If you’re the outdoorsy type, you’re going to love staying in Cape Cod.

Cape Cod is among the most popular vacation spots in Cape Cod, which is why its protected land is so important. The Cape plays host to a number of habitats and ecosystems: barrier beaches, dunes, salt marshes, and coastal plain ponds, a freshwater wetland home to rare flowers and shrubs.

The Cape does its part to protect these habitats – and provide stunning scenery, outdoor activities, and wildlife viewing for locals and visitors alike. The Cape has a number of protected areas, including national reserves, Massachusetts parks, and wildlife refuges. It is also home to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


Here are just a few protected outdoor spaces you can visit while taking a holiday at our Cape Cod vacation rentals:

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is located on a series of barrier islands, the long tail that juts off the elbow of Cape Cod toward Nantucket, just south of the town of Chatham.

This park is 12 square miles in size, established as a habitat for migratory birds, including the federally-protected piping plover and the roseate tern. A total of about 10 species of birds use this refuge for resting, nesting, and feeding on their way to their northerly or southerly destinations. The park also protects a large section of natural dunes, an important system of grass and plants that help keep the coastline intact and provides a habitat for animals.

The refuge has an excellent Visitor’s Center with trail maps, exhibits, and hands-on activities to pique your curiosity about species conservation on the Cape. From the center, take the boardwalk trail for stunning water views and a set of stairs leading down to the pristine beach. Be prepared to work those glutes on your way back up! Visit at low tide to spot crabs, jellyfish, and lots of feeding shorebirds. The boardwalk has benches and interpretative signs so you can stop along the way.

Mass Audubon Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary

This park is located further inland in Cummaquid, and is run by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Here, you’ll find sandy beaches, meadows, and woodland, and tidal flats that come alive at certain times of the day.

It’s a great place to explore Cape Cod by water. Kayak or paddleboard and paddle the tranquil estuaries of this sanctuary on one of the tours, or enjoy a boat cruise or nature program for kids.

Expect to see everything from birds, to butterflies, to farm animals, and hike 2.5 miles of beautiful trails. The Marsh Boardwalk allows you to enjoy the Cape’s largest salt marsh – keep your eyes peeled for horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, and large, five-inch moon snails on your walk. If you’ve got young kids, the Butterfly Mosaic trail is short and sweet, filled with native wildflowers and about 30 species of butterflies.

Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

Further up the hook of Cape Cod you’ll find the quaint town of Wellfleet, which is home to another great Audubon wildlife sanctuary. The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is on the other side of the peninsula from the National Seashore, offering sand barrier beaches with harbor views.

This sanctuary was set up to protect species like fiddler crabs, green herons, and shorebirds. The park offers tons of programming for both kids and adults, including summer camps, year-round conservation projects, and the Cape Cod Field School, an adult program that focuses on teaching about wildlife conservation in the area.

South Cape Beach State Park

This is one of the Cape’s many parks – and perhaps one of the best for a day of family-friendly activities.

The park has a mile-long white-sand beach for kids to play on, boardwalks for wildlife viewing, and woodland for hiking. Bring good walking shoes to enjoy the many gentle trails that wind through the forest. There are also a couple of ponds, which are a great place to go fishing. Wildlife at South Cape Beach includes seals, fish, and birds, among others.

More To See

There are so many Massachusetts parks and wildlife refuges in the area, you’ll have no trouble finding suitable Cape Cod vacation rentals nearby. For information and availability on our cozy cottages, search for properties on our website, or give us a call at (508) 619-7658.