A love affair with Orleans-a Cape Cod Photo Essay
Rock Harbor is located on the Cape Cod Bay side. Think of it as the spot where the “bicep” meets the “forearm” on the Cape Cod “arm.” The area is known for its stunning sunsets and fascinating tidal flats, which allow beachgoers to walk out more than a mile from shore at low tide. We happened to be in town during the Orleans Pond Coalition’s annual Celebrate our Waters festivities, and the CG36500 was on display in the harbor. The CG what? During a snowstorm on February 18, 1952, four Coast Guardsmen used Motor Lifeboat CG36500 to help rescue 32 sailors from the Pendleton, which had wrecked off Nauset Beach. The story of the real-life rescue is depicted in the film The Finest Hours (2015), and additional information can be found at the Orleans Historical Society.
Rock Harbor is also home to a boatload of charter fishing outfits, many with uplifting vessel names like Flying Mist and Fair Lady. To help boaters recognize the channel in the harbor, there are eight trees planted in a line off shore. It’s a remarkable scene, particularly at sunset. “This place is famous for sunsets,” says Brian Treadwell, a photographer we met at the harbor. “They’re really spectacular. It’s one of the few places in the United States where you can see a sunset over the water and looking west, with some land in the background.” From the location, the eagle-eyed can make out the Cape Cod Canal in the west (or at least the Sandwich tower) and the Pilgrim Monument to the north. Treadwell also pointed out to us the massive rock off shore that gives the harbor its name.
Nearby, impressive scenery of a different variety can be found at The Church of the Transfiguration. The church is home to the Community of Jesus and features well-manicured grounds and some incredible artwork. In the sanctuary, there are frescoes, and mosaics on the walls and apse, including the stunning “Christ in Glory,” a mosaic depiction of Jesus created from 2.5 million pieces of tessera glass. Jesus’ face alone is 5’ tall. Also of note, the church’s organ, which is still under construction, will include 12,000 individual pipes, ranging in size from a straw to a phone booth.
Across town, the Orleans Waterfront Inn is another impressive structure—and impossible to miss when driving on Route 6A. Built on the banks of Town Cove, the historic, pastel-colored venue has 11 guest rooms, various function rooms and restaurants, and one-of-a-kind views of Town Cove—and the historic Jonathan Young Windmill. “Orleans is unbelievable,” says Ed Maas, who runs the inn with his wife, Laurie. “It’s the best town anywhere. It’s a small town where everyone gets along. Where else can you have ocean to bay in five minutes?”
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