The Glorious Nature of Wellfleet and Eastham
Coast Guard Beach features beautiful white sands
Jan 17, 2020 at 10:00 AM in Things to Do by
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.
Stop at the Wellfleet Chamber of Commerce Information Booth to find out about the variety of beaches in the area and their policies. (Some require a permit or a daily fee.) Permits, or beach stickers, can be picked up at the Beach Office at the Town Pier, although it’s still a good idea to pop into the Info Booth to find out about all that Wellfleet has to offer. Generally speaking, the ocean side is characterized by six miles of sandy beach replete with big dunes and sometimes significant surf. Cruise along Ocean View Drive to check out the scene. Warmer waters and calmer surf may be enjoyed on the Wellfleet Harbor side. Go to Indian Neck Beach and Mayo Beach (which offers free parking) for beachcombing and swimming. Duck Harbor Beach on Cape Cod Bay ranks as a favorite spot to watch the sun set.
It’s always fun to take in the activity in harbors. If you want to be out and about on the water here–whether in a motorboat or a sailboat–check out Wellfleet Marine Corp. on Wellfleet Harbor. They’re near Town Pier, so you can see what floats your boat there while you obtain your beach permit.
The Eastham Chamber of Commerce Information Booth is also a good resource for finding out about the area and for selecting which beach might be best for you and your family and/or friends. All beaches require permits and note that they are different than the ones used for the National Seashore. On the Atlantic side, Coast Guard Beach has received accolades as one of the best beaches in the U.S.; it has also received high praise for being a frontrunner in family fun. You can see on your map (Discovery Map, of course) that the Cape Cod Bay side highlights a bunch of beaches, all of which are known for their calm, warm waters and significant tidal swings. Go at low tide to scout for shells and other cool stuff.
In Eastham, enquire at Nauset Marine for some motorboat fun. Know that it’s easy to rent a boat in these parts for even just a half day.
Freshwater enthusiasts will love Great Pond and Herring Pond, two pristine bodies of water excellent (OK, great) for swimming and boating. Each one has a beach. Known as kettle ponds, these crystal-clear pools of water were formed 15,000 years ago from glacial melt. Contact Jack’s Cape Cod Boat Rentals to set yourself up with a kayak, canoe, SUP, Sunfish or even surf and boogie boards (for the ocean).
Did you know that you can hike, paddle and tour with a park ranger on this part of the Cape? You can do that or venture out on your own at the Cape Cod National Seashore, almost forty miles of Atlantic-facing seashore on the east side of the Cape preserved as a national park in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. When on the Cape–especially in this area–nature lovers must head out and explore this protected stretch of sandy beaches, marshes, ponds and other places of interest–inland and on the coast–punctuated by lighthouses, cranberry bogs and fantastic biking and hiking trails. There’s even over-sand beach driving, hunting and fishing. (Note that permits are required for all of those activities.) Can’t you just feel the brisk ocean breeze on your face? What a wonderful part of the United States.
Pedaling around on the National Seashore Bike Trail, on the Cape Cod Rail Trail or just on some of the back streets of Wellfleet and Eastham, is a great way to experience the scenic panoramas and charming views of this part of the Cape. The Little Capistrano Bike Shop can set you up with a rental–or a purchase–just fine.
Bird lovers will delight at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s prized properties. Actually just about anyone that likes the outdoors, should plan a visit here, since this is a sanctuary for birds and humans. Enjoy the pine woodlands, sandy barrier beaches, salt marshes and a variety of wildlife from one of their many trails. They also have a nature center and organize special events such as a guided Full Moon Hike. Nature can be especially interesting by night but particularly on Cape Cod beneath a glowing moon.