Cape Cod Day Trip: Orleans
Not every town on the Cape has a beachfront view of both sunrise and sunset like Orleans, so roll out early and get to Nauset Beach to watch the day break. Later you can munch out on a bagel boiled in Queens, NY, and fresh baked in the ovens of Jomama’s. This, the mothership of a trio of bagel shops, with outlets in Brewster and Chatham, can set you up with egg burritos and sandwiches for lunch. Seeking something more Parisian? Rush the Cottage Street Bakery at 7 a.m. to grab a chocolate croissant or fruit pastry and a local Beanstock coffee.
Hit Nauset Beach again for a long walk by the Atlantic. Heading north takes you to the tip of the Nauset spit, abandoned in winter, but a parking lot in summer when there’s on-beach parking by permit only. Go south and you’re Chatham bound. Watch the surf for large grey heads resembling horses. These grey seals can reach 800 lbs. Farther offshore may be finbacks and humpbacks. Squint to catch their wispy puffs of breath as these whales spout. Before you plunge in though, check the updates—great whites visit often, too.
Back in town, if a Saturday from May to November, visit the Orleans Farmers Market in the lot on Old Colony Street. Before strolling through the Cape’s largest and oldest farmers’ market, grab a frozen mocha or a grilled chocolate sandwich from Hot Chocolate Sparrow, which is adjacent to the market. From December through April, on the first and third Saturdays of the month, the Nauset Middle School cafeteria is the place for the Winter Farmers Market and great locally grown and handcrafted provisions plus live music—a real taste of the Orleans community.
Ready for breakfast, round two? Check out Sunbird—its cozy home-grown interior fills up for Sunday brunch on even the frostiest of mornings. The seasonal menu serves up plates that are crop-rotated, like the oven-roasted beet-and-goat-cheese slider; multi-grain toast with local honey, yogurt and fruit farm-o-lade of the day; veggie frittatas; and their farm sandwich of sunny side eggs and sustainable slab bacon and greens atop local ciabatta. If it’s rib-sticking warmth you’re after, the quinoa with apricots, coconut milk and pistachio with a barista-made latte fit the bill. During lunch, craft beers and wine are also on offer. Offbeat baked yummies are stacked in a glass case: lemon polenta muffins, maple oat scones, lavender-sprinkled shards of flatbread and grapefruit shortbread were one day’s fare.
Explore downtown, designated a cultural area, with two Indie book stores, consignment shops, numerous galleries, gift shops and a wonderful health food store. In winter, Snow’s train displays are renowned and, spring through fall, six cottages downtown feature the work of local artists and craftspeople. Vinyl addicts and mellow yogis: explore Earth House for Beatles and band memorabilia, incense, singing bowls and more.
Hog Island Beer Company, is brand new and the outermost brewery on Cape Cod. Located on West Street, it’s just off the rear of the Jailhouse Tavern, which offers a diverse menu of small plates and entrees. Named after an uninhabited island in Pleasant Bay supposedly housing Capt Kidd’s buried treasure, this brewpub serves their trio of unique suds—an IPA, a stout, and a wheat beer—in a communal style beer hall seating 149, with beer bites like pretzels and pizza.
The Corner Store features a make-your-own-burrito bar stocked with freshly grilled meats and chicken, grilled veggies, dirty rice, beans and the usual toppings. There are breakfast fillings as well and daily specials like Jamaican jerked chicken. Owner Steve is dedicated to their local fish Fridays serving up dogfish dredged in a brown rice flour that’s light and gluten free. Finish your meal with a heath bar cookie sprinkled with a dash of Wellfleet Sea Salt, a home baked whoopie pie or an adults-only boozy tiramisu.
Head over to Skaket Beach on the bayside. On summer days stroll the flats at lowest tide, then have a bathtub-warm swim when it rushes back in. Snooze, snorkel and float your day away.
Nip the hungries fast at The Knack, just off the Orleans Route 6 rotary, with fish tacos, burgers, dogs, fries and, a lively carrot-apple slaw. Enjoy an up-tempo dinner in the brightly painted interior of the Rock Harbor Grill. Nightly specials join the seasonally focused small plates, salads and entrees of fish, meat, chicken and pastas. Oven fired pizzas with creative toppings like pear, Manchego cheese, lamb sausage and dates, or Margherita with wet mozzarella, basil and fresh tomato plus a cold tap beer enjoyed amongst their friendly bar crowd is a delight. Nauset Beach Club (NBC), located in a rambling antique house in East Orleans, offers creative Northern Italian cuisine and an intriguing wine list. Menu standouts include sinfully delicious pastas, such as the papparadella alla boscaiola (garlic-roasted mushrooms tossed in a pancetta-sage cream sauce), the pan-roasted pork chop (crispy on the outside, fork-tender within), and the herb- and panko-crusted cod. NBC’s extensive wine list fluctuates between 140-150 bottles, half bottles, and bin ends. Wines from Italy are predominant and indigenous wines spotlight some obscure grape varietals.
Drive on past Snow’s Home and Garden on Main Street until you dead end at Rock Harbor. Take a left at the stop sign, travel to the end of the pier and catch the sun slipping down beyond the trees marking the harbor’s channel. Grab a selfie and on Wednesdays in summer, get your boogie on with some live steel drum tunes courtesy of Pans in Paradise.
Dance, if only so you can have one more Orleans treat, of the frozen kind. The younger set will clamor for the Local Scoop whose make-your-own sundae bar tempts all. Grab a cup and do it all yourself. Select from soft-serve ice creams, frozen yogurts and fruit sherbets, including sugar and gluten free flavors, then spoon on fresh fruits, locally made granolas, cookie and brownie chunks, plus myriad toppings and dollops of three flavors of homemade whipped cream. If you’re craving a more traditional hard ice cream, just up the road, adjacent to Cottage Street Bakery, is the Ice Cream Cafe. Half the fun is waiting outside with a throng of regulars and visitors as the laughing high school scoopers work their magic. A board lists daily made-in-house flavors including basics plus a zippy ginger, chunky blush peach, and a cherry vanilla chip that takes me back 50 years to having that very flavor, his favorite, with my gramps.
Artist Cottages, 21 Old Colony Way
Corner Store, 54 Main Street
Cottage Street Bakery, 5 Cottage Street
Earth House, 121 Route 6A
Hog Island Beer Company, 28 West Road
Hot Chocolate Sparrow, 5 Old Colony Way
Ice Cream Cafe, 5 South Orleans Road
Jailhouse Tavern, 28 West Road
Local Scoop, 34 Route 6A
Nauset Beach Club, 222 Main Street, East Orleans
Orleans Farmers Market, 21 Old Colony Way
Pans in Paradise
Rock Harbor Grill, 18 Old Colony Way
Snow’s Home and Garden, 22 Main Street
Sunbird, 85 Route 6A
The Knack, 5 Route 6A