Cape Cod and the Islands Summer Travel Attractions Fun
Sunset at Old Silver Beach in Falmouth..
Article and photos (unless otherwise noted) by Eric Hurwitz. Updated 4/29/2022.
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There are probably a million fun things to do during
a Cape Cod vacation but for bandwidth purposes and your limited
vacation time and budget, we'll focus on a chosen few.
Let's make this very clear right from the beginning: There is no better
feeling than spending a vacation on Cape Cod. One of the United States'
truly great travel destinations, this famed coastal Massachusetts
tourist destination (that is shaped like a bent arm) offers something
for everyone. Saturated with refreshing salt air and a sweet breeze,
the 70-mile stretch of Cape Cod is full of expansive, scenic
family-oriented beaches, wonderful seafood restaurants, old-fashioned,
tree-lined villages with captain's homes and charming bed and
breakfasts and inns, and a commercial (and sometimes charmingly cheesy)
element to please shopping, nightlife and miniature golf fanatics.
Where to stay on Cape Cod
Lighthouse inn, West Dennis.
You certainly won't have any shortage of places to stay on Cape
Cod. It was daunting for us to pick the right place out of all the
great choices but finally chose The Lighthouse Inn in
West Dennis. Located on scenic Nantucket Sound and contiguous with beautiful West Dennis Beach, this
historic inn sits on nine acres with a private sandy beach, heated
swimming pool, full service restaurant with water views (breakfast
included as part of the stay), guest rooms, three bedroom cottages,
family suites and tennis, shuffleboard and volleyball courts.
Breakfast at the Lighthouse Inn.
What we liked most about the Lighthouse is that nothing is contrived,
over-hyped and loud. Even though it's a large, sprawling complex,
there's a feeling of having the whole place to yourself which bodes
well to those looking for a peaceful vacation by the sea.
Beachside at the Lighthouse Inn.
Recommended Cape Cod Restaurants
The Lobster Trap in Bourne.
Cape Cod features an abundance of restaurants but be careful: Many come
across as tourist traps and/or overly expensive. With that said, some
of the restaurants that bring in tourist are quite good, especially
places like the Lobster Trap in Bourne, Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar
in Eastham, Sesuit Harbor Café in West Dennis, The Raw Bar in Mashpee, Father's Kitchen & Taphouse in Sandwich, Centerville Pie Co. in Centerville and Grumpy's in East Dennis.
The Lobster Trap (290 Shore Rd., Bourne) pleases with its
seafood menu (yes, including lobster and lobster rolls!) and indoor and
outdoor waterfront seating. This landmark restaurant also offers an
impressive fish market with freshly-caught local seafood. See our more
about The Lobster Trap in the Best
Seafood in New England article.
Lobster and Clam Bar (3580 Route 6, Eastham) has served as an
iconic seasonal seafood shack best known for its huge lobster rolls,
fried clams and ice cream. It's a wonderful Cape Cod tradition coming here for many locals and visitors.
The Raw Bar at Popponesset
Marketplace (259 Shore Dr., Mashpee) is best known for its huge
lobster rolls, chowder and drinks. Those one-pound lobster rolls, with
huge chunks of flavorful lobster meat, should amply serve two people or
one very hungry person. You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger
and better lobster this one! The Raw Bar is also a very pleasant,
casual place to be on a summer's night -- especially at its laid-back,
attractive outdoor dining area.
Lobster roll from The Raw Bar
Harbor Café (357 Sesuit Neck Rd., East Dennis) offers a classic, seasonal
clam shack dining experience that also includes outdoor seating
overlooking North Bay Marina and Cape Cod Bay. It's unpretentious,
reasonably priced and possesses the carefree Cape Cod summer atmosphere
that we all long for when thinking of this beautiful coastal vacation
land. Plenty of fried seafood and amazing lobster rolls!
Charming Cape Cod-style exterior of Sesuit Harbor Cafe.
Father's Kitchen & Taphouse (406 Route
6A, Sandwich) does not have the tourist pedigree of the others
restaurants mentioned here and comes across more as a neighborhood
restaurant and bar. It's cozy, quaint, offers 41 craft beers and does
neighborhood restaurant comfort food better than most restaurants we've
experienced in New England. Definitely try the oversized fish sandwich.
It's abundantly served with flavorful, tender fish.
Huge fish sandwich from Father's Kitchen & Taphouse.
Grumpy's (Route 6A,East Dennis) is actually
very friendly. This
welcoming, family-style breakfast and lunch restaurant serves up
delicious soups, salads, sandwiches and daily specials including
chowder, seafood platters, scallop rolls and broiled seafood.
Everything here is homemade; you'll feel right at home at this breezy,
sunny, roadside gem.
For delicious take-out meals and yummy desserts, Centerville Pie Co. (1671 Falmouth Rd., Centerville) is fantastic. They specialize in sweet and savory pies with a wonderful, unmistakable homemade taste. Oprah Winfrey named the Centerville Pie Co. chicken pie one of her "favorite things" three times -- 2009, 2012 and 2017 -- in "O Magazine!)
Chicken pie from Centerville Pie Co. Photo credit; Centerville Pie Co.
The Best Cape Cod Beaches
Smugglers Beach, South Yarmouth
The 10-mile long Nauset Beach, at 18 Bay Ridge Lane in Orleans, is one
of the Atlantic's Coast's great stretches of beach, Part of the Cape
Cod National Seashore Park, the panoramic ocean views are amazing and
the sand is soft, making it the quintessential Cape Cod beach
experience. The under toe can be a bit strong, the shoreline rocky in
spots and the water many times a bit cold, but the unspoiled, stunning
surroundings and gentle Cape Cod summer breezes make Nauset Beach a
must-visit New England beach.
Nauset Beach, Orleans. Photo, courtesy of MassVacation at
Coast Guard Beach, Eastham -- One of the best swimming beaches within
the Cape Cod National Seashore’s spectacular 43,604 acres, Coast Guard
Beach possesses that one-of-a-kind breezy, carefree, scenic Cape Cod
summer beach vibe perhaps better than any other area beach — and with
dunes included for your viewing pleasure. No matter how crowded
expansive Coast Guard Beach gets here in the summer — and it does — you
feel like you have your own space to fully unwind and relax.
Bass River Beach (also known as Smugglers Beach), South Yarmouth --
Bass River Beach differs greatly from Coast Guard Beach as the Route 28
area’s higher concentration of commercial and residential elements
simply bring more people to the beach. Yes, it can get crowded here,
but you’ll still be able to find you’re own spot to the tune of
generally more gentle waters — and some marvelous sandy beach to soak
up the sun. Bass River Beach offers convenience, too, with changing
rooms and restrooms as well as snacks vendors, a really nice fishing
deck and volleyball areas. More on Bass River Beach
Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown -- Sun, sand, scenery and sunsets all
add up to a superb Outer Cape Cod beach experience. As an added bonus,
the water at Herring Cove is warmer than many other Cape Cod beaches.
Plus, you are close to downtown Provincetown, a lively eclectic,
interesting tourist destination filled with seafood restaurants and
Scusset Beach State Park Reservation, Sandwich -- A great aspect about
Scusset Beach is you don’t have to drive too far up the Cape to enjoy
one of its nicest beaches. Scusset is virtually next to where the
Sagamore Bridge connects Cape Cod and the Massachusetts mainland!
Scusset also has many other elements that visitors want in a Cape
Cod beach — fewer crowds, soft sand in the summer (photo was taken in
November), a breakwater, relatively warm waters with a slow drop, a
campground within the state park and plenty of parking. An added bonus
is that the Cape Cod Canal Bike Trail is virtually around the corner,
featuring seven miles of paved path. The scenery might not be up to the
caliber of Coast Guard or Nauset Beach, but it’s still so pleasant here
and with that convenient location to save you on gas money.
To round out a perfect beach day, there's nothing quite like a Cape Cod sunset by the coast. The
best place to catch a stunning scene later in the day is on the west
side of the Cape. We like Old
Silver Beach in Falmouth best at sundown. The photos say it all!
Our #1 Place for Ice Cream on the Cape
Four Seas Ice Cream (36 South Main St.) in
Centerville forever warms our hearts with its cool cones that yield
some of the best tasting homemade ice cream in New England.
Dating back to 1934, Four Seas continues to draw in the crowds who love
the classic, unpretentious ice cream parlor/stand look and ice cream.
Four Seas has definitely become one of Cape Cod's most famous
commercial landmarks -- a must-visit kind of place and a rite of
passage into a Cape Cod summer. We like some of the more unusual
flavors like cantaloupe and lemon crisp.
June brings strawberry ice cream with fresh local strawberries brought
in directly from a local farm --picked one day and then turned into ice
cream the next for optimal freshness. The same theory goes for July's
peach ice cream with peaches brought in from Georgia and then
immediately transformed into the most delicious ice cream imaginable.
Four Seas also happens to make a pretty amazing lobster sandwich.
There's more tender lobster meat found here than in most lobster rolls!
The Islands: Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard
The stunningly beautiful island of Nantucket is located 30
of Cape Cod, and represents the best of coastal New England scenery
with its wide-open expanses of beaches (seek out Jetties Beach,
Children's Beach, and Cisco Beach for the best experiences) and a
quaint, quintessential New England feel -- historic buildings, seaside
cottages and old-fashioned street lamps. Nantucket's welcoming mix of
restaurants, shops (boutiques, galleries, gift stores, etc.),
restaurants and fabulous lodging will surely accommodate your Cape Cod
vacation dreams, but perhaps the most impressive aspect of Nantucket is
its dedication to conservation land in the form of almost 50 percent
Here, you can enjoy some fabulous bike riding and
abundant plant life, bird watching, and salt-sea-air strolls, as if you
have made you own special discovery.
Although expensive, you can also find ways to travel Nantucket on a budget.
A "must-sea" Nantucket travel attraction:
The Nantucket Whaling Museum (13 Broad St., Tel. 508-228-1894), a wonderul tribute to
preserving and interpreting the history of Nantucket Island through displays and exhibitions.
Martha's Vineyard attracts visitors from all over the world, and with
good reason: it's simply beautiful, what many would expect Cape Cod to
look like. A 45-minute ferry ride from Falmouth brings you to this
impossibly scenic Cape Cod destination. With five lighthouses and 11
glorious beaches including Moshup Beach, East Beach, and Lighthouse
Beach, this is the "classic" Cape Cod that people expect the area to
look like before embarking on the journey.
Comprised of towns Aquinnah, Chilmark, West Tisbury, Edgartown, Oak
Bluffs and Vineyard Haven (also known as Tisbury), Martha's Vineyard is
ideal for beach goers, bird-watching, and shoppers (lots of boutiques
and galleries in Edgartown and Oaks Bluffs). With a postcard-perfect
coastal downtown, Edgartown has a little something for everyone --
beaches (Edgartown Beach on Seaview Ave. is simply marvelous!), a
wonderful harbor and waterfront area with shops, lodging and
restaurants, as well as amazing architecture in the form of Greek
Revival sea captain's homes.
You can still get a taste of this former
whaling port's history, strolling this Cape Cod step-back-in-time. Be
sure to check out the Edgartown Lighthouse, (off North Water St.), too
-- a classic Cape Cod lighthouse built in 1828 and replicated in 1938.
For dining, the Black Dog Tavern (20 Beach St. Extension) in Vineyard Haven is a must-visit
destination. Perhaps most famous for its t-shirt that everyone seems to
have, the Black Dog Tavern avoids tourist trap hell by serving up some
really good New England fresh local fish and some delicious baked
Oak Bluffs is also charming with its stretch of classic Cape Cod
gingerbread cottages. Also check out the fun, beautiful Flying Horse
Carousel ride (33 Oak Bluffs Rd., Tel. 508- 693-9481), the nation's
oldest operating platform carousel and a National Historic Landmark. It
is open from from Easter Saturday through Columbus Day. Additionally,
be sure not to miss the Aquinnah Cliffs on Lighthouse Rd., where you
can experience the breathtaking, glacially formed, multicolored cliffs.
Oak Bluffs has a wonderful 19th century look, seemingly far removed
your typical cookie cutter vacation destination. With ocean beaches,
seafood dining and charming lodging options virtually at your doorstep,
consider Oak Bluffs a great starting point for your Martha's Vineyard
Editor's note: A great way to arrive at Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket
is through the Woods Hole (main land)/Martha's Vineyard/Nantucket
Steamship Authority with its long-time stellar reputation (in business
since 1818!), U.S. Coast Guard certified crews, high speed ferries and
Provincetown: Well Worth the
We believe that the journey is as exciting as the final destination,
but, honestly, sometimes the distance can become quite annoying. Don't
fret when it comes to the driving distances traveled to Provincetown,
located at the end -- or the tip -- of the Cape. Provincetown is
a popular gay summer vacation destination, but is also just fine for
every walk of life looking for a Cape Cod vacation. The downtown is
colorful, full of seafood restaurants and little shops, as well as a
thriving, arts, theater and entertainment scene. One of our readers,
the lovely Terry, of East Bridgewater, Mass, (OK, she's my sister-in-law and a
great one!) highly recommends Fanizzi's By The Sea (539 Commercial St.,
Tel. 508-487-1964), within walking distance of the downtown), featuring
spectacular views of Cape Cod Bay and "awesome seafood!" The Lobster Pot (321 Commercial St.) might just be Provincetown's most famous restaurant with its iconic, beloved neon lobster sign out front and delicious local seafood fare, inside. Yes, they do serve lobster here!
Of course, the
Provincetown beaches are simply beautiful with Cove Beach and Race
Point Beach providing scenic summertime coastal bliss with plenty of
sand and relatively warm ocean water (remember, though, this is New
England, not Florida!). Provincetown is located by the
government-operated Cape Cod National Seashore Park, a 40-mile stretch
of expansive beaches and myriad dunes along the way to the quaint Cape
Cod community of Chatham. Nearby are charming, more quiet small towns
like Eastham, Truro and Welfleet -- wonderful places to stroll the
country roads, amazing dunes, and Cape Cod National Seashore Park
Biking Cape Cod
The 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail will bring you through the
picturesque Cape Cod towns of towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster,
Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. In many areas, you're close to a beach
so we recommend leaving the trail to find your own special spot.
Free parking for trail users is available at:
• The trailhead at Route 134 in South Dennis
• Headwaters Drive in Harwich
• Route 137 in Brewster
• Nickerson State Park in Brewster
• Orleans Center
• Cape Cod National Seashore at the Salt Pond Visitors Center in
Eastham, one-half mile from the Locust Road intersection with the trail
• National Seashore at Marconi Area
• The trailhead at LeCount Hollow Road in South Wellfleet
Shining Sea Bikeway
Also recommended is the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth (Locust Rd.,
off Route 28) -- one of Cape Cod's most developed but still charming
towns with lots of beaches, shopping, dining and lodging opportunities
(As previously mentioned, check out Old Silver Beach on Quaker Rd. -- it's beautiful!). This 3.3
miles bike path spans along the Vineyard Sound shoreline, ending in the
charming community of Woods Hole. The ride is pretty much level, making
it ideal for the casual bike rider. By the way, the Shining Sea Bike
way is named after the famous line in the song, "America the
Beautiful." The song was written by Falmouth native Katharine Lee Bates
and published in 1910!
Country Store, Cape Cod-Style
1856 Country Store.
Many of us Cape Cod lovers constantly seek places that feel like taking
a trip back in time. You know, "Old Cape Cod," as they say in
that famous song from yesteryear. To us, there's no better way to do
that than visiting one of the many country and general stores in this
region. Our absolute favorite: the 1856
Country Store in Centerville. Also known as "The Penny Candy
Store," this local treasure seems to equally please locals and
vacationers. All the country store favorites are here including jams
and jellies, candles, collectibles and memorabilia, souvenirs and other
gifts, toys, games and puzzles, candles and "for the home" merchandise.
With a delightfully creaky wooden floor, historic building vibe and
really nice staff, heartwarming, welcoming country store ranks with the very best of its
kind in New England. Lucky for us, it's located on Cape Cod!
A Classic Cape Cod Lighthouse
Cape Cod also has no shortage of lighthouses but our
favorite is Nobska Light in
Falmouth. The mix of winding road, beach and lighthouse offers the
scenic, unforgettable Cape
Cod we often envision in our dreams. Walk around the lighthouse grounds
and take in this historic structure (the light station dates back to
1828) while taking in some of that salt-water air, summer breeze and
the gentle sound of waves in the distance. Absolutely beautiful and
Hidden Cape Cod: A Beautiful Sunflower Farm
Sunflower Field at Tony Andrews Farm.
Tony Andrews Farm in East Falmouth (394 Old Meetinghouse Farm Rd.)
features a expansive sunflower farm to help further blossom your
Cape Cod travel experience. Around mid-August 2021, I witnessed the
most amazing display of sunflowers at the farm's pick-your-own field of
these beautiful flowers. Try to make it if you can for the sunflowers
but if not, don't
worry: This locally-owned farm also offers pick your own strawberries,
peas and rhubarb in early June, as well as pumpkins in the fall. Other
fun family activities include hay and trolley rides and an annual Corn
and Tomato Festival in August. Additionally, the farm stand offers
plenty of vibrant, fresh vegetables and fruit. Tony Andrews Farm proves
that sometimes the best Cape Cod attractions are the ones you might not
have know about!
This Sandwich is a Very Tasty Cape Cod
Sandwich is located virtually at the gateway to Cape Cod, which is good
news for those who don't want to travel too far up the Cape. This
charming, sleepy historical Cape Cod town has everything a visitor
could ever want -- the great Scusset Beach for swimming and camping, a
pretty harbor, a bike and walking trail along the Cape Cod Canal, fine
inns and restaurants including the renowned Daniel Webster Inn and
restaurant, golf (the 18-hole ,Sandwich Hollows is open to the public),
boating opportunities and gift shops.
A one-of-a-kind attraction is the
Sandwich Glass Museum (129 Main St., Tel. 508-888-0251) with displays
of more than 5,000 glass pieces created by the different glass
companies in Sandwich during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Heritage Museums and Gardens (67
Grove St., an art and history museum with displays of
American folk art, fine art and militia and native American artifacts,
also features 100 acres of magnificent garden designs featuring
rhododendrons, hydrangeas, daylilies and more. It's a spectacular
sight, not to be missed!
Sandwich is a great starting point, as you have the choice to spend a
classic Cape Cod vacation here, or as wonderful stop along the way to
eventually tour all the other great Cape Cod communities. Either
way, Sandwich is a worthy choice as a nice Cape Cod vacation
destination with an ideal location.
Take a Scenic Ride on Route 6A, and
Into the "Old Cape Cod"
Scenic splendor off Route 6A in East Dennis, Mass..
All we can say is "Oh, my gosh" -- this scenic ride will tug at your
heart, bringing you back to another time and place. The salt-air,
tree-lined Route 6A (known as the Old King's Highway) hugging the ocean
with its well-preserved stunning captain's homes and charming bed and
breakfasts and inns bring us back
to the Cape Cod we remember -- not the overly commercial destinations
that threaten this beloved New England vacation destination. Scenic
Route 6A spans 34-miles through endless scenes of salt marshes, harbors
and open lands in beautiful New England communities like Bourne,
Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster and Orleans. Here,
you're sure "to fall in love with Old Cape Cod!"
But Then Again, There is a
Charm to the More Commercial Side of Cape Cod
Main Street in Falmouth.
Downtown Falmouth spans for
more than a fourth of a mile and possesses all the town center bells
and whistle that we have come to love and expect in a vacation
destination's central district. This thriving, bustling, attractive
downtown with an authentic "hometown" look features gift, book,
furniture, hardware and home décor stores, clothing boutiques,
galleries, places for ice cream and homemade fudge, as well as many
restaurants (some with outdoor dining in the summer) that meet all
budgets. Patty Noonan Park is located on Main St. yet offers a scenic,
peaceful oasis of open space for visitors and locals to relax.
One-half mile will
bring you to Marine Park with great views of Falmouth Harbor and
a summer farmers market and band concerts!
Hyannis, as Cape Cod's primary commercial center, offers just about
every type of lodging as well as a busy downtown that seems to go on
forever -- complete with gift shops and dining. The congestion of Route
28 outside the also congested downtown can seem overwhelming, but the
chance to have a wonderful Cape Cod vacation is undeniable in Hyannis
with 11 area beaches, 18-hole golf at the public Hyannis Golf Course
(1840 Iyannough Rd.), miniature golf (I love the Hyannis Main St. Mini
Golf at 531 Main St.!), plenty of soft serve ice cream, summer musical
entertainment at the Cape Cod Melody Tent, motels and resorts with
indoor pools (the Cape Codder is excellent with its indoor water
park!), local Cape Cod Baseball League games (free!) and plenty
of fishing and boating opportunities. Off the beaten track, you'll find
scenery as good as any on Cape Cod -- check out the beaches first,
especially the family-friendly Craigville Beach (the largest beach on
the Cape at 1050 Craigville Beach Rd., Centerville)). Famous as the
home of the Kennedy family, Hyannis features the John F. Kennedy
Hyannis Museum (397 Main St., Tel 508-790-3077) that highlights his
life through myriad exhibits. For potato chip fans, check out the the
Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory Tour (100 Breeds Hill Rd.) -- it's fun and tasty!
The Ultimate Cape Cod Town
Welfleet is amazing! This unspoiled, quintessential Cape Cod town is
located 75 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean, with 61 percent of the
area being part of the Cape Cod National Seashore Park. So, that
means plenty of open beach space for you to enjoy! The Central Village
area represents quaint Cape Cod at its finest with a nice variety of
shopping and dining opportunities -- it is a great place to stroll.
Welfleet also features fresh water ponds and is home to the Welfleet
Drive-In Theater, one of its kind in New England.
If you're not into the commercial side of Cape Cod, Welfleet is the
A "Rail" Good Time
Named one of the top ten scenic train rides in the country by USA
Today, Cape Cod Railway Central (252 Main St. Hyannis) offers a two-hour scenic train ride
between Hyannis and Buzzards Bay. On this beautiful ride, you'll be
able to view cranberry bogs, natural woodlands, lush marshes and other
Cape Cod natural delights. Brunch, lunch dinner, and family suppers as
well as narrated tours are available as part of the ride. All aboard!
Off-the-Beaten-Path Cape Cod
Just 10 minutes over the Bourne Bridge, Pocasset is the Cape Cod that
people envision -- with less crowded ocean swimming, places to take a
peaceful walks in the salt-air, and charming seaside Cape homes with
families having cookouts. Pocasset has very little to do with the
honky-tonk, hectic, busy Cape Cod that is becoming increasingly
apparent. It's also an advantage that you don't have to drive too far
into Cape Cod to get the region's true flavor. Just be sure to stay off private property as sometimes it it is hard to separate the line between that and publicly accessible areas. Drive around and enjoy
the Cape Cod feel!
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