Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: June 2018
Cape Cod (often referred to as just “The Cape”) is a hooked-shaped peninsula off the eastern coast of Massachusetts. With its abundance of pristine sandy beaches jutting out into the Atlantic ocean, it’s no surprise that thousands of locals and tourists alike flock here every summer in an effort to beat the heat. With a heat advisory on the forecast for the weekend coupled with the fact that high-season was not quite in full-swing, the timing was just right to visit the Cape.
Day 1: Life is Better on a Beach
Since we were planning on going to the Cape, we figured why not fully commit and go all the way up to the tip of the peninsula to Provincetown. We left Boston bright and early to get a head start to our day. Along the way we made a number of detours along the Cape Cod National Seashore – a long stretch of protected shoreline that extends mostly along Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. The Cape Cod National Seashore protects a rich and diverse landscape that includes a mix between sandy beaches, dunes, coastal bluffs, sand spits, tidal flats, salt marshes, swamps, and ponds. And there are numerous (and relatively short) hikes to explore this unique ecosystem.
We started off hiking in Eastham along the Red Maple Swamp Trail (1.3km roundtrip), which features a series of boardwalks that weave around this swamp area. The name really doesn’t do a good job of selling it, but it is a pleasant area and the hike itself is relatively short and sweet.
The trail later connects with Fort Hill Trail (1.6km roundtrip), which loops back to the parking lot. This path crosses through open fields and offers phenomenal panoramic views of the Nauste March area.
After finishing up our hike we drove down to the Salt Pond Visitor Center, which marks the start of the Nauset Marsh Trail (2.1km roundtrip). The path starts by hugging along the edge of a salt pond along Nauset Marsh. The trail then crosses through an open field before weaving through a shaded forest that provided some temporary relief from the blazing sun.
From there it was a relatively short drive to the Atlantic White Cedar Trail. From the parking lot we first walked towards the ocean to the Marconi Wireless Station Site (key word being site as the station itself has been moved to Chatham). This served as the site of the first transatlantic wireless telegram between the United States and Europe. Today it serves as site to overlook a gorgeous sandy beach below (key word being overlook as there is no direct access to the beach from the cliffs up here. Super misleading).
After the disappointment of not being able to directly access the beach, we were greeted with a whole other kind of disappointment: a massive sign to caution hikers that they were entering a tick infested area at the trailhead for the Atlantic White Cedar Trail (1.9km roundtrip). What kind of hike is this!? But ticks aren’t the only bug to have infested this swampy area – there was also an abundance of mosquitos. Besides the fear of having your blood sucked by either ticks or mosquitos, the trail itself was quite lovely and features a series of boardwalks around a particularly swampy area.
We were so done with hiking after this. We ate some lunch at a picnic table near the parking lot before heading down to the beach. We continued our drive up to Provincetown. The further up the peninsula we got, the more drastic the change in landscape. If you didn’t know you were by the beach before, you for sure couldn’t miss it now as the road is littered with sand and there are sweeping sand dunes in either direction. We turned off at Race Point Beach and forked over the $20 entrance fee. We parked our car, grabbed our towels and beach bag and were ready to set up shop on the beach. Along the way we passed a few signs to caution swimmers about rough currents and great white sharks. No big deal.
The sun was hot and the water frigid, creating a weird imbalance of imperfect temperatures that kinda worked out well. Whenever you were feeling too hot and sweaty you only had to step a few feet into the Atlantic for a minute or two to cool down. After a few ciders we were even brave enough to dunk our heads in to extend that cold numbing feeling. Worth it.
Around dinner time we decided to pack it in and call it a day. We continued our journey towards the extreme tip of the Cape to P-town. We pretty much just drove around the downtown area for a bit before heading back south towards Eastham (where we booked our accommodations). We stopped at Red Barn Pizza for some dinner.
To balance out our overeating of pizza, we decided to take a stroll along the water at Coast Guard Beach, which is also situated along the Cape Cod National Seashore. During peak season, parking by the beach is usually limited and most visitors are required to park off site and take the shuttle to the beach. But because we visited after dinner (and in June), we snagged one of the limited spots adjacent to the beach. We walked up and down the sandy coastline soaking in the views of the waves, sand, and setting sun. We were extremely envious of the few groups of people who were lucky enough to have snagged a campfire permit and were roasting marshmallows by the cackling flames. Next time.
On the way to our accommodations we made two other detours to look at a few lighthouses in the vicinity. We first stopped at Nauset Light, one of the most famous and photographed lighthouses on the Cape.
We then drove a short ways to the Three Sisters of Nauset, a trio of lighthouses also located in Eastham. The original lighthouses collapsed into the sea due to coastal erosion over a hundred years ago. They were later rebuilt, but only used for a short period of time before being decommissioned. Only one of the lighthouses (the one in the middle) has a beacon on the top.
Day 2: Sunday Funday
We started our morning off by going for a hike along the Great Island Trail (6.3km roundtrip). The trail itself is quite scenic and weaves through the sand to a beach, winds through marshy areas, around sand dunes, and underneath a canopy of pine trees. Disclaimer: there aren’t many opportunities to cling to the shadows and hide from the sweltering sun. And it’s also very unclear sometimes where the path is or even where it ends. Especially since there’s an option to extend the hike up to Jeremy Point overlook (which we did not do).
Oh, and then there’s all these little fiddler crabs you have to manoeuvre around in the lagoon-y swampy areas. These were literally thousands of these crabbies shuffling left, right and centre along the path. At first it was pretty interesting watching them awkwardly scramble back into their holes or off to the side. But the novelty was quick to wear off and then it became a bit cumbersome having to dodge around these suckers. Maybe it was because it was still pretty early on the morning and we were some of the first hikers on the trail so the crabs were out and in full force. Either way, these crabs (and their little chattering noises) will for sure haunt our dreams.
We were pretty much over hiking by the time we returned to our car. So we continued driving south towards Chatham Lighthouse Beach. This beach was quieter and there was no entrance fee. But the parking situation was atrocious and very confusing. We ended up parking on some random side street where it wasn’t abundantly clear whether this was a legitimate parking space. We risked it anyway. Since we were already (potentially) breaking the rules, we snuck a few ciders into our beach bag. We then spent the remainder of the afternoon day drinking on the beach and soaking in the rays.
L & K