All the parks have ranger programs for children and adults, and some will even take the kids off your hands for an hour or 2; but for an in-depth learning vacation, consider joining a field institute or camp. Park educational institutes offer outdoor seminars and multiday programs for adults or families on subjects such as art, science, and outdoor skills. You'll find these in-depth educational programs at Cape Cod, Great Smoky, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, Sequoia, Point Reyes, and Olympic. You can also split up by entering the children in an education program or a summer camp while you visit the park. There are also summer camps with sessions of a week or less, including day camps and residential camps, at Acadia, Cape Cod, Cape Hatteras, Grand Teton, Great Smoky, and Rocky Mountain. For any of these opportunities, you must plan well ahead.
Acadia National Park
Museum of Natural History, College of the Atlantic, 105 Eden St., just north of Bar Harbor on Rte. 3 (tel. 207/288-5395; www.coa.edu/nhm). Admission $3.50 adults, $2.50 seniors, $1.50 teens, $1 children 3-12, free for children under 3. Summer daily 10am-5pm; winter Thurs-Fri and Sun 1-4pm, Sat 10am-4pm. Closed Thanksgiving to mid-Jan and middle 2 weeks of Mar.
Children will certainly enjoy an hour or 2 of a rainy day spent in this superb little museum on the grassy campus of the environmentally inclined college. Students have built wildlife dioramas that capture an entire story in the life of an animal: raccoons getting into garbage, voles emerging from a snowy burrow observed by a hungry hawk, a honey-raiding bear swarmed by bees. An excellent touch tank allows you to explore a living tide pool indoors, learning about the creatures you can hunt for on the shore later. There are activities for children and adults, the museum offers interpretive programs, and a summer field study program leads children to the island's shores, forests, and ponds for ecological education.
Mount Desert Oceanarium, Rte. 3, Thomas Bay, Bar Harbor (tel. 207/288-5005). Also at 172 Clark Point Rd., Southwest Harbor (tel. 207/244-7330). Bar Harbor admission $7.95 adults, $5.75 children 4-12, free for children under 4; Southwest Harbor admission $6.95 adults, $4.95 children 4-12, free for children under 4. Discounts available to visit both sites. Mid-May to mid-Oct Mon-Sat 9am-5pm. Closed mid-Oct to mid-May.
These two privately owned facilities focus on teaching and entertaining children with facts and demonstrations about the Maine shore and its marine life. The Bar Harbor facility has a program about seals, a lobster hatchery and museum, and a marsh nature walk. The Southwest Harbor museum is in a well-worn waterfront building, with aquariums, huge lobsters, a boat kids can climb on, a tide-pool touch tank, and demonstrations. It's well done, with hands-on, personal attention, yet the prices are a bit high for how much time you spend.
Islesford Historical Museum, Islesford, Little Cranberry Island (www.nps.gov/acad/museum.htm) Free admission. Mid-May to Sept Mon-Sat 10am-noon, Sun 10:45am-noon; daily 12:30-4:30pm. Closed Oct to mid-May.
The neat thing about this little museum is that you take a 40-minute mail-boat ferry ride to get there. Islesford is a tiny island village with a restaurant and store and the museum, in an odd brick building. An island summer resident (who's buried out back) started the collection of ship models, dolls, nautical items, and antiques in 1927. The Park Service now runs it.
The Abbe Museum, 26 Mount Desert St. and Sieur de Monts Spring (tel. 207/288-3519; www.abbemuseum.org). Bar Harbor: Admission $4.50 adults, $2 children 6-15. July-Aug Mon-Tues 10am-5pm, Wed-Sun 10am-9pm; June and Sept daily 10am-5pm; Oct-May Thurs-Sun 10am-5pm. Sieur de Monts: Admission $2 adults, $1 children 6-15, free for children under 6. July-Aug daily 9am-5pm; spring and fall daily 10am-4pm; closed mid-Oct to mid-May.
The Bar Harbor location shows a fine collection of baskets and other artifacts of Maine Indians and teaches about their lives today. The small museum in the park operates seasonally. Its exhibits, while of interest to adults and teenagers, are unlikely to hold the attention of younger children for long.
Sieur de Monts Spring Area, the original core of the park, contains three places to learn about the island: a botanical garden, a nature center, and a branch of the Abbe Museum (covered above). Take Route 3 or the Park Loop Road about a mile south from Bar Harbor and follow the signs. Pick up the free guide booklet to follow the nature trail through the area.We most enjoyed the Wild Gardens of Acadia. Volunteers planted this small botanical garden to show Mount Desert Island's native plants in their natural habitats. A complex of gravel paths and a brook divide 12 habitat types where labels teach the names of plants and trees you encounter while biking or hiking. Our children were delighted with the garden's map-reading, exploring, and imaginative opportunities.
The Nature Center is a room with animal and bird mounts and displays explaining natural processes and park management. It's a good place to get questions answered and to find out what the animals you may see look like up close. It is open July through August daily from 9am to 5pm, sometimes shorter hours off season; closed late September to mid-May.
Acadia National Park has some ranger-led programs that go beyond the lectures or short walks that parks often offer. For some, you need to sign up in advance (a maximum of 3 days) at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, so be sure to pick up the Beaver Log park newspaper or log on to the website www.nps.gov/acad and be ready to make some decisions when you arrive.The park offers several programs a week aimed at children 5 to 12. The best may be the Island's Edge hike and tide-pool exploration that Robin and I joined. Each child wore a magnifying glass around his or her neck to inspect the finds the ranger pointed out over 2 hours of walking, first in the forest and then on the rocky shore. The children's programs require advance sign-up at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center to prevent overcrowding. A parent has to go along on the outing.
The park's Junior Ranger program uses booklets that cost $1.95 at the visitor center, the Sieur de Monts Spring Nature Center, or the campgrounds. Kids complete the worksheets and attend ranger programs to win a Junior Ranger pin, which you pick up at one of the visitor centers. The booklets, one for 7 and younger and one for 8 and older, are mostly rainy-day activities to do with a pencil. They will take time but won't be too hard for the intended ages with a little reading help.
Family & adult programs start as early as 7am (for a 3-hour birding outing) or as late as 9:30pm (to watch the stars on Sand Beach). The lineup changes annually, but usually includes a couple of choices of outings by boat to see wildlife, scenery, and historic places. The Islesford Historical Cruise lasts almost 3 hours, with a stop on Little Cranberry Island. The fare is $18 for adults, $12 for children 4 through 11, and free for children under 4; check the schedule for where to reserve your place and catch the boat. Most programs are free, and most adult programs don't require prior sign-up.
Campfire programs take place every night during July and August at Blackwoods and Seawall campgrounds. The topics, such as natural history, conservation, culture, and even singalongs, are posted on park bulletin boards, where you can also get the time, which changes through the year. Anyone can come -- you don't have to be camping.
Acadia is a place where, if you schedule a long enough vacation, parents and kids can split up for part of that time, each doing what they most enjoy. Children will especially savor the park's summer programs.
Camp Cadillac, operated by the Mount Desert Island YMCA, 21 Park St., P.O. Box 51, Bar Harbor, ME 04609 (tel. 207/288-3511; www.mdiymca.org), offers a tremendous array of nature, outdoors, learning, art, and sports activity camps for children ages 4 to 16. Besides using the more-than-a-century-old Y's impressive facility in Bar Harbor, the camps roam over the national park and island, and some even go off the island for sea kayaking and the like. The day programs last from late June to late August and cost about $100 for a week of full days. Reserve well ahead.
Harbor House Community Center, P.O. Box 836, Southwest Harbor, ME 04662 (tel. 207/244-3713), offers day camps for kids 2 1/2 to 14. Groups up to age 9 go on field trips to museums and outdoor activities each day. Sailing camp, for ages 9 through 14, costs about $110 a week. Camps run mid-June to mid-August, and you need to reserve by mid-May. The center also operates the MDI Community Sailing Center, (tel. 207/244-7905).
Cape Cod National Seashore
Provincetown Museum & Pilgrim Monument, High Pole Hill Rd (tel. 800/247-1620 or 508/487-1310; www.pilgrim-monument.org). Admission $7 adults, $3 children 4-12, free for children under 4. July-Aug daily 9am-7pm; Apr-June and Sept-Nov daily 9am-4:15pm. Closed Dec-Mar.
The large, homegrown museum houses a lot of items that children will enjoy: a doll collection, a horse-drawn fire truck, and many models, including a large Mayflower, among other things. It's an old-fashioned place showing off the handiwork of local people representing their own history. You could spend a couple of hours looking at the exhibits while those who lose interest play outside on the broad lawn or climb the monument. It's a 252-foot tower of massive granite blocks, the tallest all-granite structure in the United States. It was completed in 1910, commemorating the Pilgrim's landfall at Provincetown on November 11, 1620. The tower can be seen from far out to sea and down the Cape, and the view from the top is amazing. The climb is not excessively scary, but the 116 stairs and 60 ramps should burn some excess energy; and it's fun to see the stones donated by different towns set in the walls of the stairwell. The museum has plenty of free parking, making it a good starting point for a visit to Provincetown. To avoid the pedestrian-dominated downtown streets, turn left from Route 6 north onto Shankpainter Road, left again on Jerome Smith Road, right on Winslow Street, and left on High Pole Hill Road into the lot.
Expedition Whydah Sea Lab and Learning Center, 16 MacMillan Wharf. (tel. 508/487-8899; www.whydah.com). Admission $8 adults, $6 children 6-12, free for children under 6. High season daily 9:30am-9pm; low season daily 10am-5pm, except weekends only Nov 1-Jan 1; closed Jan-Mar.
This small commercial museum displays the discoveries of ongoing treasure hunts from two real pirate ships. The Whydah (pronounced wid-dah) was driven onto the outer beach in a nor'easter storm in 1717 while returning from plundering the Caribbean. The survivors were hanged in Boston. The same expedition team recently uncovered the remains of Captain Kidd's flagship on an island off Madagascar. The museum is intriguing because it preserves the mystery of underwater archaeology instead of cleaning everything up. You can see lumps of material still waiting to be taken apart. The museum's office also sells tickets for the fast ferry to Boston.
Marconi Station Site, Marconi Site Rd., off Rte. 6, South Wellfleet (no phone).
From this high ocean bluff on January 18, 1903, Guglielmo Marconi started the era of instant radio communication with the first meaningful wireless message between America and Europe by Morse code. Most of the ruins either eroded into the sea or were dismantled after the station was shut down in 1917. Today there's an information kiosk, as well as incredible views over the bluff and clear across the Cape. A free guide brochure explains the site.
Penniman House, Fort Hill Rd., off Rte. 6 south of the Salt Pond Visitor Center, Eastham (tel. 508/255- 3421). Free admission. July-Aug Tues and Fri 1-4pm; tours Mon and Sat at 10:30am. Closed Sept-June.
Captain Edward Penniman used whaling profits to build his fanciful yellow house with a cupola in 1868. The gate is a whale's jawbone. Penniman went to sea at age 11 and rose through the ranks to make his fortune. Inside the house you can see the interesting records of the voyages he took with his wife, each of which lasted years. The rooms are mostly bare, however, and will likely hold your interest for no more than 20 minutes.
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, Rte. 6A (tel. 508/896-3867; www.ccmnh.org). Admission $7 adults, $3.50 children 5-12, free for children under 5. May-Sept daily 9:30am-5pm. Closed Oct-Apr.
The museum has good exhibits, such as tanks of tide-pool animals and fish, mounted birds for identification, and simple, clear teaching tools on ecological concepts. It's more of an educational center than a static museum. The enthusiastic staff and volunteers lead visitors outdoors to learn about the museum's extensive marsh and bay-front grounds, and beyond, on hiking, canoeing, and boating trips as far afield as the Monomoy Island National Wildlife Refuge off Chatham. Many of the guided walks are free with the price of admission. Call or write ahead for the extensive calendar of shows, events, and trips. On rainy days the museum organizes informal talks, microscope viewing, and the like. The winter closure is a new plan at this writing; some trails may remain open while the museum is closed.
New England Fire and History Museum, 1439 Main St. (Rte. 6A) (tel. 508/896-5711). Admission $7 adults, free for children 5-12, $1 children under 5. June-Sept Mon-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat-Sun noon-4pm. Closed Oct-May.
Children who want to be firefighters can visit and see many working fire engines, mostly antique horse-drawn models, and many fire-related artifacts presented by friendly volunteers. Those who don't share that fascination may not want to stay long enough to justify the trip and admission.
Four organizations schedule naturalist offerings in the national seashore area, including the National Park Service, Nickerson State Park, Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, and the Audubon Society's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The last two of these also offer summer day camps for children. I've also listed Cape Cod Sea Camps, which has day and residential camps. Many of the activities and all the camps require planning and advance reservations, so request details before your trip.
The Cape Cod National Seashore Headquarters, 99 Marconi Site Rd., Wellfleet (tel. 508/349-3785; www.nps.gov/caco) offers one of the most extensive schedules of ranger programs in the national park system. They start at many points. Campfires take place on the beaches after a walk away from the access point. Walks on the tidal flats and in the salt marshes teach about the plants and creatures there. Tours of historic houses and musical and literary programs take place in various locations. Some programs teach new skills and sports, including surfcasting, canoeing, and shellfishing. Several programs are aimed specifically at families with children, and kids are welcome with their families on most. The best programs require reservations and often carry a fee. I recommend mapping it all out before you come, planning your days to minimize driving and to make sure you get reservations for what you want to do.
The Park Service produces a good Junior Ranger booklet intended for children ages 8 to 12, which you can get for $2.05 at either visitor center. Younger children would enjoy some of the matching exercises and illustrated check-off lists of different kinds of Cape Cod architecture and animals, if not the writing activities. The booklet is designed for use at home as well, recognizing that you don't want to sit inside doing workbooks if the weather is good. To earn a Junior Ranger patch, children ages 8 to 12 complete six workbook activities, attend two ranger programs, and visit and write about park sites -- not easy, but doable. Kids ages 5 to 7 do the same, less the workbook activities, to win a patch.
The Nickerson State Park, 3488 Main St. (Rte. 6A), Brewster (tel. 508/896-3491; www.state.ma.us/dem/parks/nick.htm; reservations: 877/422-6762; www.reserveamerica.com) has a Junior Ranger program which comes with an excellent 38-page book of outdoor activities aimed at school-age children who read well and have a good attention span. After completing 8 of the 12 activities and an evaluation form, kids get a patch and certificate from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management.A kids' nature center near the park entrance has activities for children 6 to 14 just about every day of the summer. It's a casual, drop-off arrangement with a ranger who takes the children for a couple of hours for walks, games, and activities -- they were making a pond when I visited. Parents can take off on their own. The park also has programs for families together, including guided nature walks, campfires, and the like.
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, located at Route 6A, Brewster (tel. 508/896-3867; www.ccnmh.org) has day camps and programs for families. Contact them ahead for times and registration.The price of admission includes some of the guided walks on the grounds, but the museum also offers some of the most famous and appealing outings on the Cape. Its boat trips to Monomoy Island, a sandy bar that extends south of the eastern edge of the Cape, are a chance to see birds and other wildlife and the remote national wildlife refuge there. The museum manages the Monomoy Point Lighthouse on South Monomoy Island, taking day-trippers for tours and offering overnights in the keeper's cottage. These are popular trips, with limits of 6 to 12 passengers per session, so you must reserve well ahead. The minimum age is 7 for some trips, 12 for others, and prices range from $40 to $200. If you can't get on one of those trips, try a daily boat cruise through Nauset Marsh with a naturalist catching creatures to examine. There are guided hikes, stargazing outings, mudflat explorations, and more offerings. Get the catalog before you go.
Day camps for children as young as preschool and as old as ninth grade last through July and August. Many are just one or two sessions of a few hours, a chance for the family to split up and pursue individual interests without a huge investment of time. Sessions include nature encounters, artistic inspiration, and science skills -- they might dig in the tidal mud or make casts of animal tracks. A typical session for kids 6 to 9 lasts 2 1/2 hours and costs $35. The museum also offers a day camp of 5 full days for grades 1 to 6 and a field school for grades 7 to 9. Tuition is about $190.
The Audubon Society, off West Road, South Wellfleet (tel. 508/349-2615; www.wellfleetbay.org) offers programs at its Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary focused on adults, families, and kids, and day camps for age 4 through seventh grade. Reservations are necessary for most programs, so request the catalog in advance.
During the high season many programs a day are in session, on many subjects other than birding. Children's programs cost as little as $5 or $6 -- the cost of the aquarium tour, nighttime bug and critter prowl, or nature crafts, and many others. Family and adult programs include guided walks at the sanctuary for birding, shoreline study, and the like. Other appealing outings go afield, including the superb boat cruises: birding through Nauset Marsh, pulling up sea creatures from under Wellfleet Bay, or watching gray seals off Chatham. There are several other choices, some aimed specifically at families. Prices are $35 or less.
The Audubon Society's July and August day camps are in five age groups, starting with 4-year-olds, who spend 5 fun mornings at the sanctuary learning about nature for a tuition of $160. The next two age groups have similar programs, while groups of grades 3 through 5 and grades 6 and 7 concentrate on a particular scientific topic all week, with outings on day cruises (and even overnight cruises). Tuition is up to $230.
Cape Cod Sea Camps is a highly regarded camp with low staff-to-camper ratios is right on Cape Cod Bay. It has been in business since 1922. It offers all kinds of summer camp activities, but the specialty is sailing. Residential, day camp, or combination options are available for periods of as little as 5 days or up to 7 weeks, for children ages 4 through 17. Prices start at $455 for a week of day camp. Most fill up by January 1, and you can register as early as October. Contact info: P.O. Box 1880, Brewster, (tel. 508/896-3451 or 508/896-3626; fax 508/896-8272; www.capecodseacamps.com).
Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Roanoke Island has several exceptionally interesting sites to visit. They take at least 1 full day and can be reached by bicycle from Manteo, mostly on a separated trail. The Wright Brothers National Memorial, in Kitty Hawk, is a short drive from there. There are other museums on the Outer Banks, but they hardly bear mentioning compared to this complex of attractions.
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, U.S. 64/264, 3 miles west of Manteo (tel. 252/473-5772). Free admission. Summer daily 9am-6pm; low season daily 9am-5pm.
This is where the Lost Colony likely stood, and the mounds of earth you can walk around may be the remains of a fort built by Colonel Ralph Lane, the leader of the first group of English colonists who tried to settle America. Or maybe not -- archaeologists can't pin down exactly who built the fort, but it surely had something to do with Sir Walter Raleigh's project. The area was also a Civil War-era colony set up by the Union Army for escaped and former slaves.
A good little museum in the visitor center concentrates on the Lost Colony, with artifacts, ship models, costumes, armor, and other interesting exhibits. The grounds have quiet, shady lawns, a picnic area, and several miles of walking and nature trails with exhibits that explain how people used the area's natural resources. This is a good place to rest and play during a break from a day of sightseeing. Most of it is navigable by strollers.
The Lost Colony (tel. 800/488-5012 or 252/473-3414; www.thelostcolony.org), a summer performance that has played on the grounds of the historic site since 1937, tells the story of the colonists and Indians with music, dance, and re-creations of the events in a large outdoor amphitheater facing the water. It's a local institution, a required part of a trip to the Outer Banks, and popular with kids. The season runs from early June through late August; performances start at 8:30pm Monday through Saturday nights. Tickets are $16 for adults, $8 for children under 12; reserve a week ahead if possible, and ask about nights with special ticket deals for children.
Also at the historic site are the Elizabethan Gardens (tel. 252/473-3234; www.elizabethangardens.org), with flower beds, well-trimmed hedges, and formal lawns Sir Walter Raleigh might have admired. The shady, symmetrical paths and fountains are charming and provide a window on the time. Those interested in gardening or the historic period should stop, but children may not relish the genteel setting or find enough to amuse them. The good little gift shop stocks decorative gardening items and plants grown from the garden's own cuttings. Picnicking is not allowed. Admission to the garden is $6 for adults, $4 for children 6 to 18, and free for children under 6. Hours are daily in summer from 9am to 8pm (until 7pm when the Lost Colony show is not performing), spring and fall 9am to 6pm, and winter 10am to 4pm.
Roanoke Island Festival Park, 1 Festival Park, Manteo (tel. 252/475-1500; www.roanokeisland.com). Admission $8 adults, $5 children 6-18, free for children under 6. Summer daily 10am-7pm; off season daily 10am-5pm.
This remarkable new state historic park, across a channel from the waterfront shops and restaurants in Manteo, is the Outer Banks' best cultural attraction and should not be missed. It has several parts. A fanciful but highly informative museum of the area's history will entrance children, who can learn to use an astrolabe, put on Elizabethan clothing, and listen to a mechanical pirate, among many other experiences. Docked on the water is the Elizabeth II, a superb replica of a 16th-century sailing ship, manned with sailors in period costume who stay in character; nearby, a small camp is similarly staffed, showing what the Lost Colony was like. An amphitheater stages performing-arts events all summer, and a gallery contains visual-art shows. Indoors, a 45-minute film, showing all day, tells the story of the Native Americans who lived here.
The North Carolina Aquariums-Roanoke Island, 374 Airport Rd., west of Manteo on U.S. 64/264 (tel. 252/473-3493; www.aquariums.state.nc.us). Admission $6 adults, $4 children 6-17, free for children under 6. Daily 9am-5pm.
Reopened after a $16 million expansion in 2000, this aquarium on the edge of the sound engagingly re-creates the local marine and aquatic environment in miniature. It's a place to learn about the habitat and animals you'll see on the Outer Banks and the sounds, why they live where they do, and how they live. Everything is in context. An atrium seems to put you right in the marsh with river otters, alligators, turtles, and other animals. Other displays are dramatic, too-divers sometimes swim in the shipwreck tank, as large as a baseball infield and 17 feet deep -- but I was most impressed by how much I was learning. Children will love all of it, and the area especially for them is terrific, too. Programs included in the price of admission, for adults and children, happen as often as seven times a day in summer. The gift store is among the best in the area for natural-history books and toys. The grassy grounds and waterfront area are suitable for a picnic.
Wright Brothers National Memorial, on U.S. 158, Kill Devil Hills (tel. 252/441-7430; www.nps.gov/wrbr). Admission $3 adults, free for children under 17 and seniors 62 or older. Summer daily 9am-6pm; winter daily 9am-5pm.
The Wright Brothers' story is truly inspiring: A pair of bicycle mechanics with no more than a high school education studied and worked hard, and, by careful observation of nature, figured out how to fly. There was no luck involved. This is where they did it, in December 1903. A century later, a celebration commemorating the event added to facilities already deemed historic (the visitor center has been named a landmark of 1960s architecture). A vinyl-covered pavilion was erected for the centennial with plans to let it remain for 5 years; it contains exhibits and a large theater. A life-size sculpture showing the first flight was planned. At the site you can also see the tall dune where the brothers tested a glider in the process of developing their successful plane, which is topped with a huge marker. On the flat, a replica of their launch track and markers show the takeoff and landing points for the four successful powered flights. The Wrights' bunkhouse and workshop are also replicated here.
The memorial's fascinating visitor center contains a mock-up of the plane and a museum on the Wrights' accomplishments. The exhibit, too, has been deemed a historic landmark, so it won't be changing. Ranger talks take place frequently in the summer, and other flight-related programs, such as learning to make kites, happen at various times during the week. Check the website for a schedule.
Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, Hwy. 12, Rodanthe (tel. 252/987-1552). Free admission. Summer Tues, Thurs, and Sat 11am-5pm; call for off-season hours.
Local historical society volunteers support this complex of buildings that date to 1874. Lifesavers once waited here for shipwrecks so that they could launch boats into the surf to save the victims. The museum contains their equipment and uniforms, objects from the wrecks, and other maritime artifacts, and there are programs in the summer such as knot-tying lessons and storytelling.
The National Park Service offers programs at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial, and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Other organizations have programs at Jockey's Ridge State Park, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, and North Carolina Aquariums-Roanoke Island.
The three National Park Service units on the Outer Banks give patches or badges to kids who complete a list of tasks in their Junior Ranger programs, but the instructional booklets they do to earn the patches emphasize rote learning -- mostly just finding facts and filling them in on a piece of paper. Besides the paperwork, kids attend ranger programs to earn the award. While the ranger programs are certainly worth attending, judge how much time you want to spend on this before committing to do it with your child.
The Sand Castle Environmental Education Center at Coquina Beach gives kids something meaningful to do while apart from their parents. The 30- to 60-minute activities have included shirt printing, low-tide beach walks, and studying seashells. They take place frequently on summer days. Check the bulletin board at the beach or ask at a visitor center for details, because the program changes annually.
The schedule and a description of family & adult programs at up to six sites appear in the national seashore newspaper. In addition to guided walks and lectures, which you can join by showing up at the appointed time and place, rangers also lead hands-on sessions on snorkeling on the sound, net fishing in a salt marsh, fish printing, boogie boarding, and the like, with the lineup changing annually. If you want to join one of these programs, which may be for limited numbers of people, be sure to contact the applicable visitor center in advance.