Long Walks on Cape Cod
USGS Maps: Orleans, Harwich
2. Beach parking lot at the end of Paine's Creek
Road, one-half mile north of Route 6A in
The tidal flats of Cape Cod Bay, particularly in the Town of
Brewster, are a unique environment. Walking the beaches next to
the tidal flats is a strange and wondrous experience. We do not
recommend walking out on the flats because of the hazard of tidal
It is said that the Brewster Flats are the widest expanse of tidal
flats in North America, rivaled in the western hemisphere only by
a similar expanse in Brazil. The flats extend all the way to North
Eastham, but this guide will take you on the beaches between two
Pick a clear day, with not much wind. Then consult the tide chart carefully to begin no sooner than an hour and one-half before low tide. The entire hike is best done as a shuttle between the two trailheads. The straight line distance is seven miles.
You can park without charge at the beach parking lots between Labor Day and the middle of June. During the season, you must have a beach sticker for the Town of Brewster. Don't even THINK of parking on the side roads.
Starting from the Crosby Lane Beach parking lot, look for the foot path going east from the northeast corner of the lot. It is heavily used and easy to follow. Notice that the Orleans topographical map shows a line of shacks along the beach. They are all gone.
You then have a primitive seaside environment to walk along. To your right, high on a pole, is an osprey nest. During the summer, a large, ugly bird sits on the nest, glowering at passersby. If you look more carefully in June and July, you might also see the cute heads of a couple of the ugly bird's children looking at you curiously, or shouting for food if a parent has just arrived with a fish sandwich. As the signs warn you, do not go near the pole.
On your right is a marsh environment. Most of it is dry, with
tributaries of Namskaket Creek winding through it. As the seascape
opens to your left, you see the reach of Cape Cod Bay from Orleans to
Wellfleet. Wellfleet Harbor and Great Beach Island are the farthest
Continue walking east until the foot path brings you out to the
beach. As you begin the trek west, you will see the Crosby Mansion
looming up over the trees, beyond the Crosby Lane Beach parking lot.
Then a little further down, a large grey-green structure sits on the
You will notice that the tidal flat has narrowed appreciably as you walk closer to "Linger Longer." It is narrow for another mile, then widens abruptly opposite Ellis Landing beach, to reach its maximum width at Paine's Creek.
Notice that west of Ellis Landing, some of the summer shacks on
the bluff have been undermined and are tumbling into the bay. West
of these are a row of elegant condominiums with yellow trim, part of
the Sea Pines area, known as Pineland Park. Their beach is posted
Theoretically, the ownership of the shore extends to low tide, but it is an ancient colonial law both unenforced and unenforceable. If you were close to the bluff in the summer, you might be warned off. You would still have access, though, if you were carrying a fish pole, as the same law states that citizens have a right to "fish or fowl" between high and low tide lines anywhere along the shore.
Continuing your walk west around Point of Rocks, you will see a
small parking area at the end of Point of Rocks Road. Along the shore
are, indeed, numerous rocks presenting the usual hazard to navigation.
On the flats, you may see, besides the ubiquitous gulls, ducks of
About three-quarters of a mile further, you will see a green revetment on the shore in front of some low houses. To the left of the revetment is a sizeable parking area at the end of Breakwater Road. The scattering of rocks to the west looks as random as those around Point of Rocks. It is the remains of a manmade breakwater that served as a pier and harbor for the packet ships sailing to and from Boston in the middle of the nineteenth century.
Just west of Breakwater Point are massive, elegant houses in
the Cobbs Pond area, looming up above the bluff. Their beach is not
posted. If you walk the beaches in the winter, you may see
Then you will see that the bluff begins to descend to a marsh. At the east end of the marsh is the parking area for Robbins Hill Beach. Notice the grey and white house with so many walks and decks that it looks like a crenellated castle.
Look ahead to the two story white house on the bluff to the rear of the marsh. Set your sights on that for the walk to the Paine's Creek Beach parking area.