The present Nauset Heights area was the farming site of the Indians. The last of their settlements lived in South Orleans. The sea has influenced the economy of Orleans from the beginning to the present. Salt works were located on the bay and Town cove shores. There were many domestic needs for salt and the fishing fleet's requirements were large for fish preservation. Finally with the discovery of salt deposits in the U.S. the salt-making industry became obsolete in the 1850s. Sea captains and ordinary seamen of Orleans manned the merchant and whaling vessels during the age of sail. The fishing industry has waxed and waned through the years according to the supply. Fish weirs and small boat hand lining as well as coastal whaling thrived in the early years.
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Orleans Beaches Information:
Orleans has only a few public beaches, but when one of them is beautiful Nauset Beach, famous for its wide expanse, big Atlantic Ocean surf, and lovely dunes, and the other is Skaket Beach on Cape Cod Bay, one of the best places to watch a sunset, who could ask for more? Residents get beach stickers for free; renters (who must show proof of renting in Orleans, such as a lease or rent receipt) can get stickers for $35 a week, $60 for two weeks or $85 for the season. People who are renting in nearby towns can get a one-week sticker for $40 or a season sticker for $125. All nonresident stickers are issued at Nauset Beach, (508) 240-3780, where daily parking is available for $10. The same price applies to Skaket Beach, and the one-day permit entitles you to go to either beach--or both--during that day.
Nauset Beach, at the end of Beach Road in East Orleans (just follow Main Street east), has lifeguards, a snack bar, and restrooms. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas, too. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are permitted on one section of the beach, except when plovers and other birds are nesting, but you must have a permit from the Orleans Parks and Beaches Department, 18 Bay Ridge Lane, (508) 240-3775; the cost for nonresidents is $140 for a year; $70 in the off-season (after mid-October).
Over on the bay side, Skaket Beach, (508) 255-0572, off Skaket Beach Road, is just as popular as Nauset and also has restrooms. Parking is limited, and the lot fills up fast. At low tide, people flock here for the chance to walk a mile or so through the beach grass and onto the flats. At high tide, it's great for frolicking in the calm water.
If you don't want to swim but just want to get your feet wet, stop at the little beach at Rock Harbor, another great place for sunsets. One secret gem is the tiny beach that is reachable by walking down the trail at Paw Wah Point Conservation Area, off Namequoit Road. You'll even find a few picnic tables scattered here and there.
Orleans has a freshwater pond worth visiting: Pilgrim Lake, off Kescayogansett Road, features a lifeguard in season as well as changing rooms, picnic areas, a small beach, and even a dock should you decide to moor your boat while taking a dip.
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