North Harwich is known for cranberry bogs and horses, as well as an early Cape Verdean colony which in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries worked the cranberry bogs and later became prominent members of the community. North Harwich shares the lovely Bell's Neck Conservation Area with West Harwich. Bell's Neck is comprised of acres of marshland, tidal creeks, walking and hiking trails, a pond, and a herring run. It also boasts excellent birding, kayaking and fishing.
In the summer the Harwich Conservation Trust (508 432-3997) sponsors guided nature walks led by botanists and naturalists through the Bell's Neck area, the Bank Street Bogs Nature Preserve, Coy's Brook Woodlands, the Hawksnest Woods and along the bike path, as well as other areas in the Harwiches. There is no charge and no advance registration is necessary. Just show up and enjoy.
The seven mile long Herring River runs between Nantucket Sound and Long Pond. The first gristmill was built along the river in North Harwich by the local farming community before 1700. Neighboring farmers would bring their grain to the mill to be ground and would receive flour in exchange minus a charge or "miller's toll." Over time other local industries developed along the Herring River, including fisheries, cranberry growing and boatbuilding.
The North Harwich Cranberry Screenhouse, in use until the 1960s, still stands near the bike path. In its heyday it was a bustling cranberry screening facility where local growers brought their dry berries to be sorted and shipped off Cape on the Old Cape Railroad. Jobs as screeners were much sought after and the women who worked them usually stayed for life. Because the bike path follows the old railroad bed, it's easy to see how close the railroad was to the Screenhouse, and how very convenient it was for the cranberry growers.
Today a drive along either Main Street or Great Western Road in North Harwich, passes by acres of family-owned cranberry bogs, and it's possible to take a guided tour along the bogs in an open golf cart to learn the art of growing and harvesting the berries we've come to expect with our holiday turkey.
Sand Pond, long a favorite of locals, is a lovely area for swimming off Great Western Road. It has a large public beach, calm water, soft sand, scenic views, lifeguards and plenty of parking. All that's required is a beach sticker.
For more information contact the Brooks Museum (508) 432-8089 or the Brooks Library (508) 430-7562.
For accommodations contact the Harwich Chamber of Commerce (508) 432-1600.
Harwich Historical Society