trails, hikes, dunes, park, geological, wild life habitat, glacial lake,
glaciers, nature, birds nesting, erosion, vacationers, hiking, biking, marsh,
bird watching, lighthouse
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Unforgettable Cape Cod Vacations: The National Seashore Gift
by: Cliff Calderwood
Take a captivating trip through the Cape Cod National Seashore with miles of
white sandy beaches, trails and hikes to take your breath away, and majestic
dunes. Just keep reading and you can visit all those places right now.
The Cape Cod National Seashore is a 4,308-acre park set aside by an act of
congress in 1961 to preserve and protect a unique geological area and wild life
habitat of New England.
Cape Cod is about 60 miles south of Boston, Massachusetts. It was formed when
the last glaciers to visit the region melted about 12,000-years ago leaving a
large lake. Because of special features and material surrounding the glacial
lake, the water drained out exposing the sediment and deposits left by the
glaciers from earlier times.
With the rising sea level and the protection from the battering ocean provided
by Georges Bank gone, nature started to reshape the whole of Cape Cod --
especially the Atlantic facing National Seashore area.
The relentless shaping of the Cape continues even today. But this is the place
to come to escape. This is the place to come to experience nature.
So letís take a brief Cape Cod vacations trip together. Are you ready?
The first stop on your trip is Nauset Beach in the town of Orleans.
The entrance to Nauset beach is located in East Orleans at the end of Beach
Road, where thereís a large parking lot. The lot is about 2 miles from Routes
6/6A. During the summer months youíll pay to use the lot.
Protection is the name of the game at Nauset not just for the dunes, but the
birds nesting in the spring. Always pay close attention to beach erosion and
bird nesting protection signs anywhere during your Cape Cod vacations. Heeding
the signs means the area could still be here next time you visit.
At the entrance to the beach you can turn left and walk North, or take the South
walk by turning right. Both walks offer spectacular views and hidden areas of
the Cape even many residents havenít discovered. Time your walks to be at low
tide so youíll be walking on exposed sand bars on the North walk, or have a dry
crossing to Pochet Island on the South walk.
In the summer Nauset beach is very popular with vacationers, but there always
seems to be room even at the busiest times. Swimming is good -- but stay close
to the shore. Itís the Atlantic Ocean so itíll be a little cooler than on the
Cape Cod Bay side or the Nantucket Sound beaches.
National Seashore Eastham Visitors CenterÖ
The Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham is your next Cape Cod vacations stop.
It'll orientate you to the park, and provides short films, a museum, and free
maps for hiking and biking trails.
Note: The Salt Pond Visitor Center building has been closed for renovations
since 2003. Itís due to reopen in 2005 Ė in fact right about now!
Starting from the visitor center is the short and easy 1-mile loop Nauset Marsh
Trail that follows a path around the salt pond and Nauset Marsh before returning
to the visitor center. Itís a varied terrain of salt marsh grasses, juniper and
bayberry bushes, and a great place for bird watching due to the proximity of the
The salt pond itself is a glacial kettle pond that was once freshwater but the
ocean has seeped through.
The Lighthouse BeachesÖ
Two wonderful beaches to visit in the Eastham area are Coast Guard Beach and
Nauset Light Beach.
Coast Guard Beach can be reached by bike from the bike trail from the Salt Pond
Visitor Center, or by car from Nauset Road off Route 6 directly after the
Visitor Center -- just follow the signs to the lot on Doane Road. This beach is
a favorite walk of mine at low tide, and was the area where Henry Beston wrote
The Outermost House. Sadly the blizzard of 1978 washed the cottage where he
lived while writing the book -- out to sea.
Yet another example of the awesome forces continually sculpturing the Cape Cod
But here's another gem of a beach for you...
Nauset Light Beach can be reached from Brackett Road also off Route 6, and then
Cable Road and Ocean View Drive. The parking lot is small and fills up quickly
in the summer.
Close by the beach is Nauset Lighthouse. Originally built in Chatham in the late
19th century, it was moved here shortly after, and moved again in 1996 when
erosion of the cliff threatened to collapse the lighthouse.
The beach is popular for the imposing and towering cliffs and clean white-sand,
and walks that create memorable Cape Cod vacations.
Great Island Hike in Wellfleet...
The Great Island hike in Wellfleet is a 6-mile hike, so allow yourself at least
half-a-day to explore this wonderful area.
Located on the Cape Cod Bay side of the Cape in Wellfleet, drive to the
trailhead off Chequesset Neck Road, and prepare yourself -- and camera -- for an
exhilarating hike. The area is pretty open and so take sunscreen and a hat.
What will you see?
Marvelous views of Wellfleet Harbor and Cape Cod Bay await you once on the
island (hint: itís not really an island anymore).
Another hint: this is a real nature hike. Thereís no sandwich bar or coke
machine waiting for you at the end, so take your own snacks and drinks. Of all
the trails in the Cape Cod National Seashore Park, this is perhaps the most
remote -- and I like that!
Out on the Island itself there used to be a secluded Tavern used by Whalers and
the like. Nothing remains of it today except for a sign to mark the spot where
National Seashore Province Lands Visitors CenterÖ
The visitor center in Province Lands is off Route 6 and on Race Point Road. This
is the northern tip of the park, and marks our final stop together on this Cape
Cod vacations trip.
The Visitor Center itself has an observation deck where you can view the
majestic surroundings of ocean, forest, and the omnipresent towering dunes. The
area includes two swimming beaches -- Race Point and Herring Cove -- a bike
trail, and a walking trail. Thereís also a beautiful lighthouse at Race Point.
The bike trail is a challenging 5.25-mile loop that you can start from the
visitor center. Iíd describe it as undulating bordering on hilly.
Thereís also a fair amount of hairpin turns, and so helmets and a safe speed are
a must. Believe me the downhill stretches are so exhilarating, but you can
easily forget and misjudge bike traffic coming the other way. Iíve seen many a
tangled mess -- Ouch!
And thatís the end of this brief trip.
Wow! You did a lot in a few minutes Ė from your chair. But now itís time to do
the real thing. Are you ready?
About The Author
Cliff Calderwood is the owner and contributing writer of
www.new-england-vacations-guide.com. He lived on Cape Cod for two years. This is
an excerpt from a longer article, and you can read the full article and get a
free downloadable copy of his travel guide at http://www.new-england-vacations-guide.com.