Demand is pent up, temperatures are trending up, and with 50% of Massachusetts fully vaccinated, spirits are up. Everybody is ready to travel again. It feels important for these first forays back out into the world to be successful, easy, fun. At the family-friendly Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club on Cape Cod in Brewster, the 429-acre property’s private beach, 4 pool areas open to guests, 9 tennis courts, 6 pickleball courts, and 7 restaurants (plus room service) are ready to go. So is the line-up of planned summer activities for the kids, along with the manicured and challenging 18-hole golf course, the only Nicklaus-designed links on the Cape. There’s also a lineup of Private Experiences such as beach fires, archery, and picnics.
Ocean Edge is all primped and polished and ready to have its “hot resort” summer.
We were invited to visit the 337-room resort as part of a press tour. Because we have the sense we were born with, we said yes and set out for the mid-Cape location, a sub two-hour drive from Wellesley. Our room, meals, and excursion expenses were paid for by Ocean Edge.
Accommodations at the year-round resort straddle route 6A. On one side is the historic Nickerson Mansion, which dates from 1912 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A rolling lawn leads up to the stucco and red-clay roofed structure, which houses guests within two adjoining wings, as well as in a collection of Presidential Bay Collection villas, many with water views. We stayed in the West Wing, and enjoyed a 580 sq. ft. room with a sitting area; a balcony accessed by a sliding-glass door; a dressing area; and a large bathroom. The king-sized bed was possibly the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve ever slept in. It had everything going for it—not too hard, not too soft—you get the idea.
Across 6A—part of the nostalgic, meandering and distinctive 34-mile stretch which this year was designated a National Scenic Byway—are The Villages, one-, two-, and three-bedroom multi-level villas with kitchens and washer/dryers. The one-bedroom accommodations do not have access to Ocean Edge’s private beach, however, a shuttle takes guests to nearby Crosby Landing Beach.
Select villas are pet-friendly.
Visiting the oyster farm
Our visit included a combination of on-site and off-site activities including a farm on which the animals thrive on saltwater. Once the tide went out exposing over a mile of the Brewster Flats, it was time for us to meet up with Bud for our tour of Brian Daley’s oyster farm. Bud explained that oysters are started from small seed or “spat” of only 3-5 millimeters. Because the oysters need something to cling to in order to grow, oyster farmers put the seed in mesh bags and trays that are anchored to the bay floor. The oysters then slowly grow while filter-feeding on phytoplankton that come with each rising tide. It takes about three years for an oyster to mature.
As the oysters grow, they are transferred to larger mesh bags and cages until they reach 85-90 millimeters. “We cage them because we’re open on the Brewster Flats to storms and inclement weather. We grow the oysters in cages so we don’t lose them,” Bud said. “People who eat a lot of oysters pretend they can taste the difference between a Brewster oyster and a Wellfleet oyster,” he continued. “I can’t tell the difference, and I eat a lot of oysters.”
So take that, self-styled oyster connoisseurs.
Oyster farm tours are $100 per tour and are reserved for guests and members. We toured the Flats barefoot, but water shoes would have been a good idea.
Eating in or out
Our time there wasn’t all wading around in Cape Cod Bay and learning about the local ecosystems. We ate at great restaurants, both on and off-site. The resort has 7 dining spots, from the breakfast-only Roscommon Room, to Bayzo’s, an old-fashioned pub scene located on the lower level of the Mansion where guests can sip craft beer and enjoy comforting, family-friendly plates. The Linx Tavern is a great hangout spot located at the golf course clubhouse. The Ocean Terrace and the Beach Bar are also in full swing. Opening early summer: The Shark Bah at The Village’s Arbor Pool—think frozen drinks, kid-friendly sandwiches, soft serve ice cream, and more.
Opening May 28 is The Front Lawn, a concept brought about last year by the pandemic. The rolling lawn leading up to the mansion used to be just a pretty expanse that had to be mowed. With the demand for outdoor dining and activities, staff started to eye the acreage as a recreation spot that could be put to use for the enjoyment of resort guests and the public. Tented spaces have been set up to provide shade during the day, and outfitted with globe string lights so the open-air hangout can continue at night. Adults and kids alike can enjoy live music on the weekends, sail tents, lawn games and more. When we were there, Executive Chef Philip Flath was busy supervising set-up of the outdoor wood-fired brick oven. Out of its 800-degree depths will emerge fire-roasted wings and mini lobster sliders, fig & prosciutto pizza and blistered corn, s’mores pizza, and more.
An off-site place we tried out was The Brewster Fish House, a bistro that offers a seasonally changing lunch and dinner menu. They’ve taken a chunk of their parking lot and set up lots of outdoor dining space. As we waited about ten minutes for a table one of our companions sighed, “That’s the way it is on the Cape. The best places don’t take reservations.”
As our table was set, we sidled up to the wooden bar and ordered drinks. My grapefruit cosmo was a refreshing start to summer. The frozen pomegranate margarita also looked interesting, as did the Orange Line, made with Basil Hayden’s dark rye, aperol, Carpano Antica, and orange bitters. A long list of beer and wine options is also available.
For dinner, I tried out the organic Canadian salmon, with farro, fiddleheads, rutabaga gratin, and sherry jus, which was amazing. For non-seafood eaters, there are options such as lamb, or a cassoulet made with rabbit ragout and duck sausage. The creme brulee elicited oohs and ahhs from the table, and satisfied expressions from those who dove in for a taste.
Since we seemed to be alternating between great meals and fresh air activities, a whale watch made for a sensible next outing. Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, about 30 minutes down Cape from Ocean Edge, took us out to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to see humpback whales, dolphins, and a lone grey seal bobbing about in the middle of nowhere (really, seal, what was your plan there?). The whale watching company is listed by Whale Sense, an education and recognition program, as a responsible marine tour company. We remember the bad old days when 5 boats would be clustered around a pod of stressed whales, with even more boats angling for position. Those competitive Shark Tank-style days are gone, replaced with an ethos of industry collaboration in the service of whale and marine life safety and conservation.
Biologist Jon Brink was our guide on the 130 ft.-long, 28 ft.-wide boat, which has 3 viewing levels. With his 19-years experience as both an educator, and as a captain who holds his 100-ton license, he kept the trip informational and fun. When we spoke, he got a little more real, hitting me where my summertime heart lives—with lobsters. “The way you can tell that the ocean is changing is to call a fish place on Long Island and tell them you want to buy a local lobster. You can’t get local lobster on Long Island anymore. Next will be Rhode Island. Then it’ll be Massachusetts,” he warned. Warming waters, changes in currents, and changes in the pH of the water are messing with marine life development, he told me. This isn’t breaking news, but sobering nonetheless to hear it from a daily observer.
Wrapping it up
We squeezed so much more into our 3-night stay: biking on the 26-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail on Ocean Edge rental bikes; Apt Cape Cod for breakfast to experience the farm-to-table’s amazing rosemary bread; The Brewster Book Store; The Brewster General Store; and art galleries and antiques shops in easy walking distance from the resort.
Too soon, it was time for us to head home. We went to the beach one last time for cocktails and s’mores at the fire pit. As the sun set on our stay, literally and figuratively, glasses were raised, a few last selfies were snapped, and a leisurely dinner on the Ocean Terrace brought it all to a close.
Overall, the crowd at Ocean Edge was ready to have a good time, and during dinner on the Ocean Terrace I thought about some of the other guests I’d met during my stay—the woman who twirled for me when I told her those lime-green pants said summer was truly here; the gentleman on the driving range who offered encouragement to our crew of duffers; the band of bros at the Ocean Terrace, cheering on the Bruins as they won the first game in the playoff series; the kids splashing around in the West Wing indoor pool. All were thrilled they’d found their happy place, one that had nothing to do with Netflix or Zoom meetings.
It’s going to be a great summer.
The Beach House Spa: full-body massages, facials, wraps, manicures, pedicures, waxing and hair and makeup services. Five treatment rooms are available, including a couples suite. Seasonal wellness experiences, including meditation and acupuncture.
Crew on the Cape – Podcation Package: The new pod-cation package offers fun on land and on sea for pods of families or girls/guys getaways. The package includes accommodations in a two- or three-bedroom villa, a $150 resort activity credit to put towards any of the resort’s activities, as well as the choice of a whale watching tour with Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, or a seal watch or sunset cruise with Blue Claw Boat Tours.
General info on rates per night: Mansion guest rooms start from $425 and Presidential Bay Collection villas start from $995. At The Villages, one-bedroom villas start from $239, and two- and three-bedroom villas start from $620.
Getting around: from Memorial Day to Labor Day a shuttle service goes around the property on a continuous loop
Stringe Gallery Art & Antiques: Stop in to check out Tom Stringe’s beautiful Cape-focused paintings. Stop in for the fine antique furniture and accessories. Stop in to see Jim—he’s a hoot and didn’t mind that I’d interrupted his solitaire game, just Jim doing battle against an old deck of Bicycle cards. “I buy furniture for the store every day,” he said. “You’re not going to find another place like this on the Cape. We have folk art, and fine art, and the antique furniture. Some places you’ll go into say they’re antique stores, and then you go in and where are the antiques? Here, we’ve got antiques.”
Aries East Gallery: Paintings, prints, and custom framing. Owner and artist-in-residence Geoffrey Smith’s landscapes, seascapes, sporting scenes and more are in collections around the world.
The Mews at Brewster: a 7-person cooperative antiques shop open through Christmas. Treasures from generations past, country furniture and primitive art, antique chocolate molds, and a truly astonishing collection of glass.
Deborah Brown covers Travel & Leisure for The Swellesley Report and for Natick Report. You can reach her at [email protected]