Eastham, the sight of the Pilgrim’s first encounter with native Americans. One of the oldest incorporated townships in the country, Eastham has a rich and colorful history. In 1867, the town’s most famous resident, wealthy whaling captain Edward Penniman, built the town’s most ostentatious residence, a fabulous French Victorian showpiece with a carriage house and an enormous whale jawbone gate. This gorgeous building and its grounds have been restored and are open for tours at the entrance to the Fort Hill Area overlook. The overlook itself is host to the most breath-taking, panoramic view of tidal marsh, navigable inlet, and distant sun-drenched ocean on the entire Cape. At least four separate nature trails lead visitors along nearly eight miles of trails through red maple and cedar forests and along the marsh bluff, repeatedly breaking out into fabulous views of tidewater, saltmarsh, sand and distant surf.
The Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center overlooks peaceful Salt Pond and the Nauset inlet where the Nauset Indians once built their wigwams and fished for sea bass, clams, and mussels. From it’s bluff begin both paved bike trails and self-guided walking trails leading you through cedar forests, wildflowers, and along the sun-soaked northern rim of the panoramic Nauset Marsh. There you can see herons, egrets, gulls, terns, piping plovers, and other shorebirds in their protected habitats.
Eastham boasts over 5 miles of clean, sandy ocean beaches, including Nauset Light Beach and Coast Guard Beach, both operated by the rangers and lifeguards of the National Seashore Park. On the bayside, the town operates 7 public beaches from Horton’s Landing to First Encounter Beach, site of the Pilgrim’s first skirmish with the Nauset Indians. The bay beaches are a delight for families with younger children, especially when the tides recede to expose nearly a mile of clean sand and the occasional periwinkles, sea snails, and miniature crabs that find themselves stranded by the retreating water. At high tide, the shallow bay water is warmer and calmer than that on the ocean-side of town, also ideal for swimming and boating.
In 1926, famed naturalist Henry Beston spent a full year living alone in a small cabin on the sandspit below Coast Guard Beach. There amid the ever-changing dunes he observed the native wildlife, the many-faceted moods of the Atlantic, and the passing seasons. He later published a book of his notes during that memorable year. In The Outermost House Beston described Eastham as only a naturalist could:
“Outermost cliff and solitary dune, the plain of ocean and the far bright rims of the world, meadowland and marsh and ancient moor: this is Eastham.”
Things to do – Places to go
Nearly all of the following sites and activities are less than 15 minutes by car from Wheel In Cottages. Since our 3-acre grounds also abut the National Seashore Park and the Cape Cod Rail Trail, most of these attractions are also easily accessible by bicycle:
Over 5 miles of clean Atlantic Ocean beaches, including scenic Coast Guard Beach and picturesque Nauset Light Beach (5 minutes by car, 15-30 minutes via the bike path and back roads.)
The 7 Eastham public beaches of beautiful Cape Cod Bay with their miles of sun-drenched tidal plains, endless expanses of sun and sand for children to swim, play and find shells and other natural treasures. (5-12 minutes by car, 20 minutes by bicycle.)
Attend lectures and films at the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center and Natural History Museum above beautiful Salt Pond (8 minutes by car, 25 minutes along the bike path and back roads.)
Walk around the breath-taking Fort Hill Overlook and tour the magnificent Captain Edward Penniman House and grounds. (9 minutes by car, 35 minutes by bike.)
Take tours of the recently opened Nauset Light lighthouse, as well as its predecessors the Three Sisters Nauset, three smaller wooden lighthouses also restored nearby. Walk the grounds of the wooded and serene Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary on the bayside in South Wellfleet. (3 minutes by car, 12 minutes via the bike path)
Go Charter Fishing in Cape Cod Bay out of either Rock Harbor (to the south) or Wellfleet Harbor to the north. (15 minutes by car in either direction.)
Walk the pier at Wellfleet Harbor and view the many private yachts, sailing sloops, and commercial vessels anchored there. Wellfleet is one of the oldest seaports in New England and features many stately former sea-captains homes, art galleries, and other historical sites. (12 minutes by car, 45 minutes via the biketrail and backroads.)
Attend award-winning live Summer Theatre productions in Orleans and Wellfleet. (15 minutes by car.)
Play Tennis & Golf at numerous public and private courses and courts throughout the area.
Go Whale Watching out of Provincetown Harbor and see Right Whales, Humpbacks and dolphins frolic ship-side in, Stellwagen Bank, a recently established marine wildlife preserve for these magnificent mammals. While in Provincetown, visit the Pilgrim Monument and Museum, and shop the many art galleries nestled amid the narrow streets of this quaint and colorful seaport. (45 minutes by car)
Visit historic Marconi Wireless Station, site of the first trans-Atlantic wireless communication. (10 minutes by car, 25 minutes via the bike path.)
Go shell fishing for steamer clams, little necks, cherrystones and quahogs in Salt Pond. (8 minutes by car.)
Go surfcasting for Striped Bass, Bluefish, Mackerel and other in-season Atlantic offerings. Take day-trips to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island by plane or ferry out of Hyannis.
Check out this summer’s blockbuster movies at the Wellfleet Cinema (3 minutes by car.)
Choose from Fine Dining in numerous elegant former sea captains homes, or select bountiful family-fare at various privately owned establishments. You can even call out for pizza at any of 4 pizzerias nearby.
It’s impossible to see and do it all in a week. So stay for two!!