Cape Cod National Seashore

See also: Cape Cod

Cape Cod National Seashore is a National Park in the state of Massachusetts in the United States of America.

Northern Section: Provincetown and Truro
Southern section: Wellfleet and Eastham


Cape Cod National Seashore stretches over 43,500 acres (176 km²) of dunes, ponds, woods and almost 40 miles (64 km) of Atlantic shoreline. It is located on Cape Cod, principally in the towns of Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham, but also covers some shoreline in Orleans and Chatham.


Cape Cod is relatively young geologically at 18,000 years or so. American Indians began using the land at least 9,000 years ago.

In 1620, a group known as "The Pilgrims", a group of English Separatists seeking to establish a settlement in Virginia were forced to land here. They sent out three separate "discovery" expeditions to see what the area had to offer. During these "discoveries" they found their first fresh water, took some Indian corn, and almost had a battle (called the First Encounter) with some Native Americans. Cape Cod had many good features, but after a month of searching, it was decided to finally settle in Plymouth.

In 1902 Guglielmo Marconi built one of two North American wireless stations at South Wellfleet. On January 18, 1903 the first public two-way communication (in Morse Code) between Europe and America occurred through this station. The station was closed in 1917 and scrapped in 1920, with the communication station being relocated to Chatham. Cable stations were later established in North Eastham and Orleans.

Seashore history also includes shipwrecks and lifesaving. Two lighthouses (Highland or "Cape Cod" and Nauset) have been moved to keep them from toppling down eroding cliffs.

The Cape Cod National Seashore was created on August 7, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.


The park includes beaches, high cliff dunes, sand spits, tidal flats, salt marshes, and soft-bottom benthos. Inland there are kettle ponds, vernal pools, sphagnum bogs, and swamps. Vegetation includes pitch pine and scrub oak forests, heathlands, dunes, and sandplain grasslands.

Flora and fauna

As a result of almost total deforestation by European settlers between 1650 and 1900, globally rare heathland habitats have resulted here. Bayberry and beach plum are common.

Twenty-five federally-protected species occur in the park. The Seashore is a significant site for the piping plover, with roughly 5% of the entire Atlantic coast population nesting here. Cape Cod National Seashore also supports 32 species that are rare or endangered in the state of Massachusetts. Some of these, such as the common tern, are conspicuous. Much less visible is the spadefoot toad which spends most its life buried in the sand, emerging only on warm nights with torrential rainfall.


Spring is generally cool and damp with temperatures of 40°F-60°F (4°-15°C). Summer brings temperatures in the 70s and 80s°F (20-30°C), and cool nights. Autumn is drier than spring with similar temperatures. Winter is milder than inland, but dampness and wind chill can make winter days bitter cold. Temperatures range between 30°F and 40°F (-1° to 4°C) in mid-winter, but intervals of below 0°F (-18°C) as well as milder temperatures are also possible.

Get in

By car

Route 6 is the main Cape Cod "highway". All areas have signs from this road. From Boston travel south on Interstate 93 and Route 3 to the Sagamore Bridge where Route 6 begins.

By bus

By air


There are several passes that allow free entry for groups traveling together in a private vehicle or individuals on foot or on bike. These passes are valid at all national parks including Cape Cod National Seashore:

In 2016 the National Park Service will offer several days on which entry is free for all national parks: January 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), April 16-24 (National Park Week), August 25-28 (National Park Service's 100th birthday weekend), September 24 (National Public Lands Day), and November 11 (Veterans Day).

Get around



Self-guided walking trails

The Seashore has eleven self-guided trails. Individual self-guiding trail folders are available at some trailheads. Many have picnic areas.






All have paved parking, showers and rest rooms (seasonal if not at open visitor center), changing rooms, drinking water, water quality testing, and lifeguards (late June through Labor Day). Coast Guard in Eastham and Herring Cove in Provincetown, are handicapped accessible and have wheelchairs capable of traveling over sand. Parking lots are open from 6AM to midnight, daily, year-round.

Beach Regulations

Off-road Vehicles

Bicycle trails



The park has no restaurant services. However, you can go into the towns and find any food you could think of.


Glass containers are prohibited on the beaches.



The Seashore itself offers no individual lodging, however all Cape Cod towns have lodging. Hostels are available in Eastham and Truro. See individual town articles for hotels/motels/bed and breakfasts.


The Seashore offers no camping. Some campgrounds are nearby to, or surrounded by, Seashore lands. See listings in individual towns.

Beach Camping

Stay safe

Go next

Other areas of Cape Cod are also popular destinations. Next try Boston, Providence, RI or Newport, RI.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, January 31, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.