Travel

Explore Seaside Trails and Outdoor Art on a South Coast Day Trip

The South Shore and the Cape might hog the summertime spotlight, but the cities and towns surrounding Buzzards Bay shouldn’t be overlooked. After all, they’re packed with just as much coastal beauty and plenty of quirky character to boot, including brand-new public art exhibits and a (possibly) haunted forest to explore. For more local hikes, try reading 50 Hikes in Eastern Massachusetts.


Nasketucket Bay State Reservation / Photo by M.Graca/Buzzards Bay Coalition

Approximate Drive Time From Boston: 1 hour

HIKE

Copicut Woods, Fall River

Part of the 13,600-acre Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve, this Trustees-managed property delights day-trippers with fanning ferns and centuries-old stone walls. Its easy, well-marked trails lead to an abandoned 1830s-era farm settlement with a surprisingly intact foundation and cellar hole: Try walking down the steps if you can avoid the prickly raspberries growing in there.

Nasketucket Bay State Reservation, Mattapoisett

This 2.5-mile loop can be completed in an hour and a half, with plenty of time baked in for admiring its gentle eelgrass meadows and salt marshes. A walk through thick woods yields the ultimate reward: sparkling views of the bay, where you can spot sea snails sunbathing on the rocks underfoot. It’s not the kind of beach where you’ll want to stake an umbrella in the sand, but the water is perfect for a swim on a hot, sunny day.

Freetown-Fall River State Forest, Assonet

Legend has it that Freetown-Fall River State Forest is home to ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot, but the only thing you’ll likely see on a hike to Profile Rock are views of Massachusetts’ southern coast. Park at the forest’s headquarters on Slab Bridge Road and follow the woodsy Massasoit Trail 2 miles to find the 50-foot-high formation, which resembles the face of the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. It’s a steep climb, but worth it on a clear day.

Quequechan River Rail Trail / Photo by Stantec

BIKE

Phoenix Bike Trail, Fairhaven

The 3.5-mile Phoenix Bike Trail showcases a range of coastal habitats, winding through residential neighborhoods, farms, and forests to the border of Mattapoisett. The best part? It’s all protected from traffic. Pedal for one extra mile to connect to the Mattapoisett Rail Trail, where you can hop off your bike and stroll along a half-mile footpath to a beautiful section of the Mattapoisett River.

Quequechan River Rail Trail, Westport to Fall River

Sandwiched between 195 and old riverside mills, this former railroad route mixes the area’s industrial history with its unsung (and abundant) wildlife. Start at South Watuppa Pond in Westport and bike 1.4 scenic miles along the river and its grassy shoulders, ending at Britland Park in Fall River.

Saulnier Memorial Bike Trail, New Bedford

Pack a swimsuit, a towel, and lunch: This ride is all about making it to the beach. Maintained by the city of New Bedford, the paved 3.5-mile stretch traces the coast of the city’s South End peninsula, starting at Clarks Cove and ending near New Bedford Harbor. The path passes by both West Beach and East Beach, meaning a picnic on the sand and a dip in the water are all but required.

REFUEL

Situated in Dartmouth’s Padanaram Village, Farm & Coast Market offers a little something for every kind of picnicker: The lunch and dinner menus feature specialty pizzas and ramen, the bakery serves fresh-baked croissants, the beer is local, and the grocery portion of the shop means you won’t be kicking yourself for forgetting trail snacks.

BEST PLACE TO…

Appreciate Socially Distant Art

The Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute (DATMA) is debuting two COVID-friendly art installations in downtown New Bedford this summer. The first, Photo-kinetic Grid by Soo Sunny Park (6/20–9/14), is a reflective light room made of chains and mirrors that can be viewed outside from DATMA’s street-facing floor-to-ceiling windows. The second exhibit will showcase three large-scale animated murals depicting the region’s maritime history: Called Vessels, the Masary Studios creations will be projected onto buildings along Union Street every day after sunset (6/21–7/19).

REASONS TO PULL OVER ALONG THE WAY

On your journey south, stop to admire the Borden Flats Lighthouse as you cross the Braga Bridge into Fall River. The red-and-white-striped beacon in Taunton River, which typically offers overnight stays in its cozy brick interior, dates to 1881. Zip over to the Mattapoisett Land Trust to behold Salty the Seahorse, an oversize sea-creature statue that once anchored a long-shuttered gift shop and now stands tall over a small, flower-filled park. And after a day well spent, head to Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven, a Revolutionary War–era stronghold overlooking Buzzards Bay, for a breathtaking sunset.

More Day Trip Ideas to Escape the City This Summer