Search for Wildlife
This time of year, our local wildlife populations look a little different: new birds migrate here for the season, and seals swim south from Maine and Canada to spend winter along Buzzards Bay’s rocky shores.
If you want to spot some wildlife this winter, then head outside for an outdoor event – there are seal watches, bird watches, family activities, and lots of hikes lined up through February. But if you prefer to go on a winter wildlife safari of your own, here are a few suggestions:
1. Gooseberry Island (Westport)
Gooseberry Island is a prime birding destination near the entrance to Buzzards Bay. Visit the island in winter to take a gander at some ganders – and all sorts of waterfowl – or simply enjoy a walk in the quiet season. It can get windy here, so be sure to dress warm.
2. Haskell Swamp Wildlife Management Area (Rochester/Mattapoisett/Marion)
Haskell Swamp, a state wildlife management area that straddles the Rochester/Mattapoisett/Marion town lines, provides habitat for species like white-tailed deer, coyote, and wild turkey. The wide woods roads offer easy traveling on foot – but be aware that there are no trail maps or signs here, so this area is best for those who are more comfortable exploring. You can also see some species of evergreen trees, which means your winter exploration doesn’t need to be without color.
3. East Over Reservation: Hales Brook & Sippican River Tracts (Marion/Rochester)
The trail at the Hales Brook and Sippican River Tracts of East Over Reservation crosses a small stream and unique wetland habitat. These protected sections of water are a haven for wintering birds. You’ll also spot holly and other evergreens along the way to brighten your walk. Access the 2.5-mile trail from County Road in Marion.
4. Great Sippewissett Marsh (Falmouth)
Great Sippewissett Marsh is another excellent birding destination, best accessed on foot from Chapoquoit Beach at low tide. This marsh was a cedar swamp thousands of years ago, but rising sea levels flooded the swamp. The peat moss from the swamp created the base for the marsh, providing lots of food for migrating waterfowl.
Hit the Beach
In the summer, beaches across Buzzards Bay are bustling with bodies. But in the winter, you can have a whole beach to yourself! Believe it or not, our local beaches are a prime winter destination for outdoor exploration. Hunt for shells and sea glass, walk your dog, or enjoy one of winter’s golden sunrises or pretty pastel sunsets.
Here are a few of our favorite beaches to explore in winter:
5. Horseneck Beach State Reservation (Westport)
In the summer, Horseneck Beach is one of the busiest spots on Buzzards Bay. But in winter, the crowds dissolve, leaving a vast expanse of beach that’s perfect for long walks at sunset. Plus, dogs are allowed here during the off-season, so it’s a great place for our four-legged friends to get some exercise, too. Make sure to watch for marked piping plover nesting areas and take your time to explore one of Buzzards Bay’s treasures.
6. Fort Taber Park (New Bedford)
New Bedford’s extensive beaches are considerably quieter during the winter months. Enjoy the solitude and the views of New Bedford Harbor, Butler Flats Lighthouse, and Buzzards Bay from Fort Taber Park while searching for shorebirds and seashells.
7. West Island State Reservation (Fairhaven)
West Island State Reservation is on the eastern side of the island, making its beaches and salt marshes an ideal place to enjoy a glorious winter sunrise. West Island is wonderful for a walk any time of day; wide, flat paths lead through the woods to the shoreline, and the sandy beaches offer quiet places to enjoy the beauty of the Bay.
8. Onset Beach & North Water Street Beach (Wareham)
This pair of beaches in Wareham’s Onset Village provide lovely views of Onset Bay and Broad Cove, respectively. In the summer, Onset is a busy destination for beachgoers and tourists; in winter, it offers a quiet place to walk and reflect. Watch the sun set over Broad Cove from the Wareham Land Trust’s North Water Street Beach, admire Onset Bay from Onset Beach, or take a short jaunt over the Stone Bridge in Onset and string the two together on a tour of charming Onset Village.
9. Old Silver Beach (Falmouth)
In the summer, Falmouth’s Old Silver Beach is popular with swimmers and sunbathers. In the winter, the beach population shifts to dog walkers and beachcombers — and explorers like you! Enjoy views of the Bay as you search the shore for wildlife and washed-up treasures.
Take to the Trails
Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are two great activities that let you take advantage of winter snow. They’re both great exercise, and they’re a lot of fun! Plus, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are easy for beginners, but offer plenty of long-term enjoyment for more experienced adventurers.
Last year, we gave you some suggestions for places to snowshoe and cross-country ski around southeastern Massachusetts. Here are a few more:
10. Westport Town Farm (Westport)
At The Trustees’ Westport Town Farm, visitors can travel back in time as they traverse the landscape. The site was a working farm for more than 100 years, and an antique farmhouse and stone walls still remain. The mile-long trail loop follows an old farm lane, and the broad path makes for easy movement on skis or snowshoes.
11. Destruction Brook Woods (Dartmouth)
Destruction Brook Woods’ wide, gentle trails are perfect for practicing skiing and snowshoeing. This Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust property is home to several trails of various lengths, so no matter how much time you have, you can plan a great adventure here.
12. Nasketucket Bay State Reservation (Mattapoisett)
The wide paths at Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett are ideal for hardy explorers to tromp through on snowshoes. And the coastal scenery along Nasketucket Bay makes for a beautiful final destination. Bring a thermos of something warm to enjoy along with the view, and it’ll make your trek extra special. You can access the reservation from the main parking area on Brandt Island Road or by way of Shaw Farm Trail in Fairhaven.
13. Myles Standish State Forest (Carver/Plymouth)
Several of the trails at sprawling Myles Standish State Forest in Carver and Plymouth are designated for skiing during the winter. Additionally, some of the roads that are open in summer are gated in winter, creating undisturbed routes through the pine barrens that are a wonder to discover.
14. Cautamet Greenway (Bourne)
The Bourne Conservation Trust’s Cautamet Greenway has a maze of trails along Red Brook Harbor. They’re fairly hilly, so this place is best explored on snowshoe or by experienced skiers. The variety of trails and views of Red Brook Harbor make Cataumet Greenway well worth a visit to see how snow transforms the landscape.
15. Beebe Woods (Falmouth)
The glacial landscape at Falmouth’s Beebe Woods gives skiers gentle slopes to glide down. Many of the paths that wind through the woods are wide, which is great for both skiing and snowshoeing. Start at Highfield Hall and venture out to the Punch Bowl or Ice House Pond, or visit the sheep and their attendant guard llama at Peterson Farm.