For the past 35 years, we have had the great pleasure of spending most or all of the summer at Cape Cod, MA, with our many generations of Golden Retriever and mixed-breed dogs. As we near the salt water, the dogs always sniff the air and eagerly look out the window at the many salt marshes. By the time we cross the Bourne Bridge onto the cape they are as excited as we are. A short drive of five miles lands us on the shore of Cataumet, a small, quaint village on the Upper Cape.
We stay at an old, rambling cottage high on a hill overlooking the waters of Buzzards Bay. Built in the early 1900’s, the grey, weathered shingles of the cottage have survived storms and hurricanes for over 100 years! Generation after generation of dogs have had their photos taken each July 4th, when, without fail, the old-fashioned pink rose bush blooms. This rose is at least 60 years old, and may date back even more! Blue hydrangea also abound on the cape. The peacefulness of this spot affects both dogs and owners alike. We come away rested and renewed in spirit.
There are so many activities on the cape for dogs and people! High on the list have to be the many walking trails and swimming spots! Though there are many beaches where dogs are not allowed, there are others where they are welcome! For example, the National Seashore Beaches on the lower cape allow dogs beyond certain boundaries on-leash! We prefer, however, to take our dogs to less-populated beaches/salt- or fresh- water swimming areas, where they can be off-leash. Here are a few of our favorite “secret” haunts on the upper cape:
Grasslands in Cataumet: A walking trail along Squeateague Harbor, which leads to a stony beach where dogs can run and swim free.
Green Island in Pocasset: An absolutely magical place for people and dogs. A short trail along a salt-water inlet on Buzzards Bay leads to a small island where dogs can roll in the sand, swim, catch frizbees or chase minnows in the salt flats Depending on the tide, one has to either walk on slippery grass and mud or wade through knee-depth water to reach the island. As the dogs enjoy themselves, people sun-bathe, swim, picnic, sail or kayak in the gentle waters around the inlet. My favorite story of Magic was his first summer at the cape, when he saw a duck swimming in the inlet at Green Island. He jumped into the water and followed that duck a good 100 yards offshore! Though he never caught the duck, it was a great adventure for him! (And a good test of our recall skills!)
The Knob, near Quissett Harbor between Woods Hole and Falmouth, a fantastic walk along a peninsula through woods and bramble bushes to a curved, sandy stone beach where people and dogs can run and swim to their heart’s content. Or meander up to the knob – a taller outlook over the harbor. This is especially beautiful in the fall, when golden flowers bloom. At one time a wonderful old tree could be climbed here as well. On the way to the knob via shore road, one can stop to view Nobska Lighthouse.
Salt-water flats opposite Chapoquoit Beach in West Falmouth. A wonderful place for dogs to paddle, especially in the early evening. Perfect for hunting minnows!
Beebe’s Woods in Falmouth (by the Cape Cod Conservatory): Extensive hiking trails through the woods and a fresh-water kettle hole for dog swimming as well! A wonderful large boulder that people and dogs can climb too!
The Beach near the Falmouth Shining Sea BikeTrail. Walk on-leash on the trail with your dog (beware of bikers and skaters) and then cool-off in the salt-water bay! This bike trail extends from Woods Hole to North Falmouth, a distance of around 11 miles.
Walking trails in cooler woods in Cataumet. We access these by the Post Office. Great for shorter walks. Longer walks off-lead may be taken at a reservation near North Falmouth. A local dog trainer takes her classes on Sunday mornings for dog walks in these woods off-lead. Sometimes 15 to 20 dogs (and their owners) show up to run free in a pack on the trails. Magic loved the freedom and excitement of these outings!
Walks/kayaks/swims/picnics at Lowell Holly Reserve on the inland Mashpee-Wakeby Pond. The cape is full of many fresh-water ponds and lakes, which are treasures for both people and dogs!
Sailing or rowing out to the Island, a peninsula on Squeateague Harbor (part of Buzzard’s Bay) where dogs can be totally free – digging in sand, running along the beach, or chasing shells thrown into the water. Once we had a wonderful Golden Retriever named Josh. Adopted from a newspaper ad at age 3, he surprisingly had to be taught to swim! The next summer he reveled in the activities at the cape. Sitting proudly on a boat and enjoying the cool breeze, he loved to sail with us into Buzzard’s Bay. One day we were rowing him out to the island. He told us he wanted to get out of the boat and swim, so we let him jump out. He swam the whole way to the island (a good distance) and was so proud when we arrived.
It was in this harbor where our dog, Trimble, and I discovered a whole group of stranded dolphins early one morning in November. As we were taking our morning walk, we heard them splashing in the shallow water. A rescue group came from Boston. I jumped into the frigid water with other volunteers and held a sling around one of the many dolphins rescued that day. It was one of the most amazing days of my life.
Spanning a narrow channel in Squeateague Harbor (North Falmouth/Cataumet) is the stone bridge to Amrita Island. At the very tip of the island there is a striking old Victorian house overlooking the harbor. The Baxendale family built the house. The local story says that the mausoleum near the tip of the island contains the remains of the Baxendales, the minister who married them and their beloved dog. The mausoleum stones are marked “Love Is Eternal.” Though the island is private, the house and mausoleum can be easily viewed from a kayak or sailboat.
Biking, picnicking or walking on-leash along the Cape Cod Canal, a great place to go on a hot day. Here one may view the many boats that go through the canal. Or try your hand fishing off the banks. Some very large fish can be caught in the waters. In Sandwich one can follow a path to the end of the canal, where there is a beach where dogs can swim.
Magic and I have also done tracking at the 18th century Bourne Farm in West Falmouth. It is a place where dogs may walk on trails, play in the fields and swim in the pond.
One can also take a dog on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. Once we took four dogs on the ferry to the vineyard with some friends and had a great day driving around the island. There are so many neat back roads to explore and places where dogs can swim.
We have also discovered special events around the cape for dogs and their owners. Contests are held, photos are taken and many booths with dog-related gear abound.
Look for the Dog Fest at Highfield Hall in Falmouth (near Beebe’s Woods).
Whatever one does on the cape, you can be sure that it will be fun! You will come home with memories of quiet trails, incredibly beautiful swimming in bays, inlets, ponds or selected beaches. We are always sad when summer ends, and we have to close the unheated cape cottage for the winter. But we know it will welcome us back next summer for more magical adventures on Cape Cod with our dogs.