Venture off Route 6 in Barnstable along a curvy road to the Cape Cod Bay and visit Long Pasture Betsy Wildlife Sanctuary, a living museum that overlooks the Great Marsh, the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s second, newer and smaller location on the Cape.
It’s only small by comparison to its Wellfleet Sanctuary. Long Pasture encompasses 113 acres, much of which would be coveted by developers for multi-million-dollar homes.
But, thankfully, this special spot is preserved for birds, animals and all of us.
The sanctuary’s headquarters is a converted home, and it still feels like one, with one room furnished like a living room looking out to the backyard and beyond. You could simply come here with a good book and catch your breath during a busy work day if you wish.
The real treat, of course, is outside and along about 1.5 miles of very walkable trails. Nothing rigorous here. The paths are wide and they feature many places to stop, learn about the trees and vegetation and capture lovely views.
Make sure to walk to the water’s edge and find yourself right in the Great Marsh with Sandy Neck’s historic community right across the harbor.
Here are some more details about the 2.5 miles of trails:
This short boardwalk provides access into a slice of the Barnstable Great Marsh, Cape Cod’s largest salt marsh and most biologically diverse habitat. Learn about salt marsh ecology through our interpretive graphics. Tide permitting, explore the vast sanctuary tidal flats and find horseshoe crabs, moon snails, and hermit crabs. The secluded Sanctuary Beach offers opportunities to swim, sunbathe, and enjoy the spectacular views of Sandy Neck Barrier Beach.
Harbor Overlook Trail
From the Boardwalk follow the trailhead west to Night Heron Pond where the ponds namesake as well as green herons, snowy egrets and kingfisher can be spotted.
Along the Beck Family Trail, you will discover 6 newly restored vernal pools (wetlands) scattered along the field edges. These vernal pools were built to meet the specific habitat needs of rare species including the eastern spadefoot toad, American woodcock, eastern box turtle, and a host of avian and insect pollinators and their associated flowering plants. You may notice how the restored wetlands change in appearance over time as plants and animals colonize the new habitats.
Bone Hill Trail
The open fields surrounding this trail are the best spots to observe many species of butterflies, dragonflies and the fantastic fall foliage of tupelo trees.
This trail loops through early successional habitat perfect for the American woodcock. From here access the Beck Family Trail for a longer loop.