Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Exploring Washburn Island #CapeCod #vacation #travel Cape Cod

A sailboat washed ashore on Washburn
I love exploring new places, whether far away or close to home, but it's especially exciting to "discover" the hidden gems in your own backyard (for me, that's now Cape Cod).  A few summers ago, we visited Cuttyhunk, a secluded oasis in the Elizabeth Island chain only accessible by private boat.  It was like being in another world.  People do live there year-round...about 86, to be exact.  This summer, we spent a day on Washburn Island, a completely undeveloped island located in Falmouth.  Again, this is an island only accessible by private boat, and there is almost nothing there except for some primitive camping grounds.  Well, not nothing, really.  There's history, beauty, and undisturbed nature.  In fact, nature has reclaimed the remnants of the human intervention of the past, and it's slightly eerie to walk amongst the "ruins" and imagine the structures that once carved out space on the island.

Washburn Island is located in Waquoit Bay, and has, at times, been connected to the mainland via man-made bridges or changes in geography.  The Native American name for the island was Menauhant, and in the 1700 and 1800s, it was used for livestock grazing and small farms.  In the late 1800s, the island was acquired by Henry Bryant, who built a house and facilitated the installation of a hand ferry for passage to the mainland.

A small part of the house that once stood on Collin's Hill

After Bryant's death, his widow eventually sold the island to a group of investors.  The only property developed was purchased by Fred and Fannie Collins, and the remains of their summer home is visible on Collins' Hill.

One of the investors, Henry Washburn, purchased the remainder of the island, and he and his wife Florence moved into the Bryant House.  A fire destroyed the property in 1926, and after Henry's death, Florence allowed the island to be used for recreational purposes.

Rusted remains of military vehicles
When the United States entered WWII, the need for amphibious training became tantamount to military success.  The Federal Government leased the area and reconnected Washburn Island to the mainland via a sand causeway and a wooden bridge.  The island was soon the home to roads, buildings, drill fields, parade grounds, obstacle courses, docks, and piers.  After the war, the island was returned to Florence Washburn, who again allowed locals to enjoy the location.  Eventually, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts acquired the island, and it's now part of the Waquoit Bay Reserve.  Visitors may enjoy the beach, hike the trails, and camp (with reservations).

The one time I did camp there, we had little time for anything but setting up camp and then tearing it back down for our one-night stay.  But during our recent day trip, I was able to see so much more of the island, and really appreciate this historic and pristine piece of Cape Cod. And, on our journey, we found an actual message in a bottle, washed up on the sand!  The letter inside asked for a response, and as a writer, I was thrilled to comply.  Already, ideas about a character finding a message in a bottle are providing the inspiration for a new novel.

In the meantime, my latest Work-In-Progress, tentatively titled Dangerous Currents, does involve the Waquoit Nature reserve, if not Washburn Island itself.  I love drawing from local history for my stories, as I've done with Gull Harbor and Haunted Souls.  If you'd like to visit Cape Cod via my novels (along with some steamy romance and spooky suspense), check out the links!  And if you get to visit here in person, don't miss the beauty and history of Washburn Island.  

My husband walking the trail that was once a paved road
used by army vehicles during WWII


  1. I would love to go to Cape Cod. Ever since I was a kid, I've fantasized about finding a real message in a bottle. Really neat that you found one.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Chrys! It really was an amazing find, I still can't believe it happened!