Wednesday, January 13, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 1: Falmouth & Woods Hole, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 1: Falmouth & Woods Hole
January 7, 2010

Falmouth and Woods Hole are two must-sees for any Cape Cod traveler. Falmouth has plenty of stores and restaurants but those can be seen in any town. What I was most interested in were the beaches and historical places that both Falmouth and Woods Hole possess.
The best way to discover and appreciate the natural beauty of Falmouth is to take a drive down Shore Street to Surf Drive. The aptly named Surf Drive Beach(below, left) stretches out for nearly a half mile, overlooked across the street by quaint homes and lovely inns and small motels. For those coming from further away needing sleeping accommodations; Shore Haven Inn and Beachside Village sport a tremendous view of the rocky, seaweed strewn beach. The narrow Fresh River empties out into Vineyard Sound along the way and housed several pairs of adorable ducks swimming and feeding. Keep your eyes peeled at the corner of Mill Road. In the front yard of a residential home, a statue of an old sea captain dressed in a blue fisherman’s raincoat waves a friendly hello to all those who pass by. Several private beach front cottages dot the remainder of the beach. They were a hint of summer even as I drove along on a windy, bitterly cold January afternoon.
The Shining Sea Bikeway, named for a line in the iconic song ‘America the Beautiful,’ crosses Surf Drive near Oyster Pond and continues its journey along the coast of Falmouth and onto Woods Hole. It is a bit too cold on this day to bike, but it should be on the schedule for any bicycling or nature enthusiast in the spring, summer, or fall.
Bearing left, Surf Drive becomes Oyster Pond Road and continues weaving through the rural wooded neighborhoods of coastal Falmouth. The bike path is clearly visible on the left at times as I peer through the bare trees. I follow Oyster Pond Road for a while until reaching Nobska Road. Taking this left leads you to the southern most tip of Falmouth and the famed Nobska Lighthouse(right).
Originally constructed in 1828, the current light tower was built in 1876 and became part of the Coast Guard in 1939. It overlooks Vineyard Sound with the privately owned Elizabeth Islands located less than a mile offshore. The island of Martha’s Vineyard sits a few miles further out. There are also some very high rocky cliffs bordering Nobska Road. These are ideal for scenic photography, but they are also dangerous so be careful where you step.
Nobska Road becomes Church Street as you pass the lighthouse. The similarly named Nobska Pond sits on the right. Following Church Street leads to the intersection with Woods Hole Road. A left turn leads you down into the heart of one of the most highly regarded scientific communities on earth. Woods Hole is home to the Sea Education Association, Marine Biological Laboratory(below, right), and the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). Most of these buildings are open to the public unless otherwise noted, feel free to walk around and get a real taste of what goes on here.
For those not interested in the scientific areas of Woods Hole, there are plenty of other things to see. Mixing in quite seamlessly with the 21st Century technology is the look and feel of a 19th Century fishing village.
Water Street, the main passage way of Woods Hole, is home to many small restaurants and cafes including Shuckers and Captain Kidd. The Woods Hole - Oak Bluffs ferry to Martha’s Vineyard is always coming in and out, so a trip to the island is quite easy, and tempting.
For kids there are two aquariums, the Woods Hole Science Aquarium on Water Street and the Aquarium of National Marine Fisheries located a short walk away on Albatross Street. The Marine Fisheries aquarium is home to many spectacular species of fish, crabs, lobsters, eels, and my favorite the seal tank. Located outside in the front of the aquarium, the seals are usually fed twice a day. The 11:00am feeding is almost always right on schedule. There are also tanks with creatures that can be gently handled, along with a historical ‘walkthrough’ complete with life-sized photos near the entrance.
Everything in Woods Hole is a short walk away. There is plenty of parking along Water Street(left) but make sure to bring quarters for the parking meters! Exiting Woods Hole is as easy as heading east on Water Street back to Woods Hole Road. This can be followed all the way to its end where it meets up with busy Route 28.
Falmouth and Woods Hole are two of the most exciting places to visit on Cape Cod. Especially Woods Hole which is one part Olde Cape Cod village and one part scientific epicenter, woven seamlessly together. I highly recommend anybody visiting Cape Cod, or wishing to do so, to take this route described above. It is a worthwhile trip filled with both natural beauty and education that can be enjoyed any time of the year. Have fun and happy traveling!

From the East: Take Rt. 28 into Falmouth and turn left on Shore Street to begin the trip. It is located approximately 500 feet past the fire station.
From the West: Follow Rt. 28 south from the Bourne Bridge approximately ten miles. Shore Street is the next right after the Falmouth Public Library. Or, to do the trip in reverse, follow Rt. 28 as stated, but instead take a right onto Locust Street which leads to Woods Hole Road. There you may start the trip where I ended it.

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