Once touting itself as “The Gateway to Cape Cod”, the seaside town of Wareham is much more than a stepping stone.
First off, there are 54 miles of shoreline here on Buzzards bay, along a heavily indented coast where public beaches are bathed by gentle, warm waters in summer.
The best of these may be Onset Beach, a perfect curve of golden sand, with idyllic views of wooded points, historic houses and islands in the bay.
In Wareham you can tour the famous cranberry bogs, feast on the freshest seafood, watch some of the best amateur baseball in the world, and kayak in a vast maze of coves, bays, rivers and ponds.
1. Onset Beach
A crescent of soft golden sand, the fabulous Onset Beach is at the head of the namesake bay, which cuts a long way inland and is protected by Wickets Island and Onset Island.
This gives beach crystalline protected waters that stay shallow for some distance and are perfectly safe for youngsters to wade in.
Behind, Onset is a small seaside community, established in the 1880s as a summer camp for Spiritualists, and with idyllic cottages that were built as second homes for people who would come here to try to communicate with the dead.
The waters of Onset Bay are made for paddling, and the Nemasket Kayak Center, which we’ll talk about later in this list, has a location right on the beach.
2. Swift’s Beach
Fronting a peaceful residential community on Swift’s Neck, this stunning beach sits at the mouth of the Wareham River. Swift’s Beach faces southeast and is completely protected from ocean swells.
There’s an accommodating sweep of sandy shoreline, interspersed with tufts of grass, and at the height of summer the water is warm in the shallows.
When the tide goes out there’s an enormous spread of tide pools and muddy sand abounding with clams and hermit crabs. To use Swift’s Beach you’ll need to get hold of a day pass from the Town of Wareham Department of Natural Resources.
3. Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary
A big swath of the Great Neck peninsula in Wareham has been designated a priority habitat of state-listed rare species.
In response, Mass Audubon has collaborated with a number of public and private organizations to protect and manage a sanctuary, spreading across more than 200 acres.
Four miles of Historic carriage roads and deer paths, many accessible thanks to the generosity of private landowners, take you through pine forest to the edge of the marshes.
From here you might catch sight of the resident ospreys in spring and summer, or a wading heron, while great horned owls make their nests in the woods.
4. Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge
An important intracoastal waterway, easing navigation between Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod Bay, the seven-mile Cape Cod Canal was completed in 1914.
It’s a good idea to make the short trip next door to Bourne to see the canal, lined with 7 miles of paved bikeway on the north side, and 6.5 miles on the south side.
The sight that may stop you in your tracks is the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge, opened in 1935. This vertical lift bridge is 544 feet across, 271 feet tall, and has a 135-foot clearance when raised.
From the bikeway you can watch it rising for water traffic, or lowering to allow trains to pass through. It had the longest vertical lift span in the world at the time of its completion, and is today the second-longest vertical lift bridge in the country.
5. Shell Point Beach
Along the shore and merging with Onset Beach, Shell Point Beach is distinct, and merits its own entry in this list.
As the name tells you, the beach is on a sandy cape, with Sunset Cove on one side and Onset Bay on the other. Like its neighbor, Shell Point Beach shelves very gently, and because it’s so tucked away the water is pool-like.
The beach’s small parking lot runs down the spine of Shell Point, and there are panoramic views of the beautiful shoreline, adorned with waterfront houses and little docks. In the last few years a parking fee has been implemented here, May through September.
6. Lindsey’s Restaurant
This family seafood eatery in East Wareham has been locally owned and operated for more than 75 years. Lindsey’s Restaurant started out in 1948 as a fried clam take-out spot, opened by Paul and Frances Lindsey.
The building was remodeled in 1979 by their son Buzzy, and daughter-in-law, Cheri who continues to run the business.
Lindsey’s Restaurant buys all of its fish and shellfish from local wholesalers, working around Cape Cod waters.
So naturally, the essential menu items to try are New England signatures like lobster rolls, scallops, clam cakes, clam chowder, lobster bisque, and of course, fried clams.
7. Myles Standish State Forest
Just past Wareham’s northern edge you can reach the largest publicly owned recreation area in southeastern Massachusetts.
Myles Standish State Forest is 12,000+ acres of pitch pine forest and scrub oak, ecologically important for its glacially formed kettle hole ponds.
Four of the forest’s five campgrounds are located next to ponds, and you can jump from one shoreline to the next on 13 miles of hiking trails, 15 miles of paved bicycle trails, and 35 miles of horse trails.
The flat topography and abundance of quiet, paved trails make this place ideal for a bicycle trip, and for thrills you can go offroad on the intersecting sand and gravel tracks.
8. Water Wizz of Cape Cod
One of a string of visitor attractions, stores and chain restaurants along Route 28 in East Wareham is a family-owned water park, open for more than 40 years now.
Always improving, Water Wizz of Cape Cod is constantly adding to its array of rides and attractions, and there’s plenty for bigger kids and teenagers to get into.
Take Devil’s Peak, which drops almost vertically from a height of 75 feet, or the high-speed Pirate’s Plunge and the swooping tube ride, Squid Row.
Herring Run River is a classic lazy river, and the swells at the Mussel Beach wave pool reach 3.5 feet. Smaller children and toddlers are sure to enjoy the zero-depth playground at Little Neck Beach, and Captain Kid’s Island has a giant tipping bucket.
9. Spillane Field
Wareham has a collegiate summer baseball team, competing in the West Division of the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL).
Organized baseball on Cape Cod goes back deep into the 19th century, and today the CCBL offers some of the best amateur ball you could hope to watch.
To date, more than 1,400 major league players have spent some formative time in the Cape League, many playing for Wareham’s local team.
The Wareham Gatemen first joined the league in 1927, claiming the first of a total nine league championships in 1930.
Home field is a 3,000-seater stadium next to Wareham High School, named for the highly decorated teacher and coach, Clem Spillane (1934-2017), who never posted a losing record.
The season begins in mid-June and is wrapped up by mid-August, with the all-star game normally played at Spillane Field in late July.
10. Makepeace Farms
Something that comes immediately to mind when people think of southeastern Massachusetts is cranberries. This goes for Wareham, as one of the world’s largest cranberry growers, the A.D. Makepeace Company is based here.
Dating back some 170 years, Makepeace is a founder of the Ocean Spray cooperative, and is also the largest private property owner in eastern Massachusetts.
There’s a storefront at Makepeace Farms (146 Tihonet Rd), with a gift shop for everything cranberry-related, as well as a cafe with menu items like cranberry walnut chicken salad, or a classic Thanksgiving roasted turkey sandwich.
For deeper insights into cranberry production, you can organize a bog tour via the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association.
In spring you’ll see how the bogs are prepared for the growing season; in summer these bogs are a sea of little blossoms, and then comes the iconic wet harvest in fall.
11. Nemasket Kayak Center
The amazing quantity of ponds and slow-flowing rivers around Wareham, makes this a wonderful place for a paddling experience.
The Nemasket Kayak Center has several locations in the area, but is headquartered in the complex as Makepeace Farms at 146 Tihonet Rd.
Here you can rent single or double kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddleboards, for an hour, day, three days or a week.
The center arranges guided paddles at several beautiful locations, including Agawam Mill Pond, the Agawam River, Mario Harbor, Onset Bay, Wickets Island and along the Weweantic and Sippican Rivers.
There’s also a paddling school, teaching kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard basics, but also hosting stand-up paddleboard yoga classes.
12. Little Harbor Country Club
Close to Great Neck Wildlife Sanctuary there’s an executive, 18-hole par 56 course. With a total yardage of just over 3,000 yards, Little Harbor Country Club is a great pick for beginners, and for people who want to work on their approach play and short game.
Still, there are a couple of par 4s on the way, so you’ll need to use every club in your bag. A real advantage of this course is that you can get around all 18 holes in as little as three hours, and for many people it’s easy to complete on foot, although carts are available.
The air-conditioned clubhouse has a fully stocked snack bar, as well as a pro shop with all of the top brands.
13. William Minot Forest
In a lovely spot, just in from the east bank of the Wareham River there’s more than 200 acres of town-owned forest to explore.
This land was deeded to the town as long ago as the 1950s and has been carefully managed over the last 70+ years to foster biodiversity and provide a beautiful natural setting for walks. William Minot Forest has rolling topography, molded by glaciers more than 10,000 years ago.
There are several miles of restorative woodland trails, one of which takes you north, across Minot Avenue and over the railroad tracks to Bryant Farm, another town-owned property with sprawling marshes by the Wareham River.
14. Tremont Nail Factory District
In business since 1819, the Tremont Nail Company, one of the first cut nail manufacturers in the United States, was based in Wareham until as recently as 2006 when the company was taken over and production moved to Mansfield.
The old mill complex, once powered by water, is preserved as a U.S. Historic District, with five buildings more than a century old, and portions that have changed little since the mid-19th century.
Tours of the site have been given in the past, and if you’re interested in industrial history you can take a look around from the outside. When we compiled this list, one of the buildings was occupied by EcHo, an artisan homewares shop.
15. Wareham Crossing
Near where I-495 and I-195 intersect and terminate in western Wareham there’s an open-air shopping center with close to 50 stores and restaurants.
Wareham Crossing opened in 2007, and combines a power center with a more pedestrian-friendly outdoor mall, featuring quaint storefronts, street furniture, trees and shrubs.
A few of the retailers in the latter part are LOFT, Torrid, L.L. Bean, GameStop, Bath & Body Works, Yankee Candle and Famous Footwear. For big box stores you’ve got Target, Petco, T.J. Maxx, JCPenney, Lowe’s and more.
Food and drink options run from Starbucks to Red Robin, QDOBA and LongHorn Steakhouse.