Nickerson State Park in Brewster is an ideal summer destination for families, friends, and couples looking for a serene and peaceful place to spend their vacations. It is a popular attraction that offers plenty of outdoor recreational activities for all ages.
Nickerson State Park covers over 1,900 acres of pristine woodlands, ponds, and campgrounds. The park is known for its picturesque beauty and tranquil surroundings, making it a favorite among nature enthusiasts. The park was named after Roland C. Nickerson, who donated the land to the state of Massachusetts in the early 1900s.
Camping at Nickerson State Park
If you’re a camping enthusiast looking for a natural setting, Nickerson State Park is the place to be. The park has over 400 spaces across eight camping areas, each with its own unique charm. Nickerson is a cheap alternative to avoid expensive rentals or worn down hotels on Cape Cod.
The campsites at Nickerson are spacious and well-maintained, with fire pits and picnic tables. You can choose from tent sites or trailer sites depending on your preference. Most sites are wooded and they offer varying levels of privacy. Reserve early in the season to get sites with lots of room or near trails down to the ponds.
Many camping areas are situated around several freshwater ponds, which offer stunning views and recreational opportunities. There are also parking areas near these ponds for easy access, great if you’re lugging stuff for your family. The park has modern restrooms, free hot showers, and a dump station for campers’ convenience. Nickerson’s campground is very family-friendly, with activities for kids and adults alike planned throughout the summer.
In addition to traditional camping, Nickerson State Park also offers group camping for large families or groups of friends. The group sites have access to electricity and are close to the park’s amenities, including the beach and hiking trails.
Hiking and Biking Trails
Nickerson State Park has over 400 acres of woodlands, ponds, and trails that are perfect for hiking and biking. You can explore the park’s natural beauty and scenic routes by renting a bike or by taking a leisurely walk on one of the many trails. Our favorite easy loop for beginners is the path around Little Cliff Pond which starts in the beach parking lot.
The park also has an 8 mile paved bike path that connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which stretches for 22 miles through 6 towns of Cape Cod. Rail trail access can be found right near the park entrance. The Rail trail gives you access to locations across the Cape, and is great for families on short rides as well as for serious bikers on all-day trips to attractions that are further away.
The hiking trails in Nickerson State Park are well-maintained and suitable for hikers and mountain bikers of all skill levels. The park has several trailheads that lead to different parts of the park, including the Cranberry Bog Trail, the Cliff Pond Trail, and the Maple Swamp Trail. The trails are marked with signage, making it easy to navigate through the park’s dense forests and lush wetlands. There are also fire roads which provide nice hiking or mountain biking options through undeveloped cape cod nature at its best.
One of the highlights of hiking in Nickerson State Park is the stunning views of the freshwater ponds available on many trails. The park’s ponds are surrounded by lush vegetation, and many of them have sandy beaches where you can take a break from hiking and go for a swim. Remember to bring bug spray and watch out for ticks.
Fishing at Nickerson State Park
Fishing enthusiasts will love Nickerson, which has several freshwater ponds with trout, bass, and other fish species. You can fish from the shore, or you can bring a small boat or rent a kayak to try your luck in the deeper waters.
The park’s ponds are well-stocked with trout and offer excellent fishing opportunities. Check out the stocking schedule. Fishing is allowed year-round in the park, although certain ponds are closed during the winter months. See below for more information about the Nickerson State Park ponds.
Swimming and Boating at Nickerson State Park
If you’re looking for a place to cool off on a hot summer day, Nickerson State Park has several freshwater ponds with sandy beaches and clear water. The park has four main swimming beaches, including Flax Pond, Cliff Pond, and Higgins Pond. The beaches are supervised by lifeguards during the summer months, making them safe for families with children.
In addition to swimming, the ponds at Nickerson State Park are perfect for boating and kayaking. You can rent a canoe, kayak, or rowboat from the park’s rental office and explore the ponds at your own pace. The park also allows motorized boats on some of the ponds, although there are restrictions on the size and speed of the boats.
There is a daily parking fee charged May 14 through October 30 for access to the ponds at Nickerson State Park.
Flax Pond is one of the most popular swimming beaches in Nickerson State Park. It has a sandy beach with clear water and is supervised by lifeguards during the summer months. The beach is perfect for families with children, as the water is shallow off of the beach. There are also picnic tables and restrooms available. Parking for Flax Pond is located right next to the beach, making it easily accessible.
Flax Pond is a 48 acre kettle pond with a maximum depth of 75 feet. It is a great spot for fishing, with stocked trout, smallmouth bass, bullhead, and sunfish being the most commonly caught fish. You’ll need to wade out a bit to reach deeper water. Trout are stocked in spring and fall, and some holdover trout (mainly brown trout) survive.
Kayaks and stand up paddle board rentals are available at Flax Pond. Call ahead to reserve yours during the summer season. Only boats with electric motors are allowed. View depth chart and fishing info for Flax Pond.
Flax Pond is accessible on foot from camping areas 1, 2, and 5.
Cliff Pond is another popular swimming beach in Nickerson State Park. It is a 206 acre pond with a maximum depth of 96 feet. The undeveloped shoreline is 2.6 miles long. The beach has a sandy bottom and clear water, making it ideal for swimming. There are several areas with beach access.
Parking for Cliff Pond is located a short distance away from the beach on Flax Pond Road, or you can access the beach on the other side on Nook Road, where the boat launch is located. . It is accessible on foot from camping areas 4, 6, and 6x. The beach is supervised by lifeguards during the summer months and has restrooms and changing rooms available. There are also picnic tables and charcoal grills available for public use.
Cliff Pond is a great spot for fishing, with plentiful stocked trout, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch being commonly caught. For kids just chuck out a worm on the book and you’ll catch pumpkinseeds or bluegills as fast as the bobber hits the water.
To reach the deepest depths to target trout on hot summer days, walk to the left of the main beach by the parking area on Flax Pond Road until you reach the next beach on the strip of land located between Cliff and Little Cliff ponds. It can get quite busy in the summertime.
View depth chart and more fishing info for Cliff Pond.
Little Cliff Pond
Little Cliff Pond is a hidden gem in Nickerson State Park. It is a small pond with a sandy beach and clear water, making it perfect for swimming. It is accessible from camping areas 6 and 7.
There’s a small boat launch area in the main parking lot for small boats with electric motors, but no beach access on that side. The beach on the other side of the pond from the parking area, and can be reached by trails from the main parking lot or down the sandy path from the adjacent camping area. Little Cliff Pond’s beach is unsupervised, so caution is advised when swimming. There are no restrooms or changing rooms available, but there are picnic tables available for public use.
Little Cliff Pond is a great spot for fishing as well, with stocked trout (spring and fall) and largemouth bass being commonly caught. Bass can be caught by taking a rowboat or kayak and fishing up to the grass and lilly pads that surround much of the pond. There’s also a few areas to fish from shore. If you’re not having luck finding a place to cast out you can easily walk over to Big Cliff Pond which is much larger and deeper.
Higgins Pond is a serene freshwater pond located in Nickerson State Park that isn’t easily accessible by car. The pond is 25 acres with a depth of 66 feet and clear waters.
You can reach it by walking on the trail around Little Cliff pond. Higgins has a sandy beach with clear water, making it a perfect spot for swimming. The real draw here is the hike to reach it, so it’s a lot quieter than the Cliff or Flax pond beaches. Great stop to picnic if you’re walking or biking the trails.
Higgins pond used to be for catch-and-release fishing only, but now you can eat your catch. Cartop boats or canoes are allowed but only with electric motors. The access road isn’t the best, use caution.
The most commonly caught fish at this spot are stocked trout, bullhead catfish, and pumpkinseeds. Fly fishing with smelt imitations, streamers, or nymphs is a good option here. View depth chart and fishing info for Higgins Pond.
Other Nickerson State Park ponds
Other ponds at Nickerson State Park include Eel Pond, Keeler Pond, and Grassy Nook Pond.
Warning about Cyanobacteria blooms
Cyanobacteria blooms are a natural occurrence that can happen in the Nickerson State Park ponds. Cyanobacteria are a type of algae that can sometimes reproduce rapidly, leading to what is known as a bloom. These blooms can produce harmful toxins that can be dangerous for both humans and pets. If you notice signs saying don’t swim or fish, use caution!
Cyanobacteria blooms typically occur during the summer months when water temperatures are warmer, and the amount of nutrients in the water is high. The blooms can look like blue-green scum on the surface of the water, or they may cause the water to turn a greenish color. They can also have a musty or foul odor.
It is important to avoid contact with water that has a visible cyanobacteria bloom, as well as any water that looks discolored or murky. Ingesting water with high levels of cyanobacteria toxins can cause a range of symptoms, including skin irritation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Pets can be especially vulnerable to cyanobacteria blooms, as they may be more likely to swim in or drink the water. Signs of cyanobacteria poisoning in pets include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and even death.
If you suspect that you or your pet may have been exposed to cyanobacteria toxins, seek medical attention immediately. It is also important to report any suspected cyanobacteria blooms to park officials so that they can take appropriate action. Avoiding contact with affected water is the best way to stay safe and healthy while enjoying the ponds at Nickerson State Park.
If you plan on bringing your furry friend along to Nickerson State Park, it is important to be aware of the rules and regulations regarding dogs. Here are some important guidelines to keep in mind:
On the beaches of the ponds:
- Dogs are not allowed on any of the beaches at Nickerson State Park, with the exception of Flax Pond during the off-season (from October 1st to April 30th).
- Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times when outside of the campground area.
- Dog owners are required to clean up after their pets and dispose of waste properly.
- Dogs are not allowed in any of the bathhouses, restrooms, or picnic areas.
- Dogs are not allowed in the water or on boats.
Since you can’t have dogs at the beaches in Nickerson, check out our guide to dog-friendly beaches on Cape Cod or pet-friendly restaurants in Brewster.
In the campground:
- Dogs are allowed in the campground area, but must be kept on a leash at all times.
- Dogs are not allowed in any of the bathhouses or restrooms.
- Dog owners are required to clean up after their pets and dispose of waste properly.
- Dogs must be kept quiet and under control at all times to respect other campers.
It is important to note that failure to comply with these rules and regulations may result in a fine or even expulsion from the park. Keeping your dog under control and respecting the rules of the park will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
If you’re staying here with your dog, check out other dog friendly activities in Brewster.
Other Outdoor Activities at Nickerson State Park
Nickerson State Park has plenty of other outdoor activities to offer, including picnicking, horseback riding, and bird watching. The park has several picnic areas with tables and grills, making it a perfect place for a family barbecue or a romantic picnic with your loved one.
The park also has a horseback riding trail that takes you through the scenic woodlands and ponds. The trail is open from mid-April to mid-November, and you can rent horses from the park’s stables.
Nickerson State Park is also a paradise for bird watchers, with over 190 bird species spotted in the park. You can spot bald eagles, ospreys, and great blue herons, among other species, in the park’s wetlands and forests.
There’s some good restaurants nearby and lots of shopping down route 6A. When you camp at Nickerson you’ll be a close drive to the beaches of Brewster, as well as Nauset Beach and Skaket Beaches in Orleans.
If you’re looking for a nice sunset, Nickerson is located near several public beaches in Brewster that offer great opportunities for sunsets. There really aren’t any good sunset opportunities within the park except at the ponds, but typically when it gets dark then the bugs come out so be prepared.
Brewster is also home to the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, which is a great place for families to visit on their vacation. There’s a nice long trail leading to the beach there that’s a good day trip as well.
In conclusion, Nickerson State Park is a perfect destination for anyone looking for a peaceful and serene getaway on Cape Cod. The park’s natural beauty, recreational activities, and historical sites make it a popular attraction for families, couples, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Whether you’re camping, hiking, fishing, or simply lounging on the beach, Nickerson State Park has something for everyone. So pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and head to Nickerson State Park for an unforgettable vacation on Cape Cod.