Sandy Neck: A Historic Colony on a Sandy Spit

WEST BARNSTABLE – Sandy Neck Beach in West Barnstable, one of the longest beaches on Cape Cod, has an interesting history.

To see that history requires off-roading.

Along the Sandy Neck trails leading to the peninsula’s tip is where the true heart and soul of the area is found.

A permit is required for taking a vehicle out on the trails which lead around the south side of Sandy Neck’s impressive dunes.

There are a few off shoot trails which bring you out to much more secluded sections of the 4,700-acre beach area.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CHRIS SETTERLUND. The cottage colony and lighthouse at Sandy Neck.

CHRIS SETTERLUND PHOTO.
The cottage colony and lighthouse at Sandy Neck.

The main trail which runs along the Great Marshes of Barnstable and eventually Barnstable Harbor starts to get really fun a little more than a mile out on the sand.  It is here that the first of the Sandy Neck cottages appears.

The cottages in the historic district at the peninsula’s end are mostly over a hundred years old. New construction in the area was forbidden during the 1960s.

The cottages are individually owned and usually occupied during the summer months.

It is important to be respectful of others property when venturing into this cottage community.  They are an amazing throwback to what Sandy Neck was like in the early 20th century.

CHRIS SETTERLUND PHOTO. A view along the dune trails on Sandy Neck.

CHRIS SETTERLUND PHOTO.
A view along the dune trails on Sandy Neck.

Walking out further along the trails it is possible to see many species of animals including deer wandering around amongst the dunes, trees, and small ponds.

However the main attraction is at the end of the trails and that is the Sandy Neck Colony.  Sitting more than six miles from the entrance to the trails the colony is a small cluster of cottages facing the Barnstable beaches to the south near the tip of Sandy Neck.

The current Sandy Neck Lighthouse, at the end of the cottage colony, was built in 1857.

It was taken out of use in 1931 due to Barnstable Harbor’s decreasing importance as well as the fact that the shifting sands of Sandy Neck moved the lighthouse further from the outer coast of the beach.

CHRIS SETTERLUND PHOTO. A cottage on Sandy Neck.

CHRIS SETTERLUND PHOTO.
A cottage on Sandy Neck.

Two years later the lantern was taken off, leaving the lighthouse ‘headless’ until it was restored to its full working order with a new lantern in 2007.

The colony and Sandy Neck Lighthouse are private though and the trails will not take you there.

They are best seen either from a boat in the harbor or across the water on the shore of Millway Beach or Bone Hill Beach in Barnstable.

However if you’re feeling adventurous you can hike around Sandy Neck to check out the lighthouse when facing west at the tip of the beach, it is thirteen miles round-trip though so if walking, better make a day of it.

With a little walking, or driving, the unspoiled beauty and historical significance of Sandy Neck will be evident.  It is a spectacular spot in so many ways.

Have fun and happy traveling!

If You Go: Sandy Neck Beach is on Sandy Neck Beach Road in West Barnstable