Now that the snow is finally starting to melt and spring is around the corner, it’s time to get my little ones away from screens and out into nature. I often find myself overwhelmed when the place is unfamiliar. Is it safe? Are there bathrooms? Is the parking free? Are there trail maps? After years of exploring the Seacoast as a hiking enthusiast, dog mom, and toddler mom – I’ve created a bank of toddler-friendly Seacoast nature walks and wilderness experiences for my family. Here’s my advice for having a great nature experience in the Seacoast, for the whole family.
As a rule, a good family nature experience will offer….
- Nature views – forest, water, beach, etc – something that sparks interest and conversation!
- Limited Mileage – Don’t try to tackle 5 miles with a three-year-old. They will likely tire and you’ll spend time bribing (or carrying). Short trips can be made longer by exploring and learning. Point out mushrooms, spiderwebs, and tree bark all while being close to the car.
- Comfort – Walking through thick brush that scrapes little legs or buggy water is going to make everyone miserable. With little kids, I prefer comfort over challenge. Look for nature experiences that also offer easy parking, bathrooms, and even playgrounds! Kid-friendly hikes should be just that: kid-friendly!
My 5 Favorite Toddler-Friendly Seacoast Nature Walks
Great Bay Discovery Center – Greenland, NH
Located on the Great Bay National Estuarine Reserve, this nature area offers natural views of forest, water, wildlife, and all with a trail less than a mile round trip! Outdoor exhibits along the trail include climbable boat replicas, historic wig wam, and bird viewing platform with binoculars. There’s plenty of free parking and during the summer seasons students can visit the Discovery Center.
Wagon Hill Farm – Durham, NH
The town of Durham owns and maintains this expansive property on Great Bay. There’s a small (free) parking lot, restroom facilities, and access to water, trails, and in winter- a great sledding hill. I take my kids down a short trail to the water where they can splash, explore, and view boats. If we feel like a longer trek, we can always continue into the woods and along the water.
Winnie–the–Pooh Trail – Barrington, NH
Located off Route 9 in Barrington, the Winnie-the-Pooh trail is on Goodwill Conservation Area Land. There is limited (free) parking in a small dirt lot but no restrooms. The genius part about this trail is that there are new attractions every 20-50 ft. Hikers travel along a pond and through forest to visit the homes of the various characters from Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Kids can knock on Christopher Robin’s door, ring a bell for Owl, and look at Pooh’s honey pots. The trail is about a mile long.
Odiorne State Park – Rye, NH
This spot offers tidepooling, walking trails, beach, and a playground. In the summer, this can be an all day destination. Plus, the family-friendly Seacoast Science Center and aquarium is located on its grounds which is a great interactive attraction. Odiorne has a fee to enter during the Summer/Fall operating season ($4 adults/$2 child) but offers restroom facilities and plenty of parking. The park is open in the off season as well without the same amenities.
Mount Agamenticus – York, ME
Mount Agamenticus is a small peak in southern Maine. The conservation area offers hiking trails, summit views, and the Learning Lodge – educational building open to the public. Visitors have the option of driving and parking on the summit (donations gladly accepted), visiting the Summer Learning Lodge (open on weekends from 11-3 starting Memorial Day weekend), or hiking the Story trail – a hike that has laminated pages of a storybook every few minutes. Just minutes away is York beaches if you want to pair a hiking day with a beach day!
The Seacoast region offers many opportunities for families to explore nature and get out of the house.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, try camping with your kiddos! New Hampshire has some wonderful sites. Love the water? Try your hand at tide pooling at a local Seacoast beach. My family has developed strong connections to these places through shared experiences and memories.