Exploring New England
EXPLORING NEW ENGLANDExploring New EnglandExploring New EnglandVol. I, No. 4


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A Cape Cod Autumn –- Spell-Binding Getaways

By Cliff Calderwood

Think of autumn scenes and Cape Cod doesn't necessarily spring to mind when compared to the traditional New England fall foliage destinations of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Green Mountains of Vermont, or even the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. But the fact it represents a different type of fall vacation is its compelling charm.

Wander with me through a Cape Cod autumn and experience the sights and sounds of one of the most rewarding autumn getaway spots anywhere in the world.

It begins after Labor Day, when the summer help and tourists have mostly left for college or their office cubicles. The nights are chillier and the days shorter, but the sun still warms the dunes and the water still invites. A few weeks into September and the day temperature turns crisper and the migrating birds use the Cape as a rest spot. This is the best time to visit Cape Cod and enjoy its secrets.

Once this sandy peninsular had forests of trees when the pilgrims first landed but they were all cut down for building and fuel. Today it is mostly scrub pine and not attractive to hardened foliage seekers.

Now it's true there are ponds to be found on the cape surrounded by autumn splendor but the colors of fall pass over Cape Cod with the faintest of brush strokes here and there in the isolated clusters of deciduous woods or planted gardens.

Come to Cape Cod in autumn not for a fiery show of leaves or sweeping vistas of golden slopes, but for walks along deserted dunes and seashores and hikes through marshes preparing for the impending winter storms. Visit the Cape to savior the last farewells of the whales and seals before they return to winter habitats or watch the cranberry harvest gathering the fruit for your Thanksgiving dinner… but most of all come for the inner peace and quiet this place inspires.

Stay in a sophisticated resort in Chatham or Brewster or relax in one of the many fine Inns scattered throughout the peninsular towns, or rent a cape house for a week. Take afternoon tea in Harwich after a brisk walk on Nauset Beach, or view a breathtaking sunset before evening dinner in Falmouth or Sandwich.

These things and more here…

Where to Stay on Cape Cod:

By far the most frequent questions I get about Cape Cod is about accommodation and the best places to stay. So let's begin our adventure together getting orientated on the location of the towns

Cape Cod is divided into four regions. The Upper Cape includes the towns of Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, Mashpee, Mid-cape includes Barnstable, Hyannis, Yarmouth, and Dennis, the Lower Cape has Harwich, Brewster, Chatham and Orleans, and the Outer Cape includes Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown.

Renting a house for a week is popular on the cape – especially in the summer for families – and though many owners close their properties after Labor Day, there is enough still available for rent in the autumn to make this a popular choice. There are a few things to remember though. By all means gather information on the Internet to see what Cape Cod rentals are available – but listings don't always tell the full story, such as the fact that the house could be close to a major junction, which backs up cars in front of the house throughout the day, and destroying your expectation of private and quiet lodging.

If you intend to rent choose a few listings and then call a realtor to discuss those choices and your requirements to see if it matches their local knowledge. The realtor is paid their commission by the owner so getting a local realtor to work for you is free.

Cape Cod has a number of world class resorts and budget hotel and inn accommodation. My personal favorites are the resorts and inns around the Chatham and Orleans area, such as Wequasett Inn on Pleasant Bay in Chatham, and Ocean Edge in Brewster. You can discover a varied selection of Cape Cod lodging by clicking here.

Things to Do on Cape Cod in the Fall:

There are some nice drives on the Cape which I'll explore later but autumn on the Cape is best explored on foot or peddling a bike.

Autumn Walks:

Cape Cod Beaches
One of the many beaches that stretch on for miles. Copyright © Cliff Calderwood All rights reserved.

The Cape Cod National Seashore has miles of protected dunes and beaches. You can walk the beaches that stretch for miles but the protected dunes should only be navigated on organized tours. Some of my favorite beaches to walk are Nauset Beach in Orleans, Coastguard Beach in Eastham, and Marconi Beach in Wellfleet – you can literally walk for miles in the autumn and not meet another soul.

Also within the bounds of the seashore are superb nature walks at the Fort Hill area in Eastham along the Red Maple Swamp Boardwalk Loop, and the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail near the Marconi area in Wellfleet.

For more details about these and other beaches and walks and organized tours, be sure to visit the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham on Route 6.

Outside the National Seashore area other walking trails include those at the popular Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouthport where there are picnic tables and paths that culminate in scenic views of the Black Flats tidal marsh. Avid bird watchers can take in Chatham's South Beach and the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge where you can take guided tours.

Bike Tours:

The Cape has a number of wonderful bike paths that offer not only a great way of visiting the towns and villages but are mostly on paved and off-road trails. The four bike paths are the Cape Cod Canal section which runs through Bourne and Sagamore for 7-8 miles, Falmouth's Shining Sea Bike Path – a four-mile trail through woods and near shoreline, the Cape Cod National Seashore sections of Nauset Trail in Eastham, Head of the Meadow in Truro, and the Province Lands Trails in Provincetown, and the popular Cape Cod Rail Trail – 25-miles of paths running from Dennis to Wellfleet and through Nickerson State Park, this section is particularly beautiful during the autumn.

The bike paths are less crowded during the fall season but expect more traffic at weekends. There are plenty of spots in most of the towns to rent bikes and helmets if bringing them along is too much of a hassle.

Other Tours:

Other ways of experiencing the fall include a scenic drive along Route 6A – also called the Old King's Highway – from Sandwich to Orleans - a quiet route passing through cranberry bogs and towns full of antique and specialty shops. For the more adventurous you can fly like an eagle at Cape Cod Soaring in Marston Mills inside a glider – the cool thermals in fall make this an unforgettable trip - or take-off for a 25-minute or 55-minute flight in a Cessna at Cape Ariel Tours from Chatham airport. And operating for 50-years is the unique Art's Dune Tours where you can travel the protected dunes of Provincetown in a jeep. Art's Dune Tours operates out of Provincetown.

September and October are the final months for the whale watching cruises out to the nearby Stellwagen Bank feeding grounds – boats leave from Provincetown piers and usually go out three times a day. And Outermost Harbor Marine in Chatham offers cruises to Chatham's South Beach to view the seals that love to bask in the autumn sun.

If your island visits have been restricted to Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket, then take a fall trip to the 45-acre Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary in Falmouth where you can take a day cruise to Cuttyhunk Island – one of only two Elizabeth Islands not privately owned.

Fall Festivals:

Autumn in New England is a time of festivals and fairs and Cape Cod brings its own flavor to these events. Harwich is home in September to the Cranberry Harvest Festival, a town tradition for more than 30 years, and if you want to experience a working bog and farm visit Cape Farm and Cranberry Company also in Harwich. Also in September is Truro Treasures a weekend festival featuring arts and crafts, treasure hunts, road race/walk and golf tournament, and the popular Bourne Scallop Festival – a three-day festival of rides, games, live music, and dancing, and no doubt some seafood will be eaten.

October heralds in the Wellfleet Oyster Festival with nature walks, cooking demonstrations, road race, spelling bees, arts and crafts, and of course the great Oyster Shuck-off. The towns of Falmouth, Dennis, and Hyannis hold their Fall for the Arts Festival in early October, and Osterville welcomes visitors to its Fall Festival in mid-October.

The autumn season is truly a wonderful time to visit Cape Cod, and with the activities and event selections I've suggested here it's easy to see why the region is so popular for fall getaway vacations in New England.

Cape Cod Fall Visitor's Resource List:
Where to stay on Cape Cod
Art's Dune Tours
Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary
Bourne Scallop Festival
Cape Cod National Seashore
Cape Cod Rail Trail
Cape Cod Soaring
Cape Farm and Cranberry Company
Harwich Cranberry Festival
Outermost Harbor Marine Cruises
Taylor-Bray Farm
Truro Treasures
Wellfleet Oyster Festival
Whale Watching Cruises on Cape Cod

Inside Issue
There are a number of ways to preserve fall leaves with very little color loss. Use one of the techniques we give you, put it behind glass or acrylic or make a mobile of leaves as a gift of it.
Plimoth Plantation is the epicenter of Thanksgiving and if you want to go out on Thanksgiving this is the place to be. But where does the tradition truly come from?
There are certain tips and tricks one is wise to observe when shooting fall foliage. For starters, it's good to be a morning person.

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