In My Footsteps
Trip 23: Wareham & Onset, Mass.
February 15, 2010
Though neither is technically considered a part of Cape Cod, both Wareham and Onset share many of the same qualities of a classic Cape village. Wareham is considered the ‘Gateway to Cape Cod’ as the first town west of the Cape Cod Canal. Onset lies just beyond Wareham and is filled with the same sorts of historic buildings and quaint shops that would make you swear you were in Chatham or Wellfleet and not over the bridges.
Wareham shares its name with a town in England and was originally settled as a part of the surrounding towns of Rochester and Plymouth in 1678. Incorporated in 1739, the town mixes beautiful beaches and historic buildings with a highly developed retail center filled with stores and restaurants. Perhaps most well known in Wareham is the Tremont Nail Factory which is the oldest manufacturer of nails in the country, established in 1819.
If you take Route 6 west into Wareham it does not take long to find a beautiful scenic spot. A right turn onto Red Brook Road leads you to Buttermilk Bay and the adjoining Little Buttermilk Bay(left). These bodies of water are great for fishing and the Bourne Bridge hovers above the tree line which gives perspective as to how close spots like these are to major highways. Route 6 continues west and crosses the Agawam River before hitting the retail center of Wareham. This river has been one of the most important herring rivers in the state since 1632 and is one of the few remaining operated herring runs left in Massachusetts.
The Wareham Town Hall(right) is located near the retail center as Route 6 becomes also known as Marion Road. It stands in front of the middle school and across the street from the Wareham Free Library. It looks the part of an old government building in amongst the modern retail stores. There is also a really nice railroad station located behind Main Street and along the Agawam River. There is still freight rail service in Wareham but at this time no passenger service. Of course for families coming to visit there must be a stop at Water Wizz, the popular water park located near the Cranberry Shopping Plaza on Rt. 6.
Much like Cape Cod, Wareham has its share of smaller villages that make up the bigger town. One such village is Weweantic. A left turn from Rt. 6 onto Cromesett Rd. will take you out onto this tiny peninsula that sticks out into Buzzards Bay. Bordered on the east by Marks Cove and on the west by Pattons Cove and Briarwood Beach, Weweantic is a great little detour off of the main road and sports tremendous views from all sides.
Though considered a small village in Wareham, Onset is seemingly a different world in and of itself. It was originally developed in the 1880’s as a summer retreat for spiritualists and psychics. The historic stretch of 19th Century hotels which overlook Onset Bay were constructed when the spiritualists ran the small seaside village. These hotels are now beautiful reminders of Onset’s origin as well as popular spots for summer visitors. The Wickets Inn on Onset Avenue(right), built in 1863, caught my eye as I drove into town as I imagine it does for a lot of people. The classic Victorian-style building is hard to miss as you pass over the bridge which crosses the waterway connecting Broad Cove to the north with Onset Bay to the south.
Onset Beach is and should be a main attraction for anyone that makes this village a destination. It has a beautiful view of Wickets Island and Onset Island(below). The four-acre Wickets Island was used during Prohibition as a place to stash illegal liquor and is currently owned by a developer who plans on building a luxury home on it. Onset Island is roughly three times the size of Wickets Island and is inhabited by nearly fifty families who have summer homes there.
Onset Avenue, the main road in the village, has the feel of a beachfront paradise. There are no chain restaurants or busy shopping centers, even on a cold winter’s day it felt like a place where you’d like to relax for a few days or a week to let the salty air cure your ills. Marc Anthony’s Pizza is a favorite of mine when I visit and should be sampled at least once.
Another beautiful spot is a little harder to get to if it is to be fully appreciated. Stony Point Dike is a man made strip of land that stretches out a mile into Buzzards Bay. It is what was created by the dredging of the Cape Cod Canal. It is located at the end of Great Neck Road but can be seen on the horizon from Little Harbor Beach. For kayaking lovers it is a perfect trip, just over a mile, from the beach to Stony Point. It should be noted that swimming and paddling on the Canal side of Stony Point is prohibited and dangerous.
Wareham and Onset give you all that you could want in a seaside town. There are beautiful beaches, historic building with fascinating stories, and there are also plenty of shopping areas for those that are not as into nature and history as I am. These spots are so close to the Cape but can at times be overlooked by people on the way to New Bedford or Providence. I highly recommend taking a day trip to discover Wareham and perhaps a little longer to enjoy Onset which is a favorite place of mine. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Buttermilk Bay: From Rt. 6 heading west, turn right onto Red Brook Rd., continue onto Head of the Bay Rd. Turn right onto Old Head of the Bay Rd. This gives you the best view of Little Buttermilk Bay and Buttermilk Bay through Gibbs Narrows.
Onset: From Rt. 6 heading west, turn left onto Onset Ave., continue on for 1.5 miles. Wickets Inn & Pub are on the right as you cross the bridge. Onset Beach is on the left as is Onset Pier. Marc Anthony’s Pizza is on the left at the intersection with South Blvd.
Tremont Nail Company: from Rt. 28 heading west turn left at Mayflower Ridge Dr., then quick right at Elm Street.
Little Harbor Beach: from Rt. 6 heading west, turn left at Depot St., continue on to Great Neck Rd. Turn right on Stockton Short Cut St., take 2nd right at Little Harbor Rd. Follow it to beach.
References: CapeCodTravel.com - Onset