Cape Cod
National Seashore
Massachusetts
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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 American Indians. All are part of the ambience and charm that attract thousands of visitors to the Cape each year. To help protect the qualities of this environment, the national seashore was established in 1961. It contains 44,000 acres along a 40-mile section between Chatham and Provincetown. Each of the National Park Service sites within this area tells a part of the Cape Cod story.

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 Station Site at Wellfleet, where the peninsula is only a mile wide. Much of the high cliff has eroded since Guglielmo 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.

American Indians began living on the Outer Cape about 10,000 years ago. Oral tradition and a vast archeological record tell us of their history here. The Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and stayed briefly before sailing across the bay to Plymouth. Later, residents constructed buildings that reflected the sea's influence on their lives: the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station built in 1897-98 was moved from Chatham to Race Point near Provincetown in 1977; Captain Edward Penniman's 1868 house in Eastham is atypically ornate and denotes the once-profitable whaling business; Nauset Light is one of five lighthouses in the national seashore; and the Atwood-Higgins House, built about 1730, represents the typical Cape Cod dwelling. Ask at the visitor centers about building tours.

Recreation and Relaxation

While you are here take time to try something different, whether it is bicycling, hiking, or just sitting by the ocean watching the waves. Activity schedules are available at the visitor centers.

Swimming Seasonal lifeguard services and other related facilities are at these National Park Service beaches: Coast Guard, Nauset Light, Marconi, Head of the Meadow, Race Point, and Herring Cove. Many towns have public beaches; all charge seasonal fees. Please observe water safety practices at all times.

Surfing and Windsurfing Within the national seashore surfing and windsurfing are permitted in waters outside lifeguarded beaches.

Walking The seashore has a number of short self-guiding trails. We invite you to walk them to relax and to gain an insight into the Cape's natural and human history. Perhaps their descriptive names will entice you: Fort Hill, Red Maple Swamp, Nauset Marsh, Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, Great Island, Pamet Area, Small's Swamp, Pilgrim Spring, and Beech Forest. You can obtain brochures about the trails at the visitor centers. Buttonbush Trail, with features for visitors who are blind, starts at Salt Pond Visitor Center.

Bicycling, Skating, and More The seashore maintains three bicycle trails ranging from 1.6 to 7.3 miles long. Roller blades, skates, and skateboards are permitted. Motorized vehicles, including mopeds, are prohibited on these paved trails. Safety Note • The speed limit on all bicycle trails is 10 MPH. • Ride single file. Stay to the right, except when passing. • Helmets are required for ages 16 and under and strongly advised for all. • Yield right of way to horses and pedestrians.

Fishing Try surf-fishing from the beaches, but stay away from swimmers. No license is required for saltwater fishing, but a state license is required for freshwater fishing. Town licenses for shellfishing are required. Regulations and fees vary among the towns.

Hunting Upland game and migratory waterfowl may be hunted in certain areas in the specified season. There is no open season on non-game species. Ask for a brochure about hunting opportunities and restrictions. All federal, state, and local laws apply.

Travel Services Cape Cod National Seashore has no overnight facilities. Sleeping and camping accommodations, restaurants, gift shops, grocery and other stores, and gas stations are found in nearby towns. Reservations at motels, hotels, and private campgrounds are essential in summer. For information and reservations write: Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, Hyannis, MA 02601.

Camping The National Park Service does not operate a campground here. Camping is available at nearby private and state-operated facilities. Overnight camping and parking are prohibited.

More Information Headquarters is near the Marconi Station Site in Wellfleet (no public facilities).

Safety and Regulations

park map
(click for larger map)

National Park Service rangers are here to help you and to enforce regulations established to protect you and the national seashore. To see a full set of regulations, ask at headquarters or the visitor centers. Observe the following:

• Do not disturb natural or cultural features; all are protected by federal law.
• Keep trails, roadsides, and other areas clean. Use trash receptacles, or take trash with you.
• Over-sand vehicles must be used only on designated sand routes. A permit is required.
• Open fires are not allowed except when authorized by a permit; get one at visitor centers. Permits are not required for stoves using manufactured fuels or for charcoal grills when used in designated picnic areas at Doane Rock, Great Island, Pilgrim Heights, and Beech Forest, or on sandy or rocky beaches bordering tidewater.
• Pets must be physically restrained. Leashes must not exceed six feet. Pets are not permitted in public buildings, in picnic areas, on protected beaches, or on self-guiding trails.
• Public nudity is prohibited.
• Sand collapses easily. Climbing slopes or digging deep holes is hazardous.
• At the ocean be alert for riptides and underwater obstacles. Keep children within reach. Beaches with lifeguards are
marked with signs. For your safety, obey the directions of lifeguards. • Drive carefully and observe posted speed limits. Wear seatbelts; it's the law. Report all traffic accidents immediately.
• Avoid too much sun exposure. Be aware that ticks and poison ivy are prevalent.
• Do not take glass containers, rafts, rubber tubes, snorkels, and masks to any beach.
• In summer be alert for heavy traffic, bicycles, and pedestrians on narrow roads.

Emergencies: Contact a ranger or call 911.

Things to See and Do

Salt Pond Visitor Center (U.S. 6 in Eastham) and Province Lands Visitor Center (Race Point Road in Provincetown) have publications, information, exhibits, audiovisual programs, and spectacular views of the seashore. Salt Pond is open year-round. Province Lands is open from late-spring through mid-fall. Outdoor exhibits and self-guiding trails are found throughout the national seashore. Ranger-guided activities, such as walks, canoe trips, family programs, and historic home tours, are offered daily in summer and periodically during other seasons.

Beaches and Shuttle Bus

National Park Service beaches are supervised by lifeguards from late June through Labor Day. Parking at Coast Guard Beach is restricted to park staff and visitors with disabilities between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily. The National Park Service provides a shuttle bus to the beach from Little Creek parking area east of Salt Pond Visitor Center. Shuttle bus schedule: weekends only from Memorial Day weekend to late June and after Labor Day through Columbus Day; daily from late June through Labor Day. Entrance fees to beaches are charged; the shuttle bus fare is included in the entrance fee. Access to town beaches is regulated by town residence requirements or by local entrance fees.

Getting to the Seashore

U.S. 6 is the main route to and through the national seashore. Buses run from Hyannis to Chatham and Provincetown. Airlines operate between Hyannis and Boston, Providence, and New York, and between Boston and Provincetown. Amtrak provides limited service to Hyannis on weekends in summer. There is seasonal ferry service between Boston and Provincetown.

Source: NPS Brochure (2005)


Establishment

Cape Cod National Seashore — August 7, 1961


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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section

Documents

A History of the Forests of Cape Cod (L. Stanford Altpeter, March 4, 1966)

Activity Guides

2021: JuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctober

Aquatic Vegetation and Trophic Condition of Cape Cod National Seashore Kettle Ponds NPS Technical Report NPS/BSO-RNR/NRTR/00-17 (Charles T. Roman, Nels E. Barrett and John W. Portnoy, October 2000)

Archeological Collections Management of the Great Island Tavern Site, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts ACMP (Archeological Collections Management Project) Series No. 3 (Alan Synenki and Sheila Charles, 1984)

Assessment of Potential Saltwater Encroachment in the Herring River Basin, Cape Cod National Seashore NPS Technical Report NPS/NRPC/WRD/NRTR-2007/370 (Larry Martin, April 2007)

Atlantic National Seashores in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption (Stephen Saunders, Tom Easley, Dan Findlay and Kathryn Durdy, ©The Rocky Mountain Climate Organization and Natural Resources Defense Council, August 2012, all rights reserved)

Atwood-Higgins Historic District: Cultural Landscape Report and Outbuildings Historic Structures Report: Cape Cod National Seashore (Emily Donaldson, Lauren H. Laham and Margie Coffin Brown, 2010)

Cape Cod: 17th and 18th Century Roads, with particular attention to the King's Highway (William D. Hershey, July 5, 1962)

Cape Cod National Seashore 2019 Shorebird Monitoring and Management Report NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/CACO/NRR-2021/2302 (Jessica Whitmore, Carolyn Campbell and Kelly Medeiros, September 2021)

Chapters in the Archeology of Cape Cod, I: Results of the Cape Cod National Seashore Archeological Survey, 1979-1981: Volume 1 Cultural Resources Management Study No. 8 (Francis P. McManamon, ed., 1984)

Chapters in the Archeology of Cape Cod, I: Results of the Cape Cod National Seashore Archeological Survey, 1979-1981: Volume 2 Cultural Resources Management Study No. 8 (Francis P. McManamon, ed., 1984)

Chapters in the Archeology of Cape Cod, II: The 1983 Excavations at 19BN281 Cultural Resources Management Study No. 12 (Francis P. McManamon, ed., 1985)

Chapters in the Archeology of Cape Cod, III: The Historic Period and Historic Period Archeology Cultural Resources Management Study No. 13 (Francis P. McManamon, ed., 1985)

Chapters in the Archeology of Cape Cod, V: The Indian Neck Ossuary Cultural Resources Management Study No. 17 (Francis P. McManamon, ed., 1986)

Classification of Coastal Plan Pondshore Communities of the Cape Cod National Seashore Using the U.S. National Vegetation Classification NPS Technical Report NPS/BSO-RNR/NRTR/00-8 (Lesley Sneddon, Mark Anderson and Julie Lundgren, July 1999)

Climate Friendly Parks Action Plan, Cape Cod National Seashore (undated)

Coastal Vulnerability Assessment of Cape Cod National Seashore to Sea-Level Rise USGS Open-File Report 2002-233 (Erika S. Hammar-Klose, Elizabeth A. Pendleton, E. Robert Thieler and S. Jeffress Williams, 2003)

Conceptual Framework for the Development of Long-term Monitoring Protocols at Cape Cod National Seashore (Charles T. Roman and Nels E. Barrett, April 1999)

Condition Report for Fort Hill Rural Historic District, Cape Cod National Seashore Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation (Jan Haenraets, 2007)

Cultural Landscape Report and Historic Structure Report: Salt Pond Visitor Center, Cape Cod National Seashore, Eastham, Massachusetts Draft (August 1999)

Cultural Landscape Report for Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, Cape Cod National Seashore Site History, Existing Conditions, Analysis and Evaluation and Treatment (Emily Donaldson, Margie Coffin Brown and Gretchen Hilyard, 2011)

Cultural Landscape Report for Fort Hill, Cape Cod National Seashore Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation Cultural Landscape Publication #10 (Lynn Kneedler-Schad, Katharine Lacy and Larry Lowenthal, 1995)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Baker Biddle Property, Cape Cod National Seashore (2019)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Pamet Cranberry Bog, Cape Cod National Seashore (2019)

Dune Shacks of the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, Cape Cod National Seashore: Traditional Cultural Property Assessment (Robert J. Wolfe and T.J.Ferguson, May 3, 2006)

Dune Slack Wetland Vegetation Monitoring: Floristic Changes Between 2004 and 2019, Cape Code National Seashore NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/CACO/NRR-2021/2312 (Stephen M. Smith, October 2021)

Dwelling in the Dunes: Traditional Use of the Dune Shacks of the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District, Cape Cod (Robert J. Wolfe, August 2005)

Effects of Diking, Drainage and Seawater Restoration on Salt March Biogeochemical Cycling NPS Technical Report NPS/NESO-RNR/NRTR/96-04 (J.W. Portnoy, January 1995)

Effects of Off-Road Vehicles on the Sediments of Hatches Harbor, Cape Cod National Seashore UM-NPSCRU Report No. 30 (James A. Hamilton, 1978)

Effects of Vehicular Traffic on the Beach Face UM-NPSCRU Report No. 31 (Stephen P. Leatherman and Linda L. Long, 1977)

Endless Summer: Managing Character in Coastal Communities — Conference Proceedings, October 6-8, 2004, Provincetown, Massachusetts (September 2005)

Fire Suppression and Landscape Change on Outer Cape Cod 1600-1994 NPS Techical Report NPS/NESO-RNR/NRTR/96-08 (Peter W. Dunwiddie and Mark B. Adams, January 1995)

Forging a Collaborative Future: Final Environmental Impact Statement for the General Management Plan, Volume 1: Environmental Impact Statement, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (February 1998)

Forging a Collaborative Future: Final Environmental Impact Statement for the General Management Plan, Volume 2: Comments and Responses on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (February 1998)

Foundation Document, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (July 2018)

Foundation Document Overview, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (July 2018)

Geologic History of Cape Cod, Massachusetts USGS (Robert N. Oldale, undated)

Historic Resource Study, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (Berle Clemensen, undated)

Historic Structure Inventory: Cape Cod National Seashore (Brian Pfeiffer, 1981)

Historic Structure Report: French Cable Hut, Cape Cod National Seashore (A. Berle Clemensen and William W. Howell with H. Thomas McGrath and Elayne Anderson, January 1986)

Historic Structure Report: Highland House, Cape Cod National Seashore, North Truro, Massachusetts (Regina Binder and Larry Lowenthal, May 1994)

Historic Structure Report: Old Harbor Life-Saving Station, Cape Cod National Seashore (Peggy A. Albee, June 1988)

Historic Structure Report: U.S. Coast Guard Nauset Station Dwelling and Boathouse, Cape Cod National Seashore, Eastham, Massachusetts (Lance Kasparian, January 2008)

Historic Structure Report: Three Sisters Lighthouse, Cape Cod National Seashore (A. Berle Clemensen and William W. Howell with H. Thomas McGrath and Elayne Anderson, January 1986)

Historic Structures Report: Clarence H. Rowell House (Bldg. 19-69), Part 1 — (Edison P. Lohr, June 1968)

Historic Structures Report: Jedediah Higgins House (Bldg. No. 13-13), Part 1 — Historical Data Section (Edison P. Lohr, June 1968)

Historic Structures Report: Race Point Coast Guard Station, Station House, Cape Cod National Seashore (Maureen K. Phillips, July 2005)

Investigation of Effects of Ground Water Withdrawals from the Pamet and Chequesset Aquifers, Cape Cod National Seashore NPS Technical Report NPS/NRWRD/NRTR-93/14 (Larry Martin, February 1993)

LTEM Project Prioritization, Cape Cod National Seashore (c2003)

Master Plan, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts (1974)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms

Ahearn House and Summer House (David Curran House) (Michael E. Whatley, March 22, 1984)

Atwood-Higgins House (No. 25-55) (Edison Pike Lohr, July 13, 1973)

Edward Penniman House (No. 35-77) and Barn (No. 35-78) (Edison Pike Lohr, July 13, 1973)

Fort Hill Rural Historic District (Sarah Korieff and Betsy Friedberg, November 2000)

French Cable Hut (No. 32-91) (Edison P. Lohr, September 12, 1973)

Highland House (No. 15-94) (Edison Pike Lohr, February 25, 1974)

Jedediah Higgins House (Michael E. Whatley, March 22, 1984)

Old Harbor Coast Guard Station (No. 43-89) (Edison Pike Lohr, July 24, 1973)

Race Point Light Station (L. Fox and Jack Clarke, August 1981)

The Beacon (Three Sisters of Nauset) (N. Salzman and J. Clarke, July 22, 1981)

Natural Resource Condition Assessment, Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NER/NRR-2012/605 (Sarah J. Nelson, Peter Vaux, Mary-Jane James-Pirri and Graham S. Giese, December 2012)

Northeast Coastal and Barrier Network Geomorphological Monitoring Protocol: Part I—Ocean Shoreline Position, Version 2 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NCBN/NRR-2022/2415 (Norbert P. Psuty, Mark Duffy, Dennis E. Skidds, Tanya M. Silveira, Andrea Habeck, Katherine Ames and Glenn Liu, June 2022)

Off-Road Vehicle Use on Federally Managed Coastal Parklands UM-NPSCRU Report No. 46 (James F. Palmer and Stephen P. Leatherman, August 1979)

Park Newspaper: 2017-2018

People and Places on the Outer Cape: A Landscape Character Study (June 2004)

People Living on the Edge: Cape Cod, Massachusetts (2014)

Piping Plover Habitat Selection, Home Range, and Reproduction Success at Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts NPS Technical Report NPS/NESO-RNR/NRTR/97-03 (L. Kyle Jones, February 1997)

Report on The History of Cape Cod, Massachusetts (Frank Barnes, 1958)

Research Highlights at the Atlantic Research & Learning Center (undated)

Resource Brief: Monitoring Climate Change at Cape Cod National Seashore (December 2009)

Salt Marsh Restoration at Herring River: An Assessment of Potential Salt Water Intrusion in Areas Adjacent to Herring River and Mill Creek, Cape Cod National Seashore NPS Technical Report NPS/NRWRD/NRTR-2004/319 (Larry Martin, March 2004)

Salt Marsh Vegetation Change at Cape Cod National Seashore between 2003 and 2018 NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/CACO/NRR-2020/2157 (Stephen M. Smith, July 2020)

Simulation of Groundwater Flow at Beach Point, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Cape Cod National Seashore NPS Technical Report NPS/NRPC/WRD/NRTR-2008/111 (Larry Martin, July 2008)

Superintendent's Annual Reports: 20022003

The Impact of Off-Road Vehicles on Coastal Ecosystems in Cape Cod National Seashore: An Overview UM-NPSCRU Report No. 34 (Stephen P. Leatherman and Paul J. Godfrey, 1979)

Trip Planner: 20182020

Truro Highlands Historic District: Cultural Landscape Report: Condition Report and Treatment Plan, Cape Cod National Seashore (Michael Commisso, Jan Haenraets and Margie Coffin Brown, 2007)

U.S. Coast Guard Nauset Station Dwelling and Boathouse, Cape Cod National Seashore (Lance Kasparian, January 2008)

Water Quality Monitoring and Research Plans for Kettle Ponds, Cape Cod National Seashore NPS Technical Report NPS/NRWRD/NRTR-93/15 (Report of a Workshop, March 2-3, 1992, May 1993)



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Videos

The Cape Cod National Seashore



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Last Updated: 23-Jun-2022