Washburn Island is located on the south side of the Cape in Waquoit Bay between Falmouth to the west and Mashpee to the east. It can easily take up most of a day and can be a mix of the natural beauty of Cape Cod and gawking at some beautiful homes.
Washburn Island and the surrounding bay are a beautiful place to kayak. Like most places on Cape Cod, the best time to go is in the off season so that there is a minimum of motorized boat traffic. Spring can be tough weather wise so your best bet is in the fall. All of September and the early part of October can be perfect. It is a lot of area to cover so plan on spending most, if not all of the day. So pack a lunch and be sure to keep an eye on the tide times.
PUTTING IN AND PARKING
Putting in for Washburn Island could not be much easier. There is a public boat ramp at the end of Whites Landing Road in Falmouth, which is off Rout 28.
You will have to put your kayak in at the boat ramp and park your car in the dirt lot at the intersection of Whites Landing Road and Route 28. There will be plenty of parking during the week in the Fall but I am not sure of weekends or during the season.
ABOUT WASHBURN ISLAND
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Washburn Island, and ‘Menauhant’ (the Native American name) was mostly cleared for livestock grazing and small scale agriculture. At the end of the 19th century businessman Henry Bryant purchased the island and built a grand summer cottage. The eclectic Colonial-Revival residence included a large barn and servant’s quarters. In 1912, Bryant’s widow sold most of the island to a group of investors including Albert Henry Washburn. The cottage was lost to fire in 1926, and the former estate fell into disrepair.
Between 1942 and 1944, the island served as the Camp Edward’s Engineer Amphibian Command and became one of the Army’s principle amphibious training grounds. Washburn Island has been referred to as “the cradle of our European invasion,” as the men who trained on its shores went on to spearhead the assaults at Oran, Algeria; Salerno, Italy; and Normandy, France. Toward the end of the war, the base was used as an “R & R” center for convalescing soldiers from nearby Camp Edwards. The island was acquired by the Commonwealth in 1983.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
This is a nice little river to spend some time paddling. There may also be some good fishing but have not had the chance to try. The water is very shallow at the entrance and in the first 100 feet or so. Keep an eye on low tide or you will have to drag out your kayak.
Here are two ponds that are not very large but can be fun to spend some time. Lots of opportunity to see some pretty cool sea life like horshow crabs and smaller fish. Nice places to get out of the wind and have some lunch in a a very quiet place.
These are great places to explore and check out the waterfront homes. These are not large ponds where you can get lost but having some GPS with you can help to avoid missing some of the smaller, hidden areas to paddle.
BIG LITTLE PONDS
Here are two larger ponds that are fun to spend some time. Both are difficult to access at low tide so watch your timing. But both places are full of Cape Cod wildflife and are beautiful places to laze around for a couple of hours.
You can access the ocean through the these two access points. Both are used by power boats so be VERY CAERFUL Both have pretty strong currents during tide changes, especially the eastern side, and the ocean side can be very choppy if the wind is kicking, which is often. The beach between the two access points is nice and secluded so bring your beach towels.
MORE LAZY RIVERS
The two rivers on the west are nice for gawking at some oceanfront homes. I must admit I haven’t paddled the western river but I am sure it is nice. Boats go very slow in these areas so paddling is not a problem. I nice way to end the day with a slow paddle and admiring some of the homes.
This is one of the nicest places to paddle for a full day and it is not a “one and done” paddle either. If you see everything in one day, you paddled too fast and missed a lot. This is a great place to paddle two or three times a year and not get bored. During the week in the fall off-season is best because there will be less power boating going on but the summer is still great. Just be careful because Washburn Island is a very popular day boating destination and not everyone is looking for or respecting the paddler.