1. Brookside Conservation Area (Westport)
Just five minutes from Westport Elementary and Middle schools lies Brookside Conservation Area, an 8-acre property owned by the Westport Land Conservation Trust.
Take a short walk down the trail, which begins at the parking area on Route 177, and you’ll come across the remains of a dramatic granite bridge. Your kids can flex their imagination muscles to guess what the bridge looked like 100 years ago, when it connected mills that used to be on the property.
The bridge spans a small stream called Bread and Cheese Brook – a fun name for your family to learn! Kids can explore the banks of the creek for unique rocks, plants, and bugs. Bring a fishing pole, and you can even try catching a fish!
2. Knowles Reserve/Apponagansett Park (Dartmouth)
Scoot down to Padanaram in South Dartmouth, and you’ll find yourself in an outdoor paradise of parks, trails, and beaches all in one place. Begin at Apponagansett Park, a town-owned park that includes a boat ramp, playground, picnic tables, and a sandy beach. Let off some steam at the playground, and then take a stroll along the beach to look for shells.
For another adventure, head across the street to the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust’s Knowles Reserve. Follow the path through the woods for a short, looping hike around a pond. As you walk, have your kids look for birds in the marsh and point out different types of trees along the trail.
3. Buttonwood Park (New Bedford)
Located near the New Bedford/Dartmouth town line, Buttonwood Park is close to many schools in both communities. The park offers a playground, basketball courts, paved paths for walking and bike riding, and a great lawn for running and playing. Explore the arboretum’s plants and trees, or watch birds at the pond. Even if you don’t go into the zoo, you can still see plenty of animals from outside the gates.
4. LaPalme Farm (Acushnet)
Just behind St. Francis Xavier School sits LaPalme Farm, a Coalition-owned conservation area and former dairy farm. LaPalme Farm comprises 47 acres of woods and fields that are perfect for an after-school adventure.
There are more than a mile of trails at LaPalme Farm, where you and your family can discover plants and animals along the way. Be on the lookout for butterflies, rabbits, songbirds, ducks, and wildflowers while you walk.
Head further into the woods, and eventually you’ll reach the Acushnet River. Using your smartphone, you and your kids can go on a modern-day treasure hunt to search for the geocache hidden near the river’s banks.
5. East Fairhaven Elementary School Trail (Fairhaven)
It’s easy to take an after-school walk if your kids are students at East Fairhaven Elementary School! Earlier this year, a new trail network opened at the school to connect students, teachers, and the community to the natural resources in their own schoolyard.
The mile-long trail network, which the Fairhaven Community Trail Network manages, has lots of fun features that kids love exploring. Journey over boardwalks that cross streams and venture down fern-lined paths. Along the trail, educational signs point out ecologically significant areas like vernal pools and holly groves, so you and your family can learn a little about nature while you walk.
6. Mattapoisett YMCA (Mattapoisett)
Camp isn’t just for summer! Your kids may already be familiar with Camp Massasoit if they attend this popular local summer destination. Outside of the warm-weather months, the Mattapoisett YMCA is still a great place for kids to play and learn about Buzzards Bay.
Take a walk along the beach and watch for birds bobbing on the surface of Mattapoisett Harbor. At Shining Tides Beach, you might see a few folks digging for clams just beyond the shore. For a longer walk, venture down the beach toward the mouth of the Mattapoisett River, stopping to pick up shells along the way. If your family has never tried blue crabbing, Eel Pond behind the town beach is a fantastic place to try it out!
The YMCA also holds a monthly Kids Night Out at Camp Massasoit. During this fun Friday evening activity, kids and families can explore a nature trail, make crafts, and enjoy the outdoors at this beautiful spot.
7. Silvershell Beach (Marion)
Silvershell Beach isn’t large, which makes it a great spot for young kids who aren’t ready for a long hike. And with calm, protected waters, you don’t have to worry about waves or swift currents if the weather is warm enough to wade in.
Using a simple net and a bucket, you can explore the shoreline for fish, crabs, and shells. Kids can try out their fishing skills from the beach’s rock jetty. And if you have a family dog, bring him along for a swim during the off-season!
8. Rochester Wildlife Management Area (Rochester)
Next door to Rochester Memorial School is the popular Rochester Wildlife Management Area. With lush habitats and abundant wildlife, this 70-acre property is a wonderful place for your whole family to discover the outdoors.
From the parking lot on Hartley Road, pick up a walking trail that loops around a scenic pond and old cranberry bog. Rochester Wildlife Management Area is a haven for birds like herons, ducks, and turkeys, as well as frogs and turtles. If you’re lucky, you might spot a river otter swimming in the pond! (Note that Rochester Wildlife Management Area is open to hunting, so if you visit during hunting season, make sure to wear blaze orange.)
Rochester Wildlife Management Area is also a great place to introduce kids to fishing. Get yourself a valid license, and you can spend hours fishing for perch, bass, sunfish, and more.
9. Myles Standish State Forest (Carver)
Whether you live in Carver, Plymouth, or even Wareham, Myles Standish State Forest is a great location for a classic walk in the woods. With 13 miles of trails, your family can take as short or as long of a hike as you’d like.
For an easy introduction to hiking, try the East Head Reservoir Trail, a 2.5-mile loop that begins at the forest headquarters and hugs the reservoir’s shoreline. If your kids are a little older or have more hiking experience, head to the Bentley Loop for 3.7 miles of unspoiled woodlands, rolling hills, and beautiful meadows.
10. William Minot Forest (Wareham)
Just behind Minot Forest Elementary School sits William Minot Forest, a town-owned wildlife sanctuary. With several marked trails through 205 acres, William Minot Forest offers families a place to take an easy walk in the woods while staying close to school and home.
Begin at the trailhead behind Minot Forest School, and set off on an adventure down the forest’s wide, criss-crossing trails. As you walk through the woods, look out for birds, mammals, and other animals that live among the trees.
11. Cape Cod Canal Bikeway (Bourne)
For families who like to ride bikes together, head to the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway for a quick after-school cycling adventure. The bikeway lines both shores of Cape Cod Canal, so you can enjoy this scenic path no matter which side of the canal you live on.
With its wide, paved paths, the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway is perfect for families of all ages, especially small children who are still learning to ride. You can bike or simply stroll down the path, enjoying views of boats, barges, and fishermen with their catch.
12. Bourne Farm and Wing Pond Woods (Falmouth)
The Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries Bourne Farm is a perfect setting for your family to discover the outdoors on an after-school walk. With 49 acres of fields, trails, and woods overlooking Crocker Pond, this 18th century farm is a destination for local families, particularly those with dogs.
Follow the Herring Run Trail from Bourne Farm to reach Wing Pond Woods, owned by the town of Falmouth. With 19 acres of trails along the pond, a cranberry bog, and Herring Brook, your children will have a fun afternoon exploring the woods and water.
Falmouth’s popular Shining Sea Bikeway runs through Bourne Farm and past Wing Pond Woods. So if you’re enjoying an after-school ride with your kids one day, make sure to hop off your bikes and check out these two great walking spots!