If there was one word to describe the quaint town of Orleans, which rests not far from the Cape’s elbow, it might be this: happy.
Need further proof? The seaside community earned second place in Coastal Living magazine's Happiest Seaside Town in America contest in January 2017, a moniker that fits Orleans perfectly.
In 2016, Disney’s “The Finest Hours” placed a bright spotlight on Orleans, thanks to Lifeboat CG36500. That’s the same Coast Guard vessel featured in the film which made the daring rescue of 32 men off the coast of Chatham on the night of February 18, 1952, when the SS Pendleton went down during a ferocious nor’easter. Docked in Orleans' picturesque Rock Harbor in season, the public can tour the famous vessel during the summer months.
Orleans’ history dates back much further; in July, 1918, it was the first and only location on Cape Cod to be attacked during World War I, when two German U-boats struck Nauset Beach with enemy fire.
The town’s connection to the past can also be witnessed at the Orleans Waterfront Inn, a sea captain’s mansion built in 1875, which is rumored to be haunted by several ghosts and has been featured on Syfy Channels "Ghost Hunters” program.
A short walk from the Orleans Inn is one of the oldest windmills in the United States - the Jonathan Young Windmill. The landmark structure was constructed in 1720 and has been moved several times, including an 86-year stint in Hyannis Port, until it was eventually relocated to its current site at Town Cove Park.
In Orleans, there may be no better place to commune with nature than on Nauset Beach, a popular location for swimmers, surfers and sunbathers, along with fishermen looking to hook a bass or bluefish. Nearby, Cape Cod’s most famous onion rings can be had during the summer at Liam’s at Nauset Beach, a regional staple since 1989.
If you’re looking for a little adventure, The Goose Hummock is a great place to start. Located on Route 6A, the company offers kayak and SUP rentals, tours and lessons. And they're an ideal store to satisfy all your fishing needs.
With the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy based out of Orleans, you can bet there are plenty of opportunities to view a great white shark's favorite meal - grey seals - in this part of the Cape. You’ll be guaranteed to see the playful animals onboard Blue Claw Boat Tours, which also runs sunset tours, beachcombing expeditions and full moon cruises during the summer.
As one of only 58 Massachusetts' towns to have a designated cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Orleans offers an abundance of opportunities for those seeking more creative outlets. Both Addison Art Gallery and Gallery 31 showcase some of the top local talent when it comes to fine art. And the Academy of Performing Arts brings the best of community theater to the Cape, year round.
Deck the halls - and yourself - for Orleans' annual Santa Stampede 5k and Family Fun Run every December. A new holiday tradition on the Cape, the 5K features runners adorned in an array of festive costumes that include Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Grinches, elves and presents that go under the tree. It's all part of the town-wide Seaside Christmas in Orleans, a month-long holiday extravaganza that kicks of each holiday season, featuring special events and savings at shops, galleries, restaurants, inns, theaters, churches, libraries, salons, spas and shows.
Bring your appetite
Whether you’re craving sweets, seafood or something more sophisticated, Orleans has you covered. Start by heading to Hole in One Donuts and the Hot Chocolate Sparrow, both of which will tempt your taste buds with their delectable donuts and pastries (Hole in One) and mouthwatering hand-dipped chocolates, desserts, fudge, coffee and more (Sparrow).
The Rock Harbor Grill will satisfy the heartiest of appetites with an eclectic menu that features popular fare including wood-fired pizza, burgers, lobster mac n’ cheese and a variety of seafood dishes. The Land Ho! has more standard pub fare, while catering to the weekend crowd who are looking for a little (or a lot) of fun on a Friday or Saturday night.
Those seeking a fine dining option are in luck, thanks to the historic Captain Linnell House. Rumor has it that those who eat here usually leave happy. Perhaps it’s the secluded location, stately gardens, or the fact that Chef-Owner Bill Conway's culinary accolades include being featured in Gourmet magazine. Or maybe it's just because they’re in Orleans, one of the happiest seaside communities in America. ;)
What are you waiting for? Come on, get happy!
Blogger's Note: This is part of a series of "Road Trip" blogs spotlighting each of Cape Cod's distinctive towns and villages!