13 great places to explore while social distancing

You need more than six feet of space between people to follow today’s social distancing guidelines from public health authorities. It helps to also have acres of fresh air, peaceful wooded trails, spirit-restoring beaches, and bracing breezes. Lucky for us, we’ve got all of that in abundance here around Buzzards Bay.

Getting outside is a fantastic way to maintain social distance while also enjoying the benefits that time in nature provides. Just a short time period of time spent outdoors can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress levels, boost your mental health, and reduce the risk of a number of health issues – benefits that we need more than ever right now.

Here are a few great places around the Buzzards Bay region where you can get outside while enjoying plenty of physical and mental space.

1. John C. Whitehead Preserve (Little Compton)

The boardwalk at John C. Whitehead Preserve in Little Compton - Image by Nat Rea

John C. Whitehead Preserve lets you experience a rich wooded wetland environment from the comfort of an elevated boardwalk. (Image: Nat Rea)

If you’re spending time at home with kids, John C. Whitehead Preserve provides a great place to incorporate learning into an outdoor adventure. In addition to 2+ miles of easy-to-explore dirt trails, the preserve’s Dundery Brook Trail features an outdoor classroom along an ADA-accessible boardwalk, making it a fantastic option for strollers and wheelchairs alike.

2. Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary & Ocean View Farm Reserve (Dartmouth)

With 7 miles of hiking trails spanning more than 600 acres of protected beaches, fields, forests, and salt marshes, it’s easy to feel like you have Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary all to yourself to explore. Combine your exploration here with a stop at the new Ocean View Farm Reserve to get your fill of outdoor serenity. Ocean View Farm’s wildlife observation platform is an especially good place to look for migrating birds returning to our coast for springtime!

3. Cornell Farm & Frank Knowles/Little River Reserve (Dartmouth)

Twice as nice: The Trustees’ Cornell Farm and DNRT’s Frank Knowles/Little River Reserve are interconnected, providing you with more than 9 miles of trail to explore. A variety of habitats shine here as the trail leads through hardwood forest and down to salt marshes along the sparkling edge of Little River.

4. Freetown-Fall River State Forest (Freetown)

There’s so much to discover within this wild swatch of forest within the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve. The Freetown-Fall River State Forest has over 50 miles of trails, where you can hike, have a picnic, or get your heart pumping by trail running or mountain biking. Just be sure to grab a map before you go, so all that social distancing doesn’t leave you lost.

salt marsh at West Island State Reservation

Walk along the shoreline of West Island to enjoy offshore breezes and stunning island views without ever getting on a boat.

5. West Island (Fairhaven)

There’s nothing like a little island time to help you catch your breath and clear your mind. Fortunately, West Island provides all of the beauty of an island getaway without having to step foot on a boat! Walk the trails of West Island State Reservation through woods and salt marshes and down to the edge of Nasketucket Bay. If you’re in the mood for more low-key outdoor time, watch the waves or stroll the shoreline at West Island Town Beach, which is open to walking and abundantly quiet in the off-season.

6. Nasketucket Bay State Reservation (Mattapoisett)

Nasketucket Bay State Reservation is home to six trails, each with its own distinct character. With the addition of Shaw Farm Trail, the state reservation now has a total of five miles of trails for you to explore. No matter which you choose, all trails lead to the coast, where you’ll enjoy lovely views of Nasketucket Bay and Buzzards Bay. If you’re a fishermen, bring along a pole to try your luck for some early-season fishing!

view of Assawompset Pond from Betty's Neck in Lakeville

Take in a spectacular view of Assawompset Pond from Betty’s Neck in Lakeville.

7. Assawompsett Pond Complex (Middleborough/Lakeville/Rochester)

Explore the Assawompsett Pond Complex to discover natural beauty hidden in plain sight! This patchwork of private and public lands provides unparalleled access to some of the largest bodies of fresh water in the state. From hunting bald eagle sightings at Betty’s Neck, to tranquil picnics in the fields of Tamarack Park, to fantastic freshwater fishing from the Long Pond Boat Ramp, you have a wealth of outdoor options to choose from among roughly 10,000 acres of wetlands, woodlands, and waterfront.

8. East Over Reservation (Rochester)

Easy trails and rustic scenery make East Over Reservation a great destination for a stroll any time of year. Several miles of trails lead through former farm fields, crisscrossed with scenic stone walls, and beneath the canopy of quiet woods. Cross Hiller Road to walk down to the edge of Leonard’s Pond and enjoy views of its still waters.

9. Myles Standish State Forest (Carver/Plymouth)

With over 12,000 acres where you can hike, bike, fish, paddle, swim, camp, hunt, and ride horses among cranberry bogs, pine barrens, and kettle ponds, you’ll never run out of ways to have fun at Myles Standish State Forest. This state forest has 13 miles of hiking trails, 15 miles of bike trails, and 20 miles of equestrian-friendly paths – the hardest part of your trip will just be choosing which to explore!

two little boys in the woods at Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Wareham

Explorers of all ages can get out on the trails and enjoy some fresh air at Great neck Wildlife Sanctuary.

10. Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (Wareham)

Adventurers of all ages can enjoy the four miles of easy-to-follow trail through Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary. These old carriage roads and deer paths criss-cross a network of protected forests that provide an important home to wildlife. We recommend taking the Heron Point Loop, which is easy to walk at only a mile long, but provides sweeping views over the salt marshes of Bass Cove.

11. Falmouth Moraine Trail (Falmouth)

Want your social distancing with a side of strenuous exercise? Challenge yourself to walk the entire nine-mile length of the Falmouth Moraine Trail, which stretches from Long Pond and Falmouth Town Forest at its south end to Northern Moraine Conservation Area on its north side. This trail traverses steep hills created by a retreating glacier tens of thousands of years ago. As you hike, look out for the massive boulders that the glacier left behind, and take heart: dealing with an outbreak of illness is hard, but at least everything isn’t still covered with two miles of ice. (Or prowled by saber-toothed tigers.)

12. Menemsha Hills (Menemsha)

Menemsha Hills provides one of the longest walks available on the shores of Vineyard Sound. Its three-mile trail network will lead you up and down rolling hills and out to a viewing platform with dramatic vistas of the Vineyard’s cliff-lined eastern end. If you’re just looking for a short trip to stretch your legs, try the Harris Loop, which has two half-mile legs broken up by water views at the top of Prospect Hill – a perfect spot for a picnic.

Waves washing onto the shoreline of Moshup Beach, with the Gay Head Cliffs in the background

You can walk over a mile along the fine, sandy shoreline of Moshup Beach and below the colorful Gay Head Cliffs.

13. Aquinnah Headlands Preserve & Moshup Beach (Aquinnah)

The Aquinnah Headlands and the Gay Head Cliffs are breathtaking at any time of year, but the off-season is an especially great time to explore this nearly 50-acre Martha’s Vineyard preserve. That’s because the North Head trail, which loops through coastal brush above the cliffs and provides exceptional views, is only open from September 15 until June 15. After you walk North Head, take a trip down the South Head trail to walk Moshup Beach, where you can round out your exploration by seeing the Gay Head Cliffs’ stunning colors up close and personal.

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Discover Buzzards Bay

It’s your Bay, so get outside and enjoy it! From hiking and biking to fishing and paddling, you can discover Buzzards Bay at dozens of parks, trails, and beaches near you. Whatever your fancy, you’ll find it here on Buzzards Bay.

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