The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster is a fantastic place to visit during a stay on Cape Cod. Not only does it have a museum full of the local aquatic and avian life on the cape, but it also has a 320 acre conservation land behind it to explore called Wing’s Island Conservation Area.
The GPS took us down Route 6A towards the museum, it’s a quiet, mostly residential street close to the water. Spaced out along the road were art galleries and inns. Stopping in at the art galleries would make a great add-on for this day trip.
We went to the museum on a Tuesday, late-morning. To my surprise, the parking lot connected to the museum was full, but there is a second lot across the street. That morning was cloudy and looked like it was going to be a bad beach day, which is probably why the parking lot was full.
As mentioned above, there are two parts to this museum: the conservation land behind the museum – which was free to enter – and the actual museum building which was $10 for adults and $5 for children up to 13 years old (as of June 2012). It’s important to note, if you do enter the conservation land but do not pay entrance into the museum, you must park at Drummer Boy Park (about 1/4 mile down the road) and not in the attached lots.
This is a popular destination for families with children. So be warned if you get aggrivated easily, there were children everywhere!
Let’s Explore the Conservation Land First
There’s an enourmous sign that lays out the entirety of the conservation area as you enter the museum’s grounds. Take one of the portable maps in the box on the left side of this sign. Here is the map digitally if you want a sneak peek: Page 1, Page 2.
There are two paths you can take, one of them leads to the Wild Flower Garden and the Salt Marsh Loop and the other leads to the conservation land. The garden and marsh loop are close by so they’re the quickest to walk to, but the Wild Flower Garden wasn’t that great: it was small and not many flowers in bloom. The Salt Marsh Loop doesn’t go very far out into the marsh but does have some nice views.
On the other path you can enter the conservation land. The path is narrow and it seemed there were more than a few people pushing strollers down it. This made 2 way traffic on this narrow path difficult at times. Once you get through the initial forested area it opens up to a beautiful salt marsh.
The Salt Marsh
The land is soggy and the trail continues along a two-plank-width bridge. It was difficult to let the opposite direction traffic pass, as often one person had to step off the bridge and onto the soggy ground to let them by. It was also difficult to pass the people who were walking extremely slow, but most people were considerate and let us pass by.
As you travel along the main path and back into the forest, you’ll see many smaller paths shooting left and right. Judging by how quickly those trails disappeared into the brush, they didn’t seem to be well-traveled which means an excellent opportunity to do some off-the-map exploring.
Along the path there is a solar calendar, this would have been how the Native Americans kept track of the passage of time. The geek in me loves pre-electricity technology, I spent a lot of time playing with this solar calendar.
There are lots of scenic stopping points along the way, marked by benches and some have signs telling the history of the area. These are great places to stop and enjoy the view as well as snap some great, memorable family photos.
And finally when you reach the end of trail, you’ll arrive at the beach. Yes there is a large beach included in the conservation land, the best surprise of the day!
If you wanted to spend the day at the beach, it is a bit of a walk through the conservation land. I would avoid any big items like lounge chairs and instead opt for beach towels that you can pack in a backpack for ease of transportation.
An interesting thing to note, somehow you must be able to drive your offroad vehicle onto this beach because I saw a Jeep and a van on the beach with a family playing around it. This is worth further investigation. Have you driven on this beach before? Comment below and let me know how it was.
When you reach the beach, walk to your right. Around the bend is a beautiful beach, great for pictures and relaxing.
When you’re ready to explore the museum, trek back the way you came…over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go…
Into the Museum
The museum is rather small, it’s two floors with only a few exhibits. On the bottom floor are their aquatic and reptile exhibits, they have fish, lizards and turles from the area. Much of the rest of the museum is dedicated to birds. There are many displays featuring all the local avian life. Here are maps of the upper level and lower level.
The best part of the museum is the Marshview Room. This big open room features floor-to-ceiling windows that look toward the salt marsh. This bird observation room has plush chairs and binoculars for viewing. It is also a child craft room so the children can color and learn about the local bird life.
This museum does offer guided tours of the museum with deeper explanation of the exhibits. There are also guided nature walks through the conservation land and other activities offered daily. That having been said, the activities available for adults is limited. This museum seems well suited to a family with smaller children but as only two adults, we were left with little to do but walk through the rather boring exhibits. I highly recommend exploring the conservation land however, that made our trip worth it.
You can view their calendar of events here for some guided tours that you find interesting.
And now for all the pictures: