Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 16: Cape Cod's West Coast

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 16: Cape Cod’s West Coast
January 31, 2010

            Cape Cod’s east coast has the National Seashore.  The northern coast has Sandy Neck Beach.  The southern coast has got Craigville and West Dennis Beach.  These places are all well known popular destinations, but there is another coastline that can at times be overlooked.  The west coast of Cape Cod, stretching from Woods Hole up to the Cape Cod Canal, is filled with quaint little villages and sandy beaches.  The easiest way to make the trip along the west coast of the Cape is via Route 28-A which parallels the much busier Route 28.  Rt. 28 in this area doubles as another leg of the highway so a drive along the more rural 28-A is recommended for sightseers. 
            My trip began where my very first trip ended: Woods Hole.  Whether taking Rt. 28 west or south it is suggested that you take the turn onto Rt. 28-A at its southern most point and travel north until you reach the Canal.  The first of the small villages that you pass through is Sippewissett.  The sights in this village just to the north of Woods Hole include two spectacular marshes, The Little and Great Sippewissett Marshes, and the Sippewissett Campgrounds & Cabins.  The campground is located on Palmer Ave. and is opened to families from May through September but they do not allow dogs.

After passing through the Sippewissett area you find the first of the west coast beaches; it is a small spot just before the West Falmouth Historic District.  Chapaquoit Beach(above) located on the road of the same name is tucked away from the main roads and is small.  There is a good view of the Cleveland Ledge Light Station.  The last lighthouse built in New England, the Cleveland Ledge Light was named for former President Grover Cleveland who fished the waters of Buzzards Bay.  The lighthouse sits two miles off shore on a fifty-two foot tall concrete pillar and is maintained by the Coast Guard.  It is best viewed from shore and can not be climbed.
            Not far from Chapaquoit Beach sits Old Silver Beach, probably the best known spot on the west coast of the Cape.  Located on Quaker Rd. in North Falmouth, Old Silver Beach is well known to locals who fill the parking lot daily during the summer.  The salt marsh empties into the bay(right) and there are amazing views of the marsh on the right and Buzzards Bay on the left as well as the Cleveland Ledge Light off in the distance.  A five minute drive north of Old Silver Beach leads you to a beautifully secluded harbor in the tiny village of Megansett.  It has a great view of the private Scraggy Neck Island and a small beach with calm water.
            The west coast of Cape Cod is not all about beaches though.  Located near Red Brook Harbor in another tiny village named Cataumet is one of a few parcels and land set aside for conservation.  This particular set of trails leads you either west toward a great location overlooking Red Brook Harbor, or east as I went.  This route leads you to the railroad tracks and the Cataumet Train Station.  The original building was opened in 1890, but burned in 1925 and was subsequently replaced by the structure standing today.  It is a fascinating piece of history, giving you the feel of old railway life.  There is even a rusty metal pole near the station presumably used to hang mail during the old days of the Railway Mail Service which lasted through the 1960’s.
            Less than fifteen minutes away from Red Brook Harbor sits the historic Wings Neck Lighthouse(right).  Positioned literally inches from the water on Wings Neck Island in Pocasset, the lighthouse is now part of a private home available for vacation rentals.  The current lighthouse was built in 1889 and was very important during the time before and right after the construction of the Cape Cod Canal as it sits at the tip of Wings Neck which sticks a mile and a half out into Buzzards Bay.  It is a private residence and can not be seen up close unless you are a resident, but it can be seen quite well from the gated opening on the edge of the property.
            A short drive further north in Pocasset takes you to the Little Bay conservation area.  This spot, crossed by the railroad tracks, offers a great view of Tobey Island which is a small land mass located just north in Monument Beach.  The Little Bay trails bring you out onto one of two small peninsulas that stretch out into Wings Cove.  These trails also include Monks Park just to the south as well.  Monument Beach is the next tiny village along the west coast and includes the wooden bridge road that leads onto Tobey Island.  This is another private area but the harbor at Monument Beach has a great view of both Tobey Island and Mashnee Island.  Heading up Shore Road in Monument Beach takes you into the center of the village where there is the former train station of the village(above).  It is now closed and up for rent but still houses the same old-time railway charm with the overhangs along the tracks.
            Just before reaching the railroad bridge at the Canal there is one last very worthwhile detour to take.  It is Mashnee Island, located nearly a mile out into Buzzards Bay along Mashnee Rd.  There is a breathtaking view of Mass Maritime, the railroad bridge, and the Bourne Bridge all along the horizon.  The best place to view this is at the very popular Mashnee Island Grill & Beach Bar.  From this point you can see a lot of the area just traveled; it is a fitting end to a beautiful drive.  These tiny villages are not the only spots to hit up along Cape Cod’s west coast.  There are plenty more, you just have to take you time and look for them.  Have fun, and happy traveling!
Directions: Route 28-A: From Rt. 28 head west into Falmouth.  Turn left onto Rt. 28-A which is located 1.5 miles north of Falmouth Hospital.
Old Silver Beach: From Rt. 28-A head north 1.5 miles, turn left onto Old Dock Rd., quick right onto Nashawena St.  Continue onto Quaker Rd., follow it to beach on left.
Red Brook Trails: From Rt. 28-A head north 6 miles, turn left onto County Rd.  Take the 3rd left onto Scraggy Neck Rd., turn right at Red Brook Harbor Rd.  The trails are about 600 feet up on the right, the parking area is dirt.
Little Bay Conservation Area: From Rt. 28-A follow into Pocasset.  Turn left onto Long Hill Rd., take 2nd right onto County Rd., turn left at Valley Bars Rd. which becomes Valley Bars Circle.  Follow to parking lot, there is a railroad overpass.
Mashnee Island: From Rt. 28-A get onto Rt. 28 north at rotary.  Follow to Bourne Rotary and take Trowbridge Rd. exit.  Continue onto Shore Rd. and then onto Monument Neck Rd.  Turn right at Presidents Rd., take 1st left to stay on this road.  Turn left at Mashnee Rd. and follow it out to island.  
ReferencesWings Neck Lighthouse
            Sippewissett Campground & Cabins
            Cleveland Ledge Light Station

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