My girls and I have a new favorite hangout – the Great Bay Discovery Center in Stratham. This indoor/outdoor treasure is a great place to explore and learn about the Great Bay estuary and all of the creatures that live there.
The Discovery Center has a variety of interactive displays inside, and the highlight for my kids was the “touch tank,” where they’re allowed (with supervision) to carefully hold the clams, horseshoe crabs, snails and other underwater creatures. They also enjoyed seeing the numerous maps and drawings that explain, in a very kid-friendly way, about the local animals, fish and plant life in the area.
Outside, there are trails and a boardwalk leading out to the water. Numbered signs allow even young children to “lead the way” along the trails and my three-year-old was thrilled each time she spotted “animal footprints” scattered along the boardwalk. There are signs throughout, outlining interesting facts about the habitats, including marshes, wetlands and forests. The Discovery Center also boasts lovely gardens and an abundance of birds.
We’ve visited at various times of the year and learned something new on each trip. In the late spring, we got to see the horseshoe crabs lay their eggs in the sand – a big hit with the girls. They also enjoyed wading out in the shallow water to check out the fish, horseshoe crabs and sea grass. We had a blast at a summer picnic when all of the flowers were in full bloom. And we also enjoyed visiting in the late fall, when we could explore a wigwam and learn about the area’s early settlers.
They had a great time playing on a wooden gundalow, which we discovered is a type of boat. Kids can climb aboard, “guide” the boat using a wooden steering wheel and even explore a lower level “hideout.”
Picnic areas allow visitors to enjoy the scenic, peaceful environment. Bring lunch – or a snack – and do a little bird-watching.
The Discovery Center is free – a rarity these days – and is a great place for kids of all ages. They welcome school trips – in fact, I recently chaperoned a field trip with my daughter’s pre-school class, which was a joy. The program was age-appropriate and our guide was friendly, knowledgeable and wonderful with the kids. They also offer a variety of educational programs, camps and even kayaking trips.
Great Bay Discovery Center is open from 10 am – 4 pm
Wednesday through Sunday: May through September/Weekends in October
Grounds are open from dawn to dusk year-round
Learn more at www.greatbay.org/sandypoint.