Welcome to Orleans
As the only town on Cape Cod without an English or Native American name, Orleans is thusly called in honor of Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, in acknowledgement of the assistance France provided the colonies during the American Revolution. Positioned where the Lower Cape bends toward the Outer Cape, Orleans is truly a magical merging of land and sea. The town takes environmental preservation seriously, just as residents and visitors also rejoice in the wide variety of recreational activities available on ponds, in parks, and especially on the scenic stretches of ocean and bay beaches.
From the fun and surf of Nauset Beach on the Atlantic to the stunning sunsets and tidal pools of Skaket Beach on the bay, Orleans is replete with aquatic opportunities. An early economy based around salt and fish has led to a modern-day emphasis on kayaking, paddle boarding, ecotourism, boating, and other water sports. Landlubbers have plenty to relish as well, with acres of forested woodlands, meadows, marshes, and bogs in which to stroll, bike, birdwatch, and relax.
The quiet residential streets of Orleans contain venerable family compounds, cozy cottages, convenient condos, and majestic beachfront estates, and many of the local businesses are small independent shops with personalized services. Commercial hubs include areas on both Route 6A and Route 28, with local seafood markets, a candlepin bowling alley, and a craft brewery among the options for food and fun.
Orleans has experienced remarkable historic events. In 1897 a Trans-Atlantic cable linking the U.S. to France was installed in Town Cove. Artifacts are housed in the French Cable Station Museum a historic telegraph station. During the war of 1812, the town was attacked by a British Navy landing party and over 100 years later, in 1918, a German U-Boat on a search and destroy mission approached the coast of Orleans and fired toward shore. A passing tugboat was sunk, luckily with no fatalities, and Orleans became the only U.S. site of attack by the Germans in World War I. Another famous vessel can be found each summer in Orleans. Coast Guard Lifeboat CG-36500, which was used to rescue crewmen of the SS Pendleton, which floundered off Chatham during a hazardous winter storm in 1952, is seasonally docked at Rock Harbor where visitors are welcome to come take a look.
Housed in a unique and historic arena theater in East Orleans, the nonprofit Academy of Performing Arts stages year-round theatrical productions and offers educational opportunities in the performing arts. There is a good selection of fine art galleries throughout town too, including the renowned Addison Art Gallery, which has been featuring emerging artists and established masters for more than 25 years. The seasonal Artist Cottages at the Orleans Market Square are home to Cape Cod-inspired visual artists and artisans.
Orleans is one of just 32 Massachusetts communities to be officially designated a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Encompassing sections of both Route 6A and Main Street, the Orleans Cultural District is filled with art galleries, museums, antique shops, and historic sites, such as the circa-1720 Jonathan Young Windmill. The Orleans Firebirds are a team in the Eastern Division of the celebrated Cape Cod Baseball League, and they play their home games at Eldredge Park.
Orleans is home to Orleans Elementary School, for town children from kindergarten through fifth grade, and Nauset Regional Middle School, which serves sixth, seventh, and eighth graders from Orleans, Brewster, Wellfleet, and Eastham. High school students attend Nauset Regional High School in Eastham, or Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Harwich. The Partnership School is a private elementary school in Orleans for preschool through grade six.
Points of Interest
Academy of Performing Arts, Addison Art Gallery, Cape Cod Rail Trail, French Cable Station Museum, Jonathan Young Windmill, Nauset Beach, Rock Harbor, Skaket Beach, Town Cove.