In My Footsteps
Trip 12: Orleans, Mass.
January 26, 2010
From the air Cape Cod is shaped like an arm with the Cape Cod Canal at the shoulder and Provincetown as the hand. If we see Cape Cod in that way then Orleans would be considered the elbow, and in many ways it is. The elbow connects the upper and lower arm, Orleans connects the two segments of Cape Cod as well. West of Orleans is the more modern segment of the Cape including larger towns like Hyannis and Falmouth. East and North of Orleans house the quainter and more secluded spots on the Cape like the National Seashore. Orleans represents the last real taste of 21st Century Cape Cod on the way to the Outer Cape.
A trip to Orleans, especially in summer, inevitably leads you to the famous Nauset Beach(right). Nauset Beach, named for the Native American tribe that originally inhabited the area, is one of the best spots to surf up and down the east coast and is one of the most popular as well. Being located along where Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean collide, Nauset Beach is privy to some rough seas and large waves. Even on a day like today, when the tide was low, the waves were larger than anything seen along the shores of Cape Cod. Even if you are not a surfer, or even if you don’t like to swim, taking a walk along Nauset Beach is a must. Listening to and watching the waves crash on the shore is a soothing almost meditative experience, if you lose yourself in the moment you may look up and suddenly find yourself miles from the parking lot!
The road to Nauset Beach itself holds some great places to eat like the Nauset Beach Club Restaurant, but there are some neat sights as well. One such place is the little known, out of the way Sea Call Farm(left). Located off of Nauset Beach Road on Tonset Road, this historic site was actively farmed from 1931-1950 and is now a conservation area owned by the town. It can be walked year round and a pathway behind the farmhouse leads to a breathtaking view across Town Cove to a state boat ramp near the Orleans Rotary.
As you head away from the Atlantic Ocean side of Orleans toward the Cape Cod Bay side you pass another historic site along Rt. 28 that can be very easy to miss. Windmills, like lighthouses, are synonymous with Olde Cape Cod. As if symbolizing Orleans’s status as the separation between the old and new of Cape Cod the Jonathan Young Windmill(left) sits directly across from the last major shopping center as you travel east along the Cape. The Jonathan Young windmill was originally built 1720 in South Orleans and in 1897 was actually moved to Hyannisport. In 1983 the windmill was given to the Orleans Historical Society in 1983 and subsequently donated to the town. It is open to the public in July and August. The windmill park is located right on Town Cove which is easy to walk down to from the site.
Located on the other side of Orleans are two more spots that must be seen and enjoyed on any trip to the Cape. Skaket Beach and Rock Harbor both face Cape Cod Bay and are filled with amazing scenery. Skaket Beach lies at the end of Skaket Beach Road while Rock Harbor is easy to find from either Rt. 6A or the Orleans Rotary. You may walk Skaket Beach all the way to the Namskaket Marsh located a little over half a mile away.
Rock Harbor and Skaket Beach(right) are both places to go for splendid sunsets. At Rock Harbor there are trees spaced out into the harbor that help to guide boats. It is a sight that will make you do a double take when it is first seen and what Rock Harbor is known for. The trees are not there during the winter time and I am not sure what is done with them. There is plenty of parking, the beach on the western side of the harbor can be walked to a salt marsh while the eastern side of the harbor walk can be taken to Boat Meadow.
While it may be a sort of gateway between old and new on Cape Cod, Orleans has more than its share of places to see. Make sure to stop in and see these places on your way to wherever you are going. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Nauset Beach: From Rt. 28 East, turn right onto Main Street. There are signs leading to Nauset Beach. Follow Main Street, it becomes Beach Road. Follow this road to the beach parking lot.
Sea Call Farm: From Rt. 28 East, turn right onto Tonset Road. Follow it for just over half a mile. Sea Call Farm appears on the left side.
Jonathan Young Windmill Park: Take Rt. 28 East until it intersects with Rt. 6A. The windmill park is 1,000 feet ahead on the right side.
Rock Harbor: From Orleans Rotary take exit marked Rock Harbor Rd. Follow this road for 1.5 miles until you reach the harbor. The main parking area is on the left side.
Skaket Beach: From Rt. 28 East turn left on Eldredge Pkwy. Continue onto W Rd. and subsequently onto Skaket Beach Rd. Follow this to the parking area.
References: Orleans Historical Society