Route 6, also known as the Mid-Cape Highway, forms the spine of Eastham, and traveling it leads you to rich arts encounters, historic buildings, and some of the country’s most beautiful natural wonders.
Nestled between Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Eastham retains a rural village community feeling and gives you that old-fashioned Cape Cod experience, while only a short distance to Hyannis, the ferry services, and other Cape Cod attractions. It’s a must to include on your list of places to visit during your Cape Cod vacation!
Windmill Green: Where Tradition, Culture, and Fun Meet
Start off at the Windmill Green and Bandstand, on Route 6 across from the Eastham Town Hall. The Eastham Windmill is the oldest working windmill on Cape Cod, built around 1680 in Plymouth, MA, moved to Truro shortly before the American Revolution, and moved to its current location in 1808. The Summer Concert Series on Windmill Green delights young and old on Monday nights throughout the summer. Visitors and residents enjoy free live music performed by our talented local musicians. Toss a chair or blanket in the car, pack a picnic basket, and join your family and friends for some toe-tapping entertainment.
Also on Windmill Green, the Hands on the Arts Festival happens annually mid-June. This free festival of arts and crafts includes a juried show and sale of original works by more than 30 Cape artisans, and features paintings, prints, photography, jewelry, pottery, and a variety of crafts.
In September, Windmill Green hosts Eastham Windmill Weekend, a three-day event celebrating the town’s history and families, featuring live music, games, food and drink. A parade, races, raffles, contests, a talent show, and a craft show are among the many fun activities.
Cape Cod National Seashore: Inspiration for Artists and Poets
The Cape Cod National Seashore has inspired artists and poets for hundreds of years, and Eastham is well-known as its gateway, incorporating two of its finest beaches as well as the Fort Hill hiking area. North of Windmill Green on Route 6, the Salt Pond Visitor Center has a theater, America’s National Parks store, and museum. The Seashore’s award-winning orientation movie, “Standing Bold,” plays throughout the day, and other films show on rotation. Check the Cape Cod National Seashore website for opening information. The Salt Pond Visitor Center also hosts live music, speakers, and movie nights in the outdoor amphitheater throughout the summer.
Nearby you’ll find the popular 1.5-mile Nauset Marsh Trail, the Nauset Bicycle Trail, and the Buttonbush Trail, a .25-mile multi-sensory trail featuring a guide rope and text panels printed in large lettering and Braille, as well as discovery activities for children.
Eastham Painters Guild: Putting Art at the Heart of the Town
2021 marks the 41st anniversary of the Eastham Painters Guild. The Guild exhibits only original artwork by its members. In addition to the fine art shows, they offer year-round exhibits in and around Eastham. The Guild partners with the Cape Cod National Seashore to bring art into the Seashore seasonally, supports local events and fundraisers, and funds annual scholarships for local high school seniors pursuing continuing education in the arts. The Guild continually looks for ways to interact with the local community and looks forward to another 41 years of art, engagement, and fun!
From June through September, the Guild will be plein air painting on Tuesday mornings in locations throughout the Cape Cod National Seashore, including Fort Hill, Coast Guard Beach, and historic Penniman House, built by a successful whaling captain in the 19th century.
The Eastham Painters Guild holds outdoor fine art shows on the lawn of the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum, across from the Cape Cod Seashore entrance on Route 6. The schedule begins Memorial Day weekend in May and runs through Windmill Weekend in September. Stop by to see the artwork and meet the artists. Bring home a memory of your Cape Cod experience or add to your collection of Eastham Painters Guild artists.
Art Galleries Along Route 6
Further north on Route 6 from the National Seashore, Marrinan Gallery is the home of internationally-collected artist Michael Marrinan, who paints stunningly beautiful works on linen and copper.
Not far from Marrinan Gallery is Longstreet Gallery, a contemporary art space housing a gallery and the studios of owners Chris Kelly and Keith MacLelland. Longstreet Gallery focuses on local and national artists working in a variety of mediums and has multiple shows taking place this summer. The gallery’s name references Route 6 – a very “long street” – and the S.S. Longstreet, whose wreckage is in Cape Cod Bay.
Next up as you proceed north is The Gallery Artwork, Stonework, and Woodwork – featuring local and international artists from coastal communities. View paintings, sculpture, furniture, decorative items, glassware, and jewelry.
If you love history and architecture, the Eastham Historical Society has some fascinating places for you to visit. Located near the National Seashore entrance, the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum is a post-Civil War one-room schoolhouse that served Eastham for over 70 years. The schoolroom is now a hands-on experience for children, complete with its original schoolmaster’s desk. Kids of all ages are encouraged to sit at the desks, look at the books, and pretend to be in school – without computers!
Back down south on Route 6, next to the Eastham Post Office, is the Swift Daley House Museum, dating back to 1741. Its bowed roof is typical of early houses built by ship’s carpenters. Completely furnished, its collection includes examples of period clothing, china, quilts, and household items. Behind the Swift Daley House is the Chester Ranlett Tool Museum, displaying hundreds of tools, many unusual and exclusive to the New England area.
Don’t leave Eastham without visiting First Encounter Beach, named after the first encounter between the Pilgrims and the Native peoples. You’ll find the beach about ten minutes west of the Swift Daley House Museum. First Encounter is a gorgeous beach with a sweeping view of Cape Cod Bay, the perfect place to relax after your arts and culture-filled getaway in Eastham.
For places to stay on the Outer Cape, click here. For dining options on the Outer Cape, click this link. And for additional things to do during your visit to the Outer Cape, click here.