Cape Cod National Seashore

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Quick Overview

This is the audio-only described version of Cape Cod National Seashore’s official brochure. It outlines how to get to Cape Cod National Seashore, how to navigate the area, and what activities there are to do here. Sections are dedicated to outdoor activities, historic buildings, and safety and regulations.

The brochure is twenty-three and a half inches long by eight and one-half inches wide when unfolded. Side one is a combination of text, color photographs, and illustrations. Side two is a map of the brochure with some additional information about things to do.  

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Thoreau's Cape Cod

A quote by Henry David Thoreau: "A man may stand there and put all America behind him." 

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Photo: Beach at Herring Cove

The sun glistens off of small waves pushing white, frothy seafoam from a sapphire colored ocean onto the smooth, fine, beige sands of a crescent-shaped beach. The peaks of sand dunes, about twice the height of a person, rise up behind the beach topped with dry, brown grass, and bare trees. The sky is a cloudy gray.

Photo credit: © Robby McQueeney

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Text: The Great Outer Beach

The great Outer Beach described by Thoreau in the 1800s is protected within Cape Cod National Seashore. Forty miles of pristine sandy beach, marshes, ponds, and uplands support diverse species. Lighthouses, cultural landscapes, and wild cranberry bogs offer a glimpse of Cape Cod’s past and continuing ways of life. Swimming beaches and walking and biking trails beckon you today. 

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Text: Discover Cape Cod

Cape Cod is a glacial deposit always undergoing natural change as wind and water move sand along shorelines, tearing away one place and building up another. You can get a sense of how quickly the land is diminishing at the Marconi Station Site at Wellfleet, where the peninsula is only a mile wide. Much of the high cliff has eroded since Guglielmo Marconi first built his towers there in 1901. Cape Cod Bay’s shoreline changes, too, but not as noticeably. Great Island is now connected to the peninsula and can be explored by trail. Native people began living on the Outer Cape about 10,000 years ago. Oral tradition and a vast archeological record tell us of their history here. The Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and stayed briefly before sailing across the bay to Plymouth. Later, residents constructed buildings that reflected the sea’s influence on their lives.

Description: In the middle section of the printed brochure following this text are two rows, each with three photographs. Each photo is described under its own subheading. 

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Photo: Fishing Boats at Provincetown Harbor

Two large white fishing boats covered in rust and ocean spray sit tied to old, weathered, gray wooden pilings. They face a third dark blue and white fishing boat. The harbor water is calm, and deep blue. A fourth dark blue and white fishing boat passes them by. The harbor is ringed in the background by the white, wooden buildings of an old style New England town. The sky is slightly hazy and soft blue in color.

Photo credit: © Jeff Gnass

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Photo: Highland Light

 A tall white brick lighthouse with black railings and a black roof is connected to a large two-story, gray brick house with large white-framed windows, by a smaller building with a red roof. The house has a wrap-around porch with a wood shingle awning supported by white pillars. The house has two chimneys that are painted white with black tips. The lighthouse sits on the upper right of a green grassy field that is speckled with wildflowers in bright yellows, golds, pinks, and purples. The sky is covered in thick fluffy high altitude clouds.

Photo credit: © Paul Rezendes

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Photo: Rose and Rose Hips

In the upper right corner is a bright pink rose flower with a yellow center. It is surrounded by dark, bright green shiny leaves. Next to it, in the lower left of the photo are four bright red rose hips, which are the fruit of the rose plant. This fruit looks similar to small, slightly oblong cherry or grape tomatoes.

Photo credit: © Jerry Howard

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Photo: Roseate Tern

This photo features a medium-sized, white-breasted shorebird. It has light gray wings and tail feathers, and a black cap that starts at the base of its neck and stops right below its eyes. The bird stands with its orange legs and feet upon a sandy-colored rock, with a small, long, silver and black baitfish in its long, pointed beak, which starts out orange and darkens to black at the tip. Bright green plants are behind the bird and out of focus.

Photo credit: © Arthur Morris

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Photo: Salt Marsh

A still blue waterway reflecting the sky winds its way up through a marshy area with tall reeds and grass overhanging the banks. The water way opens up into a larger area at the top left. To the top right, a wooden boardwalk extends over the marsh to a small wooden pier that extends out in the water. On the front side of the pier, a small white wooden boat is tied, sitting half in the water, and half on the bank. The entire scene is surrounded by dark green woods with a variety of trees.

Photo caption: © Jerry Howard

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Photo: Ranger and Children Study Marine life

Kneeling on the gravely shore of a clear, calm pond, a woman wearing a National Park Service ranger uniform made up of a long dark green rain coat, tall dark rain boots, and straw hat with a wide flat brim and a dark leather band reaches into a clear plastic bucket containing water and small aquatic creatures. To her left, a young girl in a dark blue shirt leans over a large net while a young boy in a gray sweatshirt, shorts, a blue ball cap, and bare feet crouches in front of the net and peers into it.

Photo credit: NPS

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Text: Historic Buildings on Cape Cod

The Old Harbor Life-Saving Station built in 1897–98 was moved from Chatham to Race Point near Provincetown in 1977. Captain Edward Penniman’s 1868 house in Eastham is unusually ornate and represents the once profitable whaling business. Nauset Light is one of five working lighthouses in the national seashore. The Atwood-Higgins House, built about 1730, represents the typical Cape Cod dwelling. Ask at the visitor centers about tours.

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Illustration: Historic Buildings on Cape Cod

A black and white drawing shows the faces of four historic buildings side-by-side. Each building is identified with a caption next to it. The first building on the left is Old Harbor Life Saving Station, followed by Penninman House, Nauset Light and Atwood-Higgins House. Each building varies in size, shape, number of floors and decorative detail. They are described individually under their own subheadings. Text notes that the buildings are not drawn to scale.

Illustration credit: National Park Service/ Richard Fish

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Illustration: Old Harbor Life-Saving Station

This brick building is asymmetrical and described in three sections. It will be described as if you are facing the building. The front-facing portion has three identical, high, rectangular multi-paned windows. These windows are to the left of a large wood plank door. The roof for this part of the building comes to a point in the center of building and above the windows. Below the center point of the roof is a framed shuttered window.

Behind this section of the building on the left side is a rectangular tower that extends up two additional stories. The tower has a pointed shingle roof. Two windows are right below the roofed area. This section of the tower is like a cap that has some trim around it. Below these two windows on the right is another window. Next to it on the left, is the framing of a window, but it is unclear of it has glass within the frame or is shuttered. The same is true for a frame below it.

Attached and to the right of the tower is another main section of the building. It is higher than the front portion of the building but lower than the tower. A single brick chimney is on the far right of the roof which slopes towards us.

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Illustration: Penniman House

This large block and brick building rises two stories. The symmetrical front has two large windows on either side of the entryway. The windows have decorative molding above them and shutters on either side. The entryway is like a portico. It requires one step up onto a landing and has an arched door. On either side of the front portion of the landing are two pillars, which support a small roof that covers this entrance section.

On the second floor are three large windows. The center window is the largest. In front of it is a railing, which sits on top of the entrance roof. Each window has a triangular dormer-like roof above it and ornate columns on either side.

The second story windows extend from a steep-sided shingle roof that has alternating light and dark horizontal stripes. The building is capped off with a large cupola. Brick chimneys are on left and right side of the building.

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Illustration: Nauset Light

The Nauset Light, is a smooth-sided round lighthouse with an arched door at its base. The lighthouse is a light color at its base and turns to a dark color halfway up. The light at the top has a pointed roof and is enclosed with glass windows. It is surrounded by a walkway enclosed by an ornate railing. Above the arched doorway at the base and about halfway up is a window on the left with a small dormer roof about it. The same style window is above this window and to the right. It is the tallest of the three other historic buildings that it is pictured with.

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Illustration: Atwood-Higgins House

The Atwood-Higgins House is a plain-looking single story house. It has wooden siding and a high shingle roof. This building is symmetrical, with a center doorway flanked by two large windows on each side. A brick chimney extends from the center of the house, directly above the doorway.

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Recreation and Relaxation

Text: Take time to try something different, bike, hike, or just watch the waves. Activity schedules are available at visitor centers or 

Description: Individual activities are listed under their own subheadings that follow. Additional information is also under the headings "Things to See and Do," "Beaches and Seashore Tram," and "Map: Getting to the Seashore." 

Two images are featured in this lower half of side one of the brochure to illustrate activities and features of the park. They are:

  1. Color photo caption: Fishing at Sunrise. Photo description: Two fishermen walk from right to left along a seashore, at the edge of the tide. The ocean is calm, and small foamy waves roll on shore, just about ankle high. The beach is a mixture of coarse sand, and small pebbles, and is covered with the footprints of previous travelers. The first man is carrying his fishing pole at his side angled forward. The second man has his fishing pole resting against his shoulder, angled back. The sun is setting out of frame, silhouetting the two men, and casting a golden glow upon the sky, water, and the sand. In the lower right foreground, bits of long beach grass are seen but are slightly out of focus. Photo credit: © Greg Probst.
  2. Illustration caption: Piping plovers. Illustration description: A black and white drawing of six short squat sea-birds. Two birds are in flight, coming in from the left, and landing on a beach where four more birds stand. They are medium colored, with dark wing and tail tips, light colored breasts, and white and black collars around their necks. The beach is a mixture of sand and small pebbles. To the far left, some beach grass blows in the wind. Illustration credit: National Park Service/ Dorothy Michele Novick.

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Text: Swimming and Ocean Activities

Swimming: Seasonal lifeguard services and facilities are provided at these National Park Service beaches: Coast Guard, Nauset Light, Marconi, Head of the Meadow, Race Point, and Herring Cove. Many towns have public beaches; all beaches charge seasonal fees. Observe water safety practices at all times. 

Surfing and Windsurfing: These are permitted within the national seashore in waters outside the lifeguard-protected beaches. 

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Text: Walking, Bike and Multiuse Trails

Walking: There are 12 self-guiding trails, where you can learn about the Cape’s natural and human history. Their names may entice you: Fort Hill, Red Maple Swamp, Nauset Marsh, Doane, Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, Great Island, Pamet Area, Small’s Swamp, Highlands Woods Walk, Pilgrim Spring, and Beech Forest. Buttonbush Trail, near Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham, has features for children and visitors who are sight impaired.

Bicycling, Skating, and More:  There are three bicycle trails ranging from 1.6 to 7.3 miles long. Roller blades, skates, and skateboards are permitted. Motorized vehicles, including mopeds, are prohibited on these paved trails.

Safety Note:

  • The speed limit on all bicycle trails is 10 mph.
  • Ride single file. Stay to the right, except when passing.
  • Helmets are required for ages 16 and under and strongly advised for all.
  • Yield right of way to pedestrians.

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Text: Fishing and Hunting

Fishing: Try surf-fishing, but stay away from swimmers. A license is required for saltwater and freshwater fishing. Town licenses for shellfishing are required. Regulations and fees vary. 

Hunting: Upland wildlife and migratory waterfowl may be hunted in certain areas in season. There is no open season on non-game species. Ask for a brochure about hunting and restrictions. Federal, state, and local laws apply.

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Text: Travel Services and Camping

Travel Services: The national seashore has no overnight facilities. Towns within the national seashore offer a wide variety of amenities. Reservations are essential in summer. For information and reservations: Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, 508-362-3225;

Camping: Overnight camping and parking are prohibited. Find camping at private and state-operated facilities.

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Text: Things To See and Do

Salt Pond Visitor Center (US 6 in Eastham) and Province Lands Visitor Center (Race Point Road in Provincetown) have information, exhibits, audiovisual programs, bookstores, and spectacular views of the seashore. Salt Pond is open year-round. Province Lands is open from late spring through mid-fall. Outdoor exhibits and self-guiding trails are found throughout the national seashore. Ranger-guided activities, like walks, canoe trips, family programs, and historic home tours, are offered daily in summer and less frequently in other seasons.

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Illustration: Fishing at sunrise

Illustration caption: 

Fishing at sunrise 



Two fishermen walk from right to left along a seashore. The sun is rising off camera, but is casting a golden hue across the landscape, and silhouetting the two men. Small rows of foamy waves are washing on-shore just to where the men are walking. There are many foot prints in the coarse sand of the beach, and the light is causing the ocean to gleam brightly. The first man is carrying his fishing pole at his side, extending forward, and the second man has his fishing pole resting on his shoulder. In the right foreground some tall beach grass can be seen slightly out of focus.

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Text: Beaches and Shore Tram

National Park Service beaches are supervised by lifeguards from late June through Labor Day. Coast Guard Beach in Eastham is served by a tram that starts in the Little Creek parking area near Salt Pond Visitor Center. This service runs on weekends from Memorial Day weekend to late June, and after Labor Day through September. Daily service is provided in July and August. In summer, parking at Coast Guard Beach is limited to park staff and visitors with disabilities. Entrance fees to beaches are charged; the tram fee is included. The national seashore and most town beaches accommodate bicycles. Town beach access is regulated by town residence requirements or by local entrance fees.

Public Transportation is available through the Cape Cod Regional Transport Authority, servicing Race Point, Herring Cove, and Head of the Meadow beaches, and Province Lands and Salt Pond Visitor Centers. Route information: 800-352-7155;

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Map: Getting to the Seashore

Text: US 6 is the main route to, and through the national seashore. Buses run from Hyannis to Chatham, and Provincetown. Airlines operate between Hyannis and Boston, Providence, and New York, and between Boston and Provincetown. There is seasonal ferry service between Boston and Provincetown.

Map description:  On side two of the brochure is a small insert map. The map includes southeast Massachusetts, and the entirety of Cape Cod, including the national seashore. The map is oriented with north at the top and shows an area of approximately 900 square miles.

Cape Cod is shaped like a flexed arm, starting in the southwest, extending east, and then curving up to the north. The six towns that make up the seashore from south to north are: Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown. The Provincetown area in the far north is in the shape of a fist in a flexed arm.

The main routes to get to Cape Cod are Massachusetts Route 3 from the Boston area in the north, and Massachusetts Route 25 from the south. Both routes converge on U.S. Route 6, which runs the entire length of the cape, ending in Provincetown in the north. U.S. Route 6 is the main access road to all destinations in Cape Cod National Seashore.

The purpose of this map is to show the major routes to the seashore. For a more detailed description of the area and seashore, go to the heading: Map: Cape Cod National Seashore.

Map credit: National Park Service

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Map: Cape Cod National Seashore

A map of Cape Cod National Seashore takes up the majority of side two of the brochure. The map shows the entire park including main and secondary roads, all twelve of the hiking trails, six seashore beaches, two visitor centers, picnic areas, restrooms, concessions, wheelchair accessible areas and the six towns that are inside the seashore. The map is oriented with north at the top and covers about 500 square miles. The seashore has approximately 40 miles of beaches, marshes ponds and uplands. Driving from the southern end to the northern end takes about sixty miles.

Cape Cod is shaped like a flexed arm, starting in the southwest and heading east (where the bicep and upper arm would be) and then turning north (where the bent elbow, forearm, and closed fist would be). This map shows the area from where the cape turns north at the elbow all the way to the fist. As the cape extends north in the forearm section, it begins to taper and then ends in a wider fist-like section at Provincetown. 

Within the inside area of this flexed arm are Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod Bay, and Cape Cod Canal. Below, on the south side of the landmass is Nantucket Sound. To the east of the Seashore’s land mass is the Atlantic Ocean. The authorized National Seashore boundary extends about a half of a mile into the ocean all along the seashore’s eastern border. 

The seashore is located in six towns, moving from south to north, with U.S. 6 being the main road connecting the towns and the seashore. Chatham is the furthest south at the elbow area of the landmass. There, the seashore is contained within the outer beaches. All of the beaches in Chatham are operated by the town. 

Orleans is the next town moving north. The seashore is also contained within Orleans’ outer beaches and operated by the town. 

Eastham is north of Orleans and has several points of interest. The Salt Pond Visitor Center, which is open year round, is located here, as is the scenic lookout known as Fort Hill, which overlooks the Nauset Marsh. Eastham has two beaches, Coast Guard Beach in the south, and Nauset Beach in the north. Coast Guard Beach is wheelchair accessible and has beach wheelchairs available on a seasonal basis. The iconic Nauset Light is located right next to Nauset Beach, and is open seasonally. 

Wellfleet is north of Eastham, and is where the park headquarters is located. Wellfleet has one beach, Marconi Beach, and is also home to the Marconi Station Site, where Guglielmo Marconi sent his first wireless transatlantic transmission. Both Marconi Beach, and Marconi Station Site are accessed by the entrance to the park headquarters area. In addition to the seashore-operated beach, the town of Wellfleet operates four additional beaches. 

North of Wellfleet is the town of Truro. Truro features several town beaches, the seashore-operated Head of the Meadow Beach, the Truro Hostel, which is open in the summer, the Highlands Center, Highland Light, which is open seasonally, and Pilgrim Heights which boasts a picnic area, and several hiking trails. 

Provincetown is located at the far north of Cape Cod, where the fist of this landmass would be. It is a mostly National Seashore operated area. The Province Lands has two beaches, Race Point Beach, and Herring Cove Beach. Herring Cove Beach is wheelchair accessible, has beach wheelchairs available seasonally, and features a snack bar. The Province Lands area also features Cape Cod's second visitor center, the Province Lands Visitor Center. This is located on Race Point Road, about half-way between U.S. 6 and Race Point Beach. 

Cape Cod National Seashore's longest bike trail, the Province Lands Bike Trail, is also here and can be accessed from the Beech Forest parking lot, the Province Lands Visitor Center, Race Point Beach, and Herring Cove Beach. The North District Ranger Station is also located at Race Point Beach. 

Map credit: National Park Service

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Safety and Regulations

National Park Service rangers are here to help you and enforce regulations that protect you and the national seashore. For firearms and other regulations ask at headquarters or visitor centers or check our website. Observe the following: 

  • Emergencies: Contact a ranger or call 9 1 1.
  • Do not disturb natural or cultural features; all are protected by federal law. 
  • Keep trails, roadsides, and other areas clean. Use trash receptacles, or take trash with you. Over-sand vehicles must stay on designated sand routes. A permit is required. 
  • Open fires are not allowed except when authorized by permit (available at visitor centers). Permits are not required for stoves using manufactured fuels or for charcoal grills in designated picnic areas at Doane Rock, Great Island, Pilgrim Heights, and Beech Forest, or on sandy or rocky beaches bordering tidewater. 
  • Pets must be leashed and attended. Pets are not permitted in public buildings or picnic areas, on lifeguard-protected beaches or self-guiding trails, in posted sensitive habitats, or on trams. Bring water and shade for your pet. Service animals are welcome. 
  • Sand collapses easily. Climbing slopes or digging deep holes is hazardous. 
  • Swim only where there are lifeguards; obey their directions. The Atlantic Ocean is great white shark habitat. Be alert for riptides and underwater obstacles. Keep children within reach. 
  • Public nudity is prohibited. 
  • Observe posted speed limits. Wear seatbelts. Report traffic accidents immediately. 
  • Avoid too much sun exposure. Be aware that ticks and poison ivy are prevalent. 
  • Do not take glass containers, inflatable rafts, rubber tubes, snorkels, or masks to any lifeguard-protected beach. 
  • In summer be alert for heavy traffic, bicycles, and pedestrians on narrow roads. 
  • Helmets are required for bicyclists age 16 and under and strongly advised for everyone.  

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website.  

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OVERVIEW: More Information

Cape Cod National Seashore includes 44,000 acres and 40 miles of coastline from Chatham to Provincetown. Headquarters is near the Marconi Station Site in Wellfleet. Contact the park or visit our website: 

Cape Cod National Seashore
99 Marconi Site Road
Wellfleet, MA 02667

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