I can really see how after spending a week at Ocean Edge, on Cape Cod Bay, you could come away saying "I feel like a new person." You feel the beginning of the metamorphosis take hold as you settle into the soft sand and watch as the tide slips away, exposing the rippled pattern in the smooth sand it leaves behind. The tidal pools become a source of endless delight over the simplest things: a patch of seagrass, a small sand crab, a tiny fish-the beginning of the ecological chain of life-a speckled rock, a perfectly formed delicate shell that has not yet cracked or chipped in any way.
This perfect summer pleasure lasts even after fall colors set in, after the air takes on a crisp nip. The bay water keeps its summer warmth well into October. And even after the seasons change, Ocean Edge Resort offers the perfect respite for families, reunions, special events. Ocean Edge Resort is an exceptional and rare place: one that you would like to both visit (and often) and live in.
The centerpiece is the mansion home and estate of the Nickersons, a family which traces its roots to the first settlers of Cape Cod, from which a resort community of villas and townhomes has emerged (some are privately owned). As you go along the lengthy drive from the road (scenic Route 1A, the King's Highway), you would not even realize there is a development of homes on the estate because all you see is the majestic mansion and carriage house perched on the hill, with a stunning view of the Cape Cod Bay beyond.
Ocean Edge Resort is the best of all worlds: a grand historic property with luxury resort amenities including golf, tennis, private beach, and children's activity program, and villa accommodations that let you relax in total comfort.
The original estate was built by Samuel Mayo Nickerson, a direct descendant of Wiliam Nickerson of Norwich County, Norfolk, England. William sailed to America in 1637, settling in Yarmouth, Massachusetts. William later purchased the territory of Manomoit (now Chatham) from the Indians and contributed to the growth of the Town of Chatham.
Samuel Nickerson left Cape Cod in 1847 as a young man, seeking his fortune in Chicago where he found his way from the distillery business into banking and served as president of the First National Bank of Chicago for 25 years. He and his wife, the former Matilda Crosby of Brewster, returned to Brewster and built their summer home in 1890, including Fieldstone Hall, a carriage house, a windmill and tower (used then to generate electricity, now it serves as the 19th hole of the Nickerson Bayside golf course) and a private game preserve (which the family donated to the Commonwealth and is now Nickerson State Park).
Their son Roland and his wife, Addie Daniels of Brewster, occupied the estate and entertained frequently and lavishly; it was not uncommon for the social event of the year to be held at Fieldstone Hall. In its heyday, the estate had 22 servants. But in 1906, Fieldstone Hall burned to the ground, leaving only the foundation; Roland, in ill health, died two weeks later. In 1907, his widow, Addie, began reconstruction, and The Mansion was completed in 1912. This mansion home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, more closely resembles an English country manor with an eclectic blend of Renaissance Revival and Gothic themes. Among its grand features is an intricately carved oak staircase, leaded glass windows, and terraces that look out to the bay. It is no wonder it is extremely popular today as for weddings and special functions.
The estate was purchased in 1942, by LaSalette Fathers who used it as a novitiate and then as a seminary. Then, in 1980, Corcoran, Mullins, Jennison, Inc., of South Boston, which also developed Bayside Expo, another hotel, and golf courses, purchased the property, preserving the estate and developing the resort.
Ocean Edge is grand without being stuffy, a place to be pampered but also to feel free.
The villas in classically quaint Cape style, provide a fully outfitted kitchen so you can prepare your own breakfast and snacks (there is a convenient grocery store next door to the property) and offer every creature comfort: washer-dryer (even soap); hair dryer; televisions in each room; dinette; porch.
The resort, set on 400 acres, straddles Route 6A (a free shuttle bus takes guests to all the facilities). On the bayside are the mansion, villas and townhomes, indoor and outdoor pools, a tournament-quality tennis center, and the resort's 700-foot private expanse of beach on the bay. Across 6A is another complex of villas which overlook the resort's golf course, the Fletcher pool and tennis center, bike rentals, basketball and volleyball court, and the Ocean EdgeVenture Clubhouse where supervised children's activity programs are based. In all, the resort boasts four outdoor and two indoor pools.
Family-Friendly Resort Amenities
We were impressed by the family-oriented activities and services, including scheduled family entertainment: Monday evenings feature a summer concert series (5:30-8 p.m., late June-August), plus face painting and beaded hair braiding, poolside; Tuesday features sand-castle building (free); Wednesday is croquet or bocce; Thursday is a family beach bonfire (8 p.m.); Friday offers beaded hair braiding and face painting (2-4 p.m.) at the bay pines pool.
The Ocean EdgeVenture Program, available late June to Labor Day features an array of experiential adventures for children 4-12. Age-appropriate activities are offered for Voyagers (4-7) and Explorers 8-12, featuring such activities as an Insect Safari, Wacky Woodland Walk, Turtle Tracking, and more. A weekly schedule of events features daily themes (lunch is provided for children enrolled in the full-day program; reservations are required, 508-896-7438; $35/half-day, $65/full day).
A Teen Adventure Program is available on request (minimum five participants).
Junior Tennis and Golf Camp programs are available, recommended for 10 to 15-year olds of all skill levels. These are offered weekdays, 10 a.m. to noon ($30; reservations required).
A Parents' Nite Out program is offered Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, 6-9 p.m., hosting children 4-12 years old. The kids get pizza and are entertained with games and movies at the EdgeVenture Clubhouse ($39/child, 508-896-7438 to reserve).
A highlight of visiting Ocean Edge is its location right on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The paved path begins in Dennis and meanders 26 miles to the National Seashore in Eastham (Ocean Edge is approximately mid-way). Bicycle rentals are available at three locations on property: at the Reef Bicycle Center, adjacent to the resort's Reef Café (on the Village side of the property), the Fletcher Tennis Complex, and at the Bay Pines Tennis Shop ($15 for up to four hours; $25 for a full day, $150 for a week; children's bicycles, carriers and toddler trailers are $12 for up to four hours, $17 for a full day, and $120 for a week; helmets and locks are also available).
Top-Notch Golf, Tennis
Ocean Edge's 6,665-yard golf course with its 56 Scottish-style pot bunkers and five fresh water ponds, designed by Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva, is known as one of New England's most challenging layouts. The course is open year-round. There is also a driving range, located adjacent to the first hole green; club rentals, and lessons; golf packages are available from $79 (to pre-arrange tee time, call 508-896-5911).
There are two staffed tennis complexes: the Bay Pines Tennis Complex located behind the Mansion is considered one of the finest facilities in New England, offering five gorgeous Har-Tru courts that are tournament quality (indeed, recent pro-am tournaments have brought Stefan Edberg, Rod Laver and Stan Smith). There are also four Plexi-Pave courts at the Fletcher Tennis Complex ($15/hour; reserve up to 72 hours in advance); tennis lessons as well as matchmaking are also available. In addition, two hardcourts near the Reef Café (across the road from the Bayfront villas, and near the golf course) are available at no charge on a first-come, first serve basis.
The resort offers a selection of restaurants: the Ocean Grille, located in the Mansion, offers panoramic views of Cape Cod Bay and New England cuisine prepared with a European flair; buffets are offered at breakfast and lunch. Reef Café has a relaxed atmosphere: Tuesdays is Clambake Night and Thursday is Family Night, featuring children's entertainment. Bayzo's Pub, located in the lower level of the Mansion, has the ambiance of an English tavern and serves light fare; there is live piano music Tuesday through Saturday (in season); a billiard table and large-screen television. The Golf Clubhouse features Linx Tavern, serving al fresco and inside dining overlooking the golf course.
Of course, the resort's beach is a major attraction, particularly since it is such a gentle environment on the Bay, backed by dunes. The water is calm and you can walk in quite a distance (as much as a quarter of a mile) and the water not go higher than your waist; what is amazing though is how fast the tide comes in, and goes out, leaving tidal pools of endless fascination. (the resort provides a tide chart). Guided beach walks with a guide from the Massachusetts Audubon Society are offered (free) on Thursday mornings (10-11:30 a.m., late June to late August).
A concierge is available to assist with everything from arranging babysitting and transportation, to dinner or theater reservations, book a whale-watching or fishing expedition, or reserve a place in the children's programs.
Ocean Edge is a superb venue for couples, families, reunions, wedding or group function and as a corporate retreat or meeting place.
Summer is peak, but the best time to visit is fall, when the weather is still warm, the crowds have gone, the foliage colors have begun, and rates are about half of high season (when rates can be $1000 a night for a villa). A special SUNday package, available through Oct. 14, provides a two-night stay (starting Sunday), breakfast, tax and tip for $420; a two-night Discover package, available through Oct. 31, is $525 in September, $455 in October.
For information, contact Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, 2907 Main Street, Brewster, Cape Cod, MA 02631, 800-343-6074, 508-896-9000, www.oceanedge.com.
Base to Explore Cape Cod
Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club is situated right in the middle of Cape Cod, affording a superb base from which to explore the richness and variety of attractions and activities on the Cape (that is, if you can bear to extract yourself from the resort) right on Route 6A, called the Old King's Highway, which meanders through the nation's largest historic district, covering 70 miles and 380 years of history.
It is set in Brewster, dubbed "America's Sea Captains' Town" (which is probably why function rooms are named for sea captains), where there are many interesting museums and cultural attractions, such as the New England Fire and History Museum, showcasing one of the world's largest collections of antique fire fighting equipment and memorabilia (Route 6A, Brewster, 508-896-5711).
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, located at 869 Route 6A, Brewster, is set on more than 80 acres, abutted by another 300 acres of public conservation land and Cape Cod Bay. The 17,000 sq. ft. building has two floors of exhibits which relate how the Cape was formed some 20,000 years ago by glaciers, and the kinds of plants and animals that live in the coastal environment. Three nature trails traverse woodlands, marsh, freshwater and saltwater habitats. In season, the museum also offers an overnight trip to Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (off of Chatham): you get to stay in a lighthouse keeper's house (the trip is limited to six people; available May through October). There are also seal cruises, guided canoe and kayak trips, and trips to Race Point and Pleasant Bay. (Open year-round, daily except for major national holidays, 508-896-3867, www.capecodnaturalhistory.org).
Just south of Ocean Edge, in Chatham, you can visit the Morris Island Nature Preserve and from there, in season, you can take a ferry to Monomoy Wildlife Refuge, a 2,700 acre preserve which is considered one of the premier bird watching spots in the eastern U.S., attracting some 305 local and migratory species and where there are some 300-400 gray seals seals, as well as deer and shellfish. Outermost Harbor Marine operates a boat service from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (no reservations needed, service on demand); it also offers one-hour seal cruises and a boat to South Beach (508-945-2030, www.outermostharbor.com). Chatham Water Tours also offers a guided Monomoy tour, sunset cruise, lobster/nature cruises, "tea at sea" and "Sundae Sundays" (508-432-5895, www.chathamwatertours.net). Another company, Monomoy Island Excursions, offers three different cruises: a three-hour cruise around Monomoy Island; a 1 ˝ hour long excursion in which you can see seals in the water; and a sunset cruise (508-430-7772).
About 15 minutes from Ocean Edge (and within biking distance), is the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham, offering 27,000 acres and 40 miles of sandy beaches, bicycle and nature trails, marshes, woodlands and sand dunes and a natural history museum.
In Provincetown, about 30-minutes away, besides the awesome dunes, visit Expedition Whydah Sea Lab & Learning Center, McMillan Wharf (508-487-8899), showcasing a real pirate ship that sunk off the Cape Cod coast.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, a Massachusetts Audubon Society, Route 6A in Wellfleet, has trails, guided and self-guided walks, seal cruises and nature outings (508-896-5711).
In Hyannis, visit the John F. Kennedy Museum, where you can see photos and videos of the President's life on Cape Cod. You can also go whale-watching, deep-sea fishing, enjoy shops and restaurants, and, in summer, enjoy concerts on the village green (open year round, with limited hours in winter; 397 Main Street, 508-790-3077).
Whenever we visit Hyannis, we have dinner at Starbuck's (the family-owned restaurant is named for an aviator and pre-dates the ubiquitous coffee shops). Starting with an actual antique airplane that is suspended from the ceiling, the restaurant has a most eclectic, whimsical and interesting collection of antiques. The menu is equally whimsical (where else can you find Hummus on the same menu as Chicken Quesadilla and Mauna Loa Chicken?), but the food preparation is serious, with everything made from scratch out of the freshest ingredients (the Clam Chowder is extraordinary; try it in a fresh bread bowl, $4.99). The portions are enormous, beautifully presented and offer superb value. Desserts are to die for, like the truly unique Fried Ice Cream (a ball of vanilla ice cream is coated and fried for a few seconds and served with coconut and chocolate sauce, $4.79); Death by Chocolate; Hot Apple Crisp and Just Say Cheesecake. (Starbucks, Rte. 132, Hyannis, 508-778-6767, www.starbuckscapecod.com.
You can follow this with a delightful evening of miniature golf, about 10 minutes away, at Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf, complete with animatronic pirates and special effects (728 Main Street, South Yarmouth, 508-394-6200, www.piratescove.net).
Further away, in Sandwich (actually the entrance point to the Cape) try to allocate about three or four hours time to visit Heritage Plantation, offering 76 acres of gardens and trails, Shaker Round Barn, phenomenal collection of antique autos, a delightful carousel, military and art museum; also outdoor concerts and special events; open mid-May to late Oct, Sandwich, 508-888-1222). Also visit the Sandwich Glass Museum, 129 Main Street, Sandwich (508-888-0251, www.sandwichglassmuseum.org).
Nearby, if you have your bicycle or roller blades or just like to walk, enjoy the magnificent Cape Cod Canal Trail, spanning seven miles one-way on both sides of the canal; on the Sandwich side of the canal, the bike trail passes by the Aptucxet Trading Post, built by the Pilgrims in 1627 to facilitate trade with the Dutch at New Amsterdam and the Narrangansett Indians, which you can visit ( 24 Aptucxet Rd., Bourne; open May to October; other months by appointment, 508-759-9487)
Another superb outing is to Wood's Hole where you can find the world-renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, independent nonprofit ocean science research and education facility. The waterfront village (and the ferry to Martha's Vineyard), is fascinating to walk around (there are regularly scheduled walking tours at no charge in summer, 508-289-2252).); visit the engaging Exhibit Center where you can learn about the diverse research that is going on and even enter a life-size model of the personnel sphere of the Alvin, the Institution's deep-diving submersible; a new interactive exhibit features whale and dolphin research and explores the roles sound and hearing play in the lives of marine mammals there is also a museum. which operates an exhibit center featuring a display of the Titanic discovery (Water Street, (a $2 donation is requested; check operating hours, www.whoi.edu, 508-289-2252).
In season, there is also a 90-minute Oceanquest Discovery cruise to see lobsters, horseshoe crabs, sea stars, plankton first hand (weekdays, July and August, 800-37-OCEAN, http://www.oceanquestonline.org.) Year-round, you can visit the marvelous Woods Hole Science Aquarium which offers unusual specimens and interesting displays such as a massive blue lobster and a giant octopus, (508-495-2001).
Instead of driving all the way into Wood's Hole (where parking can be a challenge, especially in summer), park in Falmouth (Locust Street) and take your bikes or roller blades on a mostly flat, absolutely gorgeous 3.2-mile paved path aptly named the Shining Sea Trail along the seashore.
For more information on Cape Cod attractions, contact the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, PO Box 790, Hyannis, MA 02601, 508-862-0700, 888-33-CAPECOD, www.capecodchamber.org). You can also access the Cape Cod Travel Guide atwww.CapeCodTravel.com.