Reliving History in Wellfleet and Eastham
Mac's Seafood Market has several locations on Cape Cod
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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.
So when in Wellfleet, you must delight in some of their famed oysters, preferable with a chilled glass of white wine or a frosty beer. The Bookstore Restaurant offers great local seafood along with beautiful views of Wellfleet Harbor. Don’t you love the idea of a bookstore restaurant? Sure beats a bookstore coffeeshop, especially in these parts where seafood and adult beverages reign supreme. Next door at Pearl Restaurant they also feature fresh fish and seafood and delightful harbor views. So here it seems the world is your oyster–at least when it comes to dining out. For take out and/or cooking at home, you can also go to Mac’s Seafood Market, a Cape Cod staple with locations in Wellfleet, Eastham and Provincetown. Here in Wellfleet, there’s also Mac’s on the Pier, a restaurant that–you guessed it–faces the harbor as well. Remember that the sun sets in the west everywhere but most especially here on the western side of Cape Cod. No kidding–the sunsets in this part of the world are gorgeous.
Go to the Wellfleet Historical Society Museum to learn more about the mostly sea-faring history of this Cape Cod town. While you’re in this part of town, belly up to a table at The Wicked Oyster. They serve breakfast, lunch (outside of the summer season) and dinner. Step back in time and enjoy the historic setting of Winslow’s Tavern in the center of town. Their elegant menu is also served on their terrace but go early, since seating is on a first come, first serve basis.
If shopping for antiques and old-ish treasures interests you, stop in at the Wellfleet Flea Market off on Route 6 at the Wellfleet Cinemas. It’s open Saturdays and Sundays, so plan accordingly.
Here’s a fun historical fact:The first radio telegraph transmission from America to England was sent from Wellfleet in 1903. The transmitter station was built on a coastal bluff under the direction of Guglielmo Marconi, a real visionary that forever changed modern communication. Unfortunately most of the site eroded into the sea, however, it is indicated on your Discovery Map at the far end of Marconi Beach.
Members of the Nauset Tribe were the first known inhabitants of Eastham. And then in 1620 a hunting expedition from the Mayflower landed here, which subsequently resulted in the first encounter between the pilgrims and the Nauset people, an event that’s commemorated at First Encounter Beach. Pretty cool, huh? In so many places along the Cape and particularly in Eastham, one is reminded that this is most definitely New England.
Eastham boasts a good number of sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Translation:It’s a beautiful town and a bastion of tradition to behold. Be sure to check out the Eastham Windmill, the oldest windmill on the Cape, located in the Eastham Center Historic District near Town Hall. Nauset Light, just north of Coast Guard Beach, is another gem. While you’re there have your picture taken at Three Sisters Lighthouses, three lighthouses that were moved to this locale, since their original emplacement was losing its footings due to erosion.
At the south end of Eastham, you can visit the Captain Penniman House, a retired whaling captain’s home. And to experience firsthand the quiet luxury of an historic property, book a stay at The Whalewalk Inn & Spa. Built in 1830 for Henry Harding, a renowned whaling captain, the home was turned into an elegant bed and breakfast many years ago. Now today you can also relax and rejuvenate at their Spa and Wellness Center. I wonder what the captain would think. After trying it out, he’d likely wholeheartedly approve.