Brewster's eight lovely bay beaches have minimal facilities. When the tide is out, the "beach" enlarges to as much as 2 miles, leaving behind tide pools to splash in and explore, and vast stretches of rippled, reddish "garnet" sand. On a clear day, you can see the whole curve of the Cape, from Sandwich to Provincetown. That hulking wreck midway, incidentally, is the USS James Longstreet, pressed into service for target practice in 1943 and used for that purpose right up until 1970; it's now a popular dive site. You can purchase a beach parking sticker ($15 per day, $50 per week) at the Brewster Visitor Center, behind Brewster Town Hall, at 2198 Main St./Rte. 6A, a half-mile east of the General Store (tel. 508/896-3701).
- Breakwater Beach, off Breakwater Road, Brewster: A brief walk from the center of town, this calm, shallow beach (the only one with restrooms) is ideal for young children. This was once a packet landing, where packet boats would unload tourists and load up produce -- a system that worked until the railroads came along.
- Flax Pond, in Nickerson State Park: This large freshwater pond, surrounded by pines, has a bathhouse and offers watersports rentals. The park contains two more ponds with beaches -- Cliff and Little Cliff. Access and parking are free.
- Linnells Landing Beach, on Linnell Road, in East Brewster: This is a half-mile, wheelchair-accessible bay beach.
- Paines Creek Beach, off Paines Creek Road, West Brewster: With 1 1/2 miles on which to stretch out, this bay beach has something to offer sun lovers and nature lovers alike. Your kids will love it if you arrive when the tide's coming in -- the current will give an air mattress a nice little ride.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail (www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/ccrt.htm) intersects with the 8-mile Nickerson State Park trail system at the park entrance, where there's plenty of free parking; you could follow the Rail Trail back to Dennis (about 12 miles) or onward toward Wellfleet (13 miles). Barbara's Bike Shop (tel. 508/896-7231; www.barbsbikeshop.com) provides rentals on Route 6A next to Nickerson State Park in season. Another good place to hop on the trail is Underpass Road, about a half-mile south of Route 6A. Here you'll find Brewster Bike, 442 Underpass Rd. (tel. 508/896-8149; www.brewsterbike.com), and Brewster Express, which makes sandwiches to go. Both shops offer free parking. Bicycle rentals start at around $14 for 4 hours and go up to about $22 for 24 hours.
You can rent a canoe at Jack's Boat Rental (tel. 508/349-9808; www.jacksboatrental.com), located on either Cliff Pond or Flax Pond, within Nickerson State Park. Kayaks cost $25 a half-hour and $15 for each additional half-hour. There are also kayaks, paddleboats, surf bikes, and Sunfish sailboats to rent. You can rent a kayak by the day or the week from Goose Hummock, on Town Cove, in Orleans (tel. 508/255-2620; www.goose.com), and paddle around Town Cove and Paines and Quivett creeks, as well as Upper and Lower Mill ponds. Renting a kayak to paddle around Town Cove for 4 hours will cost you $25 to $45. A 24-hour kayak rental costs $50 for a single, $75 for a tandem.
Brewster offers more ponds for fishing than any other town: 14 in all. Among the most popular are Cliff and Higgins ponds (within Nickerson State Park), which are regularly stocked. For a license, visit the town clerk at Town Hall, at 2198 Rte. 6A (tel. 508/896-3701). Brewster lacks a deep harbor, so would-be deep-sea fishers will have to head to Barnstable or, better yet, Orleans.
One of the most challenging courses in Brewster is Captain's Golf Course at 1000 Freemans Way (tel. 508/896-1716; www.captainsgolfcourse.com). In season a round at Captain's is $69 to $76, with discounted rates in the afternoon.
Nature & Wildlife Areas
Admission is free to the three trails maintained by the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History . The South Trail, covering a .75-mile round-trip south of Route 6A, crosses a natural cranberry bog beside Paines Creek to reach a hardwood forest of beeches and tupelos; toward the end of the loop, you'll come upon a "glacial erratic," a huge boulder dropped by a receding glacier. Before heading out on the .25-mile North Trail, stop in at the museum for a free guide describing the local flora, including wild roses, cattails, and sumacs. Also accessible from the museum parking lot is the John Wing Trail, a 1.5-mile network traversing 140 acres of preservation land, including upland, salt marsh, and beach. (Note: This can be a soggy trip. Be sure to heed the posted warnings about high tides, especially in spring, or you might very well find yourself stranded.) Keep an eye out for marsh hawks and great blue herons.
As it crosses Route 6A, Paines Creek Road becomes Run Hill Road. Follow it to the end to reach Punkhorn Park Lands, an undeveloped 800-acre tract popular with mountain bikers; it features several kettle ponds, a "quaking bog," and 45 miles of dirt paths composing three marked trails (you'll find trail guides at the trail heads).
Though short, the .25-mile jaunt around the Stony Brook Grist Mill is especially scenic. In spring you can watch the alewives (freshwater herring) vaulting upstream to spawn, and in the summer, the millpond is surrounded and scented by honeysuckle. Also relatively small, at only 25 acres, the Spruce Hill Conservation Area, behind the Brewster Historical Society Museum, includes a 600-foot stretch of beach, reached by a former carriage road reportedly favored by Prohibition bootleggers.
Just east of the museum is the 1,955-acre Nickerson State Park, at Route 6A and Crosby Lane (tel. 508/896-3491; www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/nick.htm), the legacy of a vast, self-sustaining private estate that once generated its own electricity (with a horse-powered plant) and attracted notable guests, such as President Grover Cleveland, with its own golf course and game preserve. Today it's a nature preserve encompassing 420 campsites (reservations pour in a year in advance to Reserve America at tel. 877/422-6762, which charges $15 for Massachusetts residents, $17 for out-of-staters), eight kettle ponds (stocked year-round with trout), and 8 miles of bicycle paths. The rest is trees -- some 88,000 evergreens, planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps. This is land that has been through a lot but, thanks to careful management, is bouncing back.
Five public courts are located behind the police station; for details, contact the Brewster Recreation Department (tel. 508/896-9430).
Various small sailboats, kayaks, canoes, and even aqua bikes (also known as sea cycles) are available seasonally at Jack's Boat Rental (tel. 508/349-9808; www.jacksboatrental.com), located on Flax Pond within Nickerson State Park. Canoe or kayak rentals for a couple of hours cost $40.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.