In Case You Didn’t Know – Welcome to Wellfleet


When you think of Wellfleet, you may think only of its popular summer drive-in movie theater, one of the few left in New England, but it is so much more than that. Jutting 45 miles out into the Atlantic (according to wellfleet-ma.gov), Wellfleet abounds in natural beauty, and is largely part of the Cape Cod National Seashore – 61 percent of its land mass, in fact. It has an intriguing history and a decidedly nautical feel to it, and is well worth the trip just to explore.

Here are some interesting tidbits about Wellfleet, of which you might not be aware:

Wellfleet is the home of the Cape Cod National Seashore Headquarters, as well as the 1,000-acre Massachusetts Audubon Society Wildlife Sanctuary. Some of Cape Cod’s finest ocean surfcasting, fresh-water pond and boat fishing possibilities are found in Wellfleet. The town is well known for its plentiful supply of shellfish, including the famous “Wellfleet Oysters.”

At the height of summer, the town’s normal population of around 3,500 explodes to over 17,000, all there to enjoy Wellfleet’s stunning, sandy beaches, spring-fed ponds, art galleries, shops and restaurants… and, yes, the drive-in, too.

The village first became the “hamlet of Billingsgate,” after a famous fish market in London. Originally part of Eastham, the residents first began to think of establishing themselves as a separate town in the second decade of the eighteenth century but were unable to do so until 1763 when the North Precinct of Eastham was finally declared a separate district to be known as “Wellfleet,” named for a famous oyster produced in the eastern waters of England.

Marconi Beach is named after famous Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who chose this area of Wellfleet due to its elevated, barren landscape, to set up Marconi Station – a site where he hoped to make the first transatlantic wireless communication (though that eventually occurred elsewhere). Marconi Beach is also a good place to see seals, as they seem to love gathering there. But remember, where seals congregate, sharks follow.

If you hear bells ringing at odd times of day, that’s the First Congregational Church’s bell-tower clock (known locally as the “Town Clock”). This is the only bell clock in the world that still chimes on “ship’s time.” Ship’s bell time originated in sailing ship days, when the crew of a vessel was divided into Port and Starboard watches, each on duty four hours, then off four hours.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, which is run by Mass Audubon, has six trails for exploring different facets of nature. Bay View Trail winds through shaded pine/oak woodlands; The Boardwalk crosses over the salt marsh to the beach; Goose Pond Trail visits a diversity of habitats – great for birdwatching, and is all-person accessible from the Nature Center to Goose Pond; Silver Spring Trail borders a small fresh water pond; and Try Island Trail supports an oak/hickory woodland with views of Cape Cod Bay.
All Persons Pathway and Sensory Trail includes an audio tour available for download.

The Wellfleet Drive-In is not only a drive-in. By day, it’s an open-air flea market as well. The flea market has many vendors in the summer, selling items ranging from old tools, T-shirts, African masks, tapestries and toddler cloths to Avon products, antiques, and so much more. There are also food vendors and a beer garden, because, why not?

Wellfleet sits 14 miles south of Provincetown. You literally have to drive through it to get there, so stop and enjoy all that this charming seaside town has to offer.

By Ann Luongo, Lifestyle Reporter

About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo is the Marketing Writer and Lifestyle Reporter for CapeCod.com, and has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.