In New England: Sea captain's mansion makes unusual Cape retreat
Funky. Fun. Family-friendly. The Orleans Inn is not your average Cape Cod motel. It even looks different, standing out, and up, from the Cape's usual spread of low beach buildings.
The Orleans Inn occupies a former grand, private, Victorian sea captain's mansion located on a cove near the rotary that takes travelers from the arm at Wellfleet, Eastham and Truro out to the fist that is Provincetown. It's taller than any other structures around, with a distinctive mansard roof and cupola, the latter built originally to welcome home Captain Aaron Snow from his voyages in the late 1800s.
As then, the inn owners keep a little pine tree up there for the sailor to see from his ship. Traditions are important to the Ed Maas family, which bought the building at auction in 1996 and saved it from becoming a parking lot.
Laurie and Ed Maas and their seven children, all of whom have worked in one capacity or another to restore and manage the inn, treat it as their family home, and guests enjoy comfortable, newly appointed accommodations and award-winning dinners in the large old dining room replete with fresh, local seafood. Every Friday night is Irish Night, with live music in O'Hagan's Irish Pub, named after Ed Maas' mother, Kathleen (O'Hagan) Maas, who was born in County Down, Ireland.
Victorian picnics, July Fourth parade-watching from the cupola, cocktails on the outdoor decks overlooking Town Cove, which leads to the sea, and stories about the resident ghosts - and the secret front closet that hid alcohol during Prohibition - are part of the ambience.
Only five minutes from the inn is the beginning of the National Seashore and Nauset Beach, a favorite spot for surfers. Bikers can take the trail through nearby Nickerson State Park. And also a few minutes away is the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
If you're a history buff, Ed Maas will tell you as much about the Cape in Victorian times as you're willing to absorb.
The Orleans Inn is at 3 Old County Road in Orleans. For reservations, call 800-863-3039 or log on to www.orleansinn.com. Rates are $175-$300 per night.
(Read more travel features and the Get Away with Fran blog at www.wickedlocal.com/getaway.)