Cape Cod 2011
20 July 2011 Wednesday - About Cape Cod
Cape Cod, often referred to as simply the Cape, is a peninsula in the easternmost portion of the state of Massachusetts, in the Northeastern United States. The Cape's small-town character and large beachfront attract heavy tourism during the summer months. It was formed as the terminal moraine of a glacier, resulting in a peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1914, the Cape Cod Canal was cut through the base or isthmus of the peninsula, artificially making the Cape an island. Road vehicles from the mainland cross onto the Cape via the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge. The Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge carries railway freight as well as passenger service.
Although Cape Cod has a year-round population of about 230,000, it experiences a tourist season each summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day, as the New England cold gives way to a brief but comfortable summer. Many businesses are specifically targeted to summer visitors, and close during the 8 to 9 months of the "off season".
6am-8am depart Norfolk MA for Eastham MA - 99 miles and 2 hours 5 minutes driving time
8am thru 9:30am Salt Pond Visitor Center
Salt Pond Visitor Center is Cape Cod National Seashore's main visitor facility, with frequent orientation movies, a well stocked bookstore, a comprehensive museum, and restroom facilities. The indoor theatre routinely offers 5 short films daily on a rotating schedule. Offering breathtaking views of Nauset Marsh and the Atlantic beyond, this Visitor Center is also convenient to the popular 1.5 mile Nauset Marsh Trail and the Buttonbush Trail, a .25 mile multi-sensory trail that featuring a guide rope and text panels printed in large lettering and Braille, and the Nauset Bicycle Trail.
The museum collection at Salt Pond reflects the vast range of natural and cultural themes represented on Cape Cod. Quotes highlight themes that the museum's exhibits encompass, along with artwork from prominent artists. In the atrium, the museum offers highlights of the Cape's complex natural composition. Realistic models of native plants and mounted animal specimens emphasize the rich and diverse natural history of the Outer Cape. Displays cover salt marsh plants and animals, beach dynamics, upland plant communities and prominent residential and migratory birds. Park website:
First Encounter Beach
Just south of the Salt Pond Visitor Center on other (est) side of US 6 is the oldest windmill on Cape Cod (1793) in a pretty park. It's a favorite place to stop and take a photo, throw a frisbee, or enjoy a picnic.
From the windmill, take a side trip west to First Encounter Beach, where the Pilgrims first met the Indian inhabitants of Cape Cod back in 1620. First Encounter Beach is rich in history. Near the parking lot, a bronze marker commemorates the first encounter between local Native Americans and passengers from the Mayflower, led by Captain Myles Standish, who explored the entire area for five weeks in November and December 1620 before moving on to Plymouth. The remains of a navy target ship retired after 25 years of battering now rest on a sandbar about 1 mi out. A plaque on a boulder up the hill just north of the parking lot commemorates the meeting, which apparently was anything but cordial.
9:30am-10:15am drive to Provincetown MA - 24 miles and 36 minutes
About Provincetown
Thirty miles of beach front, magnificent dunes and a stunning harbor are just a few reasons to travel to the outermost part of the Cape. Provincetown is also an artists haven, a historic and active seaport, and a shopping and dining paradise. Most activities center around Commercial Street, known for its galleries and shops, Portuguese bakeries, and restaurants catering to a variety of tastes. MacMillan Wharf, off Commercial Street, is also a town focalpoint. Here, visitors can embark on a Whale Watching cruise, take a charter tour, or at day's end, watch the fishermen return to the Harbor with their fresh catch. (All highly recommended.) Nearby, sun, swim, bike, hike and picnic at Race Point Beach and the Province Lands. Of historical interest, visit the Provincetown Heritage Museum (featuring Pilgrim artifacts) and climb the Pilgrim Monument, the tallest granite structure in America.
Provincetown Trolley
Provincetown Trolley will take you on a 40-minute narrated tour of Provincetown, the first landing place of the Pilgrims. You will travel Commercial Street. You'll see the art district, hundreds of boutiques, and beautiful Cape Cod homes. See panoramic views of Provincetown Harbor (the 2nd largest natural harbor in the world), Cape Cod Bay, and magnificent Atlantic Ocean. You will go through the 4,000 acre National Seashore Park. The expert narration includes such subjects as the first landing place of the pilgrims, the "graveyard of the Atlantic", the Pilgrim Memorial Monument and Museum, playwright Eugene O'Neill, the oldest home in Provincetown, constructed with timbers from shipwrecks (c.1746). The Narration covers the past to the present with over 20 points of interest. Provincetown trolley leaves from in front of Town Hall every 1/2 hour from 10am to 4pm. $13/person. Website:
Commercial Street
Commercial St. is a one way street and very narrow. So cars don't really travel on Commercial St. There are too many people walking. Provincetown's main downtown thoroughfare, Commercial Street, is 3 mi from end to end. In season, driving from one end to the other could take forever, so wear comfortable shoes and get ready to walk (although going on foot will take awhile, too, due to the crowds). You'll see signs for parking lots as you head into town. Take a casual stroll and check out the many architectural styles (Greek revival, Victorian, Second Empire, and Gothic, to name a few) used in the design of the impressive houses for wealthy sea captains and merchants. Be on the lookout for blue plaques fastened to housefronts explaining their historical significance—practically the entire town has been designated part of the Provincetown Historic District.
Pilgrim Monument
At 1 High Pole Hill Road, Provincetown, MA 02657. The most popular thing to do while in Provincetown is to visit the Pilgrim Tower. It's just a short walk from Commercial Street and easy to find, because you can't miss it. The ascent up 116 stairs and 60 ramps to the top of the Pilgrim Monument requires a bit of energy, but if you pass this endurance test, you'll be rewarded with spectacular views of the sand and the sea.
Modeled on the Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy, the granite tower on a hill in the center of Provincetown is 252.5 feet (77 meters) high. The cornerstone was laid in 1907 with President Teddy Roosevelt in attendance, and the structure was completed three years later, when President Taft did the dedicating. How do visitors get to the top to enjoy the view? Well, there's no elevator, so you c-l-i-m-b, the equivalent of climbing to the top of a 20-story building. Most of the climb is on a ramp, not steps, and you can take your time and read the commemorative plaques from New England cities, towns, and civic groups which line the granite walls. The view is worth the climb: Provincetown and all Cape Cod spread out like the maps you've been following. Website:
Provincetown Museum (same place as Pilgrim Monument)
The Provincetown Museum is a charming mix of the old and the new. The permanent exhibits retain the charm of an old-fashioned history museum. Exhibits highlight the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims, the town’s rich maritime history, the early days of modern American theater in Provincetown, and the building of the monument.
There is also a recreation of a 19th century sea captain’s parlor at home and his quarters at sea, a diorama of the Mayflower Compact being signed aboard the Mayflower in Provincetown Harbor, and a scale model of the first theater of the Provincetown Players. Admission $7/$5. Open daily May - September 9am - 7pm. Website
Herring Cove Beach
At Herring Cove Beach, which is one mile from town, there is beautiful sand, gentle surf for swimming, opportunities for spotting whales in the distance, ample facilities, and great sunsets. Dune hiking and picnicking are a favorite pastime of locals and visitors, and while it’s an adventurous activity, the incredible vistas are worth the efforts. Perhaps the best and cheapest way to end the day in Provincetown is to catch a breathtaking sunset at Herring Cove Beach for free.
Herring Cove Beach between Wood End and Race Point Lighthouses has ample parking and a beach facility which includes toilets, showers and take away food for the complete ‘day at the beach.’ Herring Cove parking on the Race Point end also offers access to a bike/walking trail that goes through the most rugged dunes and offers vistas of the salt marshes surrounding Hatches Harbor.
MacMillan Pier
Located in Provincetown Center, MacMillan Pier is the embarkation point for many outdoor and boating activities as well as the docking station for the local commercial fishing fleet. From the pier, visitors can depart for a whale watch, watch artists at work, visit the Whydah Museum and see real pirate treasure.
MacMillan Pier is Provincetown’s major transportation hub ~ ferries from Boston bring tens of thousands of people here seasonally, and excursions of all types depart daily to explore the Harbor, the National Seashore and Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary.
Province Lands Visitor Center
The Province Lands Visitor Center is located on Race Point Road, off Route 6, at the northern end of Cape Cod National Seashore, approximately one mile from Provincetown. It is open daily from May 1 through October 31st from 9am to 5pm. The observation deck at this Visitor Center provides a 360-degree view of the Province Lands dunes, the Outer Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. From this location you can see Race Point Ranger Station, Race Point Beach, the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station and the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown. Exhibits about local plants and animals and the Pilgrim's landing in Provincetown are featured.
7:30pm to 10:30pm drive back home to Norfolk MA - 123 miles 2 hours 45 minutes
10:30pm Home Sweet Home

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