The Town of Wellfleet
To the outside world we’re best known as an unspoiled summer resort with miles of pristine Cape Cod beaches -- but Wellfleet offers many things, in many seasons:
- An autumn sail on the pristine waters of Cape Cod Bay
- A winter’s evening of professional theater or live music
- A glass of wine with noted artists at a springtime gallery opening
- A morning of storytelling for kids and parents at the Wellfleet library
- An afternoon stretching your muscles and mind in tai chi on the beach
- A fresh-shucked world-famous Wellfleet oyster almost anytime
Whether you’re visiting for the first or 100th time, just moved to town or were born here, you’ve got a lot to discover.
Wellfleet still retains the look and feel of a classic Cape Cod village, with its quaint town center, whitewashed New England houses, and unspoiled landscape. Renowned worldwide for its oysters, Wellfleet also is home to numerous other attractions: galleries showing well-known artists, Zagat-rated restaurants, a professional contemporary theater, a wonderful drive-in that seems a throwback from days gone by. And a dynamic community that makes Wellfleet a thriving place to visit or live.
We are also home to the Cape Cod National Seashore, a Massachusetts Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, and other protected land, maintaining a pristine natural environment full of beautiful marshes, pitch pines, scrub oak and bayberry interplaying with coastal dunes and seashore. Our ever-changing landscape changes through the seasons, and almost every view is worthy of a painting, every day of the year.
History of Wellfleet
The first permanent settlement of what is now Wellfleet was made in the 1650’s, although the rich fishing grounds of what is now Wellfleet Harbor had been discovered at least a decade earlier. 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.
Originally a farming and fishing village, the local economy could not be sustained by these activities alone. The surrounding area was quickly stripped of useable forest for shipbuilding, firewood and lumber. As the land became less useable the inhabitants turned to the sea for industry and thriving fishing, whaling and merchant fleets soon occupied the harbor. Some of the merchant ships sailed as far as the coast of Africa and the sailors and fisherman thus engaged soon brought great wealth to the town. A blockade of British ships during the Revolution brought a sudden end to the influx of money and ships decayed rapidly sitting unused at their moorings in the harbor. After the war there was no money to rebuild the fleet, thus ending an early chapter in the town’s economic history.
In the wake of the demise of the whaling industry fishing began to flourish. Long known for the abundance and quality of the fish, the waters surrounding Wellfleet began to be its primary source of capital as the fishing industry grew with mackerel its primary catch. Concurrently the shell fishing industry was establishing itself by transplanting oysters from Connecticut and Chesapeake waters in order to pick up the “Wellfleet flavor”, then reharvesting and transporting them to Boston for sale. By the late 19th century production of local shellfish had grown and those began to replace the transplanted crop until transplanting completely lost favor by the early years of the 20th century. The harvest and sale of oysters, scallops, soft and hard-shelled clams remains a vital part of the town’s economy today.
The development of the tourist industry was relatively slow until, just after the beginning of the 20th century, Lawrence Baker constructed the Chequesset Inn out over the waters of the harbor on pilings that had once held the Mercantile Wharf. Following World War II and the construction of the Mid-Cape Highway tourists and second home owners began to appear in greater numbers and a service and hospitality industry has grown up to serve that population.
In 1961 the Cape Cod National Seashore was established by President John F. Kennedy. The Seashore, run by the National Park Service, owns approximately 8,000 acres of the approximately 13,100 acre total land mass of Wellfleet. The result is that despite the growing popularity of the outer Cape as a tourist destination it has not been allowed to overdevelop and has retained much of its natural beauty and charm.
The area is now home to Wellfleet summer rentals and Wellfleet vacation rentals targeting these tourists. The Wellfleet Oyster Festival is one way the community continues to embrace it's rich historical past. You may want to look for your own ocean life when you get a Wellfleet Tide Chart. A Wellfleet vacation rental might be the perfect place for your family during your Wellfleet vacation. But these are only one of many Wellfleet lodging options. We also have great Wellfleet inn lodging on Cape Cod Massachusetts. Our Wellfleet inns can be found on our Wellfleet MA map . There are lots of great activities, and whatever activity you are interested in, there is Wellfleet rentals to fulfill your desire. Old or new pastimes, if you don't own it, a Wellfleet rental can get your waterfront hobby rolling!
Interested in reading more about the history of Wellfleet?
Local Authorities and Organizations
Important phone numbers:
|Wellfleet Fire and Rescue||
Town Hall Numbers:
|Department of Public Works||508-349-0315|
|Inspector of Buildings||508-349-0309|
|Shellfish & Beach Permits||508-349-9818|
|Chamber of Commerce||508 349 2510|
|Council on Aging||508-349-0313|
|Harbormaster, Town Pier||508-349-0320|
|Wellfleet Historical Society||508-349-9157|
Town of Wellfleet Recreation Programs
The Wellfleet Recreation Committee offers a variety of fun-filled activities for residents and visitors. Register for the programs and swimming classes at Baker's Field at the Harbor starting in July on Mondays at 8 AM. Pre-registration may be done by mail. Contact the Recreation Department at 508-349-0314 for details. You may also register via http://www.wellfleet-ma.gov/recreation
Cape Cod Modern House Trust promotes the documentation and preservation of significant examples of Modernist architecture on the Outer Cape. Some of the founders of European Modernism bought land, built homes and settled here beginning in the 1930s. The Trust is restoring several Modernist houses now owned by the Cape Cod National Seashore and reconfigure them into educational and cultural resources.
Cape Cool is dedicated to protecting our natural resources and climate in a creative way, through projects and events. They’re also passionate about recycling and the Swap Shop at the Wellfleet Transfer Station and collecting
examples online for “I found it at the dump”.
Friends of the Wellﬂeet Libraries sponsors many library activities and raises supplemental funds used for special books and periodicals, children’s and adult programs, audio-visual materials, museum passes, equipment, and more. The Friends hold a variety of seminars, speaker series, and other activities, including its annual book sales.
Wellﬂeet Gardeners- Meets 3rd Wednesday every month at Library, W. Main St.,
9:30am-coffee, 10am-speaker. All welcome. Annual dues-$12.
Garden Visits: During summer for members only.
Plant Sale: Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. Town Hall, 8:30am.
Wellfleet Historical Society Museum collection includes old photographs, maps, documents, marine artifacts, Indian artifacts, a small collection of period clothing, household, agricultural and commerce related items. The museum is open during summer and the historical society offers monthly talks from May to September, as well as other events.
Wellfleet OysterFest / SPAT SPAT (Shellfish Promotion and Tasting) is a local nonprofit organization devoted to educating the public about the town’s shellfishing industry and its history and traditions. Proceeds from events and seminars support the annual Wellfleet OysterFest [LINKs to www.wellfleetoysterfest.org], as well as SPAT’s educational mission, including a scholarship program.
Wellfleet Preservation Hall a unique venue for civic, educational, social, and creative events. The 1912 building is the former Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on Main Street, and the local nonprofit group Wellfleet Preservation Hall is restoring and renovating the building for use as a community and cultural center.
South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association Historic Meeting Hall Route 6, Open Saturdays 2pm to 4pm. All are welcome to join and attend meetings on the 3rd Saturday of every month in the historic 1857 building.
AA Meetings United Methodist Church, Main Street Open Discussion: Monday at 8pm, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30 pm; Women 12 +12: Tuesday at 6:30pm; Big Book: Thursday at 7:30pm.
Wellfleet Senior Center 715 Old King’s Highway 508-349-2800 or 0313. Join the fun for group activities year round Monday through Friday 8am to 4pm. Support groups and health clinics are offered. The Senior Dining Center delivers home meals and hosts luncheons on Wednesday at noon. On Thursdays at 12:30pm there is luncheon at Iris’s Café. Legal Aid, insurance clinics, fuel assistance and home visits are just a few of the services.
Friends of the Wellfleet Council on Aging This group offers services to Wellfleet citizens 60 years and older as well as human services for non-seniors of all ages. All are welcome to attend programs. For current and Nutrition Program information call the Senior Center at 508-349-2800 Ext. 207.
Wellfleet Elementary School Located on Lawrence Road off Long Pond Road. 508-349-3101. The school also serves as a location for many community activities ranging from town meetings to cultural events.
Friends of the Cape Cod National Seashore Dedicated to preserving the Outer Cape’s precious resource through funding, restoration, volunteering, publicizing issues and supporting education and resource projects. For info or to join call 508-349-3785 Ext. 402 or Box 550, Wellfleet, MA 02667.
Other Local Resources
Town of Wellfleet www.wellfleetma.org
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary www.wellfleetbay.org
State Information www.state.ma.us
Cape Cod National Seashore www.nps.gov/caco
Cape Cod Golf Association www.teeoffcapecod.com
Guide to Safe Ocean Swimming www.stormfax,com/safeswim.htm
Marconi Station www.stormfax.com/wireless.htm
Transportation To From and Around Cape Cod and the Islands www.gocapecod.org
Wellfleet Historical Society www.wellfleethistoricalsociety.com
Wellfleet Library www.wellfleetlibrary.org
Wellfleet Town Statistics www.magnet.state.ma.us/
Discover Green Wellfleet
Some of us have been looking at model programs around the country that are setting new standards for improving health, reducing carbon emissions, toxics and waste—and building community in the process. Some of these pioneering towns and cities are not only nearby—they are primary residences for some of our own “summer people” and tourists.
Do we want to ask these visitors and non-resident tax-payers to dumb down their environmental awareness when they come to Wellfleet? Or do we want to work with them to protect our precious resources –including the health of our citizens, visitors and future generations?
Wellfleet has been putting solar collectors on some of our public buildings. We’ve completed a successful year of community gardening. We’re making composters available at a discount. We’re offering free compost and re-usable items at the Recycling and Transfer Station (aka the dump). We have a new, dynamic Recycling Commission. We have ecologically conscious activists at every level of town, county and state government. We have many businesses, organizations, residents and visitors who want to do the right thing for the planet and for the town.
Let’s work together to move toward a greener Wellfleet!
If you have suggestions for additions to this page, please contact us.
THE GREEN TOURIST
Chez Sven Bed & Breakfast
“What I love the most about our green B&B is getting to share ideas with our green guests, folks who care about the environment as much as we do, turn out the lights when they leave a guest room, and recycle not only plastic bottles but paper bags and receipts.” —Alexandra Grabbe, Innkeeper
The Wellfleet Farmers’ Market
Wellfleet Preservation Hall
Hatch’s Produce & Fish Market
Downtown, in the parking lot behind Town Hall
Open Memorial Day through late September
Small local market open seasonally selling local seafood, produce often sourced locally and whenever possible organically.
Wellfleet Town Pier
Open Memorial Day through late September
Small local seafood market and ice cream/take out window selling fresh, local seafood.
The Flex Bus
Buses to and from Provincetown to Harwich, $2 a ride
Schedules available online at www.capecodrta.org/flex-route.htm
Plymouth & Brockton
Bus service from Boston to downtown Wellfleet
Schedules and fares online at www.p-b.com
Idle Times Bike Shop
2616 Route 6 Wellfleet
Cape Cod Rail Trail
South Wellfleet, starts behind the General Store
Routes and information available online at www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/ccrt.htm
Bike from Wellfleet to Dennis!
Cape Cod National Seashore
Did you know that 70% of Wellfleet is National Seashore? Take advantage of ocean and bayside beaches and natural kettle ponds. Beach stickers available on the Town Pier through the Recreation Department. More information online at http://www.wellfleetma.org/public_documents/wellfleetma_departments/beach