Summer on Cape Cod…the smell of fresh cut grass, the whoosh of the surf, a light breeze on hot skin, corn on the cob with butter, tender lobster meat melting in your mouth. Cape Cod is the essence of summer, and Woods Hole is the quintessential place to enjoy it.
My summer started with a visit to Stoney Beach (an easy walk from the Woods Hole Inn) and my first swim away from the shore. Looking back at the bay dotted with waterfront estates and sweeping lawns, I felt a release from the worries of winter. I reflected on all the things I love about our little village — scientists walking around with lanyards, wooden boats bobbing on their moorings, the smell of charcoal from my neighbor’s yard, rabbits that tear around at dusk, twinkling lights of the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard reflecting on the harbor, sunset with music playing at Quicks Hole, warm popovers in the morning from Pie in the Sky, my favorite tea at Coffee Obsession, a cool pinot grigio on the dock of Landfall.
Last weekend, I put all the winter coats in the basement and dusted off the paddle board, the life preservers and my flip flops. We moved the dinghy to the beach, and collected the Mirror (a tiny wooden sailing vessel popular here) for racing in Great Harbor with the Woods Hole Yacht Club. I located last year’s stash of sun screen, my summer shorts and t-shirts, swimsuits and coveralls.
Oh summer, with your visitors galore and friends from faraway places. We wait for you all year, then you are here and we wonder, can it really last through October? Oh yes… in beautiful Woods Hole, the answer is yes.
Spring is in the air, with daffodils popping and the bike path cluttered with dusty bikes out for the first ride of the summer. Wandering just a few minutes from the front door of the Inn brings you to Stoney Beach Woods Hole, affectionately called “Stoney” (as in “see you at Stoney“) by locals.
This stretch of sand facing Buzzards Bay is hidden away in a small residential neighborhood, close to all the laboratories (MBL, WHOI and others) and very popular come summertime. Summer people will be stunned to see I found it empty earlier this week, light waves blowing in and huge puffy clouds racing by for my eyes only.
Now there are many advantages to a swim at Stoney — the prevailing wind from the southwest puts the beach in the lea, so it is often warmer than other beaches in Falmouth. There are two stone jetties from which you can look back and enjoy the beach scape dotted with charming Cape Cod waterfront cottages. Then there is the Gulf Stream water, which on the bay side seems even warmer and delicious in summertime.
Popular with families and children because the sand extends shallow for quite a ways out from the beach, I have always wondered why it is so-named when it is clearly sandy. My pet suspicion is that the clever scientists that discovered this corner of Cape Cod before the turn of the century named it “Stoney” to keep out the riff raff.
Here the hermit crabs frolic, kids dance in the waves and wind-surfers learn to get up on their boards. The older generation likes to swim laps across the bay in their flowered swim caps. Come the late afternoon, someone always seems to be water-skiing or tubing in the distance. Porta-potties, a fresh water shower area and lifeguards make this a very comfortable place to spend a summer afternoon.
Parking is limited, but beach passes from Falmouth will get you in, if you are lucky. Most guests at the Woods Hole Inn choose to walk over, it’s about a half mile or ten minute walk (with your complimentary beach towel from the front desk). You will see plenty of other neighbors doing the same, in fact the back streets of Woods Hole are awash in half-clad beach goers. It is the ritual of summer, walking through town, grabbing something at the Woods Hole Market then settling on the beach with an ice-cold soda.
Woods Hole summer. Yes, it is right around the corner.
Guest Post from blogger Megan Jensen
My favorite part of being an intern here at the Woods Hole Inn is the opportunity it gives me to explore Woods Hole and Cape Cod. So when I found out part of my job was to take weekly driving tours and write about what I saw and did, I was ecstatic!
Last week I took my first driving tour along the coast from Woods Hole to the Bourne Bridge. I started at the Inn early in the morning on a hot and sunny day, and drove up along the coast to the Bourne Bridge. It’s a fun and easy drive, with lots of great places to stop, for both locals and those coming from out of town.
Here is what I saw, did, ate…and highly recommend.
1. Visit the Knob
Just a few minutes drive from the Woods Hole Inn, the Knob offers a great short walk and beautiful views of the water and harbor. There is free parking available near the knob, on Quissett Harbor Road. The path is easy to find and the small conserved forest offers two trails, both ending up at the end of the “knob.” I recommend taking the right hand path, it will take you through the forest and along the water – offering great views, sunshine and an optional stop at a small beach. At the end of the path are benches where you can sit, relax and look out onto the water.
2. Stop and grab breakfast or lunch at the West Falmouth Market
As you continue your drive along the coast stop at West Falmouth Market for food, drinks and anything else you might need. When I got there it was nearly noon and very busy. They have a fresh deli – where you can choose one of their signature sandwiches or you can make your own. You can also order pizza to go. They have all the picnic essentials – coals for the grill, paper plates, and a good selection of beer. When I stopped I also grabbed a tempting looking muffin – all their bakery items are homemade each morning!
3. If it’s a beach day head for Monument Beach
Driving along the coast I passed by popular beaches with steep parking signs (20 -30$) and crowed shorelines. While Chapoquoit and Old Silver are great beaches, I recommend continuing north into Bourne and stopping at Monument Beach. When driving north it will be on your left, and can be easy to miss. Parking is free along the side of the road, and the beach is just across the railroad tracks. There is parking if you have a beach sticker, and there are also public restrooms and an outdoor shower. I loved swimming in the peaceful harbor, and the beach is great for all ages!
4. If it’s not a beach day stop and explore the Little Bay Walking Trails
These walking trails are a great way to spend an afternoon. Found alongside Shore Road in Bourne (before you get to the beach) there is a small area to park your car and take a walk in the woods. There is a map located at the beginning of the trails.
5. Grab dinner at the Lobster Trap
Only one mile north of Monument Beach this restaurant is a great place to eat after a day at the beach. Lots of parking and indoor and outdoor seating – this casual seafood restaurant has something for everyone. Next door to the restaurant is a fresh seafood shop where you also have the option of buying your own food and cooking it at home, or at the beach. I got a stuffed Quahog to go, and am in love. Being from the Midwest I’ve never tried this before and loved eating my meal off of a shell.
6. Drive across the Bourne Bridge
The last destination on my drive was to drive across the Bourne Bridge. I’ve always thought it was fun to drive across bridges (maybe a Minnesota thing?) and this one is really great. The bridge is huge and the views of the Cape Cod Canal are awesome. I also love driving back onto the cape and seeing the “Cape Cod” bushes welcoming me!
7. On the way home stop for ice cream at Somerset Creamery
This can be done at anytime during the drive. Located in Cataumet off of Route 28A, this is a good stop on your way out or back home. The ice cream is delicious and there are a ton of flavors to choose from. I opted for the waffle cone (they are homemade and have ingenious no-drip bottoms) with ginger flavored ice cream.
This was a great drive and can take as little or long as you would like. I suggest following the coastal roads for a better view and more places to stop along the way. Route 28A is a quick alternative however, and each stop is easy to navigate to from the main road.
This is the route I took Woods Hole Inn to Bourne Bridge.
from Guest Blogger Megan Jensen
Every summer prior to this one has been a Midwest summer – long days filled with senseless humidity, mosquitos, lakeside bar-b-cues, and countless county fairs.
When I loaded up my car three weeks ago and drove across the country from Minneapolis to Cape Cod I had no idea what to expect of the summer to come.
I’ve traveled all across the US, and having just returned from a year abroad in Denmark, I was excited to once again pack up my bags and explore somewhere new.
Being on the east coast and particularly the Cape has been very different, surprising and refreshing from what I grew up with.
When I had heard about this internship from former intern Caroline Matthews, who I met while studying PR and Design abroad in Copenhagen, I knew very little about Cape Cod. I imagined Woods Hole — which sounded like a storybook village — would be a quiet, sleepy town.
However, when I got to the Cape I knew I had made the right choice. Far from sleepy, Woods Hole is a busy place with plenty to do. Filled with restaurants, an active harbor and a friendly local community – Woods Hole knows how to keep you busy.
Most mornings I wake up early to the sounds of the ships in the harbor. Walk outside my front door and the ocean is there, the smell of the sea and a beautiful view of the water.
I’ve come to love Woods Hole and feel at home here – I can’t walk down Main Street or go out for dinner without running into someone I know.
I don’t miss being landlocked at all, and the beaches here are perfect for swimming day and night. When I’m not working, one of my favorite things is to hop on one of the inn’s beach cruisers and bike to nearby Nobska or Stoney beach or take a small cruise on the Shining Sea Bike Path.
I’m looking forward to what the rest of the summer will bring and hope to share some of my experiences, discoveries and “Midwest” take on the Cape with you.
Loving life and lobster barley-pops on the Fourth of July in Woods Hole.
All in a day’s work for Girl Friday Megan Jensen, behind the scenes at the Woods Hole Inn.
Even though it’s Sunday, I feel like today is a real snow day here in Woods Hole. I mean who can pay bills or even watch football (OK, maybe by late in the day football is OK) when it looks like this outside?
My photo essay on the January 21, 2012 snow storm:
The venerable Woods Hole Inn, looking stately and a bit half-dressed while under-construction in the snow.
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I really appreciate your help reaching a wider audience.
The streets are empty, the restaurants deserted and the air completely still. The last of the ferries hurrying out of Woods Hole getting people to their destinations. There is an odd green hue to the afternoon light, muted with a grey low sky. After moving another set of porch furniture in, making two banana pound cakes and allaying the fears of many guests about the storm situation (which appears to be improving), I grabbed a little “me” time. I walked home past the Eel Pond where many parking meters stood empty like sentinels and I went to Stoney Beach.
It was incredibly flat calm down there, the waves so tiny they made a miniscule little whoosh as they lapped the sand. Dead high tide, moon tide which is especially high, leaving the beach a sliver and the distance to the swim buoy more challenging.
I breast-stroked out and floated on my back, toes in front of me in the water like my Dad used to do, and looked back at the houses that line the beach. Many have boarded up. There are shutters closed, or removed to keep from blowing away. But some houses seem to have made no preparations at all.
I thought about what a privilege it is to live so close to the water that I can walk to the beach for a quick after-work swim. But that this same proximity is a huge disadvantage in a storm like Irene. If the surge comes at moon-high tide, there could be 10 extra feet of water. That would turn my street to a canal, my basement to an oily swimming pool and my lawn to seagrass. Floating, I thought about how amazingly mutable the sea is, one minute calm, warm, embracing; the next roaring, foaming, angry.
I thought about my Aunt Ellen who spent her waning years living in the Big House on Wings Neck (a place lovingly described by my cousin George Colt in his book “The Big House”). She loved to bathe in the sea, luxuriating the in the way the salt crunched on the sheets when she fell asleep. In her youth, much of which was in the Great Depression, the Colt children were not encouraged to wash the salt off after swimming, so for her that feeling became reminiscent of long summer days, childhood games and fresh seafood at supper.
I learned at her memorial service last month that when she became too ill to walk down to the ocean to take her daily swim, the nurses brought up buckets of seawater to gently wash her with cloths. “If you can’t come down to the ocean, we will bring the ocean to you,” one of them told her.
I think I will resist showering tonight, for that swim was so sublime I think it may cradle me in a well deserved sleep where I will dream of my father and his sisters, frolicking in the waters of Buzzards Bay so many years ago. And pray that when the sea welcomes Irene later tonight, that perhaps the memory of an woman bathing in her dying days might mitigate the damage.
This dispatch by Casey Manning, a wonderful writer who is here with us for the summer:
“There’s something internal that breeds in those who grow up in landlocked states — something that fascinates them about water. For those who age watching blurred cornfields out of passenger windows, it’s hard to fathom the expanse of endless blue that must exist along the far-reaching coasts. For those who can’t claim a single acquaintance with a boating license, the term “lost at sea,” etched here in so many memorial park benches and aging gravestones, is both haunting and intangible.
And so when I arrived in Woods Hole mere weeks ago, Ohio born and raised, I was equally fascinated and slightly unsettled by the ever-presence of water at every turn. A cool evening spent on the bike path lent countless bodies of ponds, bogs, and marshes new meaning to what I had always clumped together easily as “lakes.”
And when, on a jog along that same path, tempting dark-clouded faith to get in a tempo run for my Falmouth Road Race training, it started to rain, something pulled me off the paved path and toward a beach. I sat mesmerized in the downpour for what felt like hours by the monstrous churning of the ocean and the dissolving of sea and sky. Like many things of terrible beauty, what sparkles on the surface merely hints at what immeasurable force and incomprehensible fervor lies beneath.
I’ve spent countless summers sunning myself on pool decks, relishing the first hint of chlorine smell on my skin and knowing won’t fade until September, splashing around in hopes that my pre-teen crush will notice, and flying past the ever-present “NO RUNNING SIGNS” that I never failed to disobey. And by the age I could stand on my tippy toes in the deep end, I thought I had conquered water in its most magical, otherworldly-blue form.
But an infinite ocean, like the myth concerning Eskimos and their words for snow, lends its reveler countless new definitions of the shade we call blue. My first summer defined on a scale, variably hued.
When I talk to friends back home (who are just as amazed as I that I’ve found myself on Cape Cod for the summer), the first thing they never fail to ask is if I’ve been to the beach.
“Of course!” I respond, giddily detailing minutes walks, breezy bike rides, and quick ferries to beach after beach after beach.
But I know what they envision — white sand and sparkling water under a bountifully blazing sun — and it no longer matches my own mind’s painted scene. For now my Midwestern sensibilities can appreciate not only the postcard-perfect calm of an ocean moment frozen in time, but the live, vicious churning that can surround; teasing to pull me in and never let go so that I too could dare to become a shade of blue.”
–Casey Manning, Cape Cod Summer 2011
Hurricane Earl. We watched you on the news, tracked you online, fretted about you for days. We boarded up windows, moved all the outdoor furniture indoors, warned traveler not to come, even shut our restaurant down in anticiaption of your messy arrival.
The hatches were battened by noon Friday. And then we waited. I took a nap. I saw half the staff headed to the beach for a last minute swim — it was so hot and humid. In the late afternoon, I took a long walk with my mother. Waiting, watching. A gust of air would come and we would say — here you come now. And then nothing. You are such a big tease, Earl.
Finally in the late evening, with guests tucked happily in their air-conditioned rooms, I went to bed with all the windows closed, storms down. I was ready for you, Earl.
And then you never really came. Some rain, a little wind. But there is no flooding, no power outages. Just another sunny day on Cape Cod.
So it was a whole lot of prep, for nothing but a whimper. I am relieved, but also somehow disappointed. I was enjoying the crisis and now that there is no crisis, I feel like an army general who has been stripped of my responsibilities. Now we put everything back, we return to the normal flow of things. We chalk Earl up to a fire drill.
I guess I am glad we never really met Earl, but I was ready for you nonetheless.