Visiting Cape Cod’s seashore from Friday through Sunday can be exhilarating and exhausting, depending on the season. If visiting during peak season, it makes sense to choose a place and settle in since driving around the Cape can be time-consuming during summer months. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, a seasonal pass is required to access beaches along the Cape Cod National Seashore. The 68-square miles are protected as a National Park established in 1961 during John F. Kennedy’s presidency.
When You Only Have A Weekend…
Friday: Spend the night on the ‘elbow’ of the Cape in Chatham. It is not located within Cape Cod’s National Seashore proper, but a variety of hotels, motels, and inns are available to fit every budget. If a romantic or luxurious weekend is in the cards, the Chatham Bars Inn is a top-notch, luxury resort overlooking the harbor and beach. The Wayside Inn in downtown Chatham is another, slightly less expensive option to stay right in the heart of it all. The Old Harbor Inn offers cozy rooms at a great value, while the Captain’s House Inn is classic Cape Cod. Like lodging, lots of dining options abound in and around Chatham, so it will not be difficult to find a good meal convenient to your hotel. Cruise along Shore Drive to see the Chatham Light, the Fish Market on Chatham Pier, and watch the sun set. Enjoy dinner somewhere in town (the Impudent Oyster is a favorite), then pop in to the iconic watering hole, Chatham Squire, for a casual nightcap.
Saturday: First stop… the “gateway” to Cape Cod’s National Seashore. Learn about the region’s natural history, wildlife, and Native American heritage at The Salt Pond Visitor Center just off Route 6 in Eastham. The center has an interpretive museum, bookstore and theatre, as well as smashing views over Nauset Marsh out to the Atlantic with an easy 1.5 mile hiking trail around the property. Active types may want to take a three-hour guided kayak tour through Nauset Marsh with Cape Kayaking outfitters. Worked up an appetite? Make a pilgrimage to Beachcombers in South Wellfleet for sustenance in the form of chowdah, rolls, or seafood platters. This popular summer hangout is perched above Cahoon Hollow Beach, which requires a rigorous trek down (and therefore, back up) an enormous 75-foot, slightly eroded dune. For a change of equally magnificent scenery, drive a little farther north and climb down an even steeper dune to Longnook Beach in Truro. This area is a little more isolated, but those who make the journey are treated to the Atlantic’s crashing waves and towering dunes with an odd orange-tinted sand. This is a landscape that truly captures the majesty of Cape Cod’s National Seashore, especially on a moody weather day. Return to Chatham along the bayside and if timed properly, catch a blazing sunset from one of the west-facing beaches, like Skaket or First Encounter Beach.
Sunday: Savor a final day on “the seashore” with a casual morning on Eastham’s Nauset Light Beach (not to be confused with the more southerly Nauset Beach). This is one of the Cape’s popular, family-friendly swimming and surfing beaches, so the area may be extremely crowded in the summer- both the beach and the lighthouse. Seals are often seen bobbing in the waves within eyeshot of the beach (which means sharks might be too!) Climb to the top of the distinct red and white (c. 1877) Nauset Light during a free Sunday tour conducted by Nauset Light Preservation Society. Then wander across the property to admire the Three Sisters of Nauset. Built in 1837, these original lighthouses were set along the Nauset coast between Truro and Chatham. The white flared, dress-like bottom and black “bonnet top” spawned the nickname “Three Sisters.” Before departing the Cape, swing by Eastham’s landmark seafood restaurant- Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar. Fill up on award-winning stuffed quahogs and then finish with a famous banana split. Don’t be sad when the weekend comes to a close… savor the return journey along the Old King’s Highway (Route 6A), through charming villages, and over the Cape Cod Canal to mainland Massachusetts. Enjoy the slow road back to reality.