I have a confession. I’m not a summer Cape Cod person. What I mean is, I have rarely been on-Cape between Memorial and Labor days. Not that I don’t like to visit in the summer. I love it here in the summer! Sunshine! Fresh seafood! Warm bay waters! Sounds of the surf! Long days! Cold drinks!
It’s just that my first introduction to the Cape, and more specifically, Wellfleet, was in October. Beautiful autumn Cape weather and scenery. Primacy rules. I was hooked. Hooked good! So, for the next twenty plus years I made my annual visits only in the off-season.
As a result, my view of the outer Cape is the quieter, slower more laid back one that includes breezy walks on deserted ocean beaches, plenty of free parking – everywhere! – no traffic to speak of on route 6, early sunsets, and slimmer options for dining out. (In fact, there were restaurants, like Arnold’s in Eastham, that I never saw open for twenty years – until I visited in August.)
The off-season in Wellfleet offers some unique perspectives on this special place. Have you ever seen Wellfleet harbor frozen over solid with a foot of ice? I have. The pilings at the pier, the rocks of the jetty, even Uncle Tim’s bridge get layered with frozen sea water. Spectacular! And little fishing boats act as their own ice breaker in attempts to make a free-water path out of the harbor.
A November or December visit to the Audubon sanctuary may get you an up-close visit with a cold-stunned loggerhead, green, or Kemp’s ridley turtle that is being rescued from the cooling waters of the bay.
In the off-season, the sunsets are stunning right from Mayo Beach. Beginning in late September, the sun disappears behind the dunes just to the north of the Gut (that low spot in the dunes when you look right). The sunsets continue to march south as we head into winter until the sun dips below the horizon just off the tip of Great Island in late December. After that, it works its way back north until the summer when the sunsets are behind us, and you get a much better show from the bay-facing beach at Duck Harbor.
Summer is certainly prime time to be in Wellfleet – for all the great reasons we love the Cape. But I’m here to tell you that when you are ensconced away from here during the more wintry months, this wonderful place you love is no less wondrous and lovable. Come back soon!