It’s been a long standing Bolger family tradition to pile into the car at 5:00am on a Saturday in August and start our pilgramage to Wellfleet, MA. There is no other place I feel more like myself so it feels like the perfect destination to start off this blog.
The Outer Cape is for those who want to truly escape. There is no boardwalk, little nightlife, and enough space between houses to sometimes forget that neighbors even exist. There are good restaurants, small shops, and completely untouched national seashore that is sure to relax even those opposed to the beach.
After 27 summers on the cape, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on Wellfleet. Not all of us can afford to rent the beautiful homes on the cape and not all of us want to. I recently spent a long weekend camping in Wellfleet and had quite possibly one of my most memorable visits to date.
Early September in Wellfleet is a magical thing. All of the kids have gone back to school, the summer crowds have retreated, and the beaches are full of retirees and locals. The air is still warm, the water temperature is at its best from months of summer sun, and hues of peaches and oranges dominate the evening sunsets.
THE BASICS – ACCOMMODATIONS
The locals on the Cape are some the nicest people you’ll encounter. Many are artists, writers or professors who enjoy sharing their homes with travelers. If Air BnB is your thing, I would definitely check out the listings in the area. This trip, we decided to get a campground knowing that the weather was supposed to be exceptionally perfect for sleeping outdoors. The best campground located in Wellfleet is Paine’s Campground. It’s tucked away off of Route 6 (the lifeline of Cape Cod) and sits nestled in the pines.
In season, a basic campground at Paine’s will cost you $45.00 for two people. After September 7th, the rates drop down to $35.00 a site. They do offer water and electrical hook ups for an additional charge.
The one downside to Paine’s is that they are not pet friendly. Should you be traveling with your four legged friend, I would take a look at the Adventure Bound Camping Resorts located just past Wellfleet in Truro.
If you decide to camp, I would highly suggest investing in some camping hammocks (I like these from EMS) for there is nothing like swaying in a cape breeze with a glass of wine in your hand and a good book in your lap.
For those who prefer to sleep indoors, the Inn at Duck Creeke offers cape charm at affordable prices. It is conveniently located downtown and is a short walk to the shops and restaurants of Wellfleet. Think Gilmore Girls in style and feel.
THE PERFECT CAPE DAY
Wake up to the sounds of the cape breeze rustling through the pines and the morning calls of the towhees politely reminding you to “drink your teaaaaa“. Growing up, my father used to force us to stop and listen for these little birds and to this day, I’m convinced they only exist on the cape.
Head to PB Boulangerie, which quite possibly has the best croissants outside of France. Good thing you woke up with the sun, for the line at PB grows long quickly and pastries tend to sell out. Grab a hot latte to compliment your croissant and head out for your day.
There are several beaches to choose from in Wellfleet. They lay speckled along Ocean View Drive. If you arrive after Labor Day, you won’t need a beach sticker to access any of the beaches or ponds and your four legged friend can enjoy the beaches right along with you.
White Crest Beach has the highest and most striking dunes of the Wellfleet beaches. If you are a photographer, this is where you will want to head. The steep dunes give way to a pristine beach that seems to run endlessly in both directions. This is the perfect place to slip into a good book while the sun is still low in the sky.
Important to Note: Lifeguards are on duty during peak season and their hours are clearly displayed at the entrance to the beach. There are also bathroom facilities at all Wellfleet beaches.
There is only one place you should head for your lunch and that place is Box Lunch. Are there other local cafes and seafood shacks? Sure. Will anything be as amazing as a Box Lunch Rollwich? Probably not. Am I biased since I have been eating the same sandwich from this place since I was old enough to chew? Most likely, but that doesn’t change my recommendation.
My all time personal favorite is the “Guac.” I have tried re-creating this at home. It seems so simple! Melted cheeses, avocado, tomatoes, hot peppers, but no matter how many times I have tried, it will never taste the way it does from their flagship location. The ingredients are seemingly simple and often deters skeptics, but I have proven time and time again to newcomers that this sandwich is the way to go (add a protein to make it a Chex Mix or a Wild Turkey for a more filling meal.) I promise, you can’t go wrong with any pick from their large menu. Throw in a bag of Cape Cod Chips and you’ve got yourself the perfect picnic lunch.
Afternoons are for ponds. Wellfleet is amazing in that they have a selection of fresh water kettle ponds that lay hidden within the pines. These kettle ponds have sandy bottoms making them idyllic and perfect for swimming. Come the afternoons in August and September, these ponds warm up to that magical temperature where you can effortlessly walk right in.
RECOMMENDED GEM – GULL & HIGGINS POND
There is a hidden beach on the far side of Gull Pond that used to be seldom used. What makes this spot so special is that this is where Gull Pond connects Higgins Pond via a small waterway giving you two ponds to swim in.
With no real parking, this tucked away spot used to be a go to for my family. Nowadays, this gem has become a bit more known to the point where they have actually created a few parking spots to avoid people ruining the wilderness by forging their own parking. Despite the slightly larger crowd (still minimal) this is probably one of my favorite spots in Wellfleet.
From Gull Pond Road, turn onto School House Hill Road and stay left at the fork ignoring signs for parking that urge you to go to the right. The road will turn into dirt which means you are heading in the right direction.
Follow the dirt road until it forks again, at this time stay RIGHT. You will see parking nestled in on your left.
Once you park, follow the road you drove in on all the way to the end where you will run into water. Find your nook and enjoy.
*COOL LODGING ALERT*
I used to dream about living in the cottage situated between these two ponds. There’s just something so romantic about being that tucked away on a body of water. You’ll pass the house on your right as you walk towards the ponds. Apparently, it is now a B&B and offers a Boathouse Studio with a private kitchenette!
After a long afternoon of swimming, you’ll be ready for some lobster. My pick for dinner is Mac’s Shack. Head to the pier for casual dining on the bay or opt for a sit down meal down the road at their restaurant. Mac’s combines local seafood fare with a surprisingly delicious sushi menu. For the perfect cape cod meal, start off with some fresh Wellfleet oysters and then make room for the whole lobster dinner with a side of their truffle Parmesan fries. Pair it with a nice bottle of wine from their wine list or their delicious El Mezcalito cocktail which is a jalapeno and citrus infused margarita.
Finally, it would behoove you to end your day with a visit to the famous Wellfleet Drive-In Movie Theater. During the summer, they play double features of new releases but on the off season they feature classics. We were lucky enough to catch one of my all time favorite movies, JAWS. Seeing that movie at the drive-in on Cape Cod checked one off the bucket list for me.
It is my firm belief that all good days end around a campfire. The nights cool down and the gentle quiet of cape nights set in around you. Coming from city living, the stars are always a treat. I have only just scratched the surface of all that Wellfleet has to offer. You’ll know the second you arrive that this place is truly special.
Paine’s Campground – Fantastic campground located in Wellfleet
Adventure Bound Camping Resorts – Dog Friendly campgrounds located just north of Wellfleet in Truro.
Inn at Duck Creeke – Quaint Cape Inn located in the heart of Wellfleet. A short walk from all the shops and restaurants downtown has to offer.
Air BnB – A great way to find affordable housing on the cape. I find that more listings are added each year!
HomeAway – A great resource if you want to rent a house. Normally, rentals on the cape go for at least one week from Saturday-Saturday with some properties offering Sunday-Sunday rental periods.
PB Boulangerie – Best croissants on this side of the Atlantic. In the evenings, the Bistro opens had serves fantastic French fare. Reservations recommended.
Box Lunch – Local franchise serving up delicious rollwiches. Wellfleet is home to the flagship store that started it all!
Mac’s Shack – Fantastic local seafood served in a low key setting. Perfect for families and date nights. No reservations accepted so come early!
Moby Dick’s – Casual family fare with local seafood favorites. A great place to get a fried basket of anything fresh from the sea! BYOB.
Shops & Sweets –
The Chocolate Sparrow – Local penny candies and fudge. A must stop before the drive-in!
Emack & Bolio’s – “A Nice Cream Stop” located right behind The Chocolate Sparrow.
Wellfleet Marketplace – Your go to for small groceries and local gifts. The market offers a solid beer and wine selection and charcoal/firewood for your camping and barbequing needs.
Galleries & Fine Art– Wellfleet is known for their galleries. You can usually find me wandering in and out of the below stops on an overcast day.
Narrowland Pottery – One of my favorites!
Walks & Activities –
Wellfleet Beach Stickers – All information you’ll need to get your hands on a beach sticker can be found here.
Cape Cod Rail Trail – The rail trail runs up and down the cape allowing you to explore other towns. Rent a bike and go!
Idle Times Bike Rental – Bike rental located just off Route 6 in Wellfleet
Little Capistrano Bike Rental – Bike rental shop located off of Route 6 in North Eastham. The trail picks up just down the road from here.
Wellfleet Drive-In – Experience a piece of history at one of the last standing Drive-In movie theaters in the country!