Provincetown may be the most eclectic town on Cape Cod, but Wellfleet is pretty special in its own right. The Provincetown art community has permeated into both Truro and Wellfleet over the years, and many Wellfleet artists hawk their wares at galleries and shops throughout town. Seasonal visitors are a scholarly bunch. On a rainy day, they will opt for a trip to the popular town library or recently renovated Wellfleet Preservation Hall for academic talks and cultural experiences before going shopping in town and in Orleans or Hyannis. Hidden in the Wellfleet woods are an impressive Mass Audubon center, the Gestalt International Study Center, and remnants of houses from modern architects Marcel Breuer, Serge Chermayeff, and Olav Hammarstrom.
’Fleetians know how to have fun and enjoy fine food and wine, too. The surfer culture is strong here, and the town’s National Seashore beaches (Newcomb Hollow, LeCount Hollow, Cahoon Hollow, White Crest, and Marconi) don’t disappoint. Arguably the Cape’s best seafood outlet and French bakery (Mac’s Seafood and PB Boulangerie Bistro) are located here, and a few new restaurants in the past few years prove there is always an appetite for more.
Wellfleet is steeped in history. On a South Wellfleet bluff, Guglielmo Marconi built the country’s first trans-Atlantic radio transmitter station at the turn of the century. A ceremonial telegram from President Theodore Roosevelt to King Edward VII of England was history’s first trans-Atlantic transmission from the United States.
At one time, Wellfleet Harbor included Billingsgate Island, which sat at the mouth. Once flourishing as a small community, it is now just a shoal exposed at low tide. And in Wellfleet’s quaint downtown, the First Congregational Church rings ship’s time — very confusing to those not in the know.
BY THE NUMBERS
The number of times each day Lieutenant Island residents must avoid leaving or coming back to their homes because high tide makes access impossible
The approximate number of properties in Wellfleet within the Cape Cod National Seashore boundaries. The homeowners’ association meets each July.
100’ x 44’
The size of the screen at the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre, one of only four that remain in Massachusetts, which boasted nearly 90 in the amusement’s heyday
Cost of a Wellfleet commercial shellfish permit
There are a lot of performance venues for such a small town. Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater has put on some of the most cutting-edge productions in New England. Upstart Harbor Stage Company, founded by WHAT alums, is garnering a reputation of its own at WHAT’s original stage on the harbor. The Beachcomber, a restaurant and bar not far from the crashing waves of Cahoon Hollow, hosts acts playing rock, reggae, and other hip musical genres.
Like any Outer Cape Town, Wellfleet shuts down to some extent in the offseason. Some choose to pack up shop right after OysterFest; others stick it out until the end of the year. The tourist spots usually don’t open until at least April school vacation, or even Memorial Day.
If the town has a mascot, it is the oyster. Wellfleet’s estuaries provide ideal conditions (cold water, high salinity, large tide swings) for a robust taste, and the briny bivalves are on menus across the nation. The celebration of all things spat takes place this Oct. 18-19 at the 14th annual OysterFest.
Traffic along Route 6 can be frustrating. With a single thoroughfare traversing the town, Wellfleet can get pretty congested. There are a few neighborhoods that connect without getting back on Route 6, a plus during peak driving times.
Scott Lajoie is a freelance writer on the Cape. He can be reached at ScottLajoie@hotmail.com.