Traveler's Checklist: Cape Cod National Seashore

Though much of Cape Cod is "thickly settled," as they say, there are parts of the national seashore, such as this stretch near Provincetown, that are untrammeled and seemingly pristine. Kurt Repanshek photo.

The "busy season" for Cape Cod National Seashore doesn't really begin until the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Which means you have plenty of time to consider the Traveler's suggestions for what you definitely must see or do when you visit the seashore.

As with our other checklists, this is not all-encompassing. No doubt if you've visited Cape Cod before you've got your favorite haunts that you'll return to. But if you're a newcomer to the national seashore, hopefully these suggestions will steer you in the right direction.

1. Head to Provincetown and check out the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station. It's a nice slice of history from when Congress created the U.S. Life-Saving Service to rescue those whose ships wrecked along the Atlantic Coast. After your visit, stick around and enjoy Race Point, one of the nicest beaches on the cape.

2. A good family walk can be found along the Fort Hill and Red Maple Swamp trails that head off from the Penniman House in Eastham down towards the beach. The Fort Hill Trail runs about 1.5 miles, taking you through stands of red cedar along the Nauset Salt Marsh. Youngsters likely will be intrigued by the sharpening stone Native Americans once used, while adults with a good pair of binoculars will find the birding exceptional.

3. Fly a kite and enjoy the surf at Coast Guard Beach.

4. Check out the historic lighthouse at Nauset Beach and work on your Frisbee or football tossing along the surf line.

5. Paddle a canoe or kayak in Nauset Marsh. Reserve a ranger-guided paddle of either Salt Pond (508-255-3421, ext. 0) near Nauset Marsh or Gull Pond (508-487-1256) near Wellfleet.

6. Go whale-watching out of Provincetown.

7. Don't overlook a stop at Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar in Eastham. Fried seafood -- clam strips, scallops, or fish and chips, for instance -- are nicely complemented by the lobster and raw bar.

8. Pedal your way along portions of the 24-mile-long Cape Cod Rail Trail, which leads to many of the cape's fresh-water ponds and salt-water beaches.

9. To escape the crowds and find your own slice of beach, head out to Ballston Beach, Marconi Beach, or Head of the Meadow Beach.

10. Take a day trip to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, where you might just spot loons, grebes, piping plovers, sandpipers, terns, and cormorants.

Traveler Bonus: On rainy days, consider exploring the antique shops along Route 6A. Stop at the General Store in Brewster for penny candy, fudge, or toys for any youngsters (or sweet tooths) in your crowd, or simply to buy postcards or a newspaper.

RESOURCES

For detailed information, visit the Cape Cod National Seashore website. For a park map, visit this site.

FRIENDS ORGANIZATION

Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore benefits the park by: promoting the educational, environmental, historical and other purposes of Cape Cod National Seashore; publicizing critical issues that affect the enhancement, protection or preservation of the seashore's resources; assisting in the provision of interpretive programs for visitors to the park; providing volunteers for important projects such as natural resources programs and trail maintenance; encouraging private donations to support seashore programs; and managing several special funds that contribute to important educational, archival and research projects in the seashore.