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Spotlight: Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Spotlight: Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Yoga on the beach, guided hikes, biking, boating, surfing and so much more…

Cape Cod National Seashore Enjoy a guided hike on the beach at Cape Cod National Seashore (NPS)

What You’ll Find

Cape Cod is a large peninsula extending 60 miles into the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of Massachusetts. Cape Cod National Seashore’s 44,600 acres encompass a rich mosaic of marine, estuarine, fresh-water and land-based ecosystems. These systems and habitats reflect the Cape’s glacial origin and dynamic natural processes.

The national seashore’s human stories are equally diverse. Oral tradition, a vast archeological record, and journals kept by European explorers tell us of the history of Native People. Mayflower passengers stopped briefly on the Outer Cape before sailing across Cape Cod Bay to Plymouth. The Outer Cape’s rich maritime history is reflected in the national seashore’s many lighthouses, whaling captain’s home and life-saving station.

Getting There

Logan Airport in Boston and TF Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, are approximately two hours from the national seashore. Rental cars are available and some public transportation options exist. In addition, a ferry runs between Long Wharf in Boston and MacMillan Pier in Provincetown.

Stay Here

There are six towns within the boundary of the national seashore—Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. Each offers lodging, restaurants and grocery stores. Nickerson State Park and private campgrounds are located nearby.

Make Sure You

Join one of the many ranger-guided programs that explore the national seashore’s nature and history themes. Look for walks and talks, canoe and kayak trips, snorkel tours, yoga programs, long hikes, historic building tours and beach campfires.

For those who want to explore on their own, check out these recreational opportunities. The national seashore has 12 self-guiding trails, five bike trails and six swimming beaches. Other popular activities include canoeing, kayaking, surfing, bodysurfing and wildlife viewing.

Try This

A not-to-be-missed activity in July and August is the Beach Apparatus Drill, held on Thursday evenings at 6:00 p.m. at Old Harbor Life-Saving Station at Race Point Beach, Provincetown. This costumed reenactment, which includes the firing of a cannon-like gun, illustrates a 1900-era rescue method used by the men of the US Lifesaving Service to rescue crews from sinking ships.

Also, read our take on Cape Cod as the ideal Thanksgiving destination.

Eat This

Local shellfish is abundant through most of the year. Try a clam, oyster, or mussel! In fall, wild cranberry bogs beckon those who favor the flavor of this tart berry.

Don’t Forget

The summer sun can be strong! Hats and sunscreen should be on every packing list. While at the beach, keep children within sight, and follow directions of lifeguards. If you hike, be aware of poison ivy and check for ticks. Helmets are required for all bicyclists age 16 and under, and strongly recommended for all.

Get Started!

Advance planning information is available at www.nps.gov/caco. Once you arrive, get your bearings at one of our two visitor centers—Salt Pond in Eastham, open year-round, and Province Lands in Provincetown, open May through October.

Did You Know?

The original Highland Light was built in 1797, becoming the first lighthouse on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It had 24 whale oil lamps set in two circles, one on top of the other with the reflector behind.