Onset, MA | Points of Interest

Onset Bluffs, Onset Pier, Porter's Thermometer Museum

Staying in Onset: Hotels, Motels & Resorts, B&B's & Inns, Upper Cape Rentals, Last-Minute Lodging

About Onset

The statue of an Indian maiden overlooks a bluff in Onset. Photo by John Fitts.

From any point in Onset, a village of Wareham, visitors are within a minute's walk to the shore. For a spectacular view, stand on the bluff at Shell Point, where West and South Boulevards meet.  Some of Onset's finest Victorian homes are along this Boulevard.

Onset Pier was built close to the sight of the original 1877 Wharf. The beach along Onset Ave. overlooks Wicket and Onset Islands.

During prohibition, rum-runners used to hide liquor on Wicket Island; legends tell of buried pirate treasure on Onset Island. The town developers planned logically. Streets run East and West, Avenues North and South. Boulevards circumvent the village.

In 1666, the settlers of Plimoth Plantation purchased over 8,000 acres of land from the native people, whose regional affiliation was with the Wampanoags. The plantation was named Agawam, which meant "The Sandy Landing Place" in the Algonquin dialect.

Over the years, the village assumed many names, including "Old Pan" after the large evaporation pans used in the manufacture of salt. At one time it was also called "Pine Point" after a grove of majestic oaks and pines which grew to the very edge of the high bluffs.

In the 1870s, summer holidays by the sea and spiritual "camp meetings" became fashionable. Drawn by the natural beauty of the area, a group of spiritual Boston businessmen purchased 150 acres of land for campgrounds and established the Onset Bay Grove Association.

The association soon developed streets and parks and sold lots for summer residences. Over the next decade, hundreds of summer cottages dotted the landscape. The Old Colony Railroad ran a line exclusively for the Onset Bay Grove Association, and businesses, which catered to the growing tourist population, emerged. Onset Village became one of the most fashionable, well-known resorts of the time.