Long Walks on Cape Cod
Copyright 1996 Cape Cod Trails Conference
USGS Maps: Orleans, Chatham
Parking lot for Nauset Beach in Orleans, at the end of Beach Road.
Park at the far south end of the parking lot. There is a charge during the season. Walk to the southwest corner and pick up the paved road curving around to the south. Soon it becomes a sandy track between the dunes and the marsh. Walk due south on the dune road.
This walk will take you about six miles down the dune road, which is a linear distance of five miles on the map, then bring you back up north on the beach, a shorter and faster walk. The end of the spit opposite Chatham contains a colony of beach houses which we will not visit, out of respect for the homeowners.
The topographical map for Chatham is seriously inaccurate in that it does not show the effects of the 1978 storm which rearranged the landscape. Besides ending Nauset Beach opposite Allen Point, a wide break was cut in the barrier beach which allows the ocean to sweep right in to the Chatham shore, causing erosion and damage.
Walk along the dune road, following the tracks of four wheel drive vehicles. On your right is a marsh, and on the bluffs, particularly nice houses in East Orleans. You will pass a boardwalk from Pochet Neck, then Pochet Island on your right. Little Pochet Island is straight ahead.
Pochet Island can be explored, but has to be approached at low
tide, when the causeway is dry. We have described the island in the
guide for "Nauset Beach and Pochet Island." You will come to a major
intersection with one track going off to the beach past marker number
You will pass a number of beach shacks as you walk south. When you come up over a rise, you will see the vast expanse of marsh and Pleasant Bay. That's what this walk is all about, to see Pleasant Bay and its environs from the ocean side.
Past the end of Pochet Island is Sampson Island, which also may be visited, but it has to be by boat! Further south is Hog Island. On your left is a sign for beach access road number two. To the south, you will see Chatham Light blinking twice at you.
At this point, you begin enjoying solitude, watching and listening to the birds, and spying wild animals in the marsh. The next large island to the west is Strong Island; then you see the shore of North Chatham curving east to Allen Point. You will pass access roads three, four, and five. The colony of beach houses rises up and you can begin to see the individual houses.
Walk past access road number six until the dune road curves east
almost to the beach. Here we suggest turning around and walking north
on the beach. The end of the spit, now visible beyond the houses, is
another mile and one-half further south. Find a good spot against the
As you walk north on the beach, you will notice that the summer residents use the beach as a faster route to their houses. Vehicle tracks make firm footing, as does the line between wet and dry sand when the tide is going out. You now have a little over five miles of beach walking ahead of you. Slow the pace down. Enjoy the walk!
This far down the spit, you are likely to see no one, until you get within a mile or so of the parking lot. An occasional four wheel drive vehicle may drive by, and fishing boats may be spotted out on the ocean. The ubiquitous gulls will be present, and usually sandpipers.
The enclosed area with stern warning signs are for the protection of piping plovers during their nesting season in late spring and early summer. Plovers nest right on the beach, and their chicks run around like crazy after hatching. By late summer, you can walk anywhere.
Walk up and visit the driftwood sculpture in honor of Timmy Eldridge, if it has survived. Past access road number three, the beach narrows and is more difficult to walk. Then it widens at number two, offering a wet-dry line for firmer footing.
Along the way, if a storm kicks up, or the wind blows hard, or the beach otherwise becomes unpleasant to walk on, head in to the dune road via one of the access roads. Cross over the dunes only in an emergency.
The total walk is about eleven miles, which will take a small group about five hours, with a lunch stop. As you head in from the beach on the walkway, pause at the top of the rise, and take in the view from Nauset Light to the north, with its three flashes, to Little Pochet Island to the south, and the 180 degree arc of the sea!