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.
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Trip 1: BARNSTABLE HARBOR TO SANDY NECK
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 superbyou 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.
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.
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 shallowsat 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 shoreHighland 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 ContentsAcknowledgments
- Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard
- Using This Guidebook
- Where to Get More Information
PART I: CAPE COD
Chapter 1: Barnstable
- Trip 1Barnstable Harbor to Sandy Neck
- Trip 2Cotuit, West, and North Bays
Chapter 2: Bourne
- Trip 3Bassetts Island
Chapter 3: Brewster
- Trip 4Cliff and Little Cliff Ponds
- Trip 5Walkers Pond and Upper Millpond
Chapter 4: Chatham
- Trip 6Fish Pier to Crows Pond
- Trip 7Oyster Pond to Little Mill Pond
Chapter 5: Dennis
- Trip 8Sesuit Harbor to Quivett Creek
Chapter 6: Eastham
- Trip 9Great Pond
- Trip 10Nauset Marsh
Chapter 7: Falmouth
- Trip 11Waquoit Bay and Washburn Island
Chapter 8: Harwich
- Trip 12Herring River
- Trip 13Long Pond
Chapter 9: Mashpee
- Trip 14Mashpee and Wakeby Ponds
- Trip 15Popponesset Bay and the Mashpee River
Chapter 10: Orleans
- Trip 16Little Pleasant Bay
- Trip 17Town Cove to Nauset Beach
Chapter 11: Provincetown
- Trip 18Provincetown Harbor and Long Point
Chapter 12: Sandwich
- Trip 19Scorton Creek
Chapter 13: Truro
- Trip 20Pamet River and Harbor
Chapter 14: Wellfleet
- Trip 21Duck Creek
- Trip 22Great Island
- Trip 23Gull, Higgins, and Williams Ponds
- Trip 24Lieutenant Island and Blackfish Creek
Chapter 15: Yarmouth
- Trip 25Lewis Bay and Great Island
PART II: MARTHA’S VINEYARD
Chapter 16: Martha’s Vineyard
- Trip 26Cape Poge Bay
- Trip 27Edgartown Great Pond
- Trip 28Katama Bay
- Trip 29Sengekontacket Pond
- Trip 30Tisbury Great Pond
Appendix 1Selected Reading
Appendix 2Information Sources