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Summer Staycation: Sherwood Island Nature Center

An educational (and free!) day at the beach for kids.

Here's the scenario: your children get versed, first hand, in Nature's wonder by a charming and knowledgeable group, they have fun doing it, for free. You, meanwhile, get to lie on the beach or learn something yourself.

It seems too good to be true but, with its picturesque location and seriously smart staff, the Sherwood Island Nature Center can provide all of that, and it's just down the road in Westport, the perfect place for a summer day trip.

The center opened in 2009 and is the result of a collaboration between the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and the Friends of Sherwood Island State Park. It is located between the East Beach and the salt marsh nature trail in Sherwood Island State Park.

According to staff naturalist Annie Harnick, the center has a wide array of attractions including a touch tank, a snake and two turtles, a fiddler crab tank and a new tidal tank. She said the center has activities every day around 1, 2 and 3 p.m.

The staff will typically take children and guests down to the shore, as well, to go "seining," which amounts to dragging a large net through the water to see what they can catch and investigate.

The center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, and a description and pictures are available at its website.

And though it's hard to believe, the only cost for any of the center's offerings is admission to Sherwood Island State Park. That amounts to $9 per car on weekdays and $13 on weekends for Westport residents or $15/$22 for nonresidents. Season passes are also available at a discount.

Enjoy Harnick's descriptions of the center's offerings in the accompanying video.

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