The Treasure Trail
L:ong known as a destination for antiquing fanatics, Cape Cod is also a prime place for bargain-hunting flea-market shoppers. In classic Yankee fashion, the locals have a tendency to hoard their possessions for years and years. Their eventual castoffs can yield an occasional gem, though the best discoveries often lie under mountains of junk (tube socks and batteries galore). Boost your chances of finding goodies by following this plan of attack.
HIT THE ATM
Most vendors are cash only, though some of the more savvy dealers accept plastic. But for bargaining purposes, it’s smart to pack a wad of green. Experienced scavengers are careful to load up on singles, lest they look sheepish when asking for change on the $2 shell lamp they so vigorously haggled for.
BE THE EARLY BIRD
Arrive by 7:30 a.m., just ahead of the 8 a.m. opening, to scout the best loot at the Wellfleet Flea Market, open weekends plus Wednesdays and Thursdays in the parking lot of the Cape’s only drive-in movie theater. As many as 200 vendors sell everything imaginable – T-shirts, old postcards, movie memorabilia, modern jewelry, rare antiques, vinyl records, and more. Another reason for the early-morning trip: You’ll be spared the drive-in’s boiling-hot blacktop, which reaches unbearable temperatures by noon.
51 Route 6, Wellfleet, 508-349-2520, wellfleetcinemas.com.
Although the Sandwich Bazaar doesn’t technically open until 8 a.m. either, intrepid bargain hunters show up as early as 6. And you should, too, if you’re hoping to get the first crack at merchandise from more than 100 vendors. Look for a thick spread of valuables – everything from antique home accessories to modern arts and crafts, as well as fresh bread and produce from local farms.
Wednesdays; 34 Quaker Meeting House Rd., Sandwich, 508-685-2767, thesandwichbazaar.com.
FIND YOUR NICHE
Dick & Ellie’s, the Cape’s oldest flea market, is also its most chaotic. Doors open at 9 a.m. Thursday through Monday, but plan for a round of pre-purchase scouting in order to make sense of this mash-up of pellet guns, jewelry, modern furniture, toys, and, yes, tube socks. If the overwhelmed kiddies in your party start having a meltdown, never fear – this shopping destination comes complete with a pint-size playland, which includes $1 mini golf and a bouncy house.
15 Theophilus Smith Rd., South Dennis, 508-394-6131, capecodoutdoormarket.com.
For a more sophisticated, carefully curated selection, check out the Cape Cod Bazaar on July 10 and 11. Sponsored by the Cambridge-based organization Cultural Survival, this annual event brings in art and live entertainment from indigenous people across the globe. No tube socks here – just handmade jewelry, clothing, pottery, rugs, and handicrafts. Proceeds help Cultural Survival support artisans and fair-trade companies around the world.
300 Main St., Falmouth, culturalsurvival.org/bazaar/cultural-survival-bazaar.
On rainy weekend days, take cover at the Hyannis Flea Market, the area’s largest indoor market. Here, you’ll spot typical flea-market fare: Cape Cod sweatshirts and tees, designer handbag knockoffs, and bric-a-brac, a good deal of it with ocean themes.
Open daily, 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; 500 Main St., Hyannis, 508-790-3412.
Most of these flea markets offer food – and not just the standard hot dog and lemonade fare. At the Sandwich Bazaar’s farmers’ market, find breads from the Sandwich Bread Basket, cupcakes and cookies from Nana’s Baking Company, and tasty pickles from Mr. Mike’s (as well as lavender products from Thyme After Thyme and beeswax candles from E&T Farms). You’ll get the best price on live lobster at Dick & Ellie’s market. Meanwhile, Wellfleet’s drive-in snack bar serves shoppers burgers, dogs, pizza, and the like, and the market features local farmers selling jellies and preserves. Be sure to stock up: Those goodies will come in handy as you crawl your way through Route 6’s bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way home.