Written by Debbi K. and William D. Kickham
Who doesn’t love a vacation that incorporates wonderful accommodations, great food and terrific natural resources that offer atmosphere — and more atmosphere?
We’re talking, of course, about the Lower Cape — specifically the towns of Eastham, Wellfleet and Truro, Massachusetts. These charming towns, which are naturally and ruggedly beautiful, are famous for a lot of things, specifically for what they don’t have — big-box stores, urban overgrowth and franchises. Unlike many Cape Cod towns where you’ll find every store and hotel under the sun, these towns have no supermarkets, maybe — just maybe — a Dunkin’ Donuts’ franchise and just one resort. (More on that in a minute).
Instead, what you will find is all the natural, untouched beauty of the National Seashore. The Cape Cod National Seashore was created on Aug. 7, 1961, by President John F. Kennedy, for which the world should be forever thankful. (Without Kennedy’s influence, this part of the Cape would otherwise be overrun by skyscraper hotels and Walmarts.) The Cape Cod National Seashore is comprised of 43,607 acres on Cape Cod that include the ponds, woods and beachfront of the Atlantic coastal pine barrens eco-region. The CCNS embraces nearly 40 miles of seashore along the Atlantic-facing eastern edge of Cape Cod in the towns of Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans and Chatham.
The CCNS is run by the National Park Service, with the dual goal of protecting precious, ecologically fragile land while allowing the public to enjoy a unique natural resource. Among its notable sites is the Marconi Station, the setting for the first two-way transatlantic radio communication between the U.S. and Europe on Jan. 18, 1903.
CHECKING IN TO CHECK IT OUT
By far, you should stay at the only resort on the Lower Cape — the Four Points by Sheraton in Eastham. The truth is, the Lower Cape is filled with budget motels and inns that haven’t been remodeled since the Kennedy administration. But the Four Points is a little slice of luxury. Cape Cod Life magazine agrees, having named it “The Best” resort/hotel on the Lower Cape many times.
What gets us so excited? Well, it’s that this nonsmoking property offers terrific services and amenities to Lower Cape vacationers and, added to that, gets it all right. Even more, it is always upgrading and making everything — the staff and service — even better than before.
Let’s start with the rooms. Bright, cheerful and modern, these, well-appointed rooms feature Four Comfort beds — Sealy beds with thick pillow tops, which make every night (and every nap) a dream. Aside from comfortable rooms, the Four Points also has oceans of amenities that we love — indoor and outdoor pools (the heated indoor pool is a hit with families, even in the winter); an exercise room with a cardio theater; a business center with complimentary internet; free tennis/basketball courts; and Bellamy’s Grill & Bar for dinner.
There are also two Nauset Suites priced from $550 to $650 per night in high season. These are two-bedroom apartments (1,100 square feet each) which sleep eight, if you come for a wedding, reunion or just with your extended family. Other rooms range from $265 to $425 in high season. Major renovations to the entire hotel are planned for after this season.
Of course, of most importance in the summer months is the fact that the hotel is just five minutes away from two fantastic beaches — the Nauset Light Beach and Coast Guard Beach, which is an award-winner selected as one of the Top Ten in the world by Dr. Beach. In other words, when you stay at the Four Points in summer, you’re going to get the beach experiences of your dreams. (And the parking lots are always filled with cars from Connecticut and New York.)
Coast Guard Beach features coarse sand, cliffs, lots of beach grass and the old picturesque Coast Guard station. Bring your wetsuits — the Atlantic waters of the Cape reach only about 70 degrees, if you’re lucky.
Spend time at the Salt Pond Visitor Center, where, for free, you can discover a wealth of historical information about Cape Cod and this area in particular. There’s a museum where you can learn everything you’d like to know about whaling, scrimshaw, fishing and mollusks. Short films are also shown throughout the day. Bring your sneakers and hike the 1.5-mile trail around the salt pond, where you can take in all of the Cape’s natural beauty quite easily.
After beaching it, it’s definitely worth the short trip to Gull Pond, one of the Cape’s famous “kettle ponds,” where you can rent kayaks or just take a dip in the crystal-clear water. The water is so clean, clear and soft, you won’t want — or need — to shower afterward.
Also a must-do — Art’s Dune Tours. You’ll view gorgeous sand dunes and the shacks where famous artists and writers like Eugene O’Neill created their work. You will also pass the remains of the lifesaving station and learn how brave workers here saved the lives of thousands from doomed shipwrecks in days gone by.
A WHALE OF A MEAL
Lunch, anyone? Our absolutely favorite seafood place for lunch or dinner is Moby Dick’s, which is situated across from Gull Pond Road. Now celebrating 35 years of business under owner Todd Barry, Moby Dick’s is the epitome of the clam shack that you’ve always wanted to eat at. “Yes, we’re a clam shack,” Barry says. “We haven’t reinvented the wheel, but we don’t cut corners and only buy the best.”
Indeed, here’s where you’ll find Wellfleet oysters, of course, along with classic fried platters, lobster rolls and signature seafood such as the broiled Cape sea scallops that come with sweet corn and baked potatoes. The prices are value-packed, you can bring in your own alcohol (which people love to do as there are no corkage fees) and a tipping jar suffices for gratuities. You’ll find, fins down, the freshest seafood (deliveries are daily) and wait-staff kids from all over the world – Russia, Bulgaria, Poland, you name it – who are excited to work in Wellfleet. Save room for dessert: Moby’s bakes its own brownies, get its ice cream from a local mom-and-pop purveyor, and imports its key lime pie from Georgia. It’s a great deal for a few clams.
OO LA LA – DINNER AT PB BOULANGERIE BISTRO
Also situated in Wellfleet, PB Boulangerie Bistro is an incredible French restaurant that is a true success story, for Cape Chef Philippe Rispoli came to Wellfleet with an imaginative and engaging idea: Open an authentic French bistro and boulangerie, and keep it open year-round. His risk has paid off. PB Boulangerie has been enthusiastically written up in major publications and patrons make it a “destination restaurant.” (It has been rated in Zagat as the best restaurant on the entire Cape.) The line is always out the door, as people queue up to purchase award-winning baguettes (Bon Appetit named it the best baguette in America), batards, pain au chocolat, croissants and other delicious treats. Both Yankee Magazine and Cape Cod Life have named it the Cape’s best bakery.
REELING THEM IN
To top to it all off, you absolutely must visit the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre. The legendary blast from the past offers first-run double features every night in the summer and is the only drive-in theater on Cape Cod. (And let’s face it, there are just a handful of drive-ins still in business around the country.) Built in 1957, the Wellfleet drive-in hosts a 100-foot-by-44-foot screen, and a state-of-the-art FM stereo sound system that decodes modern sound tracks. In many (but not all) spots, mono original speakers are available for your nostalgic listening pleasure. On-site you’ll also find mini-golf, ice cream, pizza and, during the day, an inimitable flea market that is ideal to visit when the weather is less than perfect and you don’t go to the beach. Make sure to wear your sunscreen anyway.