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Eastham, Cape Cod

One of the four original settlements on Cape Cod, Eastham offers a sense of an untouched Cape. Author Henry Beston perhaps best described the beauty and pageantry of Eastham, where he lived for one year, in his renowned book The Outermost House, required reading for lovers of Cape Cod.

At Eastham’s First Encounter Beach in 1620, a Pilgrim troupe led by Myles Standish met Nauset Native Americans for the first time. Today’s visitors take Samoset Road to the same spot, imagining what may have transpired during this legendary first meeting between Pilgrims and Native Americans; go during the early evening hours to be rewarded with a truly dazzling sunset over Cape Cod Bay.

Eastham is home to the Cape’s oldest working historical windmill, built in Plymouth in 1680 and ultimately moved to Eastham in 1793. Each fall, the historic windmill serves as the centerpiece to the town's Eastham Windmill Weekend tradition.

Today’s Eastham—a compact town three miles wide from bay to ocean and six miles long—comprises Eastham and North Eastham. The town is often referred to as the gateway to the Cape Cod National Seashore; the Salt Pond Visitors’ Center in Eastham welcomes visitors, preparing them for what they will experience in the National Park—majestic dunes, cedar swamp trails and marsh vistas, wetlands, grasslands and a tremendous diversity of flora and fauna.

Eastham boasts two Atlantic-facing beaches that dominate the National Park’s shoreline. Coast Guard Beach has long been considered one of America’s finest beaches thanks to its sweeping dunes and stunning marshlands. Nauset Light Beach is also a gem, and is adjacent to the oft-photographed Nauset Light. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the lighthouse is also recognizable for being featured on the Cape Cod Potato Chips bag.

The Eastham section of the National Seashore is home to two of the Cape’s most beloved hiking spots – Fort Hill Trail and Red Maple Swamp Trail. Fort Hill crosses open fields, offers breathtaking views of Nauset Marsh and is a popular destination for birders. Red Maple Swamp Trail features an elevated boardwalk over Red Maple Swamp, and its surrounding woodlands are at a glorious peak in fall.

Outdoor enthusiasts will flock to the Cape Cod Rail Trail and Nauset Bike Trail, both of which are accessible right from the Salt Pond Visitor Center. The Nauset Bike Trail is the shorter of the two and connects to several scenic hiking trails, as well as to Coast Guard Beach.

Throughout Eastham, you’ll find art galleries, antiquing, gift shops and clothing boutiques, along with great restaurants and cozy cafes.

The town’s whaling industry roots can be explored at Eastham’s Captain Edward Penniman House, a French Second Empire style house built in 1868 and once owned by one of the Cape’s most famous sea captains. Peruse the Penniman family’s written records and artifact collections, which provide insights into the people and places the family visited on their whaling voyages.  More of the town’s history can be discovered at the Eastham 1869 Schoolhouse Museum, a one-room schoolhouse used by the town until 1905. Exhibits include shipwreck treasures, Native American artifacts, a 13-foot jawbone from a 65-foot finback whale, U.S. Life Saving records and memorabilia from the school itself.

Find more information on Eastham through the Eastham Chamber of Commerce.