I cannot say enough good things about James Farm Ecological Preserve. We go to the Bethany Beach area year round to see family. Weather its windy days, cool temps or tired kids, we are always looking for non-beach day activities. James Farm Ecological Preserve is great for a few hours or a full morning adventure.
From the parking lot on Cedar Neck Rd you can follow trails to the Pasture Point Cove. Along the way there are observation platforms that are great for bird watching.
There is a boardwalk that leads to the beach. Turn right and walk down towards the osprey nests, but be sure not to get too close, especially when nestlings are present (May – August).
Depending on the tide, there is a waterway connecting the wetland area to the bay. This is a great place to see horseshoe crabs. Around the first full moon of May or June horseshoe crabs come to James Farm to lay their eggs in the sand which hatch about a month later (June-July).
It is an amazing sight when the beach is covered in horseshoe crabs, but equally as breathtaking when the translucent horseshoe crabs hatch out of their tiny eggs. Even as the horseshoe crabs become nickel and then quarter sized and gain the horseshoe crab coloration we are used to, finding them buried in the shallow waters of Pasture Point Cove is exciting.
The water is very shallow and it is easy for kids to wade out to look for other creatures. My kids love when we find hermit crabs and snails (Marsh Periwinkle). There are Mussels hiding and fish swimming. We like to bring net and/or buckets and see what we can catch (& release).
If you are interested in seeing more of the cove, or the Indian River Bay Ecobay Kayak & Stand Up Paddle offers tours and camps. We often see people coming and going and they always have a smile on their face, but we have never done one of the tours ourselves.
Know Before You Go:
Dogs are allowed on leashes at the Preserve. We often see people let their dogs off the leash, but have only occasionally had a dog bother us over the years of visiting.
Never pick up a horseshoe crab by its tail! Doing so can cause harm. Pick them up from the sides of their shell. It is safe to touch their legs, they do not pinch.
Do not get close to Osprey nesting platforms as it may make young Ospreys nervous and cause them to jump out of the nest.
Ticks are common in Delaware, so make sure you check everyone, especially if you wander off the paths in the wooded area.