Eastham & Wellfleet, MA, Guide and Information
With Eastham located on the “forearm” of Cape Cod and Wellfleet situated midway between the tip and the elbow, these two destinations are far enough out on the Cape that nature takes star billing over commercial development. In fact in Wellfleet, 70% of the the town has been preserved as open space. And one third of the town of Eastham and about one half of Wellfleet are located within the Cape Cod National Seashore. Do you get the picture?
If you look at your Discovery Map, you see that each of these Massachusetts towns are bordered by the Atlantic to the east and by Cape Cod Bay (in the case of Eastham) and Wellfleet Harbor (for Wellfleet) to the west. That means a whole lot of shoreline and water fun. Plus, inland the area is peppered with ponds and inlets of all shapes and sizes, filled with brackish or fresh water. No wonder the population at these popular Cape Cod towns increases about six times the number of year-round residents during the summer season. Fortunately they’re not that populated to begin with, so somehow they’re able to flow with the flotsam and jetsam of the visitors and second home owners.
Many have heard of Wellfleet oysters way before they arrive in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Long considered among the best in the world, these plump delights from the sea are known for their distinctive taste, one that strikes just the right balance between sweetness and brine. Many factors contribute to how and why these oysters possess such a pleasing flavor, all of which are characteristics akin to Wellfleet. The water–its temperature, salinity and cleanliness–contributes greatly as does the fact that Wellfleet has such significant tides. The unique mixture of nutrients in the phytoplankton that the oysters feed upon in Wellfleet’s estuaries also create a difference. Yes, indeed terroir changes everything, including that of an oyster park submerged in water.
The origins of Wellfleet’s oyster beds date back to the early part of the eighteenth century. Originally settled by the British during the mid seventeenth century, the area was first called Billingsgate in honor of the famous London fish market of the same name. Already fisherman had discovered the bounty of Wellfleet Harbor and the outlying waters. Fishing, whaling and the cultivation of oyster beds drove Wellfleet’s economy for many years. Today oysters, along with other types of shellfish, continue to be harvested.