Welcome to Barnstable Harbor Ecotours!

Now Open for the Season


Start Planning Your Ecotour Adventure Now

Our season is underway and we’re looking forward to a great spring, summer and fall of touring beautiful Barnstable Harbor. Check our 2017 schedule and plan your vacation. Book now to reserve your best dates. In addition to our daily Ecotours and Sunset tours we have several special tours planned for this summer.

Our Sandbar Explorations are geared towards young families and are a hands-on delight for children of all ages. Our naturalists Andrea and Gordon will lead the group on a two hour beach learning experience that the family will talk about for months (if not years). If you are into or want to get into birding, no better place to go than on a birding trip with our head naturalist and Cape Cod Times birding columnist Phil Kyle. The man knows his stuff! He will lead you on a two-plus hour hike on Sandy Neck searching for migrating birds.

Don’t miss out, check our schedule and book now.

Thank you we hope to see you on the “Horseshoe Crab” this season.
Captain Joe

Wild Life

The piping plover is a small sand-colored, sparrow-sized shorebird that nests and feeds along coastal sand and gravel beaches in North America. Total population is currently estimated at about 6,510 individuals. A preliminary estimate showed 3,350 birds in 2003. The population has been increasing since 1999.

Barnstable Harbor

Sunset on the Great Marsh! Coastal marshes are crucial to the environmental health of the region, filtering nutrients and pollution from the water, protecting communities from rising sea level and harsh storms, supporting breeding grounds for commercially valuable fish, and offering recreational opportunities.
Quick Links!

2017 Rates
Adults: $25
Children 12 & under: $15

Sandbar Explorations

Come join Barnstable Harbor Ecotours naturalists and discover all the wonders of the many sandbars of Barnstable Harbor. We will look for decorator worms, ice cream cone worms, spider crabs, moon snails, mussels, scallops and horseshoe crabs! Bring your sense of adventure and be prepared to get your feet wet. This is a family oriented cruise and children must be accompanied by an adult.

Our Sandbar Explorations allow children to experience the excitement of being little marine biologists. On the way to the flats our young scientists will get to see and touch a variety of specimens that they may find on the beach. Once we reach the sandbar it’s all hands-on as our naturalists lead the expedition to unearth the many creatures that occupy the beach ecosystem. Groups are always small so that each child gets plenty of individual attention from our naturalists who share tidbits of information about the fascinating characteristics of the marine critters they encounter. Kids, parents and even grandparents explore together making the experience all the more meaningful while gaining new respect and appreciation for this unique and fragile environment.

Tickets for the two hour Sandbar Explorations are $25 per person. Book your reservation here.

What to Expect on Barnstable Harbor Ecotours

The Tour

Every tour is a unique combination of the weather, the tide, the time of day, and the season. Our scheduled tours average two hours in length.

We will make every effort to keep passengers comfortable and dry, which means that the itinerary for any given tour is subject to the weather – especially the wind – and the tides at the time of departure.

Barnstable Harbor has an average ten foot tide, which is, at least, predictable. The weather, on the other hand, can change dramatically during the course of your tour.

Barnstable Harbor and the Great Marsh are a thriving ecosystem, full of wildlife of all kinds. We can’t predict what animals – especially birds – we’ll see, but we will make every effort to point out and explain whatever we encounter.

A typical tour will include some or all of the following:

  • Glacial History: An account of how Cape Cod, Barnstable Harbor, Sandy Neck, and the Great Marsh were formed.
  • History of Native American activity in and around the Harbor.
  • Colonial and more recent history of the harbor – The West Barnstable Brick Company, the saltworks, and nautical history.
  • Overview of the Great Marsh – its flora and fauna. Salt marshes are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet – find out why.
  • Overview of Sandy Neck barrier beach – its natural and human history, including the shore whaling industry
  • An overview of the Harbor’s aquaculture industry – learn how oysters and clams are raised
  • A close pass by the Sandy Neck Cottage Colony and the recently restored Sandy Neck Lighthouse.
  • Overview of the activities of Prohibition-era rum running in the Harbor.

Be sure to prepare for your tour by visiting our Plan Your Trip section!

Directions

Barnstable Harbor has a wealth of natural resources. Unfortunately, parking is not among them. Please note that there is no public parking available for Barnstable Harbor Ecotours in Barnstable Harbor. Please park in the lots as designated below. Once parked you are welcome to enjoy a short ten minute stroll to our dock in Barnstable Harbor, or you may ride in our comfortable and complimentary courtesy van that will take you directly to the dock. The courtesy van will be waiting for you upon your return.

Weekday Parking

Weekday parking (Monday- Friday) is in the parking lot to the right of the Unitarian Church of Barnstable at 3330 Main Street (Route 6A), Barnstable Village.

From Route 6 heading east: take Exit 6 and at bottom of ramp turn left. Turn left at traffic light onto RT 132 North. Go 1/2 mile to the junction of 132 and Rt 6A. Make a right on Route 6A and go two miles into Barnstable Village. Go straight through the lights. The parking lot will be on your left, at the top of the small hill, past the church. Look for our white courtesy van!

From Route 6 heading west: take Exit 6 at bottom of ramp and turn right onto Rt 132 North. Go 1/2 mile to the junction of 132 and Rt 6A. Make a right on Route 6A and go two miles into Barnstable Village. Go straight through the lights. The parking lot will be on your left, at the top of the small hill, past the church. Look for our white courtesy van!

From Hyannis: Take Route 132 (Iyannough Road) and make a right on Phinney’s Lane toward Barnstable Village. Go approximately one mile and make a right onto Main Street (Route 6A) at the first set of traffic lights The parking lot will be on your left, at the top of the small hill, past the church. Look for our white courtesy van!

Weekday parking is $7 per vehicle.

Weekend Parking

Weekend (Saturday and Sunday) parking is parking is at the Barnstable County Courthouse parking lot at 3195 Main Street (Route 6A), Barnstable Village.

From Route 6 heading east: take Exit 6 and at bottom of ramp turn left. Turn left at traffic light onto RT 132 North. Go 1/2 mile to the junction of 132 and Rt 6A. Make a right on Rt 6A and go two miles into Barnstable Village. As you enter the village, make a right immediately past the Barnstable County Courthouse, across from The Barnstable Market. Look for our white courtesy van!

From Route 6 heading west: take Exit 6 at bottom of ramp and turn right onto Rt 132 North. Go 1/2 mile to the junction of 132 and Rt 6A. Make a right on Route 6A and go two miles into Barnstable Village. As you enter the village, make a right immediately past the Barnstable County Courthouse, across from The Barnstable Market. Look for our white courtesy van!

From Hyannis: Take Rt 132 (Iyannough Road) and make a right on Phinney’s Lane toward Barnstable Village. Go about one mile and make a left onto Main Street (Rt 6A) at the first set of traffic lights. The parking lot will be on your left, before the Barnstable County Courthouse, across from The Barnstable Market. Look for our white courtesy van!

There is no charge for weekend parking.

How To Prepare For Your Ecotour Voyage

The following is very important! Please read before you join us on The Horseshoe Crab!

First, check the local weather! There’s an old saying, attributed to Mark Twain: “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a minute.”  Our tours are only two hours long, but you may want to bring a snack. The Barnstable Market, at 3220 Main Street (Rt. 6A) has hot and cold sandwiches and a wide variety of other food and beverage items. Our Ecotour boat, The Horseshoe Crab, is equipped with a roof, mosquito netting, and a head (toilet).

Items you should NOT bring:

  • Glass containers of any kind.
  • Awkward shoes – e.g., high heels or dress shoes.
  • Green or blue clothing – green and blue attract the Greenhead Fly. You don’t want to do this.
  • Extra stuff in general – space is limited and we want all our passengers to be comfortable. Further, we cannot guarantee that items won’t get wet or slide around the boat, so please limit your carry-ons to a backpack, purse, small cooler etc.
Learn more about our Barnstable Harbor Ecotours!

If you haven’t visited with us before, please allow us to introduce ourselves and give you a taste of what to expect on a Barnstable Harbor Ecotour with this video from our friends at New England Boating!

Join us on a two-hour ecotour of quiet and majestic Barnstable Harbor aboard our brand new, spacious and comfortable 25-passenger pontoon boat, the Horseshoe Crab! Our tours of Barnstable Harbor feature a wealth of natural and historic delights for the whole family!
Our ecotours are guided by an expert naturalist who will introduce you to Barnstable Harbor, The Great Marsh, the Sandy Neck barrier beach, Sandy Neck Cottage Colony and the Sandy Neck Lighthouse. A wealth of wildlife awaits! Perfect for kids of all ages! Soak in a wealth of education about the wildlife, ecology of the salt marsh ecosystem, the geologic and human history of Cape Cod and Barnstable Harbor. Or just sit back, tune out the grid, and enjoy the amazing scenery!

Our boat, The Horseshoe Crab, is available to charter for special events, school groups, weddings, and corporate outings of up to 25 people. Whether for a private guided ecotour, a beach outing to the tip of Sandy Neck, or whatever event you want to bring closer to nature, we are happy to provide your safe and comfortable passage. Call (or email) Captain Joe at 508-221-6126 for rates and availability.

Looking for that perfect gift for the Cape Cod lover in your life? Give the gift of summer with a Barnstable Harbor Ecotour gift certificate!

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Andrea Higgins, Naturalist

Andrea, an outdoor enthusiast, also works as a teacher/naturalist with Long Pasture’s Audubon, Hyline Cruises/Audubon’s Aquatic Explorations, and Great Marsh Kayak Tours. She has volunteered leading hiking and Nature writing seminars with the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School and Hiking Adventures with the Laurel Day Camp.

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Phil Kyle, Head Naturalist

Head Naturalist Phil Kyle has dedicated his life to the study and public education of the natural world. After obtaining his B.S. in Biology from Cornell University, he has served in a wide variety of capacities including: DIrector of Education, South Shore Natural Science Center; President, Cape Cod Bird Club; Head Naturalist, Green Briar Nature Center; Whale Watching Naturalist, Captain John Boats; Interpretive Park Ranger, Cape Cod National Seashore; Whale Watching Naturalist, Barnstable Whale Watcher; Head Naturalist, Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.

“Being on the water in the Barnstable Harbor makes me appreciate the wilderness quality of this place. There is so much wildlife around Barnstable Harbor area, but it is rarely seen except from the water. I’m excited to provide an educational and entertaining view of this amazing wealth of nature.”

We can't wait to see you!
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