Cape Cod Lighthouse near Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary
Authors: Marco & Angelo

Authors: Marco & Angelo

We own the Candleberry Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast in central Cape Cod. We're glad to share our recommendations on all the great things to explore throughout Cape Cod.

6 Fantastic Mass Audubon Cape Cod Wildlife Sanctuaries to Visit This Year

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    The Cape Cod National Seashore alone has an abundance of natural beauty along the North Atlantic. However, the outer Cape isn’t the only treasure to explore during your vacation. There are several Mass Audubon Cape Cod wildlife sanctuaries with marshlands, forests, and beaches too.

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    Cape Cod Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries to Explore in 2022

    If you want to visit every MA Audubon location on Cape Cod, six are open to the public. Each one has something unique to offer, whether it’s a visitor center, educational programs, or a sensory trail.

    The Coastal Waterbird Program at Long Pasture and Sampsons Island is one of the most effective programs aimed at protecting barrier beaches and coastal birds, specifically foraging and nesting areas. However, Mass Audubon is dedicated to protecting and providing aid to animals of all kinds on Cape Cod.

    Mass Audubon Cape Cod Wildlife Sanctuaries

    Mass Audubon Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary

    In East Falmouth, the Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary is a coastal plain pond. This rare natural community attracts more than 30 species of dragonflies and several species of migratory birds. And, the Mass Audubon created five vernal pools to save the Eastern spadefoot toad.

    There are 1.5 miles of trails to explore at this wildlife sanctuary — Ashumet Farm Trail, English Holly Trail, Look for Lichen interactive trail, Mystery Trail, and Wheeler Memorial trail. They are open daily from dawn to dusk.

    Also, Ashumet Holly features about 1,000 holly trees in 65 varieties. Its Mystery Trail leads to the tallest holly tree, a twin-trunked holly, a Japanese cedar, and a magnolia tree with holes that were drilled by a yellow-bellied sapsucker.

    Another highlight of note is the rare Franklinia tree that blooms in the fall. You can find it to the north of Grassy Pond.

    Mass Audubon Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary

    Encompassing 113 acres of land, the Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary features numerous wildlife, shady oak woodlands, and two open ponds. During the summer, five species of turtle visit the sanctuary to nest. During the winter, three owl species call it home.

    Additionally, this wildlife refuge is home to several ground-nesting birds — American woodcock, Northern harrier, saltmarsh sparrow, and willet.

    While you’re here, you can explore 1.5 miles of trails — Cedar Trail, Cooper Pond Loop, Cow Path, Otter Trail, and Sandy’s Trail. The Cow Path leads to the Otter Trail and a coastal overlook with awesome views of Sandy Neck Barrier Beach and Barnstable Harbor.

    Mass Audubon Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary

    The Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable is one of the Mass Audubon’s most popular Cape Cod wildlife sanctuaries because it features butterfly-filled meadows, farm animals, woodland trails, and a sandy beach.

    The Nature Center, which is open Tuesday through Saturday, has live animal exhibits that represent local rare species. There’s a Nature Play Area, Purple Martin colony, and seasonal goat encounter and interpretive bee hive programs too.

    You can use the 2.5 miles of trails to walk through the variety of coastal habitats at this Mass Audubon sanctuary. The trails — Marsh Boardwalk, Harbor Overlook Trail, Beck Family Trail, Bone Hill Trail, Woodcock Trail, and Butterfly Mosaic Trail — are open daily from dawn to dusk.

    Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary has a small admission fee for non-members.

    Mass Audubon Cape Cod Wildlife Sanctuaries

    Mass Audubon Sampsons Island Wildlife Sanctuary

    Part of an undeveloped barrier beach system off the Cape Cod mainland in Barnstable, the Sampsons Island Wildlife Sanctuary is managed as a bird sanctuary Massachusetts Audubon protects.

    It features beaches, a salt marsh, and tidal flats that are home to nesting common tern, least tern, and piping plover birds. Because of the birds, the island has earned the Important Bird Area designation.

    To protect them, boats and pedestrians are only allowed to access the beach on the Cotuit Bay side of the island from March through September. If you wish to see the terns, plovers, and other birds from a safe distance, you can kayak around the island.

    Mass Audubon Skunknett River Wildlife Sanctuary

    The 147-acre Skunknett River Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable is named for the American eels that swim in its waterways. In fact, the word “skunknett” is an Algonquin term that means “fishing place for eel.”

    At this sanctuary, you can explore 1 mile of trails — Atlantic White Cedar Stand, Holly Trail, and Overlook Trail — that lead you along the Skunknett River. Along the way, you’ll see the beauty of nature reclaiming abandoned cranberry bogs and three former mill sites.

    The Overlook Trail gives you views of West Pond. There, you could spot some migrating ducks, black-crowned night herons, and ospreys. In addition, the vernal pools are home to singing frogs during the spring.

    Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

    At 1,183 acres, the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest and most well-known Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuary on Cape Cod. It has a Nature Center with year-round programs for all ages and is open Tuesday through Saturday.

    Nature Trails

    Every day, however, you can walk 5 miles of trails — The Boardwalk, Bay View Trail, Goose Pond Trail, Silver Spring Trail, Try Island Trail, and the Sensory Trail. These varied trails go through woodlands and a salt marsh, as well as to a pond and beach.

    The Sensory Trail — a universally accessible trail — is a 0.25-mile path that leads from the Nature Center to Goose Pond. It features a wide, smooth trail and a downloadable audio tour about the landscape and wildlife.

    Wildlife Garden

    Another feature to explore at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is the Wildlife Garden. It’s in front of the Nature Center and is full of annuals, perennials, herbs, and wildflowers.

    All of the plants were selected for their color, nutrients, and nectars. So, they attract all kinds of hummingbirds and butterflies. You can rest on a bench while watching the wildlife.

    The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary has an admission fee for non-members.

    Mass Audubon Cape Cod Wildlife Sanctuaries

    Get our free Cape Cod Vacation Guide, full of the best things to do in Cape Cod. The best activities, restaurants, museums, events, views, and much more!

    Click here to request the guide.

    9 Other Wildlife Sanctuary Massachusetts Locations on Cape Cod

    Along with the Mass Audubon Cape Cod wildlife sanctuaries, there are numerous other wildlife refuges to see. Below are some of the best ones that are worth visiting during your Cape getaway.

    Austin Smith Sanctuary

    Located in Orleans and Eastham, Austin Smith Sanctuary was once part of a 350-year-old family estate. The donor’s family supervised every step of turning this property into a natural haven for wildlife.

    Both parcels of land feature salt marsh habitats for wildlife. And, the Cape Cod Rail Trail runs next to the Orleans portion.

    Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area

    The Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area in East Falmouth is a 1,800-acre wildlife sanctuary Cape Cod has that’s popular among hunters.

    This refuge also has an extensive trail system that’s popular with nature walkers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders. Model plane enthusiasts love the cleared meadows as well.

    Hawthorne Wildlife Sanctuary

    Since 2004, the Hawthorne Wildlife Sanctuary in Provincetown has been a protected habitat of diversity — open dunes, upland woods, and wetlands. The trail takes you to the top of a hill that looks over Jimmy’s Pond and the open dunes.

    Five rare animal and plant species have been documented here. If you’re lucky, you may see an endangered Eastern box turtle from late March to late October.

    Jenkins Wildlife Sanctuary

    In Barnstable, the Jenkins Wildlife Sanctuary MA is a wooded refuge with 2.5 miles of short trails that wind through a forest of oak and pine trees. The trails connect to the Bridge Street Conservation Area, allowing you to extend your hike for up to 6 miles.

    Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge

    One of eight refuges that make up the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge has miles of trails to explore Atlantic white cedar swamps, cranberry bogs, marshes, and upland forests. It’s a great place for taking pictures too.

    Mass Audubon Cape Cod Wildlife Sanctuaries

    Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

    The widely known Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham has unmatched beauty. As part of the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex, it protects habitats critical to the survival of a wide array of wildlife — horseshoe crab, gray seals, migratory birds, tiger beetles, and more.

    Encompassing a peninsula and islands, you can only reach part of this Cape Cod wildlife sanctuary via boat. On Morris Island, you can follow the self-guided trail, which features informative panels. Additionally, you can go fishing and hunting within the refuge, as well as take pictures.

    Orenda Wildlife Sanctuary

    If you want a short walk through a wildlife sanctuary, Orenda Wildlife Sanctuary has a 0.5-mile trail that’s maintained well. You’ll hear and see a lot of different birds during your visit, and you can get a look at the nearby pond from the viewing platform.

    Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary

    If you’re looking for a Cape Cod Bird sanctuary, you’ll find a fantastic one at Salt Pond in Falmouth. This stretch of 41 acres used to be a Mass Audubon property but was transferred in 1962 to Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, Inc.

    Within this bird sanctuary Cape Cod location are a few wonderful trails. Two kiosks on the trails provide maps for your convenience.

    William & Barbara Hacker Wildlife Sanctuary

    Consisting of 78 acres, the William & Barbara Hacker Wildlife Sanctuary in Harwich features a quiet woodland next to the Cape Cod Rail Trail and Katie’s Pond. There’s also a freshwater wetland, bike trail greenway, 2.75 miles of walking trails, and wildlife habitat.

    Candleberry Seabreeze Room - Cape Cod bed-and-breakfast

    Where to Stay on Cape Cod Near Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuaries

    No matter which Mass Audubon Cape Cod wildlife sanctuary you decide to visit, Candleberry Inn is in a central location in Brewster. Situated on Route 6A, our inn is within a 30-minute drive of all the wildlife sanctuaries on this list and more.

    Best of all, we offer upscale amenities, such as a gourmet hot breakfast and beach day essentials. So when you’re ready to plan your next Cape Cod getaway, check our room availability and stay with us!

    Get our free Cape Cod Vacation Guide, full of the best things to do in Cape Cod. The best activities, restaurants, museums, events, views, and much more!

    Click here to request the guide.

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