Cape Cod National Seashore
The Cape Cod National Seashore consists of nearly 45,000 acres of protected land along the eastern shore of Cape Cod. The preserve spans woodlands, ponds, and beaches in Chatham, Eastham, Orleans, Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet and covers much of the area that the Pilgrims explored in 1620 and 1621 after anchoring the Mayflower in Provincetown Harbor.
President John F. Kennedy created the Cape Cod National Seashore in August 1961. Kennedy, who spent his summers in Hyannis Port on the other side of Cape Cod, had strong personal ties to the area. As an avid sailor, he understood the value of setting aside land for conservation and recreational pursuits in this popular summer retreat.
The preserve, which is managed by the National Park Service, encompasses some of the most unspoiled parts of the Cape’s Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecosystem. This is the land that, in 1621, the Pilgrims found too desolate and wild for habitation and the land that transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau wrote about in his nineteenth-century Cape Cod memoirs.
The National Seashore in Cape Cod spans nearly 40 miles of coastline on the eastern shore of the Cape Cod peninsula. This stretch of coastline includes Race Point and Herring Cove Beaches in Provincetown, the Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Nauset Light Beach in Orleans, Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, and Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro.
In South Wellfleet, the preserve includes the site of the former Marconi Wireless Station, where operators completed the first two-way transatlantic radio transmission in 1903. It also includes the old Air Force Station in North Truro, which has been redeveloped into the Highlands Center, and the former home of Attorney General Francis Biddle, who was a judge at the Nuremberg trials.
On the outskirts of Provincetown and Truro, the Cape Cod National Seashore encompasses the Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District. Throughout the twentieth century, this secluded dune district attracted writers, playwrights, painters, and other artists looking for solitude and focus. Some of the district’s famous visitors include the playwright Eugene O’Neill, the painter Jackson Pollock, and the American poet Edward Estlin Cummings, often styled as ‘e e cummings’ as he is attributed in many of his published works.