In My Footsteps
Trip 14: Brewster, Mass.
January 28, 2010
Brewster is a classic small town with a mix of the modern and the quaint. It may have the most natural beauty of any town on the mid-Cape with the Natural History Museum as well as Nickerson State Park which will be addressed in its own article. First incorporated in 1803, carved out from the northern part of Harwich, Brewster was named for William Brewster one of the leaders of the Pilgrims. The sights and history start almost immediately when you cross over into Brewster from Dennis. This little village is also filled with cozy Bed & Breakfasts that look like they are straight out of the 19th Century. The best part is that you do not have to travel very far to find natural and historical beauty.
On Rt. 6A as you cross into Brewster you come across Drummer Boy Park which houses the Old Higgins Farm Windmill(left). It was built in 1795 and has been moved several times before winding up in its current location. Also on the Drummer Boy Park grounds is the Harris-Black House also built in 1795. The park area is grassy and wide open, perfect for recreation and picnicking.
Almost immediately after exiting Drummer Boy Park you will find the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. There are trails on the south side of Rt. 6A that take you across a marsh and into the surrounding woods. The Natural History Museum itself is filled with amazing exhibits featuring the local wildlife and ecology. It is open everyday during the summer and most days during the spring and fall. It is what is behind the museum that truly makes the trip memorable, a prime example of what the Natural History Museum’s exhibits are all about.
Located across Quivett Creek Marsh and only accessible at low tide is Wing Island. The John Wing Trail which begins as a series of boards across the mucky marsh leads you across the wooded land and out to Cape Cod Bay is named for John Wing. Wing was the first white settler to live within the boundaries of what was old Harwich in 1656. The island trail has several openings which allow a broad view of Quivett Creek Marsh and Cape Cod Bay(right) simultaneously. The land is filled with birds, butterflies and sweet smelling flowers during the warmer months but it is still an amazing piece of natural beauty during the winter. Remember that the marsh trail leading to Wing Island is submerged during high tide so check the charts before heading out there. Paine’s Creek is visible from the beach at Wing Island but in order to get to the beach you must leave the Natural History Museum and head down 6A. It is a great swimming beach as it is on the bay side of the Cape and therefore has less surf.
If you follow Paine’s Creek Road to Stony Brook Road you will find a pair of well known attractions. The Stony Brook Herring Run(right) is a popular site for children and adults alike, especially during the spring when the herring spawn. During the spring the narrow brook is choked with the fish but as tempting as it may seem, taking them from the grounds is not permitted. However, it does not have to be spring to enjoy the herring run. Lower Mill Pond empties through the herring run and out into Paine’s Creek and the series of ‘fish ladders,’ a sort of man made funneling system for the fish, make a constant rush of water that overpowers most other sound. There is also an old wishing well on the grounds and a walking bridge over the brook that allows for tremendous views of the natural beauty no matter what the season.
Across the street from the herring run is the Stony Brook Grist Mill(left). The original mill was 200-years old when it burnt to the ground in 1871, the current mill was built on the original foundation two years later. It houses a museum inside and is still in operation despite being nearly 140-years old. The mill has an amazing wooden wheel affixed to its side; this spot is a very popular photographic site.
A beautiful place to stay and a beautiful place to explore, Brewster holds many natural and historical attractions. It should be a destination for any traveler wishing to visit Cape Cod. Any time of year you can enjoy all of the sites Brewster has to offer. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Drummer Boy Park: On Rt. 6A travel east into Brewster. The park is located shortly after entering the town on the left side. The windmill stands on the left side of the park with the Harris-Black house sitting behind it.
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History & Wing Island: On Rt. 6A travel east into Brewster. The Natural History Museum is a very short drive from Drummer Boy Park and is designated by a large sign. Wing Island is behind the museum across the marsh, accessible only at low tide.
Paine’s Creek: On Rt. 6A travel east, pass Drummer Boy Park and the Natural History Museum. Bear left onto Lower Rd. and take first left onto Paine’s Creek Rd. Follow road to beach parking lot.
Stony Brook Herring Run & Grist Mill: On Rt. 6A heading east turn right onto Paine’s Creek Rd. Turn right onto Stony Brook Rd. The herring run and mill are 1,000 feet away. Parking is on herring run side of road.
References: Cape Cod Museum of Natural History