Killing four birds with one stone (history, exercise, food, and scenery)
The Fort Hill historic district in the Cape Cod town of Eastham is a small attraction. But it has several activities that can easily evolve into a full afternoon of enjoyment.
The area was originally settled by English colonists in 1644 amidst worries against an invasion by the Dutch. Over time, it developed an agricultural focus. Soon, the natural resources were over-consumed and scarce, leaving a largely barren landscape. Life was challenging, and drove many young men to the sea for work.
Now, the Fort Hill district offers one of its best attractions right from one of the two small parking lots. It’s perched on a rise, overlooking Nauset Marsh. The amazing, panoramic view includes inlets, marshes, the beach, and the ocean beyond, as well as fields of flowers sloping towards the water. Plenty of boats can be seen on the main waterways, with kayakers weaving through the marshes. Whether taking in the view at sunrise without even leaving your car, or picnicking with family in the small field next to the parking lot, the scenery is spectacular and easily accessible.
Fort Hill’s parking lot is also a trailhead. A sandy trail gently works its way down from the rise and weaves along the edge of the marsh. Views constantly change, giving a feeling of variety despite the easy hike. Several routes exist, allowing for shorter or longer walks. Despite choosing one of the lengthier routes, our walk was still under two miles, lasted about an hour, and was easily managed even by the younger children in our group. Markers and a brochure educated on some of the plant life and historical significance of the area. Also, the Red Maple Swamp Trail includes a long, meandering boardwalk through the swamp that created further diversity to the hike.
The district’s last attraction is the Edward Penniman House. Penniman, like many young men, was driven to the sea. He returned in 1868, a successful 35-year-old, and built an impressive house. He raised the land several feet to afford views of the ocean and bay. The house itself featured hot and cold water and an indoor bathroom – both rarities for the day, and was decadently furnished.
The house is routinely open to the public and the ranger and volunteer during our visit were very knowledgeable about the house, family, and time period during our visit. The barn behind the house is currently undergoing renovations. Once open, it will offer even more antiques and places to explore.
The combination of the views, hikes, and tour offer something for everyone: they can capture the imagination of children or the interest of a history buff or environmentalist; they can deliver a unique trail run for the athlete, a casual walk for a family, or a bench for those looking to sit and relax.
While easily overlooked in favor of the beaches or the hustle and bustle of some other activities, Fort Hill in Eastham is a great alternative for people looking to explore a quieter corner of New England.
As the days grow shorter and the weather gets colder, a hot afternoon pick-me-up could be just what you need. As a coffee lover, I enjoy a good cup of Joe. As a fan of supporting local, small businesses, I enjoy a good local coffee shop even more. Sorry, Starbucks.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, we paused at Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters along scenic Route 6A (Main Street) in Brewster, MA. This charming, locally-owned coffee shop welcomes you with its open floor plan, comfy couches, and friendly servers. It opened in 2015, expanding the building’s footprint originally occupied by Great Cape Herbs in 2015. The two businesses blend well, and the decor is rustic, with lots of exposed wood, reclaimed from local barns. You can even sit and sip your selection while watching a fresh batch of coffee roasting behind the bar.
According to their website (http://www.socoffee.co/), Snowy Owl roasts “high-grade coffee beans from small-lot growers and co-ops that focus on environmental sustainability, economic development, and educational enhancement programs”. Poignantly, the namesake for this business stems from an owl-shaped pillow that provided comfort to the family’s father before his passing from cancer, and the family has routinely seen owls ever since.
I was delighted to see that I could order my dairy-free cappuccino with almond milk for no additional charge. Jay ordered the brew of the day, the aptly named “Jaws” blend. Snowy Owl also offers “Captain Crosby” (named after the well-known Cape Codders, the Crosby family of Crosby Cat Boat fame), “Brewster” blend, and “Decaf”. We selected a bag of “Captain Crosby” to take with us, after perusing the shop’s retail selection of coffees, T-shirts, and accessories. While we didn’t eat there, you can also enjoy food items for a light breakfast, lunch, or snack, from their partners, Pain D’Avignon (Hyannis) and White Lion Bakery (Mashpee).
The coffee shop hosts events including Open Mics and acoustic music on Sundays. Additionally, Great Cape Herbs (https://greatcape.com/) is tucked behind the serving area, offering all natural herbal remedies in an intimate — small and personal — setting.
I can’t wait to enjoy my coffee at home…and to return soon to Snowy Owl, perhaps for some live music and a snack.
Open hours: Monday — Friday 6:30 AM — 5:00 PM; Saturday — Sunday 7:30 AM — 5:00 PM
Cape Cod Winery's bottles can be bought either from your table, or from inside of the store. Tastings also get you a free glass.
Perks started out as a great little coffee shop in Harwich, one of the quieter towns on Cape Cod. But three summers back, it experimented with using its outdoor space for a beer garden in the afternoon and evening. It's evolved from not much more than a plywood bar to now having a great ambiance.
Now serving craft beers, both locally and nationally sourced, along with wine and cocktails, it covers all its bases, along with food such as appetizers, salads, and burgers.
The seating, bar with outdoor TV, fire pit, and lights strung over everything provide a relaxed, pleasant feel. The shades in one area shaped like sails provide relief from the sun as well. And the live music is fun but not too loud as to drown out conversations with your friends.
Perks has grown the beer garden into a great atmosphere that fills a nice niche for Harwich, and is worth visiting from surrounding towns as well. We stumbled across it by accident, but will definitely seek it out again!
The Dennis Historical Society operates the Josiah Dennis Manse, named after the first minister for whom the town was named after. Open part-time during the summer, it features guides in each room who will educate you, answer questions, and are clearly well-versed in the history of the house and period.
The house also features a room about the town's nautical history, with names and facts that will tie to street signs people might not have otherwise thought about. There is also a rotating exhibit. On the day we visited, we learned about the first major resort in town, the Nobscusset Inn. The dinner menu, photos, and other items on display made for interesting conversation with my daughters.
Donations help keep this house operating, and they're now beginning work on renovating the adjacent 1745 one-room schoolhouse, and discovering the secrets it holds. On a day when you choose to skip the beach, this provides a low-cost, educational opportunity for the whole family that supports a good cause.
The Good Life...
can't exist alone. Places form the setting for your memories. People around us allow experiences to be shared, enriched, and leave us feeling connected and loved.