Did you know the USA has 10 national seashores which are run by the National Park Service? Most of the national seashores are located on the Atlantic Ocean. The Cape Cod National Seashore is a popular summer destination in Massachusetts for its fantastic beaches. There are still plenty of things to do offseason Cape Cod even at the National Seashore, such as hiking, biking, kayaking and bird watching. Avoid the crowds and the prices by visiting Cape Cod offseason!
Cape Cod National Seashore History
Thanks to President John F. Kennedy, Cape Cod National Seashore was created in June 1966. With 44,000 acres of ponds, woods and beach, Cape Cod National Seashore covers most of the eastern end of Cape Cod that juts out to create Cape Cod Bay.
The Cape Cod towns encompassed by the National Seashore are mostly in Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown, with some shoreline in Chatham and Orleans.
Cape Cod National Seashore is in the middle in terms of size among the 10 national seashores. You may recognise some of the other national seashores such as Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks and Canaveral in Florida (also famous for the Kennedy Space Center).
Offseason Cape Cod National Seashore
The Cape Cod offseason is considered to run from October through April. In reality though, its still offseason during the shoulder months when the kids are in school. Even then, peak high season is only the months of July and August.
September is our favourite time to visit because the weather is still warm but the crowds are considerably less. October is a fabulous time to visit because Cape Cod in the fall is gorgeous.
The best thing about offseason Cape Cod National Seashore is that the crowds have thinned. Traffic is light and prices are low. You can feel you are in your very own natural paradise. Just throw on some extra layers and enjoy the peaceful solitude. It’s a wonderful weekend break from city life in Boston or New York.
Things to do Offseason Cape Cod
There are two visitors centres at each end of the Cape Cod National seashore that are open from late spring to fall. There is the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham and Province Lands Outdoor Visitor Center in Provincetown.
Hiking Cape Cod National Seashore
In terms of opportunities for hiking, Cape Cod National Seashore has 12 trails that are open throughout the year. Of these Cape Cod National Seashore trails, 5 are in Eastham, 2 in Wellfleet, and the other 5 are Truro and Provincetown.
Hiking Cape Cod National Seashore’s Great Island Trail is the hardest trail. If you are with mixed ability group though, note that there’s an option of a short or a long hike, either 4 or 9 miles taking 3 or 5 hours, respectively,
For easy Cape Cod National Seashore trails, there are 5 miles of trails at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary that goes through marshes, beaches and woodlands.
Biking Cape Cod National Seashore
In terms of paved bike trails, Cape Cod National Seashore has three options- the 1.6 mile Nauset Bike Trail in Eastham (near the Salt Pond Visitor Center), the 2 mile Head of the Meadow Trail in Truro and the 5-7 mile Province Lands Trail in Provincetown.
The 22 mile Cape Cod Rail Trail runs beyond the Cape Cod National Seashore area from South Dennis to South Wellfleet.
If you want to cycle Cape Cod National Seashore, bike rental shops are available in Wellfleet and Eastham.
Kayaking Cape Cod National Seashore
The two best places to go kayaking on the Cape Cod National Seashore are Nauset Marsh and Wellfleet Harbor.
Nauset Marsh is great for birds and birdwatching. In Wellfleet Harbor you can enjoy an easy kayak around the Great Island peninsula that separates Cape Cod Bay from the harbor.
There are plenty of places to rent kayaks if you don’t own a kayak.
Cape Cod National Seashore Lighthouse
You can visit an offseason Cape Cod National Seashore lighthouse if you come during the shoulder months.
Race Point Lighthouse is open from May through November. The Race Point Lighthouse keeper’s cottage is open for B&B accommodation.
Also open from spring through fall is Highland Lighthouse in Truro and both of Nauset Lighthouse and Three Sisters Lighthouse in Eastham.
Beaches Cape Cod National Seashore
In terms of beaches, Cape Cod National Seashore is blessed with a 40 mile stretch of sandy beach. There are 6 swimming beaches – Coast Guard Beach and Nauset Light Beach in Eastham, Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro, and Race Point Beach and Herring Cove Beaches in Provincetown.
Both Race Point Beach in Provincetown and Coast Guard Beach in Eastham are regularly recognised as some of the best beaches in the USA. Note that lifeguards are only available at the beach during the summer season.
You can get free permits for campfires at the 6 swimming beaches at either of the Visitor’s Centres. You need to get in there early though because there are only 4 permits per day per beach allowed.
Cape Cod National Seashore Wildlife
There are over 450 species of animals that call Cape Cod National Seashore home either full-time or seasonally.
On the Cape Cod National Seashore seals are a common sight, usually Harbor and Grey seals. Check out Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Nauset Beach in Orleans and Ballston Beach in Truro for seal sightings. Great white sharks prey on seals. Having seals around the waters of Cape Cod means the great white sharks are likely to be around hunting for prospects for a meal as well.
Cape Cod Bird Watching
There are over 370 species of birds that you can find at the Cape Cod National Seashore. About 80 of these species nest and raise their young in spring and summer.
Cape Cod National Seashore is a great place to watch birds migrating in the spring and the fall. Some of these migrating birds go as far as the Arctic and the Antarctic. You get not only the regular shore birds but also song birds and predatory birds such as hawks and owls. For example, Nauset Marsh in May is good for viewing shorebirds.
You can find the piping plover, a federally protected species, at the Cape Cod National Seashore. Their nesting sites are not too be disturbed because they are considered a threatened species with only about 2000 pairs left.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is a 12oo acre wildlife sanctuary run by Mass Audobon that has lots to keep a birder happy. This organisation offers lots of hikes and kayaking opportunities on their website.
Cape Cod National Seashore Lodging
There is limited Cape Cod National Seashore lodging but plenty of hotels near Cape Cod National Seashore in the adjacent six towns.
Cape Cod National Seashore Camping
Although there’s no tent or trailer camping on the Cape Cod National Seashore, the NPS allows camping for off-road vehicles who have a permit.
The national government does not encourage Cape Cod National Seashore camping anywhere as easy as our neighbours to the North where camping in Canada is positively a breeze.
If you still want to go Cape Cod National seashore camping, check out privately operated nearby campgrounds.
There is Atlantic Oaks in Eastham which has sites for hook-ups for vehicles and a super easy access campground to Cape Cod National Seashore.
For traditional camping Cape Cod National Seashore, North of Highland in North Truro has sites for tent camping.
We have camped at one of the Rustic Bungalows at Dunes’ Edge Campground, a Trustees of Reservations property, in Provincetown. They also have traditional tent camping and RV hookup sites.
Cape Cod National Seashore Hotels
The small Nauset Beach Inn in Orleans has Cape Cod National Seashore lodging within the perimeters of the national seashore. Run by Hosteling International, Truro Hostel is an old Coast Guard center that is also within the national seashore.
Cape Cod National Seashore also offers 3 vacation house rentals within the park near Wellfleet. There’s one small one bedroom house as well as two larger 3 bedroom options.
On the other hand, if you are looking for hotels near Cape Cod National Seashore you have plenty of options from both well-known national brands as well as locally-run operations. For example, both the Inn at the Oaks and the Four Points by Sheraton in Eastham are less than 2 miles from Cape Cod National Seashore
Depending on which of the six town you base yourself, the Outer Cape is so narrow you are never really far from the Cape Cod National Seashore. For example, the town of Truro only has a land section of 27 square miles. When you drive on US Route 6 you get a view of both Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Cape Cod National Seashore Map
Here’s a Cape Cod National Seashore Map showing the location of the lodging, visitors centers and activities we have mentioned above.
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