Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In My Footsteps - Cape Cod: South Cape Beach

     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In My Footsteps: The First Nantucket Trip

            After finally exploring Martha’s Vineyard for the first time in my life my thoughts quickly turned to making landfall on Nantucket.  Growing up I had heard that almost every square inch of Nantucket was historic, a slice of what Cape Cod was long ago.  When I got a chance to go and visit I could not wait to see if the island lived up to all of the lofty praise.  I am glad to say it definitely did.
            Nantucket lies thirty miles off of the shore of Cape Cod, a much longer trip than to The Vineyard.  Luckily the Steamship Authority ran a special on round-trip tickets on the high speed ferry.  This meant I could enjoy a quick hour long trip each way rather than the usual
Brant Point
two hours plus on the regular ferry.  One word of warning though about the high speed ferry, yes it is a much faster ride but it will be very windy and you will get spritzed with water if you’re close to either side.
            From the moment the ferry docked I began to feel what everyone had always told me about Nantucket.  Broad Street was the entrance to the island and I had to stop and look around to soak in the atmosphere much like I did when stepping foot upon Martha’s Vineyard.  Also like The Vineyard I did my research on where to rent a bicycle and chose Young’s Bicycle Shop, a very good choice, I recommend them.  A quick check of my bike and I was on my way.
            Even though Nantucket is smaller in size than The Vineyard there is just as much to be seen and not enough time to see it all.  Luckily the first place I wanted to visit was only a short pedal away.  Brant Point Lighthouse on Easton Street is a perfect way to start a day on Nantucket.  For me who loves lighthouses it’s a perfect spot no matter the time. 
            If the lighthouse looks familiar you may have seen replicas of it on the shore of Lewis Bay in Hyannis, Massachusetts, or at the Mystic Seaport in Mystic, Connecticut.  It is also one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country.  How could one resist with the light’s diminutive stature and long railings stretching out before it? 
Despite its fame the current Brant Point Light is hardly the first on the site.  In actuality the current lighthouse is the tenth light on the site and seventh tower.  The most recent lighthouse before the current one sits only a few hundred feet away on the ground of the Coast G
Middle Moors Serengeti
uard Station.  The taller tower, deactivated upon building the current tower in 1901 is missing its lantern and is now used as an office and radio room.
There are so many places to see in the downtown area of Nantucket and I wanted to make sure that I set aside enough time for that, however before that I wanted to head east.  I wanted to head to the village of Siasconset or ‘sconset as locals call it.  This is where some of the most beautiful views on the island are located.  To get there I had to take my bike to the ‘sconset Bike Path which parallels Milestone Road all the way to the coast.
I had tunnel vision along the bike path, wanting badly to see the ‘sconset Bluff Walk and Sankaty Head Lighthouse.  However something caught my eye and caused me to make an unscheduled stop.  Off to my left was something that looked straight out of an African Safari.  I had stumbled upon the Middle Moors Serengeti of Nantucket.  What exactly is it?  The Middle Moors Serengeti is a 400-acre plain with scattered trees and vegetation.  Altar Rock, a hundred feet above sea level, provides a view of almost the entire island it seems.  This unscheduled stop will be a destination for sure on my next trip to Nantucket.
Continuing on the ‘sconset Bike Path leads you to a rural rotary near the Siasconset Old Historic District.  A turn down Gully Road brings two amazing spots into view.  First is the Sconset Footbridge, the other is ‘sconset Beach.  The Sconset Footbridge is a ninety-foot long wooden bridge stretching over the road which was built in the late-19th century by well known Siasconset architect Charles H. Robinson.  Climbing the stairs and standing above the road there is a breathtaking view of ‘sconset Beach at the end of the road.    
A view from the 'sconset Bluff Walk
I had to leave my bike behind for the next area that was on my list, the ‘sconset Bluff Walk.  It is a slightly off the beaten path gem on Nantucket.  To get to it one has to go up a shielded walkway just off of Bank Street.  Once at the top you are in for a treat.  The footpath leads you along the outskirts of beautifully manicured homes on the left side and gives you increasingly incredible views of the beach on the right side.  Just after the summer ended the homes are mostly vacant but the weather is still good enough that the landscape is green and flowers still in bloom.  It is difficult to describe this place and do it justice, it is something that has to be experienced.
A short ride north from the Bluff Walk is Sankaty Head Lighthouse overlooking Sankaty Head Golf Course to the west and the ocean close by to the east.  The red and white striped lighthouse was originally built in 1850 and was moved back from the eroding cliffs in 2007.  When first lit in 1850 Sankaty Head Light was visible 20-miles away making it the most powerful lighthouse in New England.  This is a beautiful area with only the ocean waves making noise and the views are spectacular across the neighboring golf course toward the Milestone Cranberry Bog an
Sankaty Head Light
d Middle Moors.
After visiting Siasconset it was time to head back on the bike path to downtown Nantucket to see what everyone had told me about.  I could go on and on about the beautiful historic buildings and charming cobblestone streets but probably not do them justice.  The one spot I want to mention that is a unique way to check out Nantucket is the First Congregational Church on Centre Street.
It is a beautiful nearly 300-year old building and most churches make for great photo opportunities, however there is something else about this building that makes it a ‘must see.’  For a small donation one can climb the ninety-four steps to the top of the church tower for a view of Nantucket Harbor that has to be seen to be believed.  The original tower and bell were removed when the church was moved to its current location in 1834; the current tower was built in 1968.  There is always someone at the top to answer any questions and give a history of the tower and what you can see as you look out of the windows at the surrounding area.  It is well worth the hike up the stairs.
My first visit to the island of Nantucket lived up to all of the hype that I had heard.  It is every bit a throwback to another time with the cobblestone streets downtown.  It seemed as though every single house I saw during my time there was beautiful and historic.  I loved ‘sconset and even the l
View of Nantucket Harbor from inside First Congregational Church tower.
ong ride on the bike path was a pleasure.  I already cannot wait for my second trip to Nantucket which will not be too far off.  Have fun and happy traveling!

My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

Directions:  Brant Point Lighthouse: From the ferry head down Broad St., take 2nd right onto S. Beach St.  After .2 miles turn right onto Easton St., follow it to the end.
            First Congregational Church:  From the ferry head down Broad St., take 2nd right onto S. Beach St., after .2 miles turn left onto Easton St., continue onto Chester St., turn left onto Centre St., church is on right.
            ‘sconset Bluff Walk:  From the ferry head down Broad Street, turn left onto S. Water St., continue onto Washington St., follow .3 miles turn right onto Francis St., turn left onto Union St.  Turn left onto Lower Orange St., at rotary take 3rd exit for Milestone Rd., follow 6 miles, continue onto Main Rd.  At rotary take 1st exit for Ocean Ave., slight left onto Gully Rd., continue onto Codfish Park Rd., continue onto N Gully Rd.  Follow it to a curve, straight ahead will be pathway to Bluff Walk.
            Sankaty Head Lighthouse:  From the ferry head down Broad Street, turn left onto S. Water St., continue onto Washington St., follow .3 miles turn right onto Francis St., turn left onto Union St.  Turn left onto Lower Orange St., at rotary take 3rd exit for Milestone Rd., follow 6 miles, continue onto Main St., at rotary continue straight to stay on Main St.  Turn left onto Broadway and slight right onto Shell St., continue onto Sankaty Rd., follow .7 miles turn right onto Bayberry Lane, turn left onto Baxter Rd., follow it to end.

            Nantucket Historical

Saturday, October 12, 2013

In My Footsteps: Cape Cod - Highland Lighthouse

Cape Cod (Highland) Lighthouse is located in North Truro, Massachusetts. It is one of the sites featured in Christopher Setterlund's book In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide. It is now available through and as well as most book stores.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In My Footsteps: The First Martha's Vineyard Trip

            First let me start by saying, yes I am a lifelong Cape Codder.  My family dates back to Deacon John Doane who helped settle the town of Eastham in 1644.  I am proud of my long history on this peninsula. Now, that being said, I will admit that I had never once been to either island of Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, until now.
            I had decided that with all of the trips I had taken across New England it was about time that I visit a spot so close by but which seemed so far away.  By ferry Martha’s Vineyard is only a forty-five minute ride, the island is easily visible from the shores of Woods Hole, Falmouth, and Mashpee.
Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs
            The 100-square-mile Vineyard is purported to be named after the daughter of English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold who died in infancy.  He first sailed to the island in 1602.  There is a very long and rich history there and I wanted to make sure that I saw as much of it as I could upon arrival.  The ferry docked at Oak Bluffs and I found my first place to visit stretched out before me along the shore. 
            Ocean Park, situated right along Seaview Avenue, is seven acres of wide open space surrounded by beautiful homes.  Near the center of the park is a bandstand gazebo and it is the site of the annual Fourth of July fireworks in Oak Bluffs.  I enjoyed the man-made pond with a small fountain as it was inhabited by man geese which did not mind posing for pictures.  It would have been easy on a warm early-autumn day to sit back and enjoy more time at Ocean Park but I knew I only had a set number of hours on The Vineyard and needed to keep moving.
            Since bringing a car over on the ferry is a little pricy ($137 Round-Trip for a small car), I decided to rent a bicycle for the day.  Before I went I had chosen Anderson’s Bikes due to its low prices and the fact that they had been around since 1971 with the same family running it.  I was not disappointed with the hybrid street bike from Fuji I rented.  It reminded me of a spin class bike, a great ride.  Since it was technically my first time on the island I let the woman there give me her
East Chop Light
whole speech about what to see around the area.  I even got a map just like a real tourist.
            Once equipped with a bike I used the gps on my phone to set out to my next destination.  As many of you know I am a huge fan of lighthouses, love them, so it was only natural that my first trip to Martha’s Vineyard would include as many lighthouses as time would allow.  First up was East Chop Lighthouse.
            Located on East Chop Drive in Oak Bluffs the lighthouse was not difficult to find.  The ride out to it was spectacular as being on a bike made it possible to really soak in the atmosphere of the small island town.  East Chop Light sits inside a picket fence on a small plot of land overlooking the ocean, passing ferries and Cape Cod in the distance.  It was deserted when I arrived and it allowed me the chance to take many photos and also simply enjoy laying eyes on this landmark for the first time.  The current East Chop Light is the third built on the site with the original being built in 1869. The current tower was erected in 1878.  The view is amazing and worth spending some time there.
            Of course I had to follow up East Chop Light with the corresponding West Chop Light over in Vineyard Haven.  The ride there was just as much fun as the lighthouse itself.  The route leads you down along Vineyard Haven Harbor.  This is the port where the ferries come in year-round, the port in Oak Bluffs is only seasonal.  There are many beautiful little side roads along the shore, some of which I saw up close when I could not hear my gps and became temporarily lost.
            There are a
West Chop Light
few differences between East and West Chop Light, the main one being that West Chop is on Coast Guard property and thus not able to be seen too closely.  The original West Chop Light was built in 1817, and the current tower, like East Chop, is the third built on the site. The current lighthouse was erected in 1891.  Despite being fifty-feet behind a picket fence it is still worth the ride to see this lighthouse, the ride out itself is just as good as I mentioned.    
            After seeing East and West Chop I decided the only way to continue on The Vineyard was to hop on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road bike trail and ride down to see Edgartown Lighthouse on the harbor.  When traveling on a bicycle you notice how hilly The Vineyard is away from the shore, it was a bit of a chore but great exercise getting down to Edgartown. 
            Many spots in Edgartown were featured in the movie Jaws and the entire town is beautiful with a special feel to it as soon as you arrive.  One particular spot
Old Whaling Church, Main St. Edgartown
that captures that feel is the ground of the Vincent House Museum.  The house itself is the oldest residence on the island, built in 1672.  The house is believed to have been built by William Vincent who was one of the early settlers of Edgartown’s Great Harbor area.  The Martha’s Vineyard Historical Preservation Society gained the house in 1977 and moved it from Great Pond in Edgartown to its current location.  It shares the ground with a pair of other historical sites that add to the special feel of this area.
            The Old Whaling Church was designed by Frederick Baylies and built by whaling captains in 1843.  It is an impressive site towering above Main Street with its beautiful columns. It has now been transformed into a performing arts center and is very popular for weddings.  The church coupled with the narrow street, quaint homes, and white picket fences made me want to simply sit on a bench and watch the world go by.  It seems like much of Martha’s Vineyard has that same sort of feel to it.   
            Not far from this stretch of historical sites is Edgartown Lighthouse.  By the time I had gotten to this point my legs were very tired but there was no way I wasn’t going to walk out to where the lighthouse was on the water.  It is within sight of Chappaquiddick with the ferries making the very short trip back and forth.  Ironically the original Edgartown Lighthouse was destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938 and when it came time for it to be replaced it was Rear Range Lighthouse from Ipswich, Massachusetts that was loaded on a barge and brought down to the harbor entrance
Edgartown Light
.  That fact made the experience even more special and unique. 
Though the amazing Harbor View Hotel is nearby it felt as though Edgartown Lighthouse was in its own world; the lapping ocean waves drown out all sounds but for a few stray boat horns.  I sat on the steps of the lighthouse to enjoy the atmosphere for a while.  My first trip to Martha’s Vineyard had been a huge success and would not be my last for sure.
My ride back to Oak Bluffs took place along the Edgartown-Oak Bluffs Road bike path.  Much of this ride gives you spectacular views of the surrounding water along the Joseph Sylvia State Beach.  It was a fantastic end to a trip that was a long time coming.  I passed by Ocean Park near sunset, coming full circle from where I had begun my day.  Now I can say yes I have been to Martha’s Vineyard, and plan on going back as soon as I possibly can.  I am sure I don’t have to suggest that all of you do the same.  Have fun and happy traveling!

My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at, Barnes&, and, soon to be in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

Directions: East Chop Lighthouse:  From the ferry port go straight on Lake Avenue, take the 1st right onto East Chop Drive, follow it 1.1 miles to lighthouse on the right.
                    West Chop Lighthouse:  From the ferry go straight on Lake Avenue, continue onto New York Avenue, follow it for a mile, take a slight left onto Temahigan Avenue, follow it .3 miles, take a slight right onto Eastville Avenue.  Continue straight onto Beach Road, follow it 1.4 miles, turn right onto Main Street, follow it 2 miles to lighthouse on right.
                    Edgartown Lighthouse:  From the ferry go left onto Seaview Avenue, follow it 1.1 miles, continue onto Beach Road, follow it 2.8 miles, keep right to stay on Beach Road, follow 1.1 more miles.  Continue onto Upper Main Street, continue onto Main Street, follow this .3 miles, turn right onto N Water Street, follow .4 miles, lighthouse is on right.

References:  Steamship Authority
            Anderson's Bike Rentals
            Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce