Nauset Marsh in Eastham is classic Cape Cod kayaking, located as it is within the confines of the Cape Cod National Seashore. It combines a salt pond bay, a saltwater marsh, sand flats and a barrier beach, and avid kayakers can paddle for miles there exploring all the inlets, creeks and channels that sit behind Nauset Beach.
You’ll certainly see plenty of birds, maybe the occasional otter, and may even catch a glimpse of a seal or two sunbathing on the banks of the marshes there.
You can put in at the end of Hemmenway Road, off Route 6 about two miles north of the Orleans Rotary. Alternatively drive a little further along Route 6 to the Salt Pond Visitor’s Center and put in at Salt Pond Landing.
Either put in will put you in the vicinity of Salt Pond Bay. You can head north from there along Cedar Bank Creek towards Nauset Bay and the Coast Guard Station.
One word of caution, though. Years of storm activity have deposited a lot of sand in Nauset Marsh making much of what was already a low marsh too shallow to paddle at low tide. This is particularly true at the northern end of the marsh near the Coast Guard Station. Check tide charts carefully and allow plenty of high tide time to complete your trip.
A four hour window (two hours either side of high tide) to explore that part of the marsh should suffice. Push it to three hours either side of high tide and you may find yourself getting stuck in the mud at low tide.
There is generally more water if you head south towards Nauset Harbor, though it can get rougher there since you are closer to the Atlantic Ocean. This is known as the “birdwatchers route” and you’re quite likely to see terns, great blue herons, cormorants and, of course, the ever-present gulls. The water here is also clear and sandy compared to the north end of the marsh so you may also see some sea bass swimming underneath your boat.
It is best traversed on an outgoing tide. The Fort Hill Trail will be on your right as you paddle through Skiff Hill Creek. In the center of Nauset Harbor is a small island called Inlet Marsh. This is a great place stop and explore while waiting for the tide to turn (Heading back up Skiff Hill Creek against the tide will be hard work)
If you do arrive at low tide, one nice trip that will keep you in plenty of deep water is through the Northwest Passage to the Main Channel and on to Nauset Beach. You can rest at Byzun Cove and explore Nauset Beach, which, in the spring and summer, is home to the largest tern colony in New England. Many tern species are federally protected so be sure to watch for posted signs and roped off areas.
When the tide turns you can head back the way you came to your launch point.
For the Hemmenway Road put in, take Route 6 to the Orleans Rotary and head north towards Eastham. Take a right onto Hemmenway Road abot 1.8 mile on from the rotary. About a third of a mile down you’ll come to the town landing.
For the Salt Pond Landing put in carry on along Route 3 for about another mile until you see the Salt Pond Visitors Center on the right. Salt Pond is just behind the Visitor’s Center. the great advantage of putting in here is that the Visitor’s Center has bathrooms, vending machines, water and picnic tables.