With plenty of free parking available at the Cape Cod National Seashore's Salt Pond Visitor Center (tel. 508/255-3421; www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm), Eastham makes a convenient access point for the Cape Cod Rail Trail (tel. 508/896-3491; www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/ccrt.htm). Northward, it's about 5 wildflower-lined miles to Wellfleet, where the trail ends; Dennis is about 20 miles southwest. A 1.5-mile spur trail, winding through locust and apple groves, links the visitor center with glorious Coast Guard Beach; it's for bikes only (no blades). Rentals are available at the Little Capistrano Bike Shop (tel. 508/255-6515; www.littlecapistranobikeshop.com), at 30 Salt Pond Rd., just west of Route 6, and across the street from the Salt Pond Visitor Center. Bikes rent for about $23 per day. The best trailside eatery -- fried clams, lobster, and the like -- is Arnold's (tel. 508/255-2575; www.arnoldsrestaurant.com), at 3580 Rte. 6, about 1 mile north of the visitor center.
The best way to experience Nauset Marsh is by kayak or canoe. Rentals are available in neighboring towns: The closest source would be the Goose Hummock Outdoor Center, at 15 Rte. 6A, in Orleans (tel. 508/255-2620; www.goose.com).
Jack's Boat Rental (tel. 508/349-9808; www.jacksboatrental.com) is on Route 6, next to the Cumberland Farms store, in Wellfleet. Canoes rent for $55 a day, kayaks for $50 to $65 a day. Jack's also rents Sunfish sailboats and paddleboats. If you rent for 2 days, the third day is free. They have a seasonal outlet, from mid-June to early September, on Wellfleet's Gull Pond (tel. 508/349-7553). Kayak and canoe rentals at Gull Pond cost $20 for a half-hour and $10 for each additional hour. After 3 hours, the fourth hour is free. There are also Sunfish sailboats and surfbikes for rent.
Eastham has four ponds open to fishing; Herring Pond is stocked. Freshwater-fishing licenses can be purchased at Goose Hummock, 15 Rte. 6A, Orleans (tel. 508/255-0455; www.goose.com). For a shellfishing license, visit the Natural Resources Department, at 555 Old Orchard Rd. (tel. 508/240-5972). Surf-casting ($10 license required) is permitted at Nauset Beach North (off Doane Rd.) and Nauset Light Beach (off Cable Rd.).
Willy's Gym, Fitness and Wellness Center, 4730 Rte. 6, North Eastham (tel. 508/255-6370; www.willysgym.com), offers racket sports, plus Nautilus and free weights, various classes, an Olympic saltwater pool, saunas, steam rooms, and whirlpools. Nonmembers pay $20 a day.
There are five self-guided nature trails with descriptive markers -- for walkers only -- within this portion of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The 1.5-mile Fort Hill Trail, off Fort Hill Road (off Rte. 6, about 1 mile south of the town center), takes off from a free parking lot just past the Captain Edward Penniman House, a fancy, multicolored 1868 Second Empire manse, maintained by rangers from the Cape Cod National Seashore. Seashore rangers lead occasional tours of the house's interior in season. You can visit the house in July and August, Tuesday to Friday from 1 to 4pm. Call the visitor center at tel. 508/255-3421 (www.nps.gov/caco/index.htm). But the exterior far outshines the interior, and more interesting sights await outside. Check out the huge whale-jawbone gate before walking across the street to the trail. Following the trail markers, you'll pass "Indian Rock" (bearing the marks of untold generations who used it to sharpen their tools) and enjoy scenic vantage points overlooking the channel-carved marsh -- keep an eye out for egrets and great blue herons -- and out to sea. The Fort Hill Trail hooks up with the .5-mile Red Cedar Swamp Trail, offering boardwalk views of an ecology otherwise inaccessible.
Three relatively short trails fan out from the Cape Cod National Seashore's Salt Pond Visitor Center by Eastham. The most unusual is the .25-mile Buttonbush Trail, specially adapted for the sight-impaired, with a guide rope and descriptive plaques in both oversize type and Braille. The Doane Loop Trail, a .5-mile woodland circuit, about 1 mile east of the visitor center, is graded to allow access to wheelchairs and strollers. The 1-mile Nauset Marsh Trail skirts Salt Pond to cross the marsh (via boardwalk) and open fields before returning by way of a recovering forest. Look both ways for bike crossings.
Five public courts are located at the Nauset Regional High School in North Eastham and can be used on a first-come, first-served basis; for details contact the Nauset Regional High School (tel. 508/255-1505). Willy's Gym, 4730 Rte. 6, North Eastham (tel. 508/255-6370; www.willysgym.com), offers six indoor courts at a fee of $20 per person.
Hitting the surf is a popular pastime at the National Seashore beaches, such as Cahoon's Hollow, on the Outer Cape. For stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing lessons, contact Eric Gustafson of Funseekers (tel. 508/349-1429; www.funseekers.org), which charges $120 for a 2-hour surfing lesson for one person. A 2-hour lesson for two people is $180; for three people, it's $240. Kitesurfing lessons are $250 for 3 hours.
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.