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Harbor LIFE: Wellfleet

Fresh seafood & fine art set this coastal community apart

This is the fifth installment of a new series exploring the vibrant harbors across Cape Cod and the Islands

Henry David Thoreau wrote that “Nearly all the oyster shops and stands in Massachusetts, I am told, are supplied and kept by the natives of Wellfleet.”

A lot has changed since he visited Cape Cod in the mid-1800s. While Wellfleet oystermen no longer have a near-monopoly, the oyster industry is still a major part of the town economy. During a visit to Wellfleet Harbor, you can watch the oyster farms being worked or you can take your pick of restaurants that will serve some shellfish that was harvested just a few hours ago.

Start your visit at the town pier, which is also home to the harbormaster’s office. Mike Flanagan, who’s been harbormaster for 20 years, oversees about 200 slips and nearly 400 moorings. While some boats go offshore for scallops and sea clams, he says the harbor is mostly a small boat fishery for oysters. Flanagan says his job, like any other, has its ups and downs. Then he points across the harbor to Chipmans Cove and Indian Neck Jetty and says, “How can you go wrong looking out at this area?”

Strolling down the pier, which also is home to fishing charters and a boat rental company, you can share Flanagan’s view or, to the north, the view of the Duck Creek marshland. Don’t forget to look up to see the comings and goings from an osprey nest. At the far end of the pier is the Jan Rutz Harbor Bandstand, named in memory of a longtime volunteer for the Wellfleet Historical Society.

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