The Beach Times

Checking Out the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in East Falmouth, Massachusetts
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Tuesday, December 22, 2020

photo of a heron


Any time you head to Cape Cod, you're likely to encounter some things you wouldn't see anywhere else. For example, on any given day, you can hike some dunes, wander through the woods, hit up a world-class beach, or take a cruise into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Cape really is a traveler's paradise, and there's something here for absolutely everyone who explores this section of the East Coast.

One of the Cape's most unique attractions is the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. This massive piece of land is home to part of the Quashnet River, multiple forests, three salt ponds, four freshwater ponds, and many things to do for the entire family.

Here's a look at some of the activities you can try while exploring the bay and its surrounding area in East Falmouth, MA.

The Visitor Center

You can start your trip to the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve with a trip to the park's visitor center.

This facility sits on a 28-acre piece of land featuring trails through the woods at the north end of Waquoit Bay. There are also interactive educational programs at the center all summer long, giving you the chance to learn a bit about this area's history during your stay.

Even if you don't get into the reserve's wilder parts, stopping by the visitor center is worth it for the educational opportunities and the quick hike through the woods to the water's edge.

Places to Kayak

One of the top things to do in this park is kayak, as there are countless places to get on the water. For starters, you can take a boat into Waquoit Bay, which has a launch on its east side near South Cape Beach State Park. You can get your vehicle relatively close to the water when using this launch, and some kayak rental companies on the Cape will deliver to this location. 

You can also do some kayaking on the park's salt ponds: Hamblin Pond, Jehu Pond, and Abigail's Brook. You can get to these ponds through Waquoit Bay, as they all connect. These salt ponds provide an interesting paddle because you'll get to explore both residential neighborhoods and wilderness from the water.

Other places to kayak include Bog Pond, Bourne Pond, Caleb Pond, and Childs River. Childs River and Bourne Pond have boat launches, while Caleb Pond connects to Waquoit Bay and Bog Pond.

Getting out for a paddle in any of these areas will give you a new appreciation for just how quiet Cape Cod can be, even in the middle of the summer.

The Beach

We mentioned that you could put a kayak on the bay through South Cape Beach State Park, and you can spend some time lounging in the sand there, too.

The beach is primitive but has scenic views, soft, white sand, and boardwalks from its overflow parking lots to the waterfront. The beach is great because it extends for a significant distance west from the parking lots, so you're sure to find an area all to yourself.

There isn't much in the way of amenities at the beach, but you can still pack in a picnic and make a day of it.

If you only get to experience a couple of the Cape's beaches during your vacation, make sure one of them is South Cape Beach State Park. Keep in mind that it costs $15 for Massachusetts residents to park at the beach and $40 for non-residents.

Visiting Washburn Island

Perhaps the most beautiful attraction in Waquoit Bay is also the most difficult to reach. The middle of the bay is home to Washburn Island, a virtually untouched piece of land that you can only reach via private boat.

You can get to the island on your kayak if you're lucky enough to rent one. It's a bit of a paddle from the main boat launch, but it's doable if you get an early start.

Once you reach the island, you'll find dozens of hiking trails surrounded by pine and oak trees. There are also marshes, dunes, and a series of small ponds. This island is one of the last remaining undeveloped pieces of land on the coast of Cape Cod. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to explore it, it's highly recommended that you do so.

Artifacts dating back as far as 1,000 years often show up on the island, too, so you never know what you'll find once you set foot there.

A Must-See While on the Cape

Cape Cod is packed with wonderful places to visit during your vacation, with the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve being one of the most beautiful. This reserve has all kinds of flora and fauna and some of the Cape's best fishing, so you can spend your day there in a variety of ways.

Your Cape Cod vacation can be whatever you make of it. And a visit to Waquoit Bay means spending a day in the wilderness and seeing some unique landscapes that you won't experience anywhere else.

Mashpee Waquoit Bay

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