While the Cape may not have aquariums on the scale of more major aquariums, the smaller aquariums on the Cape are a great way to introduce children to the local marine life.
1. The Woods Hole Science Aquarium is run by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and is open year-round to visitors, Tuesday through Sunday, from 11am to 4pm each day. This aquarium is free to visitors, although donations are appreciated.
Featuring around 140 different species of marine life found in the Northeastern and Mid Atlantic waters, this is a great way to introduce children to the different animals found in local waters.
There are seals at the aquarium who get fed on most days at 11am and 4pm, engaging exhibit cases, and touch tanks where kids might be able to feel a lobster, quahogs, spider crabs, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, and starfish (sea stars).
Aside from being a great place to learn about the local marine life, the Woods Hole Science Aquarium – established in 1885 – also holds the distinction of being the country’s oldest marine aquarium.
The Woods Hole Science Aquarium is located at 166 Water Street in Woods Hole and their phone number is 508-495-2001.
2. The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (part of Mass Audubon) has numerous exhibits, including large aquariums that showcase the different area environments, including salt marshes, tidal flats, and fresh water ponds.
The exhibits are free to members and non-members can view them by paying the admission to the Sanctuary. Admission is free for members, and for non-members admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids ages 2-12 and seniors (65+).
The Sanctuary also has various programs throughout the year that are enjoyable for families to participate in, as well as walking trails that are lots of fun to explore. For more information about their programs, click here.
The Sanctuary is open Tuesday through Sunday from Columbus Day to Memorial Day from 8:30am to 5pm and daily from Memorial Day to Columbus Day from 8:30am to 5pm. The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is located at 291 Route 6 in Wellfleet and their phone number is 508-349-2615.
3. The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster has an aquarium that takes up most of their lower level. The aquarium features turtles, frogs, fish, crabs, and other local marine species and is lots of fun for children. The animals here come from both saltwater and freshwater, so children are introduced to a wide variety of species.
There is also a water table with many species that makes for easy viewing, although it is not a touch tank, so keep that in mind.
For museum hours, click here. Cost of admission is $10 for adults, $5 for kids ages 3-12, FREE for kids under 3, $7 for seniors (65+), and FREE for Active Duty Military and Family with current military ID and for MA Teachers Association members.
When visiting this aquarium, guests can also check out the exhibits upstairs, detailing the extensive natural history of the area. There are also special programs run through the museum. Visit their website to learn more.
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is located at 869 Main Street in Brewster and their phone number is 508-896-3867.
4. The National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay is known for caring for stranded animals, including turtles and seals, and they help families learn about how local marine species are rehabbed. There are also educational displays, and information about conservation, strandings, and marine science.
The NMLC is open from 10am to 5pm daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and then from 10am to 5pm on weekends through Columbus Day. They are also open for special events and February and April school vacations. Admission is FREE except during noted special events. Educational programs are also an extra charge.
The NMLC is located at 120 Main Street in Buzzards Bay and their phone number is 508-743-9888.
5. The Buzzards Bay Discovery Center in Woods Hole has interesting exhibits and a touch tank, allowing children to get up close and personal with the marine species! The BBDC also has different daily programs, such as Bridge to Discovery (free hands-on program for families with young kids on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:30am to 11:30am), Creature Feature (free interactive program teaching about a different “featured” creature on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:30am), What’s in the Bay Today (informative discussion and observation session held on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 2pm), and Touch Tank Feedings (Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 2pm).
The BBDC is open daily from 10am to 4:30pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day and they are located at 21 Luscombe Avenue in Woods Hole. Their phone number is 508-540-6222 and the aquarium is FREE to visitors.