The Salt Pond Visitor Center is the main visitor facility of the Cape Cod National Seashore and a must-see for travelers who appreciate having some context about the area in which they’re vacationing.
If you want to understand the natural and cultural forces that created the Cape Cod we know today, how the area’s beaches came to be, what types of creatures live under the local waters and on the nearby beaches, a stop here should be scheduled at the beginning of your vacation.
In the museum, artifacts, photos and art from Mashpee Wampanoag and Aquinnah tribes is displayed, and listening stations include messages by local Wampanoag about cultural topics.
An indoor theater features five films on a rotating basis, each 12 to 20 minutes in length. My favorite is “Sands of Time,” which showcases the formation of the Cape by ice, wind and water and describes the processes that continue to shape the Cape today. Other must-sees include films about the area’s maritime industry and life-saving service, and Henry David Thoreau’s 19th-century perspective on the Cape.
Realistic models of native plants and animal specimens line the atrium, which also has postcard-worthy views of Nauset Marsh and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.
Outside, several walking and bike trails are nearby and can be explored with or without a ranger guide.
The book store includes a sizable and carefully-curated collection of volumes about Cape Cod. I always stop there at the end of autumn to stock up on books to get me through the winter.
The store also has a selection of t-shirts and games. Cape Cod-opoly, anyone?
(Photographs: Carolyn Gatto)