Adventure Kayaking: Cape Cod and Marthas

Adventure Kayaking: Cape Cod and Marthas

by David Weintraub

Paperback(Second Edition)

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Explore the beautiful beaches, bays, harbors, marshes, and ponds of Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard from your kayak.

Twenty-five exciting trips cover the entire Cape from Falmouth to Provincetown, including renowned Cape Cod National Seashore. Five more trips are devoted to the island of Martha's Vineyard. The scenic routes range from short paddles suitable for families with children to all-day excursions for adventurous kayakers. Along the way you will be thrilled by the wonderful landscape, native plants, and bird life that attract millions of visitors yearly to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard from around the world. You can even camp under the stars on Washburn Island, accessible only by boat.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780899972930
Publisher: Wilderness Press
Publication date: 06/15/2001
Series: Adventure Kayaking
Edition description: Second Edition
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 1,254,905
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

David Weintraub is a writer, editor, and photographer based in South Carolina and Massachusetts. Since the early 1950s he has spent summers in Wellfleet on Cape Cod. He is an avid hiker, skier, and kayaker. Weintraub's photographs have been published in numerous books and magazines, including Audubon, Backpacker, Sierra, and Smithsonian. He has authored six guidebooks for Wilderness Press.

Read an Excerpt


Length: 8 miles


This is simply one of the best tours on the Cape. The paddling is richly varied, including open but protected water, tidal creeks, and offshore shallows. The scenery is superb—you will see pristine beaches, rolling dunes, salt marshes, a weather-beaten village, and even an old lighthouse. Ospreys, terns, and shorebirds are among the avian attractions, and you also have a chance to learn about some of the Cape’s hearty native plants.

Nearby attractions

Sandy Neck and Great Marshes form a wonderful conservation area consisting of a 4000-acre salt marsh, pine woodlands, rolling dunes, and barrier beach. Access is off Sandy Neck Rd. north of Rt. 6A on the Sandwich/W. Barnstable line. For more information call the Sandy Neck gatehouse, (508) 362-8300, or the Barnstable Dept. of Natural Resources, (508) 790-6272.


Launch about three hours before high tide for Cape Cod Bay. A whale watching tour boat departs daily from Barnstable inner harbor April through October. Get a copy of the boat’s schedule and stay well out of its way.


From Rt. 6 eastbound in Barnstable, take Exit 6, signed for Rt. 132, Barnstable, and Hyannis. After exiting bear left and follow Rt. 132 north for 0.7 mile to a stop sign at Rt. 6A. Turn right and go 2.6 miles to a traffic signal at Mill Way (signed MILLWAY). Turn left and go 0.6 mile to a parking area, left, for the Blish Point boat ramp. From Rt. 6 westbound in Yarmouth, take Exit 7, signed for Willow St., Yarmouthport, and W. Yarmouth. Turn right onto Willow St. and go 1 mile to Rt. 6A. Turn left and go 2.4 miles to a traffic signal at Mill Way (signed MILLWAY). Turn right and go 0.6 mile to a parking area, left, for the Blish Point boat ramp.

Parking and facilities

The parking area and boat ramp are operated by the Massachusetts Public Access Board. During summer there is a small fee for parking and boat launching. Use is free during the rest of the year. On summer weekends the lot is usually full by 9 or 10 A.M. There are toilets here.


Use the boat ramp to unload and then, after parking, launch from the sandy beach just to its north. Or park first and then carry your boat down a set of steps from the parking area to the beach.

Trip Description

A narrow passage connects Barnstable’s inner harbor, a small inlet reaching south, with a much larger body of water called Barnstable Harbor to the north. As you launch into this passage, the inner harbor is left and Barnstable Harbor is right. Barnstable Harbor is formed by the eastward-reaching arm of Sandy Neck, which ends at a wide opening to Cape Cod Bay. The harbor is a busy place, with many pleasure craft arriving and departing, and there is also a large whale-watching tour boat that runs daily tours from here April through October, so stay alert. Turning right, you paddle north through the passage and into Barnstable Harbor.

As you round Blish Point, right, you have the main channel, marked by red and green poles protruding from the water, ahead. Keeping the green poles just on your left, you stay out of the busy channel, yet well offshore to avoid submerged rocks and shallows—at half-tide there are only several feet of water outside of the channel. With an incoming tide, you will have a current running against you, which may not be noticeable until you stop paddling and begin to drift backward. To your right is a lovely stretch of beach and a community shown on the USGS map as Cobbs Village. The set of channel markers you are following ends with a piling topped by a light. Once past it, turn right to a heading of about 80 degrees and paddle toward the center of the harbor, with the vast expanse of Sandy Neck to the north and the wide opening to Cape Cod Bay ahead in the distance.

Soon you reach green can 13, a channel marker on your left. When there is no boat traffic, turn north across the channel and continue paddling toward Sandy Neck, heading for the village and the old lighthouse near its tip. A lighthouse was first erected on Sandy Neck in 1827, four years after one was put up on Billingsgate at the mouth of Wellfleet Harbor. Previous to these, the Cape’s first two lighthouses were on the Atlantic shore—Highland Light, also called Cape Cod Light, in Truro (1797) and Race Point Light, in Provincetown (1816). A heading of about 70 degrees will keep you clear of the channel, which is now on your right, and away from the shallows off Mussel Point, left. As you pass The Cove, a triangular indentation wedged north into Sandy Neck, the channel swings close to shore, forcing you left. Powerboats come ripping through here on their way to and from Cape Cod Bay, and you want to give them plenty of room.

Sandy Neck itself is an approximately 6-mile strip of coastal dunes and barrier beach that encloses and helped create the Cape’s largest salt marsh, stretching from Sandwich on the west to Dennis on the east. The Great Marshes, as this 4,000-acre wetland is known, once provided a bountiful supply of salt hay (Spartina patens) for the early settlers, who used it for fodder. Sandy Neck, like many other sand spits and barrier beaches, was formed by shore drifting, a process whereby water currents carry eroded material parallel to the shoreline and then deposit it in the deeper water commonly found at the mouth of a bay. Once the bay has been partly enclosed and protected, layers of silt begin to accumulate in the still waters, eventually forming mudflats where marsh plants can take root, which in turn trap more silt and raise the elevation of the marsh.

Table of Contents




  • Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard
  • Using This Guidebook
  • Where to Get More Information


Chapter 1: Barnstable

  • Trip 1—Barnstable Harbor to Sandy Neck
  • Trip 2—Cotuit, West, and North Bays

Chapter 2: Bourne

  • Trip 3—Bassetts Island

Chapter 3: Brewster

  • Trip 4—Cliff and Little Cliff Ponds
  • Trip 5—Walkers Pond and Upper Millpond

Chapter 4: Chatham

  • Trip 6—Fish Pier to Crows Pond
  • Trip 7—Oyster Pond to Little Mill Pond

Chapter 5: Dennis

  • Trip 8—Sesuit Harbor to Quivett Creek

Chapter 6: Eastham

  • Trip 9—Great Pond
  • Trip 10—Nauset Marsh

Chapter 7: Falmouth

  • Trip 11—Waquoit Bay and Washburn Island

Chapter 8: Harwich

  • Trip 12—Herring River
  • Trip 13—Long Pond

Chapter 9: Mashpee

  • Trip 14—Mashpee and Wakeby Ponds
  • Trip 15—Popponesset Bay and the Mashpee River

Chapter 10: Orleans

  • Trip 16—Little Pleasant Bay
  • Trip 17—Town Cove to Nauset Beach

Chapter 11: Provincetown

  • Trip 18—Provincetown Harbor and Long Point

Chapter 12: Sandwich

  • Trip 19—Scorton Creek

Chapter 13: Truro

  • Trip 20—Pamet River and Harbor

Chapter 14: Wellfleet

  • Trip 21—Duck Creek
  • Trip 22—Great Island
  • Trip 23—Gull, Higgins, and Williams Ponds
  • Trip 24—Lieutenant Island and Blackfish Creek

Chapter 15: Yarmouth

  • Trip 25—Lewis Bay and Great Island


Chapter 16: Martha’s Vineyard

  • Trip 26—Cape Poge Bay
  • Trip 27—Edgartown Great Pond
  • Trip 28—Katama Bay
  • Trip 29—Sengekontacket Pond
  • Trip 30—Tisbury Great Pond

Appendix 1—Selected Reading

Appendix 2—Information Sources


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