For many, we think of Cape Cod as that tony New England seaside resort for the rich and famous, or for the baseball fan, the place where amateur players go for summer ball to get their first real test of wood bats, as seen in the movie Summer Catch. But, that's only a very small part of the Cape Cod area, of which much resides in the National Seashore that spreads all along the coast, including lighthouses, beaches, beautiful scenery, and a whole lot of history.
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Cape Cod Then
History didn't begin with Marconi at Cape Cod, but it is an interesting story of how ingeniuity and scenery intersect. It was 1903 when Henry communicated from the beaches of Cape Cod to Europe with the first two way wireless communication on January 18. For fifteen years after that, the Cape Cod station at South Wellpoint was the main U.S. wireless telegraph point. Ask why the residents weren't too thrilled about that fact. It has something to do with loud sparks.
Photo above: The fishing industry on Cape Cod, circa 1910-1915, Bain News Service. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Old-Harbor Life Saving Station in the mist. Courtesy National Park Service.
Cape Cod Now
There's nearly 44,000 acres of fun and wonder here. Yes, it's that big. So bring your sand chair and prepare for a wide open mouth, it's awe-inspiring, and it doesn't cost a ton to see it. It stretches nearly twenty miles from its southernmost point near Chatham up to Provincetown. The main Visitor Center at Salt Ponds is about half way up the park; a second center open Spring to Fall is outside Provincetown.
From the breathtaking views along this New England stretch of the Atlantic springs lots of opportunities for recreation and vacation. Take a hike on one of the many trails, take a swim on one of six swimming beaches, take a ride up and down the twenty miles of coastline, or take a ranger guided hike to a lighthouse or learn about Marconi and his transatlantic attempts to wireless across the sea way before cell phones or find out the mysteries of Fort Hill. You can walk by yourself or guided, see seals, marshes, oceans, and dunes, even snorkel.
There's Cold War history here, too, in the Truro Air Force Station, which is now turning itself into the Highlands Center right on the bluffs of the ocean. It can be viewed both for its beautiful setting, its Cold War past, and its future.
Recreation - It can begin with a hike, or a swim on the beach, and continues with canoe trips (fees required) that guide you to Salt Ponds and Nauset Bay. You can go shellfishing, cast into the surf for fish, or walk through or near the history of Cape Cod Then. There's history in architecture at the Atwood-Higgins House; history of a whaling family at the Penniman House, as well as other hikes to nature of the present or history of the past.
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Things You Should Not Miss
1. Take in a film. Sure, you're really hankering to get to the beach and see the sites, but spend a little time inside either of the visitor centers, ... great for a rainy day, and learn more about Cape Cod. There are films on maritime history, the Revolution, Marconi, Thoreau, and the formation of Cape Cod.
2. Take in a beach. There are six swimming beaches inside the park itself, others outside, with a variety of charms; Coast Guard Beach, Nauset Light Beach, Marconi Beach, Head of the Meadow Beach, Race Point Beach, and Herring Cove Beach.
3. Take in a Lighthouse. There's a whole lot of charm and history within the walls of these beacons to sailors, fishermen, and now tourists. Within Cape Cod National Seashore, there are a variety of lighthouses, from those of the Three Sisters and Nauset Light to the Highlands Light to Race Point Light, and also Chatham Lighthouse and more outside the park.
Photo above: Kayaking in Nauset Marsh. Courtesy National Park Service.