Let’s address the 800-pound gorilla in the room right from the get-go. After Memorial Day, traveling to Cape Cod can be an excruciating exercise. There’s just no way around it. Ever a popular destination, the Cape swells to crazy numbers during the summer, when world-weary visitors try to find their escape, only to run headlong into other visitors with the same exact idea.
Even by conservative estimates, the Cape’s summer population balloons 50 percent in the summer months, to roughly 500,000 from an offseason total of 215,000. Ugh! Now add day-trippers and all those extra vehicles, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a king-sized logjam on the roads, at the beaches and in the restaurants.
Given that scenario, it’s all the more important to find little pockets of peace and quiet, simple corners of blessed relief. My suggestion? Book a stay at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club in Brewster, a AAA Four Diamond-rated property. This magnificent resort, voted “Best Resort, Cape Cod” by Boston magazine and one of the “Top 25 Resorts in New England: Readers’ Choice Awards 2019” by Condé Nast Traveler, is set on 430 acres that includes numerous lodging options, miles of coastline, tennis courts (rentals and lessons available), a 26-mile bike trail and five pools (including two indoor), access to the private Bay Pines Beach, almost countless on-site activities, and an outstanding Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
Yet, despite all the options that guests have at their beck and call, perhaps the greatest pleasure found at Ocean Edge is its subtle, soothing sense of serenity, and even solitude. And it’s hard to put a price on that.
Now, that’s not to say you’ll be all by your lonesome at Ocean Edge. This is a popular destination, for a number of very good reasons (and we’ll get into those in just a minute). But this sprawling property is so big, with so many options, that it’s easy to find your own little oasis.
This is a place that exudes history. Samuel Nickerson, who traced his ancestors back to the Mayflower, returned to Boston in 1888 and purchased the original 1,800-acre estate from his father-in-law. The property included the original Fieldstone Hall, a windmill and private game preserve. In 1906, Fieldstone Hall burned to the ground, leaving only the foundation. Today, the historic Tudor-style Nickerson Mansion, rebuilt in 1912, is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, conserving the immaculately detailed wood-paneled libraries and game rooms and grand staircases.
For accommodations, Ocean Edge’s 337 guest rooms are divided between East Wing and West Wing of the Mansion and the Presidential Bay Collection villas, spacious structures that overlook the sand dunes, private beach and the shimmering waters of Cape Cod Bay, and the Villages, situated alongside the golf course, bike trail and Blueberry Pond. Just below the Mansion, the East Wing and West Wing boast 90 guest rooms, ranging from a 480-square-foot Signature King guest room to the 1,200-square-foot Grand Corner Suite. All rooms can accommodate up to four guests. The Grand Corner Suites boast two gas fireplaces, bamboo floors, kitchenettes, flat-screen TVs, expanded bathrooms with Jacuzzi tub and separate dining area.
The 31 Presidential Bay Collection villas and townhouses offer two- and three-bedroom villas, between 1,200 and 1,400 square feet. These multi-level villas house six to eight guests and are fully equipped with all the comforts of home, including a large living area with pull-out sleeper sofa bed, dining area, kitchenette with refrigerator and electric cook top, flat-screen TV, fireplace, walkout deck, washer and dryer. The Three-Bedroom Waterfront Villa also boasts stunning views of the beach and bay from a private balcony.
All rooms are exceptionally well-appointed with plush furnishings, coffee maker, iPod docking stations and attractive artwork, with abundant natural light and complimentary WiFi (in case you have to work, or check on your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, without tapping into your data), plus comfy robes and slippers. Several units also feature whirlpool tubs.
On-site dining options range from the marvelous, open-air Ocean Terrace off the back of the Mansion — with “snacks” ranging from Chatham mussels (highly recommended), crab cakes and steak tacos, and entrees like butter poached Maine lobster, beef tenderloin, and cast iron lamb loin chop — to the cozy (sometimes crowded) 32-seat Beach Bar perched atop the local dunes with dazzling views as far as Provincetown, and Bayzo’s Pub, an English-style tavern in the Mansion’s lower level. All three venues offer custom, handcrafted cocktails (I prefer the Cape Cod Cranberry Mojito, while my wife can’t resist the dessert-worthy Sand Dune Mudslide), a nice selection of specialty draft beers, and an inspired wine list.
The resort’s staff, from wait persons to housecleaning crew, lend an international flare to Ocean Edge, coming from throughout New England and around the world, due to the J-1 exchange visitor program available to the hospitality industry. During our short stay, we had waiters from Romania and Argentina, and a bartender who grew up right next door on the Cape. Everyone on the staff wore masks and adhered to social distancing guidelines.
“We want our guests to enjoy themselves, but most of all, we want them to feel safe,” said Leon Bolivar, the resort’s marketing director.
The Mansion and Carriage House (the latter dates back to 1890) also boast expansive, well-lighted spaces, including a cavernous ballroom, that are perfect for sizable gatherings, such as weddings, family reunions and business meetings. The Carriage House, a popular choice for smaller wedding parties, also hosts a number of events, like the Harry Potter Camps for youngsters. The broad, bright green front yard between the Mansion and Route 6A is typically filled with guests enjoying age-old activities from bygone eras, including croquet, archery, badminton and even the occasional baseball clinic hosted by the local Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod Baseball League (the league, sadly, canceled its season this summer due to the pandemic).
On the south side of Route 6A, the Villages at Ocean Edge is a terrific collection of one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, ranging in size from 750 square feet to 1,400, with the ability to sleep up to eight guests. In fact, the resort recently completed a $5.5 million renovation of its 116 one-bedroom Britterige Villas.
Well-equipped kitchenettes and ample dining space are a big plus for self-sufficient guests, and the resort has added a non-contact grocery delivery service due to coronavirus concerns. If you don’t feel like preparing your own meals, you can grab a bite at indoor/outdoor Linx Tavern or the Shark Bah [sic] at the Arbor Pool (the resort also has implemented “grab-n-go” dining options at all its restaurants).
Throughout Ocean Edge, the luxurious mattresses, linens and lofty down pillows in every climate-controlled suite, room and villa promise a solid night’s rest after a day full of almost any activity you choose, from golfing, cycling, tennis, paddleboarding and kayaking to sightseeing and shopping. Each room also comes with concierge service, flower delivery, free newspaper, resort shuttle service, pool access, business center access, and use of a fitness center (with cardio and weight rooms, as well as a variety of classes, such as pilates, yoga, aqua fitness and spinning).
Water sports fans have the rare choice between saltwater at the private Bay Pines Beach near the Mansion or freshwater at Blueberry Pond. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available at both locations. (About the only amenity not available to guests of the Villages is access to Bay Pines Beach. Instead, they receive passes to the town’s Crosby Beach, and a free shuttle is available.) The five tennis courts at the Mansion feature Har-Tru synthetic clay, which is a true pleasure, while the Villages offers both tennis and pickleball courts. Both locations also have indoor pools and fitness centers.
Cycling fans who don’t want to bother bringing their own rigs can rent one from the resort’s fleet of Freedom Flyer cruiser bikes to go pedaling along the fabulous Cape Cod Rail Trail. In response to the pandemic, the resort has added new private experiences, including oyster tours (a unique glimpse into this local delicacy), archery lessons, private dining parties and private beach fires.
“Any amenity we offer, we can turn into a private event,” said Bolivar.
Don’t want to leave the family pooch at home during your Cape escape? No problem. With a number of dog-friendly beaches and trails, the Cape is open for business for your four-legged friends. Ocean Edge allows pets in a limited number of rooms at the Villages (with a max of two pets per room). An extra fee applies, and guests should be aware that pets must always be on a leash outside the room and aren’t allowed in the resort’s public areas, including the lobby, restaurants, pools, beach, fitness facilities, spa and golf course. That’s fair, since no one should assume that everyone is a “dog person.”
The resort’s Nicklaus-designed golf course deserves special praise. Even in a land filled with outstanding courses, this one stands out as a gem. Exquisitely designed (incorporating the talents of Geoffrey Cornish and Brian Silva as well as Nicklaus) and meticulously maintained, with sweeping vistas and a rippled unpredictable landscape featuring dramatic elevation changes, the Troon Prive course is both a test of shotmaking skill and a sight to behold. At 7,011 yards, the par-72 course rewards golfers who can drive with power, but only if they can control where the ball is going, with a number of doglegs that are particularly vexing. In short, it’s a high-risk, high-reward course that doesn’t allow errors without consequence.
Though it’s tempting to bunker down at Ocean Edge, the surrounding community of Brewster also is a treasure trove of attractions. For nature lovers, check out the 1,900-acre Nickerson State Park, featuring a number of unique kettle ponds, or the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, with its educational exhibits on local natural history and archeology, including an outdoor butterfly house and 400 acres of museum- and town-owned conservation land. For more history, check out the Stony Brook Grist Mill and Museum or the grand Victorian, Crosby Mansion.
On the retail side of the ledger, the world-renown gallery at Sydenstricker Glass provides a sampling of the glistening works of the late Bill Sydenstricker and his apprentices. The HandCraft House, Lemon Tree Pottery, Stringe Gallery Art & Antiques (located directly across the street from the Mansion property), and Brewster Bird House at Woodworks Gallery are other artisan hot spots.
Want a real taste of local flavor? Stop by the Brewster Store, which dates back to 1866, at the intersection of Routes 124 and 6A, or the Brewster Farmer’s Market.
Consider booking a treatment at the resort’s spa, the Beach House, located between the two properties on Route 6A. Signature treatments include the intensive hydrating Ultimate Zen Ritual, the Oligomer Replenishing Body Scrub & Massage, the Beach House Massage and the Ocean Air Oxygen Facial. The spa also offers a number of introductory wellness activities designed to re-energize guests, from meditation to acupuncture to relaxation sessions on the beach.
By day’s end, Ocean Edge will leave you rejuvenated and re-energized. And that’s something no traffic jam can steal from you. At least until it’s time to leave.
Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club
2907 Main St., Brewster, MA 02631 | 508-896-9000 | oceanedge.com