Nature, Pristine and Wild
A 40-mile strip of sea-pounded sand dunes, Cape Cod National Seashore has enjoyed federal protection only since 1961 (thanks to longtime summer son John F. Kennedy), but in fact precious little has changed since Henry David Thoreau roamed the area in the 1850s, describing it as a place where “a man can stand and put all America behind him.”
From Chatham (at the peninsula’s “elbow”) in the south to artsy, end-of-the-line Provincetown (its “fist”) at the northernmost tip, the solitary seashore of wide, open beaches, lighthouses, big waves, and rippling dune grass is one of America’s most magnificent – over 43,000 acres of dramatic high dunes, the ubiquitous sea, and an ever-changing play of light. In autumn, one of the area’s sweetest seasons, the Outer Cape is a flyway for more than 300 migratory species.
Once nothing more than a sandy Indian footpath, the Old King’s Highway (a.k.a. Route 6A) is today a winding two-lane road relatively free of strip malls and neon signs. It runs from the northern reaches of the Cape (oddly called the Lower Cape), through towns such as Truro and Eastham, which many consider to be the purest distillation of the Cape Cod spirit.
Chatham, a classic New England town, has long been an outpost for the discreetly wealthy: Witness the 25-acre, stately seaside resort of Chatham Bars Inn, a venerable monument to another time. Built as a hunting lodge in 1914, the historic hotel boasts an impressive list of amenities, and is much loved for its white-gloved but friendly staff, its cottages, its wide porch lined with wicker rockers overlooking the beach, and for a Wednesday night New England clam and lobster bake under the stars.