Cape Cod National Seashore
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Cape Cod National Seashore

99 Marconi Site Road
Wellfleet, MA 02667
(508) 349-3785

Mention Cape Cod and people think of different things: swimming and sunbathing, fishing and whaling, clams and cranberries, writers and artists, cottages and shops, Pilgrims and Indians. All are part of the ambiance and charm that attract millons of visitors to the Cape each year. To help protect the special qualities of this environment, the National Seashore was established in 1961 within the 40-mile-long section between Chatham and Provincetown.

Location: Massachusetts seaboard
Size: 43,557 acres
Features: Six swimming beaches, historic lighthouses, freshwater kettle ponds, upland forests
Activities: Swimming, beachcombing, hiking, surfing & windsurfing

The Cape is a glacial deposit that is constantly undergoing natural changes as winds and water move sand along the shorelines, tearing away one place and building up another. You can get a good sense of how quickly the land is diminishing at the Marconi Wireless Station site at Wellfeet, where the peninsula is only a mile wide. Much of the high cliff has eroded since Gugliermo Marconi first built his towers there in 1901. Changing, too, though not so perceptibly, is the Cape Cod Bay shoreline. Great Island, where whalers used to congregate, is now connected to the peninsula; you can explore it via a trail.

The Cape's human history is just as rich as its natural history. In the Provincetown area you can see where the Pilgrims landed in 1620 before sailing across the bay to Plymouth, and in the National Seashore are several historic buildings that reflect the residents' longtime association with the sea. The Old Harbor Lifesaving Station was moved in two pieces from Chatham to Race Point near Provincetown in 1977. Captain Edward Penniman's 1868 house in Eastham is atypically ornate but denotes the once profitable whaling business. Nauset Light is one of five lighthouses within the Seashore; and the Atwood-Higgins House, built about 1730, represents the typical Cape Cod dwelling. Most of these structures are open for tours in the summer. Inquire at the visitor centers.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 6 Nov 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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