19. Billingsgate Shoal, Eastham
Once a thriving fishing community, Billingsgate Island was a 60-acre island located at the mouth of Wellfleet Harbor. Named after the famous Billingsgate Fish Market in London, the island was a haven for fishermen and whalers, providing access to rich shellfish beds. At its peak, Billingsgate Island boasted 30 homes, a schoolhouse, and a lighthouse that served as a beacon for mariners along Cape Cod.
However, the island's fate was sealed by the relentless forces of nature. Storms and strong tides gradually eroded the island, and in 1855, a particularly violent storm cut Billingsgate Island in two. Despite attempts to preserve the island with a seawall, erosion continued at an alarming rate, and the lighthouse was finally abandoned in 1915. By 1942, Billingsgate Island was completely submerged beneath the waters of Cape Cod Bay.
Today, the remains of Billingsgate Island can be seen at low tide, revealing a ghostly collection of foundations, brick pathways, and the remnants of the once-bustling community. The site is a popular destination for kayaking, birdwatching, and exploring the rich history of Cape Cod.
What makes Billingsgate Shoal unique:
- A former island with a rich history of fishing and whaling
- Now submerged beneath Cape Cod Bay, visible at low tide
- A popular spot for kayaking, birdwatching, and exploring history
Tips for visiting Billingsgate Shoal:
- Check the tide tables to plan your visit for low tide
- Be aware of the strong currents and winds in the area
- Bring appropriate footwear for exploring the rocky shoreline
Billingsgate Shoal is a fascinating reminder of the ever-changing nature of Cape Cod's coastline. While the island may be gone, its legacy lives on in the stories of the people who once called it home and the natural beauty that still surrounds it.