers picnic areas, walking trails, biking and paths, saltwater fishing, and 558 campsites. At the Meigs Point Nature Center you’ll find educational and live animal exhibits, as well as a seasonal touch tank.