1. Westport Town Farm (Westport)
Brendan Buckless is the outreach and stewardship coordinator for the Westport Land Conservation Trust, says that he loves the upper section of the East Branch of the Westport River, an area that was historically used for dairy farming. “The rolling green pastures and family farms on the banks of the Westport River would have rivaled the grandest estates of the English countryside,” he says.
If you want to discover this landscape, Buckless recommends The Trustees of Reservations’ Westport Town Farm, which he says “boasts tremendous views of the East Branch — and on certain days you can see the herds of beef cattle grazing on the far bank.”
2. Slocum’s River Reserve (Dartmouth)
Dexter Mead, director of the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust (DNRT), first fell in love with Dartmouth at the Slocum’s River Reserve. “I was driving down Horseneck Road, looking across farm fields and stone walls, with the Slocum’s River sparkling in the distance, and barely a house in sight,” he remembers.
The property is co-owned by The Trustees of Reservations and DNRT, and it’s a great place for a walk with friends, family, and (leashed) four-legged companions. Mead points out that there’s plenty to explore there. “There are old farm fields filled with grasses and flowers, a lovely oak forest, acres of luxurious salt marsh — and that view!” And every three years, sculptures are installed at the reserve as part of The River Project, which, as Mead says, “only adds to [the reserve’s] exceptional beauty and magical qualities.”
3. The Sawmill (New Bedford & Acushnet)
Because the Coalition is an accredited land trust, we thought we’d pick a place we love, too — and it’s surely The Sawmill in Acushnet. This special park just opened in November after a multi-year restoration. With walking trails through fields and forests along the Acushnet River, The Sawmill is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year. On Saturday mornings, the Hawes Family Learning Center is open with free family activities, so stop by and say hello!
4. Shipyard Farm (Fairhaven)
One Fairhaven Acushnet Land Preservation Trust property that many people love is Shipyard Farm. This 53-acre area on Sconticut Neck features beautiful open fields — maintained by a local farmer — and views across the salt marsh to West Island. “Shipyard Farm faces east, allowing morning hikers to witness one of the most spectacular sunrises over Little Bay,” says Cora Peirce of the land trust. A trail through the forest offers a different perspective on the beautiful coastal landscape. “It’s a short hike that leads you through an enjoyable expanse of coastal habitat,” Peirce describes. Shipyard Farm is truly a gem where you’ll appreciate what makes Buzzards Bay special.
5 & 6. Old Aucoot District/Brandt Island marshes (Mattapoisett)
For this list, the Mattapoisett Land Trust picked two places they love. Gary Johnson recommends checking out Grace Pond in the Old Aucoot District, a short walk from the parking area at the end of Bowman Road. “Grace Pond isn’t really a pond, but a true vernal pool,” he says. “I have stood on the shore and watched wood frogs jumping over my boots to get into the pool for the chance to find a mate. It’s a cauldron of new life for a couple of months — well worth a vernal visit.”
Paul Osenkowski suggests taking to the water to experience his favorite place: the canals of the marsh off Brandt Island. From a kayak, he and his wife have watched ospreys building their nest and raising their young. They’ve also spotted rare species such as glossy ibis, tricolor heron, and black-bellied plover. Kayaking Brandt Island, Osenkowski said, “Allows us to get exercise and appreciate the fantastic natureland in our own back yard…Get out and experience it!”
7. Shoolman Preserve (Rochester)
David Smith of the Rochester Land Trust says his favorite spot is the Shoolman Preserve, which the Rochester Land Trust co-owns with the Mattapoisett Land Trust. The preserve features a one-mile loop trail that leads to the Mattapoisett River, as well as a holly grove and a vernal pool. “Field, woodland, and riverine birds may be spotted throughout the property,” Smith says. Sounds like a great spot for a nature walk and a riverside picnic! But if you decide to visit before picnicking season, Shoolman Preserve is also a good place for cross-country skiing.
8. White Eagle (Marion)
From her very first visit, the White Eagle property was a favorite of Yelena Sheynin, head steward for the Sippican Lands Trust. “I remember getting a tour and driving down this old path. An ancient way with woodlands on either side. It was a sunny day and the sun beams broke through the canopy and lit the road.” Sheynin describes the wildlife you might find at White Eagle — frogs, turtles, deer — and the beautiful views of pine forest and cranberry bogs. “White Eagle is a special area to be used year round whether you are wearing hiking boots or snowshoes, carrying binoculars or a camera,” she says. “This is a property that provides an experience for every visitor.”
9 & 10. Westgate Conservation Area/Tweedy & Barnes Conservation Area (Wareham)
When we asked the Wareham Land Trust about special places in Wareham, one place stood out: Douglas S. Westgate Conservation Area. Both Carleen Loper and John Wiliszowski told us about this town-owned property on the Weweantic River. “I love a trail that allows you to experience different landscapes,” Loper says. “There’s the boggy marsh, there’s the river, there’s the wooded trail with lovely old stone walls — so quintessentially New England and everything I love about the woods.”
Wiliszowski also recommends Wareham Land Trust’s Tweedy & Barnes Conservation Area. “The trails are easy enough for people of all ages to enjoy,” he says. And the views of the Sippican River are hard to beat!
11 & 12. Little Bay and Monks Park (Bourne)
The Bourne Conservation Trust takes care of many extraordinary spots in Bourne. “We have numerous special places for public enjoyment,” says President Steve Ballentine. “Some people enjoy one over another due to a history, or just because it’s closer to them.” But if he had to pick one, Ballentine says that Little Bay has a great combination of waterfront and woods. It’s next door to the town of Bourne’s Monks Park, which expands the trail network and makes for plenty of space to explore.
13 & 14. Shining Sea Bikeway/The Knob (Falmouth)
The Shining Sea Bikeway is special to Lucy Helfrich, director of program services for The 300 Committee. “For those who haven’t yet discovered this amazing 11-mile linear park, you must visit and you’ll be so glad you did!” Helfrich says. “For running, walking, or bicycling, watching the changing sea and sky, seeing a myriad of birds and the occasional fox or coyote, feeling the breezes off the bay, simply reveling in the beautiful natural world along the western edge of Falmouth — all of these things make the Shining Sea Bikeway a truly special place indeed.”
Katey Taylor, the executive director of Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, says that her favorite place along Buzzards Bay is The Knob. This property in Quissett has “beautiful sunsets, lovely wooded trails — and there’s even a beach!” Despite the limited parking, Taylor says, “It’s worth taking a chance there will be a parking spot at the end of the harbor to see the breathtaking sunsets.” We couldn’t agree more.