Wrapped around the town’s charming retail areas and quiet residential streets are protected conservation lands with trails, many bordering ponds and lakes with small beaches. You’ll traverse forested woodlands, meadows, saltwater marshes and bogs via footpaths and walking trails from 1 to 2 miles in range. Maintained by the Orleans Conservation Trust, trails include:
Just north of Orleans in Eastham, Cape Cod National Seashore’s upland, wetland and coastal ecosystems provide habitats for more than 450 animal species, including marine mammals, turtles, waterbirds, reptiles and a number of protected and endangered species. For the humans, there are lighthouses, cultural landscapes and cranberry bogs offering a glimpse of Cape Cod’s past, while swimming beaches and walking/biking trails beckon sun seekers and families.
Ranger guides are offered from spring through fall. Your first stop at the Seashore is the Salt Pond Visitor Center off Route 6, offering a theater, bookstore and museum.
You’ll come upon birds and animals in their natural habitats at Mass Audubon/Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, where extensive trails bring you to a panoramic salt marsh, sandy barrier beach and pine woodlands, each attracting a wide array of wildlife, from fiddler crabs to green herons. Set off on your own or go with a knowledgeable guide. The sanctuary also features an array of birding programs along with an award-winning “green” nature center with numerous exhibits and aquariums.
A direct channel to the Atlantic, Nauset Inlet flows into Town Cove, a large bay that juts right into the heart of Orleans. On any given day in the summer and early fall, you’ll see paddlers and boaters breezing across blue Town Cove waters.
Some visitors arrive with kayaks strapped to their car roofs, but if you need equipment, Goose Hummock rents and sells kayaks and paddling gear.
Sailing is hugely popular here, with many local associations offering lessons on Town Cove or beautiful Pleasant Bay.
If you’re angling to fish, you can rent equipment or join one of many fishing charters, including the Luau.