Experience the beauty of nature at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Sept/Oct Cape Cod Life | capecodlife.com

If your idea of an ideal autumn day includes peaceful walks, fresh salt air, and glimpses of native wildlife, consider spending a few hours exploring Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, a nature area of some 1,000 acres overlooking Wellfleet Bay.

The sanctuary features flora, fauna, and five miles of hiking trails. “Each trail offers a different walking experience and a variety of coastal habitats typical of the Outer Cape, such as woodlands, heath land, grasslands, salt marsh, and tidal flats,” says Jenette Kerr, the sanctuary’s marketing & communications coordinator.

Hikers who elect Bayview Trail will circle through dense, shady woodlands and salt marsh, while those who choose Silver Springs Trail can walk around a small freshwater pond. Measuring 1.4 miles, Goose Pond is the longest trail in the sanctuary and leads hikers on a scenic jaunt down to the beach before looping back up behind the sanctuary toward the Nature Center.

Inside the center, visitors can check out various marine life species and view exhibits on the coastal ecology of the Outer Cape. Before setting out on a hike, Kerr suggests talking with staff at the front desk about the different trails and their features.

The sanctuary also offers several educational programs and family friendly activities, including visits to the Wellfleet tidal flats to search for fish, eels, shrimp, and other sea creatures. Other guided walks have participants on the lookout for rare bird species, which is perfect in the fall due to local species’ seasonal migration patterns. The sanctuary’s signature bird, the whimbrel, is often spotted along the trails, and birding checklists as well as trail maps are available for visitors.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is located at 291 State Highway, Route 6, South Wellfleet. For more information, visit massaudubon.org, or call 508-349-2615.

Follow up your hike with a hearty meal

Located on Route 6 in South Wellfleet, Van Rensselaer’s Restaurant and Raw Bar is a great stop for breakfast to start the day—or a hearty meal following a few hours of sightseeing and hiking. The raw bar features oysters, littlenecks, and jumbo shrimp, and Van Rensselaer’s menu boasts a large selection of fresh fish and shellfish, and a savory clam chowder. vanrensselaers.com. 508-349-2127. Open through mid-October, from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 4 to 9 p.m. — Catherine Kierce