The travel and lifestyle blog of In My Footsteps Podcast host and author Christopher Setterlund. Discovering and sharing the best of today and yesterday. Beautiful and inspiring places to visit now, along with incredible stories of times gone by. From Cape Cod to New England and beyond, from present-day, to some classic 1980's nostalgia, to days long gone by. There is something for everyone here much like with the podcast.
Taking its name as a derivative of the Wampanoag sachem, or chief, Iyanough, Hyannis is the commercial center of Cape Cod. It is where most locals go to shop having several large shopping plazas, most notable the 800,000-plus square foot Cape Cod Mall. Despite the retail prowess of the Hyannis area it was as recently as twenty-five years ago that this most industrialized Cape town still retained some of the quaintness the Cape is known for. Historic Main Street can be walked and enjoyed at any time of year; there are still a few stores that have been there for more than fifty years including the Puritan clothing store. Although it is first thought of in terms of shopping and restaurants Hyannis does hold more than just that.
The first place to go to escape the bustle of Hyannis is to head for the water. As you head for the water on Ocean Street the first spot to check out is Hyannis Harbor where the Hy-Line Ferries make frequent trips to and from Nantucket. If you stay long enough you might get to see one of these impressive looking high-speed ferries up close. There is the Michael Aselton Memorial Park, dedicated to a fallen Barnstable police officer, and the Cape Cod Maritime Museum on the grounds as well that should be taken in.
Further down Ocean Street are two great swimming beaches, Veterans Beach and Kalmus Beach. Veterans Beach is made even more of an attraction thanks to the Korean War Memorial(left) and JFK Memorial located at the Veterans Memorial Park on the beach grounds. The JFK Memorial consists of a wall with a plaque depicting the late-President’s face and a beautiful fountain. The entire area is surrounded by sweet smelling flowers in the warmer months including several different colored roses. The memorial is on a hill which gives a tremendous panoramic view of Lewis Bay and the boats entering and leaving the harbor.
To the left of the JFK Memorial is the spectacular Korean War Memorial. The statue of the American Soldier stands high above looking out over the water. He is surrounded by flags including the American flag directly behind the statue. It is a great patriotic attraction that needs to be made appointment viewing on any trip through Hyannis. Veterans Beach itself is located next to the Hyannis Yacht Club and is sheltered somewhat from the harsh ocean. Located on the north side of the beach is a river(right) that leads to a pond across Ocean Street. This spot is a great place to see ducks, geese, seagulls, and even crows and hawks congregating.
At the end of Ocean Street is Kalmus Beach Park which straddles Lewis Bay and Nantucket Sound. This sandy spit is a perfect spot to watch the boat entering the harbor and comes complete with a close up view of the private Great Island in Yarmouth. It is relatively calm waters with a lot of open beach and a jetty on the Sound side that is commonly used for fishing. Also on Lewis Bay is Lewis Bay Light(right). Best seen from on the harbor or at nearby Bay View Beach the small lighthouse is a near replica of Nantucket’s Brant Point Light. It was built for private use and is not accessible by the public but it can still be appreciated from the beach.
Historic Main Street houses its own special places to visit. Located across from the Puritan Clothing Co. is the JFK Museum. This museum showcases Kennedy’s life and times on Cape Cod, it features more than eighty photos from 1934-63 and a video narrated by legendary journalist Walter Cronkite. Not to be missed in the JFK Museum is the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame. The Hall is located on the lower level of the JFK Museum also known as The Dugout and has a complete history of baseball on the Cape stretching back more than a hundred years. In front of the museum is a newly dedicated bronze statue of JFK sporting a Hyannisport Polo shirt and walking through the beach sand and grass(below). It is a great look into history while still being right in the middle of the busiest spot on the Cape.
Also on Main Street is the Hyannis Village Green which is great for a stroll and also is used for concerts and other various events during the warmer months. The Cape Cod Melody Tent which has been home to thousands of musical acts since 1950 sits just after the West End Rotary and is opened from June to August. The Cape Cod Potato Chips factory sits on the north side of Hyannis in the Independence Park and is open for tours year-round. Originally created by Steve and Lynn Bernard in 1980 Cape Cod Potato Chips rapidly grew in popularity and is now the most visited attraction in town seeing more than 250,000 people per year.
Most locals and visitors to Hyannis never take the time to see what else this place has to offer. From the beaches to the museums it is plain to see that Hyannis’s history and natural beauty is only matched by its commercial prowess. Whatever you choose to do, a trip to Hyannis will be one to remember. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Veterans Beach Park & Kalmus Beach Park: from Rt. 28 heading east, take first exit at rotary for Barnstable Rd. Follow Barnstable Rd. across Main St. where it becomes Ocean Street. Hyannis Harbor is on the left at the lights. Follow Ocean Street 1 mile, Veterans Beach is on the left; Kalmus Beach is at the end of Ocean Street on the curve.
JFK Museum & Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame: from Rt. 28 heading east, take first exit at rotary for Barnstable Rd. Follow Barnstable Rd. to Main St. Turn right on Main Street, JFK Museum is only a few hundred feet up on the left.
Cape Cod Potato Chips Factory: from Rt. 28 heading east, take third exit for Rt. 132. Turn right onto Independence Drive, turn right onto Breed’s Hill Road.
Once the largest reservation of the Wampanoag Indians, and still claimed as their land to this day, Mashpee is a small town big on history. It was here after King Philip’s War, between English colonists and their Native American allies who fought against the Native Americans of Southern New England in 1675-76, that the Wampanoags settled. The leader of the Wampanoag’s who fought against the English was Metacomet, descendant of Masasoit, who had adopted the European name Philip in the years before hostilities broke out.
Mashpee itself is located in between Barnstable and Falmouth and includes several smaller villages much like all Cape Cod towns. For a deeper connection to the Wampanoag tribe a visit should be paid to the Old Indian Meeting House(right), also known as the Old Indian Church. Built in 1684 as a place for the Wampanoags to practice Christianity the church is the oldest on the Cape. It was moved from its original location in 1717 and relocated to its current spot just off of Rt. 28 on Meetinghouse Road. A cemetery was built on the grounds in the late 18th century and the building once doubled as a school as well. The church is still used for services by Wampanoags to this day.
Located across Rt. 28, almost diagonally from the Old Indian Church is the beginning of the Mashpee River(left). There are two separate entrances to trails that span the river, one is on the right only a few hundred feet down Quinaquisset Avenue. This spot seems to have been recently groomed and its elevated view of the beginnings of the river is spectacular. The second entrance is located on Mashpee Neck Road. This trail, called the Chickadee Trail, includes a longer walk through the sweet smelling forest. At the head of the trail there is a great view of the river and a few homes that sit across the water. Even on this day there were several ducks congregating on the shore. In the warmer months the woods should be teeming with birds and other small animals.
Continuing down Mashpee Neck Road will take you to the Mashpee Neck Marina and the Town Way to Water. Mashpee Neck is one of the tiny villages within Mashpee; also included in that group is Popponesset. Popponesset Island is a small community that was used for amphibious assaults and training during World War II. It is also home to the Popponesset Bird Sanctuary which stretches out into Popponesset Bay. It is said that the Popponesset name refers to the Algonquin ‘sachem,’ or paramount chief Poppononett who lived in the Mashpee area in the 17th Century.
On the north side of Mashpee sits the Lowell Holly Reservation located on South Sandwich Road. It is a 135 acre plot of land named for Abbott Lawrence Lowell, a former president of Harvard University, who donated the land in 1943. It is home to more than 250 native holly trees, thus the name of the reservation. The area itself is accessible year round, though the parking lot located at the end of an old carriage road is only open during the summer months.
The Lowell Holly lands sit between Mashpee and Wakeby Ponds. There is a sandy beach along Wakeby Pond(right) which is a perfect spot to cool off in the summer. The trails continue on until they reach a small finger of land called Conaumet Point which comes from the Wampanoag word ‘Kuwunut,’ meaning ‘beach.’ There are a few hills that give a better overlook of the two fresh water ponds and the tiny Cleveland and Keith Islands that sit out in them. The hike from the year round parking area to the seasonal lot is not hard and is a worth while trek as the views of the holly trees as well as the ponds are worth it.
The small village of New Seabury, located in Mashpee, is a very affluent area. Although it may not be possible to live in this particular area there are a few tremendous attractions that anybody can visit. The main spot to see is the South Cape Beach State Park. Before reaching the beach there is the Cape Cod Children’s Museum located on Great Neck Road South. It is a great non-profit family destination complete with their own pirate ship, an indoor planetarium, and puppet theater.
Further up the road is the South Cape Beach State Park. From the parking lot there is a view of Martha’s Vineyard across Vineyard Sound, but the beach is only the beginning. There are trails through the wooded areas north of the beach as well as a trail leading between the beach and Sage Lot Pond(left). The pond is home to lots of swans that were situated on the northern side on this day. This path is an easier walk to the State Jetty at the mouth of Waquoit Bay.
There are some who believe that Waquoit Bay was the famed Vinland, the first landing of Viking Leif Eriksson a thousand years ago. For nearly a hundred years many intelligent minds have been trying to prove just that. Whether it is the first landing spot of the Vikings in North America or not Waquoit Bay is a beautiful natural spot. From the State Jetty there is a good look across the mouth of the bay at the Washburn Island State Park in East Falmouth.
From the Wampanoag Indians to a potential landfall by Leif Eriksson, Mashpee’s connection to American and World history is unquestioned. For those not looking for history or nature there is always the immensely popular Mashpee Commons, an outdoor shopping center modeled after an old New England town. It even has a post office and library. Whether visiting for the beach or the shopping Mashpee should be visited by anyone planning on seeing Cape Cod. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Old Indian Church: From Rt. 28 turn north onto Meetinghouse Rd. Church is on right side with cemetery directly behind it.
Lowell Holly Reservation: From Rt. 28 turn north onto Rt. 130. Follow it 1.5 miles and turn right onto South Sandwich Rd. Entrance to reservation is ½ mile up on left.
South Cape Beach State Park: From Rt. 28 take Great Neck Road South exit at Mashpee Rotary. Great Neck Rd. S. becomes Great Oak Rd. Follow it to the beach.
It is one thing to discover the amazing historical sites that nearly every town in New England has to offer, it is another thing all together to go to where the history of the country began. Sure Jamestown, Virginia was technically the first settlement in the New World but the spot where the Pilgrims landed in 1620 is overflowing with history and that is Plymouth, Massachusetts. One only has to round the corner on Water Street and come face to face with the Mayflower II or the granite monument housing Plymouth Rock to realize that you are in a very special place.
Before hitting the two main attractions of Downtown Plymouth there is another area that needs to be seen. Located diagonally across from the parking area for the Pilgrim Memorial State Park is the Elder Brewster Gardens. This park which runs along both sides of Town Brook is on the original grounds of the garden land given to Elder William Brewster in 1620. There was a huge congregation of ducks on this day despite signs telling visitors not to feed them it is safe to assume that people still do as these ducks were quite docile and showed little fear of humans.
The park grounds include a paved pathway that travels underneath both the Market Street and Route 3A bridges. The water rushing by echoes against the walls of the bridges as it heads down toward Plymouth Harbor. The end of the pathway is the Jenney Grist Mill(left) and Museum. Built in 1636 by John Jenney the mill is still operational. It was strategically placed along Town Brook because the drop in elevation of the river allowed for a great amount of power in the water flow. The river is spring fed which meant in times of drought for the Pilgrims the river never would run dry; also Town Brook is home to ample amounts of herring during the warmer months. The Run of the Mill Tavern is located next to the mill and is a great family place to stop for lunch or dinner. This park is a great first stop on a walk through downtown, but it is only the beginning of a magical trip through American history.
Across the street from the Brewster Gardens is the Pilgrim Memorial State Park. Here you can see not only a replica of the ship the Pilgrims took from England to America, but also the spot where they landed. Plymouth Rock(right) is located on the shore of Plymouth Harbor at the foot of Cole’s Hill and is an amazing symbol of our heritage. Although it is open to debate as to whether the rock is actually on the exact location where the Pilgrims disembarked one cannot deny the rock’s meaning. The current granite house that covers the rock was built in 1920.
Sitting a few hundred feet north of Plymouth Rock is the replica of the Mayflower called Mayflower II. The ship was built in a joint effort between Englishman Warwick Charlton and Plimoth Plantation in 1955-56, and used 17th Century building methods. It was also built using Plimoth Planation’s Mayflower blueprints and is considered to be a nearly exact replica but for small enhancements like electric lights. The ship is only 106 feet long and 25 feet wide which makes it even more amazing that such a vessel carrying about 130-135 people made the voyage across the Atlantic nearly 400 years ago. The ship can be toured during the warmer months and I highly recommend it.
The whole of Plymouth’s downtown is a great way to spend a day from Brewster Gardens to Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II(left). However there is much more including several monuments to 30-time Governor of Plymouth, William Bradford and Wampanoag Indian legend Masasoit who is credited as being a ‘protector and preserver of the Pilgrims.’ Plimoth Plantation, a faithful recreation of the first colony at Plymouth, is also a must see. It is located on Warren Avenue and is made a memorable experience thanks greatly to the folks who are completely dedicated to portraying their 17th Century counterparts.
Another legend of American history, Myles Standish, has his own monument located a short drive north of Plymouth in Duxbury(below). Located on Crescent Street atop the 200 foot Captain’s Hill, the 116 foot granite shaft is topped by a fourteen foot statue of Standish. Myles Standish was hired to be a military advisor for Plymouth Colony and served as Plymouth’s representative to England. He also helped found Duxbury and named it after Duxbury Woods in Chorley, Lancashire, England.
The monument itself can be seen from miles around as it rises high above the trees. During the summer months it can be climbed and rewards those who do climb with an amazing view of Kingston Bay as well as Duxbury Bay and Clarks Island. The forest surrounding the monument is beautiful and even on a winter day the sweet pine scent filled the air and made me hopeful for a return trip in the spring.
Plymouth is the Holy Grail, if you will, of historic towns. No other place in the United States can top being basically the starting point of all that we are today in this country. It goes deeper than just Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II, there are many other historic places and monuments to see but those two should be first and foremost on any visitor’s list. Take an amazing trip back through the first period of American history and visit Plymouth. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Plimoth Plantation: From Rt. 3 take Exit 5, turn right at South St., take 1st right at Obery St. Take slight left at Sandwich St. Turn right at Rt. 3A/Warren Ave. Plimoth Plantation is on the right designated by a sign.
Plymouth Historic Downtown: From Rt. 3 take Exit 5, turn right at South Street and keep right on South St. Turn left at Rt. 3A North, take 3rd right onto Water Street. Parking is available at Pilgrim Memorial State Park. Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II are on the right side, BrewsterGardens is on the left side diagonal from the parking area.
Myles Standish Monument: From Rt. 3 take Exit 10, turn right at Rt. 3A. Turn right at Chestnut St., right at Standish St. Take slight right onto Crescent Street. Parking area for monument is on a hill on the right, if gate is closed road must be hiked to the top.
The miles of beautiful beaches can fill your heart with happiness. The lighthouses that dot the coastline can fill your mind with history. However, the best way to really fill yourself up with the soul of Cape Cod is to take a ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The paved main trail from Dennis to Wellfleet is more than twenty miles of pure Cape beauty.
First begun in 1976, and having gone through many cosmetic changes through the years, the Rail Trail mixes a little bit of everything that makes the Cape special. There are several parking areas along the trail if you do not feel like riding the full distance and there are other trails on the Cape as well although the Rail Trail is the most well known.
As for the actual meat and potatoes of the ride there is something for everyone. A little over a mile from the beginning there is the West Reservoir which is almost always inhabited by swans and ducks. There is a pathway to lead you to the water’s edge or you can observe the wildlife from the elevated perch of the trail. There is a chance for another detour at the Bells Neck Conservation area in Harwich. The bike trail goes through it along the northern fringe but is worth a closer look if you have the time. The trail also passes along the Thatcher cranberry bog which is enormous as well as by a large blue water tower on the right side along Lothrop Avenue.
The trail forks off in Harwich with the main trail continuing on north and an offshoot trail heading onto Chatham and ending at the Chatham Municipal Airport. The main trail crosses over the highway in a section of the trail that has only recently been developed. For many years riders had to navigate along a treacherous section of Route 124 that included the on and off ramps at Exit 10.
The Pleasant Lake General Store in Brewster sits along Rt. 124 across the street from Hinckleys Pond which is also called Pleasant Lake. This historic store is more than 150 years old and was once a railroad station and post office. Now it is a must see spot and is a great place to fuel up with snacks and drinks. There are picnic table outside of the store, this place is a favorite of mine and will surely create a fond memory for all travelers as well.
The Rail Trail snakes its way in between Seymour and Long Pond on its way along Rt. 124. There are great views of both water bodies but in summer the shores of Long Pond are privately rented and so looking from the trail is probably best. The trail continues on its way through Brewster and passes by Nickerson State Park(above). The Rail Trail heads off underneath Rt. 6A toward Orleans but Nickerson has its own bike path that can be accessed by cutting through Nickerson’s main parking lot. There is another bridge over the highway as the Rail Trail passes through Orleans and heads for Eastham. From this bridge, which passes over Rock Harbor Road as well, there is a great view of the Orleans Courthouse as well as the Orleans Rotary(right).
From this point the Rail Trail heads up into the National Seashore which begins by passing along several beautiful ponds in Eastham. From the trail you can observe Herring Pond, Depot Pond, and Great Pond. After crossing Rt. 6 the Rail Trail continues along to the Marconi Beach Rd. If the time permits you should take the time to visit the Marconi Site and beach which I covered in my Wellfleet article. From this point the trail continues on to Lecount Hollow Road which is where it comes to a close. There is a great beach at the end of Lecount Hollow Rd. if you feel like continuing the ride.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is not the only bike path on the Cape. In Falmouth there is the Shining Sea Bikeway which was mentioned in my Falmouth & Woods Hole article. The trail is just over ten miles long and follows Cape Cod’s west coast through the Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary and then along the beaches in West Falmouth down into Woods Hole.
In Provincetown the Province Lands Bike Path(left) gives you a spectacular journey through some of the untouched majesty of Cape Cod. Beginning at Herring Cove Beach and at just over five miles in length the trail includes several offshoot trails. This bike trail needs to be experienced at least once. The elusive Race Point Light is located down a dirt road adjacent to the trail and is a worthwhile walk for any visitor. Plus there are many views of the nearby Pilgrim Monument which towers above the dunes and pine trees. Some of the sand dunes stretch twenty to thirty feet into the air, it adds to the splendor of the ride and give the bike path a secluded feel. It ends at Race Point Beach, the northern most point on the Cape, which also should be explored further if time permits.
With several bike paths covering Cape Cod it may take a few trips before they are all seen and ridden. The exercise you get from riding, or even walking, these trails is secondary to the enjoyment of becoming one with the very soul of Cape Cod. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Cape Cod Rail Trail: From Rt. 6 take Exit 9A, turn left into the bike path’s beginning parking lot just after Cranberry Square Plaza.
Shining Sea Bikeway: From Bourne Bridge take Rt. 28 south, turn right onto Locust Rd., parking lot is 1 mi. passed, just after Pin Oak Way.
Province Lands Bikeway: Take Rt. 6 into Provincetown. Turn right onto Province Lands Rd., enter Herring Cove Beach parking lot on left. Bike trail begins at north end of lot.
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. WicketsInn & 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.
Chatham packs a large amount of beauty and history into a relatively small area. Still a very vibrant fishing village, Chatham’s loyalty to its heritage is a big part of its charm. Its Main Street is filled with quaint family style shops and is the most accessible for pedestrians on the Cape.
The first place that should be visited during a trip to Chatham is Chatham Light(left) and North Beach. North Beach is located near the end of Main Street and is a continuation of Nauset Beach in Orleans. This beach has its own incredible story as up until 1987 the beach had been known as a ‘barrier beach’ and had continued down toward Monomoy Island. A huge winter storm caused a break in the beach directly opposite of Chatham Light which eventually widened and caused the loss of seven North Beach cottages. A second break occurred in 2007 a little further north and the initial break has now widened to nearly two miles. It is a fascinating scene of the ocean versus the land; the beaches can be observed easily from the elevated parking lot which also has three sets of powerful binoculars to aide in viewing.
After checking out the sea’s ravaging of North Beach one only has to turn around to view perhaps the most popular spot in Chatham and that is Chatham Light. A part of the Coast Guard station, Chatham Light was originally built in 1877 but the station itself was established in 1808 under orders from President Thomas Jefferson. The first Chatham Light station consisted of two lighthouses for 115 years until one of the lights was moved and placed in Eastham where it became Nauset Light. The original Chatham Light lantern and lens were removed in 1969 and are currently on display at the historic Atwood House a short drive away on Stage Harbor Road. The lighthouse is not open to the public except for special tours during the warmer months, but the view of this Cape landmark is spectacular from just beyond the fence as well.
Located down Bridge Street is Stage Harbor, a spot originally visited in 1606 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain. However, he did not choose to settle there due to conflicts with the local Monomoy Indians. Stage Harbor Lighthouse(above) sits at the mouth of Chatham Harbor. Built in 1880 this lighthouse was deactivated in 1933 and does not have a lantern top anymore. It is viewable across the harbor opening from the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, or via a mile long hike across Hardings Beach. It is the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge that was the next spot I visited.
Located a short drive from Chatham Light down Morris Island Road, this 7,600 acre wildlife sanctuary is filled with natural beauty and is perfect for sightseeing and school field trips. There is a trail which leads along the high cliffs and has a great view of the northern portion of Monomoy Island(right). There is a weather radar station behind a fence along the trail as well. There is a set of stairs which leads down to the beach and seemingly the end of the civilized world. Once you start to walk south there is complete solitude but for the occasional passing of small fishing boats into the harbor. It is a very relaxing walk as the rushing waves and salty breezes seem to melt away any conscious thoughts. The walk south along the beach ends with a panoramic view of Monomoy Island which at low tide sits only a few hundred feet offshore.
Monomoy Island stretches eight miles south from Chatham and was originally owned by the government during World War II. The Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge was founded in 1944 and took over control of the island. Long before it was designated for wildlife refuge there actually was a colony on Monomoy complete with a tavern for sailors at present day Hospital Pond. There are no paved roads and no human inhabitants on Monomoy but ferries will take visitors along its shores in the hopes of spotting seals. The only proof of a human presence on the island is the historic Monomoy Point Light which was built in 1849. It is part of the National Register of Historic Places and the keeper’s house still stands and is used as a guest house today.
Located west of Chatham Light, down Rt. 28 sits a lesser known but equally fascinating piece of modern history. Forest Beach in and of itself seems like just another beautiful beach with a great view of Monomoy Island and Stage Harbor Light, but it is what lies behind the beach in the marshy area that is surprising. There are four cement pillars in a square pattern out in the marsh that represent the remains of Guglielmo Marconi’s Chatham radio tower(left). The tower once stood 300 feet tall until the land was bought by the town. The Forest Beach overlook located behind the marsh area has a plaque with a detailed history of this little known Marconi site.
Chatham mixes all of what makes Cape Cod great into a small area. You can go from a leisurely stroll on Main Street to the history of Chatham Light and Monomoy Island all within a short drive. The ‘elbow’ of the Cape has something for everyone and it needs to be circled on any visitor’s itinerary. Do not rush, take your time to enjoy it, the spectacular Chatham Bars Inn resort can make a great trip into a dream vacation. Whether it’s a trip or vacation you will love your time in Chatham. Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Chatham Light/North Beach: Head east on Rt. 28, take 2nd exit at traffic circle to Main Street. Follow Main Street to parking lot, beach is on left, lighthouse is on right.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge: Take Rt. 28 east, take 2nd exit at traffic circle to Main Street. Bear left on to Morris Island Rd., continue onto Tisquantum Rd. Wildlife Refuge is the 1st left.
Forest Beach: Take Rt. 28 heading east into Chatham. Turn left onto Forest Beach Road.
Hardings Beach: Take Rt. 28 east into Chatham, turn right at Barn Hill Rd. Take a slight right at Hardings Beach Rd., Stage Harbor Light is located east, a mile walk out on the beach.