The Seashore encompasses 44,000 acres of protected land between Chatham and Provincetown, with 135 acres of fresh water ponds, 40 miles of beaches and 11 walking trails. Most of the public areas lie on the outer Cape, in Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. Wildlife, including seals (gray and harbor), deer, wild turkeys and many shorebirds and raptors roam the wild areas preserved by an act of Congress in 1961.

On a rainy beach day, two large black eyes glint from the crest of a wave at Coastguard Beach in Eastham. A gray seal peers out, curious about the brightly colored rain jackets scattered across the shore, human eyes peering back.

“In this hazy realm on the shore, our two worlds meet,” says Jenna Sammartino, Park Interpreter for the Cape Cod National Seashore. “They are just as curious about us, as we are about them.”

The Seashore encompasses 44,000 acres of protected land between Chatham and Provincetown, with 135 acres of fresh water ponds, 40 miles of beaches and 11 walking trails. Most of the public areas lie on the outer Cape, in Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. Wildlife, including seals (gray and harbor), deer, wild turkeys and many shorebirds and raptors roam the wild areas preserved by an act of Congress in 1961.

Mostly free interpretive programs are offered summer through fall, with a handful in the offseason. Many activities await those who venture beyond one of the six lifeguarded beaches, such as hikes through scrubby pine forests to the sea’s edge, guided night canoe trips, lighthouse tours, surfcasting, bicycling, and even clamming.

Here’s our choices for seven days of activities, but be sure to check the Seashore visitor centers (listed here) for complete schedules or the Web site.

Day 1 Salt Pond Visitor Center, Eastham

The visitor center overlooks the largest saltwater pond on the Cape, that ebbs and flows with the tide and leads to the maze of Nauset Marsh channels. Stop by to pick up trail maps, and learn about the natural history of the area or view one of the many free 15-minute films about Cape geology or wildlife. Then hike on one of the two nature trails (one, a short boardwalk for the blind with brail signs).

Depending on the day, sign up for a canoe excursion, take a shoreline stroll, or learn about authors and artists associated with the Seashore through interpretive programs.

Watch for great blue herons and other avian life in the marsh, or bike one-and-a-half miles to Coast Guard Beach.

Day 2 Marconi Station and White Cedar Swamp, Wellfleet

The first two-way transatlantic communication and wireless telegram between America and Europe took place here. After studying the exhibit, view both the bay and the Atlantic from the platform on the high sand cliffs.

A rare visit to a white cedar swamp feels like a visit back in time. This half-mile-trail starts with heathlands, goes through woodlands, and finally a boardwalk through a cool, moss-covered, white cedar swamp (wear bug spray). Cedar swamps are rare habitat because of changing land use.

Day 3 Province Lands, Truro and Provincetown

Learn how animals find fresh water in the arid dunes, or discover one of the original wild cranberry bogs that farmer’s have since cultivated. A guided dune walk is a good idea, since folks have been known to get lost in the ever-shifting soft sands. A family orienteering program at the visitor center could help, if venturing solo.

After July 1, night programs such as canoeing (fee), hiking, stargazing on the beach or campfires are great ways to expand your perspective of the Cape.

Don’t miss the 5-mile paved bike loop through the dunes.   Day 4 Great Island Hike, Wellfleet

At the beginning of the wooded trail to Great Island, seashells, feathers, bird bones, and other beach treasures pile atop a grave of an anonymous Wampanoag. Follow the trail a short distance through woods to the Marsh, then along dunes where rare Diamond Back Terrapins nest. On Cape Cod, the tide turns constantly so it could mean wading through salt water on the return of the 8-mile loop. Swim at Great Beach overlooking Wellfleet Harbor and Cape Cod Bay on the way back. Park at the end of Chequesset Neck Road in Wellfleet.

Day 5
Old Harbor Life Saving Station, Provincetown and Highland Light, Truro

Thousands of shipwrecks caused the United States to build life saving stations where “surfmen” lived to save lives of those whose ships wrecked. From this station, one of 13 original Cape life saving stations, built in 1898, the men rushed out in wooden boats, threw cables attached with buoys that had a large canvas seat sewn into them. The lucky survivors would slide across the water in these breeches buoys. On Thursday evenings, a re-enactment of what could be Winslow Homer’s famous illustration of a breeches buoy rescue in “The Life Line” takes place. Call for dates of seasonal open houses during day hours. Park at Race Point Beach.

Be sure to take a tour of Highland Light and Highland House Museum in Truro on the way. (508-487-1121) to see lighthouse and visit the museum filled with some interesting artifacts, including arrowheads and Pilgrim memorabilia.

Day 6 Fort Hill, the Penniman House, Eastham

Many artists paint views of Nauset Marsh from Fort Hill, and local musicians sing about tromping through the area. The trail is one and a half miles, accessed from Governor Prence Road off Route 6. Don’t forget to branch off onto the half-mile Red Maple Swamp Trail, and notice the red color of the soil from the bark.

Edward Penniman, one of the most successful whalers, built the grand Penniman House in 1868 at this location. Tours are available by reservation (508-255-3421).

Day 7 Ocean beach day

Whether seeking crowds or isolation, visit one of the seven pristine ocean beaches that offering big surf and wide sandy stretches where even on a crowded day, a 10-minute walk in either direction will lead to isolation.

If you go

Salt Pond Visitor Center, Route 6, Eastham, 508-255-3421 Province Lands Visitor Center, Provincetown, 508-487-1256 On the Web:www.nps.gov/caco   Seashore beaches Nauset Light Beach, Eastham Coast Guard Beach, Eastham Marconi Beach, Wellfleet Herring Cove, Provincetown Race Point, Provincetown Head of the Meadow, Truro   The Cape Cod Day