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Best Explorations for Kids: Cape Cod National Seashore

Updated on February 20, 2020
Marie Flint profile image

Marie studied at Michigan State University four years in English (creative writing). She writes content, poetry, and stories.

Nauset Lighthouse at Sunrise In Summer
Nauset Lighthouse at Sunrise In Summer | Source

Bordered on the west by gentle Cape Cod Bay and on the east by the open Atlantic, the area was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 to preserve the history, culture, and ecosystems of the Outer Cape (the Atlantic side).

— Keith Bellows, Author of 100 Places That Can Change Your Child's Life

Map Showing the Bent-Arm Shape of Cape Cod

Seventeenth Century (17th C) sailors referred to the northern part of the Cape Cod after the "elbow bend" as Lower Cape and the southern portion as Upper Cape. This seeming reversal of the term was used because the winds mainly coming out of the southwest caused ships to sail downwind to reach the northside of the cape. The terms remained to present day.

Activities for Kids

  • hands-on exhibits in the Salt Pond Visitor Center (SPVC)
  • view any of the educational films at the SPVC
  • walk closed-eyed on the Buttonbush Trail
  • take a kayak tour
  • ride a bike trail
  • dig for clams in the Great Island Tidal Flats Foray
  • wade, swim, or boogie board on the bayside beach
  • walk along open pathways through the sand dunes

The Salt Pond Visitor Center
The Salt Pond Visitor Center

The Salt Pond Visitor Center remains open all year and accommodates a theater, store, and museum. The lobby displays a large map showing Cape Cod's geological history and present-day ecologies. The museum focuses on the culture of the Wampanoag (first Native Americans) and early European settlers of the area. Exhibits on educational topics, such as life-saving and communications technology, offer a hands-on experience for children.

"The Sands of Time," an Educational Film at the Salt Pond Visitor Center

The Benefit of the Buttonbush Trail

The trail takes kids on a quarter-mile journey with a guide rope and panels featuring large, 3-D lettering and Braille.

"Walking with your eyes closed along the 'Braille Trail,' as we call it, opens up the senses. . . . .The trail challenges the kids to feel, listen, and navigate without sight, which will make them more aware when they kayak through the marsh, wade in the ocean, or dig on the tidal flats."

-- Dick Hilmer, Cape Cod Naturalist

Buttonbush in Bloom
Buttonbush in Bloom | Source

Buttonbush Facts

  • the scientific name is Cephalanthus occidentalis
  • the bush typically reaches a height between six and 12 feet (6-12')
  • it is a deciduous perennial
  • puffy, globule flowers bloom from June to September
  • primary pollinators are bees, butterflies, and moths
  • ducks eat the seeds of the two-seeded, reddish-brown fruit
  • ruminants eat the twigs and leaves
  • the inner bark is an emetic and other plant parts can treat a variety of ailments, including malaria
  • has a strong root system, ideal for erosion prevention

A Kayak Excursion on Cape Cod

A Couple Tips for Riding Bike Trails at Cape Cod

  1. Dress appropriately for the weather. If it is a hot, sunny summer day, a cap or hat and sleek cotton clothing, such as a T-shirt and shorts or capri pants will work well. A brimmed cap or hat helps reduce facial sunburn. Thick or doubled socks help prevent blisters on the feet.
  2. Good take-along items include a filled water bottle and sunblock. A couple snacks high in carbohydrates for energy, such as fresh or dried fruit are also helpful.

A List Bike Trails on Cape Cod by Distance

  • Cape Cod Rail Trail - 22 miles
  • Shining Sea Bikeway - 10.7 miles
  • Old Colony Rail Trail - 8 miles.
  • Cape Cod Canal Bikeway North - 7 miles
  • Cape Cod Canal Bikeway South - 7 miles
  • Province Lands Bike Trail - 5.4 miles
  • Head of the Meadow Trail - 2 miles
  • Nauset Bike Trail - 1.6 miles

Directions and maps for individual bike trails


A Virtual Tour of Cape Cod Bike Trails with Highlights of Attractions

The Cape Cod Tidal Flats at Sunset
The Cape Cod Tidal Flats at Sunset | Source

The Great Island Tidal Flats Foray Program

When the tide recedes, a variety of life forms can be discovered, including clams, quahogs, green crabs, and periwinkles. A ranger-led program permits participants to dig up to an hour and a half.

The following family video features some of the life forms of the tidal flats.

What It's Like for a Kid to Boogie Board

Imagine a Walk near the Cape Cod Sand Dunes

The following relaxing video helps the viewer to imagine what a walk barefoot in the sand along Cape Cod's sand dunes might be like, complete with wave sounds.

"Life is Grand...on Cape Cod" by Silvard

Postcard from Cape Cod is Silvard's fourth album and features piano solos, including "Life is Grand." He recorded the entire album impromptu, a process what he refers to as "Freeflow." The album reached No. 6 on the New Age and Instrumental Radio charts in the year 2000.

The other songs on the album are Forever Yours; Rain; Tropical Breezes; Collage: Variations on Rainbow Connection & Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring; Casco Viejo; Life's Overture; Zenshine; Calypso; Vacation Time; and Flight. Silvard recorded the album in 2006. Many of the tunes are available for listening on YouTube by title.

An Interesting Fact About Silvard and His Music

Silvard was born in the Netherlands and started playing the piano at age of ten. At age 18, he left for the USA to pursue studies in marine biology. His music is inspired by his passion for the ocean.

Resources and Credits

Bellows, Keith; 100 Places That Can Change Your Child's Life; National Geographic, Washington, D.C. ; (2018?), pp. 12-13 ISBN 978-1-4262-1596-4

The Salt Pond Visitor Center (National Parks)

Silva (About Silva's Life and Music)

If I have used an image inappropriately, please contact me for modification or removal. The "Contact Author" link is at the top of the page under my name. Thank you!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • Marie Flint profile imageAUTHOR

      Marie Flint 

      3 months ago from Tawas City, Michigan USA

      Thank you, Liz. I enjoy doing these little virtual travels. I've always dreamed of visiting each of the U.S. National Parks, perhaps working across the country through the government's Land Development Program.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      This is a very well-illustrated articlle and contains a lot of useful information for families with children visiting the area.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 months ago from The Caribbean

      The blend of fun, education, nature, family and or friends make the Cape Cod National Seashore a really good place for children and adults. Thanks for the presentation.

    • Marie Flint profile imageAUTHOR

      Marie Flint 

      4 months ago from Tawas City, Michigan USA

      Yes, Road Monkey. The outer "arm" itself experiences winds and waves, but the inner bay is ideal for family wading! Thanks for the read and comment.

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      4 months ago

      This sounds like a great place. I imagine the configuration of the bay shelters it from many storms? That's an interesting story about the names of the different parts of the peninsula.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      4 months ago from Ohio

      Growing up my parents to us kids (5) camping on Cape Cod every summer. It was wonderful. I would definitely recommend the Cape for vacationing!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      4 months ago from Sunny Florida

      This would be a wonderful trip for children when the weather is good. It is beautiful in Cape Cod.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      4 months ago

      An excellent and very informative article Marie with lots of activities for kids. I like the way you have incorporated various videos into your piece which gave me an idea of what a visit to such a beautiful place would be like. I had my first piano lesson when I was four and it remains a great passion of mine. I loved this piece of music by Silvard - very light and uplifting. An enjoyable read.

    • Marie Flint profile imageAUTHOR

      Marie Flint 

      4 months ago from Tawas City, Michigan USA

      Perhaps this is not the right time of year (end November 2019) to be publishing this article, but I'm catching up with drafts now that I have a working laptop.

      I really enjoyed doing this one, which had been dormant for nearly a year.

      Thank you for your interest. I hope you really enjoy reading and perusing this piece. The piano solo at the end is really nice--fun and relaxing!


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