Village LIFE: The Allure of Orleans

This charming enclave at the elbow of Cape Cod has a little something for everybody

If you view Cape Cod from space, its distinctive flexed and slightly bent arm reaches out, into the Atlantic Ocean, almost as a hook, to ensnare passing fish, ships and all lovers of the quintessential treasures found throughout the region. Nestled in the elbow of this unique topographic icon is the village of Orleans. At the heart of Orleans beats the artery of the village—Main Street. No other town on the Cape has a Main Street that runs in a straight line between the calm waters of Cape Cod Bay and the powerful intensity found in the open Atlantic Ocean. Spanning just over four miles, one end of Main Street finds the serenity of Rock Harbor, with its endless sand flats that welcome countless recreational clam diggers. The harbor’s iconic “Clam Trees,” that are placed every summer as one of the most unique navigational aides ever conceived, are also the subject of local lore recounting the shell-fishermen who used to deposit clams and quahogs at the base of the trees on their way into shore. The next season the “planted” mollusks would have multiplied, resulting in a rich harvest. Since Rock Harbor is a serious working harbor, commercial fishing boats and recreational motor craft are a year-round sight.

Photo by Charles Sternaimolo

As Main Street approaches downtown, one of the first establishments encountered is Snow’s Home and Garden. One of the first settled families on Cape Cod, the Snows have called the region home since 1644. In 1887, William and Annie Snow opened the first official Snow’s store. They are still providing Cape families and visitors with anything they could ever need to make you feel right at home. Next door, Mahoney’s Atlantic Bar & Grill showcases owner/chef Ted Mahoney’s upscale interpretation of a Boston bistro meets Cape Cod Main Street. A lively bar and a cozy dining room serve up a thoughtful list of craft cocktails and delicious cuisine, all under the roof of a historic 19th-century building.

Next door, Watson’s Men’s Store has been dressing customers for generations. Current owners Dan and Lynn Eberly are thrilled to be the latest stewards of the venerable clothier that has been around for almost seven decades. Lynn says customers repeatedly tell them that they never realized there was a large parking area, as well as a rear entrance behind the store. 

Adorn · Photo courtesy of Molly Avellar

To miss that convenience would also miss one of Orleans’ hidden gems. Behind Watson’s, and their neighboring businesses on Main Street, as well as one block of businesses around the corner on Route 6A, is the pearl in the Orleans oyster. A large parking area is flanked on all sides by countless businesses that might otherwise go unnoticed. Starting at the corner shared with Mahoney’s is the Coastal Craft Gallery, a melange of ceramics, photography, jewelry and other crafts by local artists. Next door Oceana, whose tagline is “Inspirations with an accent on design,” presents a perfectly curated selection of home accessories, gifts, art and jewelry that are all inspired by the sea. Owner Jane Williamson gave the entire store a subtle facelift in the spring of 2018, so that the bright airy space showcases unique and unexpected finds in their very best light. One stop at Oceana will have you back again, and again and again. Across the parking lot, tucked into the corner are two art galleries full of exceptional work by local artists. East Wind Gallery not only has a myriad of work on display, but the various artists represented are often found working in the on-site studio. Gallery 31 Fine Art represents a cadre of distinctive artists with international acclaim. Their robust schedule of events, demonstrations and talks provide access to an impressive variety of world-class creators.

Just a few doors down, the popularity of Eastham’s Hole in One prompted a second location to open in Orleans several years back. Their breakfast and lunch offerings, as well as the bakery and endless donut selections, are perfect to grab on the go, sit and enjoy on site, or pack up for a boating, beach or biking picnic. Orleans does not lack for dining options—across the street, the iconic Land Ho! Restaurant has been serving up burgers, sandwiches, salads, seafood and even a sizzling steak or two for years. Truly considered a landmark in the town, it is a place to soak up authentic local color.

The Lobster Claw

A short distance away down Cranberry Highway, the Lobster Claw Restaurant has been serving families the freshest seafood around for over 50 years. Open seasonally, their relaxed style doesn’t detract from the main event—seafood. Down the street on the picturesque Town Cove, the Orleans Waterfront Inn and Restaurant boasts rooms with a view as well as sun-filled dining room that offers views that span the breadth of the charming cove-front. Their award-winning menu highlights local delicacies in innovative ways. Bonus: The inn is purported to be haunted, so an exciting adventure is always a possibility.

Back at the center of town, the shopping continues with Kid & Kaboodle, a children’s clothing store where finding the perfect outfit for a family portrait or a gift for a new addition is easy. Gift-wrapping, shipping, registry and personal shopping are just some of the ways this full-service clothing store has earned the loyalty of their customers through the generations.