Originally settled by the Nauset tribe, Eastham was the site where in 1620 a hunting expedition landed, comprised from the crew of the sailing vessel Mayflower, which led to the first encounter of the Pilgrims and the local Nauset people at First Encounter Beach. The area would not be settled by Europeans, however, until 1644. Eastham town was officially incorporated in 1651. Fishing and farming were early industries in Eastham, and writers and artists also came to the town. It was in Eastham that Henry Beston wrote The Outermost House. Once home to whaling, fishing, salt works, and asparagus farming, Eastham is now best known for its beaches and conservation areas.
Eastham has a total area of 25.7 square miles, of which nearly half is water. It is bordered by Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean on its western and eastern sides, respectively. Eastham is also bordered by the towns of Wellfleet and Orleans on its northern and southern sides, respectively. There are several freshwater ponds near the center of town, the largest being Great Pond, which has two public beaches. Along the Atlantic coast, portions of the Cape Cod National Seashore include several islands, divided by channels which lead from Nauset Bay and Salt Pond Bay to the ocean. Several creeks and the Herring River run inland from the bay side.
Today, Eastham is mostly known as the gate to the Cape Cod National Seashore,which was founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to protect Cape Cod’s coast from erosion and overpopulation. The natural landscape sets Eastham apart from other Cape Cod towns with cliffs and dunes, glacial rock, marsh, kettle ponds, forest, and both ocean and bay access. Residents and visitors can enjoy Eastham’s conservancy with miles of walking and bike trails through woods, fields, marshes, and several designated historical sites and areas. The Cape Cod Rail Trail, as well as several other bicycle routes, pass through the town.
Eastham, Brewster, Orleans and Wellfleet make up the Nauset Regional School District. Each town is responsible for operating its own elementary schools, with the middle and high school students attending regional schools. Eastham Elementary School serves students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Middle school students attend the Nauset Regional Middle School in Orleans, and the Nauset Regional High School is located in North Eastham, on the edge of the Cape Cod National Seashore. High school students also have the option of attending Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich. There are no private schools in Eastham; the nearest are in Brewster.
ARTS & CULTURE
Eastham’s arts scene is led by the Eastham Cultural Council, which presents the annual Hands on the Arts Festival each summer on the Windmill Green on Route 6. The festival features a juried arts and crafts show and sale with original works by more than 40 local artisans. Local artists feature handcrafted jewelry; pottery; panoramic wood burnings; watercolor, oil and fabric paintings; stained glass; weaving; wire wrapping; prints; photography; wood crafts and more. Windmill Weekend is another annual event held the weekend following Labor Day on Windmill Green. Events include road races, sand art competition, band concerts, arts and crafts, square dancing and a tricycle race.
POINTS OF INTEREST
Salt Pond Visitor Center
Coast Guard Beach
National Seashore Park
Fort Hill Rural
Three Sisters Lighthouses
The 1869 Schoolhouse Museum
Captain Penniman House
Coast Guard Station/ Great Marsh Boardwalk