Pirate treasure, nature tours, art galleries – Cape Cod’s legendary beach is only one source of resort’s fabulous appeal

By Karen Rubin

I can understand the eternal appeal of Cape Cod, why families return year after year. It is because it is a real place, a community with heritage and tradition, even among the visitors, many who have come back generation after generation. It gives a sense of stability and rhythm, which all boil down to: this is a place to stop and smell the roses.


For families who don’t have their own summer home on the Cape, Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club, a resort we had enjoyed so much on a previous visit, very much fills the bill. Set on what had been an estate, with a Gilded Age mansion home and carriage house, it is now a tastefully done community mainly of villas set around a tennis complex and 700 – foot of private beach along the Cape Cod Bay, and, across historic Route 6A, around a PGA golf course.

No question. Summer in Cape Cod is synonymous with beach, ocean, sun, sand and watersports. So when you have hopped up to the Cape for a brief getaway, what do you do when the weather doesn’t cooperate? We discovered that the weather – or the season, for that matter – doesn’t matter. Cape Cod is a place of artists, photographers, writers, naturalists and those who delight in unraveling the clues to history and heritage – sometimes all in the same person – who derive inspiration from such weather patterns. And when such a weather front hit during our all – too – brief visit, I immediately went into this other mode.

There is so much to do on Cape Cod – in fact, overcast sky is an excuse to explore what you invariably leave for a rainy day. There is a veritable treasure trove of museums and historical sites, nature centers, art galleries and antique shops – the lovely towns of Chatham, in Provincetown, Wellfleet, Hyannis, Sandwich are all different and special in their own way. And there is much to commend a walk on one of Cape Cod’s many beaches even in the fog and mist.


Ocean Edge Resort, on the north shore of the Cape, just in the middle (the forearm, as it were, of the Cape before it hooks up as if to a raised hand) provided a superb hub for our explorations. The resort offers such a marvelous respite – with outstanding tennis, golf, 700 – feet of private Bayside beach, a front door on Cape Cod’s phenomenal Rail Trail for biking or rollerblading – it also offers ample selection of activities to keep us engaged even if we never left the property. The redone fitness center with indoor Olympic – size pool, state – of the art fitness machines and exercise room where a sprightly fitness guru leads spirited classes, even the billiards table in the pub – ish looking lounge can fill out the time until the weather clears; activities are moved inside, as well.

Our three – generational getaway reinforced how perfectly suited Ocean Edge is for a family reunion, a destination wedding (there are “I Do for Two” elopement package” and “New England Style Nuptials” as well as “Traditional Weddings” packages customized by wedding planners), a honeymoon, a getaway, a corporate retreat or function.

The centerpiece of the rambling 429 – acre resort property (probably the most sprawling resort on Cape Cod) is the mansion home and estate of the Nickersons, a family that traces its roots to the first settlers of Cape Cod, from which a resort community of villas and townhomes has emerged (some are privately owned).

One of the best surprises on this return trip was the new Fitness Center, with a dawn to dusk menu of classes, starting at 6:15 a.m, spinning class. There is Yoga, Power Kicking, stretch, tone and strengthening, an innovative combination of Yoga and Pilates called “Yogalates” and sports specific programs including golf fitness and tennis fitness, with everything from spinal analysis and form – enhancing exercises.

Heidi Van Amburgh, Ocean Edge’s effervescent Fitness Director (she was host of MTV’s “Grind Workout” and a writer at “Fit” magazine), creates a comfortable atmosphere and manages to cater to everyone from neophytes to pros, business travelers to children and teens. Among her innovations is Diva Dance, a low – impact, high – energy workout to contemporary music; an adults – only Salsa Dance class, with margaritas and nachos; and a Hip – Hop workout for kids 4 – 12, available through the resort’s Ocean Edgeventures Program. Yoga, Pilates and “cardio coaching” sessions are also available from Van Amburgh on a private or semi – private basis (perfect for corporate groups, conferences and shy guests).

Family Friendly

Ocean Edge is absolutely ideal for families. While it offers a comfortable hotel, many of the accommodations are villas – complete apartments with kitchens and laundry facilities, comfortable living rooms – on both the bayside and along the golf course.

A full schedule of Ocean EdgeVentures activities are also available to engage the12 – and – under set (so parents can get out on the golf course, play tennis, take a fitness class, etc.). There are age – appropriate activities for Voyagers (ages 4 – 7) and Explorers (ages 8 – 12). Available by the half – day ($35/child) or full – day ($65, including lunch), there are seven different activity programs offered during the summer: Fitness Field Day; A Bug’s Life; Hawaiian Luau; African Safari; Under the Sea; Never – Never Land (hunt for buried treasure), Holiday Times. These are offered from the end of June through Labor Day.

There are also family activities – like a beachfire on Thursday nights, where you make S’mores; live family concerts and outdoor movies with face painting and beaded hair braiding, pool – side dining at the Arbor Pool; sand castle building; croquet or bocce; guided beach walks from the Massachusetts Audubon Society (Thursday mornings, 10 – 1:30 a.m.).

Ocean Edge’s location literally on the paved Cape Cod Rail Trail is such a bonus. This trail begins in Dennis and extends more than 26 miles past forests, fields, marshes, cranberry bogs and villages to Wellfleet, and is safe enough for young riders; bicycle rentals are available on property (adults pay $15 for four hours, children’s bicycles, carriers and toddler tails available for $12 for up to four hours; helmets and locks are also available).

One of the best features of Ocean Edge is the variety it offers – in accommodations, activities, as well as dining. There are four different restaurants on property: Ocean Grille is used for the breakfast buffet as well as the fine – dining dinners, and the room, with a beautiful view towards the bay, is very suited to these different purposes; Linx Tavern is in the Golf Clubhouse and offers al fresco dining in an outdoor caf� overlooking the 9th hole; the casual Reef Caf�, Cape Cod’s surf shack, is one of the most popular restaurants for family dining in the area; Bayzo’s Pub in the lower level of the mansion, is like a traditional English tavern and is where there is piano music, billiards and a television screen. There is also poolside caf� as well as room service.

Golf is played year round (weather permitting) and guests can pre – arrange tee times. Juniors under 16 pay 50 percent off the regular rates. There is a superb golf academy, as well.

There are two staffed Tennis Complexes, where there are lessons and clinics, tennis matchmaking, and where courts can be reserved up to 72 hours ahead ($15/hour); in addition, there are some hard courts where you can play for free, first – come, first served). Junior programs are scheduled with children grouped by age, 4 – 6, 7 – 10 and 11 – 13.

There are six different pools scattered throughout the property (swimming lessons available), tennis courts in both the bay side and the golf side, a shuttle bus to take you around the resort.

Ocean Edge’s location, literally in the middle of the Cape, means that the whole of the Cape is easily within reach. The Cape Cod National Seashore, where you can visit the Coast Guard lighthouse, 11 self – guided nature trails, and six swimming beaches, and will soon have a new Visitor Center (508 – 349 – 3785); ZooQuarium (674 Rte. 28, West Yarmouth, 508 – 775 – 8883), where children will delight in exploring the Cape Cod Tidal Pool; Chatham Water Tours – Guided Monomoy Seal/Nature Tour of this 2,750 acre wilderness area (508 – 432 – 5895); the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, with creative exhibits and hands – on play (896 Main Street, Rte 6A, Brewster, 508 – 896 – 3867); the Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen, that gives children a fun – filled introduction to hiking on nature trails, and where they can watch jams made with turn – of – the – century methods (6 Discovery Hill Road, off 6A, East Sandwich, 508 – 888 – 6870).

You can enjoy other family activities, like the Cape Cod Baseball League, a premier amateur baseball league since 1885; the players are the best of college players enroute to the pro leagues; there are games every day during the season (www.capecodbaseball.org or the concierge can provide a schedule); catch a drive – in movie at the Wellfleet Drive – In, one of the last drive – in movie theaters in the country (double features on Friday and Saturday); take in an evening concert of the Brewster Town Band at Drummer Boy Park, or the concerts at the gazebo in Chatham (where it is fun to go walk around and shop and we found the absolutely best antique shop in a long, long time, Demos Antiques, 447 Main St.); go kayaking (guided tours and instruction available from Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures,www.ospreysekayak.com).

Expedition Whydah Learning Center

A highlight for us during this trip is our visit to the Expedition Whydah Sea Lab and Learning Center, at the end of Macmillan Wharf in Provincetown. Since opening in 1997, the center has housed some 200,000 artifacts collected over many years from the first authentic pirate ship ever recovered.

I have been intrigued about the Whydah ever since reading in National Geographic about this pirate ship that had been discovered off the coast of Cape Cod. The ship sank off the coats of Cape Cod in 1717, loaded with five tons of stolen gold and silver. Barry Clifford, a local fellow who had become spellbound by his Uncle’s stories of the phantom ship – as much folklore as fact – began a painstaking process of research and set out to find the ship. After many trials and years of effort, when he was down to his last dollar and final tank of gas, he succeeded.

The museum is absolutely fascinating, and for the first time, puts a face on pirates in context of the times. It is interesting to note that in Bermuda, pirates are known as “privateers” because they raided ships that were enemies. In an era when sailors on board naval and merchant ships were impressed into their service and were treated no better than slaves, pirates (including escaped slaves) were in comparison free men and entrepreneurs; pirate crew were democratic, egalitarian and fraternal and they were really assaulting the corruption and autocracy of government and corporate institutions.

Sam Bellamy, the captain of the Whydah, had come to Wellfleet in 1715 where he met and fell in love with a local woman. He did not start out as a pirate, but rather, he sought to salvage Spanish galleons that had sunk off of Florida; when he failed, he turned to piracy instead. The Whydah was a slave ship that he captured. On a stormy night in April 1717, a small pirate flotilla under his command lost its battle with the elements, and his flagship, with its treasure looted from more than 50 ships, was lost off of Cape Cod. It joined some 3,000 ships that were wrecked off that treacherous Cape (which was the reason for building the Cape Cod Canal, that turned the peninsula into an island).

The museum is so engaging – there are displays of artifacts suspended in tanks, to show what they would have looked like in the sea, even the x-rayed legbone of one of the pirates. There are displays which show the archaeology of recovering the artifacts, and even an on – site archaeologist.

The museum is fascinating for its presentation of the life of pirates, but also for what it teaches about how hard Mr. Clifford and his team of researchers (John F. Kennedy, Jr. was aboard some of the salvage missions) are still hunting for artifacts at the wreck site, as well as at other sites; in 2000, they discovered the Adventure Galley, Captain Kidd’s flagship which sank off Madagascar in 1698 and added those artifacts to the museum (open daily from May – Oct.; from Nov. – Jan 1, open weekends only; Expedition Whydah Sea Lab and Learning Center, 16 Macmillan Wharf, 508 – 487 – 8899, www.whyday.com)

Rooms Available

Ocean Edge is grand but not stuffy, and actually offers good value, especially if you travel midweek or late in the season (when the weather and the waters are still warm). People assume that it is impossible to get rooms on Cape Cod during the summer peak season, but you might be surprised.

Frankly, though, Cape Cod offers exquisite beauty throughout the year. I can imagine how spectacular the resort is bathed in fall colors, decked out for Christmas holidays, glimmering in icy crystals. Ocean Edge is idyllic in any season.

For package information or to learn about arranging a reunion or function, contact Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, Route 6A, Brewster, Mass., 800 – 343 – 6074, www.oceanedge.com

The centerpiece of Ocean Edge Resort on Cape Cod is the Gilded Age mansion, which sits on a bluff overlooking the championship tennis complex, villas and bayside beach (© 2005 Karen Rubin).

Ocean Edge Resort has 700 feet of private beach on Cape Cod Bay (© 2005 Karen Rubin).

© 2005 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Send comments or travel questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com.

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About Travel Features Syndicate

Karen Rubin is an eclectic travel writer who has been spanning the globe for more than 30 years reporting on interesting, intriguing people and places to explore for magazines, newspapers and online. She publishes Travel Features Syndicate in newspapers and online including examiner.com, Huffington Post and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate and blogs at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com. "Travel is a life-changing and an interactive experience that mutually benefits travelers and community." Contact Karen at FamTravLtr@aol.com. 'Like' us at www.facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

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