Rediscover the Cape

Follow these region-by-region itineraries and fall in love with your new ports of call. Plus: The most relaxing beaches and where to eat, shop, and stay.

Edited by Courtney Hollands


long road with ocean view

The road to scenic Coast Guard Beach in Eastham. (Photo by Trent Bell.)

When it comes to summer weekends, we tend to get stuck in a rut. Year after year, decade after decade, it’s the same Cape towns and the same old clam shacks, bars, and shops. “Why mess with a good thing?” we say. Here’s why: There’s an entire peninsula of thrilling new experiences out there just waiting for you — stunning beaches, amazing golf courses, and a better lobster roll (promise!) than your old standby. In the spirit of shaking things up, we’ve put together a few perfect escapes. So grab your swimsuit and let’s get going. There’s nothing left to do but follow these region-by-region itineraries and fall in love with your new ports of call.

Outer Cape: For Escape Artists

 

Lower Cape: For the Pampered Set

 

Mid-Cape: For Fun-Seeking Families

 

Upper Cape: For History Buffs and Antiques Hounds

 

Outer Cape: For Escape Artists

There’s a karmic release when Route 6 finally tapers off, a realization that the drive is worth it. In a way, that’s the essence of the Cape’s more far-flung reaches, and the reason that painters and poets have sought respite here for decades, enjoying blissful solitude among the dunes.

Photo by Scott M. Lacey

Photo by Scott M. Lacey

FRIDAY
3 p.m.: A road-bike rental from Ptown Bikes (508-487-8735, ptownbikes .com) will get your legs pumping after the long drive. Pedal seven miles south along Route 6A, then stop for a sip at Truro Vineyards (508-487-6200, trurovineyards ofcapecod.com). Toss a bottle of their rosé in your basket for an al fresco toast at nearby Cold Storage Beach in North Truro, where you can watch the sun sink beside the Pilgrim Monument.

7:30 p.m.: Provincetown is the country’s oldest continuously operating arts colony, and you can be part of the scene, if only for a little while, at the weekly Gallery Walk (celebrate provincetown.com). More than 35 spaces open their doors, giving you a rare peek into the creative process.

9 p.m.: Go with a corner table at the Mews (508-487-1500, mews .com), and then almond-crusted cod or steak and scallops paired with a cocktail mixed up from the ridiculously large vodka selection. 

SATURDAY
9 a.m.: A raspberry-cheese croissant at Far Land Provisions (508-487-0045, farlandprovisions.com) is fuel for a hike through salt marshes to the Race Point Lighthouse (508-487-9930, racepointlighthouse .net). The keeper there offers tours before 2 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month in season. And since you’ll be taken with the view, why not book a night’s stay at either the Keeper’s or Whistle houses on site? Both come with 42 acres of beachfront property. 

12 p.m.: Vibrant works by abstract artist and one-time resident Robert Motherwell are the centerpiece later this summer at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (7/20–9/30; 508-487-1750, paam .org). The paintings, selected from museums and private collections around the globe, will be displayed on the Cape for the first time. 

3 p.m.: Reserve a sloop from Outer Cape Sailing (508-237-4012, outercapesailing.com) for an afternoon jaunt. The three-hour round trip departs from Wellfleet and makes a stop at Jeremy Point, where you can watch the seal pups play.

7 p.m.: By now you’re tired of fried seafood, which is why it’s off to Wellfleet’s PB Boulangerie Bistro (508-349-1600, pbboulangeriebistro.com). This place has real Francophile cred—the chefs, who hail from Lorraine and Lyon, make a mean steak frites and spit-roast chicken. Take a pastry to go for Sunday’s breakfast. 


SUNDAY
9 a.m.: Provincetown and Truro’s famous dune shacks—the 19 rustic cottages that once sheltered writers and artists like Jack Kerouac and Jackson Pollock—recently landed on the National Register of Historic Places. To explore them on foot, pull over to the right side of Route 6 at Snail Road in Provincetown, trek a mile over the dunes to the ocean, and meander along the water.

2 p.m.:Salt Pond in Eastham is open for noncommercial shell fishing on Sundays. Get the required permit and a tide schedule at the town’s Natural Resources Department (508-240-5972, eastham-ma.gov), then take home a bucket of quahogs, littlenecks, and steamers. —JANELLE NANOS

 

Cottages dotting Truro's coastline (image by Getty Images).

Cottages dotting Truro’s coastline (image by Getty Images).

Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet (Photo by Trent Bell).

Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet (Photo by Trent Bell).

 


GET SOME SUN

Race Point Beach, Provincetown: Situated on the north side of the point, this sandy stretch has rougher waves than nearby Herrings Cove and direct sunlight all day long.

Coast Guard Beach, Eastham: Called the “Great Beach” by Henry David Thoreau, this strip is one of the most sought-after on the Cape. The crowd is thinner and the water is warmer on the bay side.

Marconi Beach, Wellfleet: Everything about this beach is dramatic—from the 40-foot drop down to the water to the views of the Outer Cape atop the observation tower at the ranger station.

 

REST YOUR HEAD

Brass Key Guesthouse, Provincetown: This recently updated cluster of cottages offers a bit of serenity in the heart of bustling P-town (summer rates* from $229; 508-487-9005, brasskey.com).

Fort Hill Bed and Breakfast, Eastham: You can’t beat the idyllic location of this historical inn: It overlooks the Cape Cod National Seashore’s Nauset Marsh (summer rates from $250; 508-240-2870, forthillbedandbreakfast.com).

*summer rates are from June to August*

 

RAINY-DAY PLAN

Drop in for a massage or yoga class at Wellfleet’s Quiet Mind Studio (508-349-2429, quietmindstudio.com), located in a former grain warehouse. You’ll be supple and stress-free in no time.

Lower Cape: For the Pampered Set

Sometimes you just need to treat yourself, and the Cape’s elbow —with its chichi eateries, stellar golf courses, and cushy spas— is the ideal destination. Put your feet up, preferably with a drink in hand, and uncover all that postcard-perfect Brewster, Harwich, Chatham, and Orleans have to offer.

Photo by Scott M. Lacey

Photo by Scott M. Lacey

FRIDAY
4 p.m.: There’s no better way to salute the end of a day than with a refreshing “Mango Tango”—vodka, tangerine liqueur, and mango purée —at Libaytion, the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club’s waterfront bar. From there, it’s a quick stumble to the hotel’s posh Twenty-Eight Atlantic, where chef James Hackney (formerly of L’Espalier) turns out butter-braised lobster and lavender roast chicken. Long wait? No problem. Order from the dinner menu at the adjacent bar, Thoreau’s (508-432-5400, wequassett.com).

 

SATURDAY
9 a.m.: Ease into the day with coffee and a bagel at JoMama’s (508-255-0255, jomamascapecod.com). The café has 20 types of cream cheese—plus vegan tofu spread.

11 a.m.: You didn’t come to the Lower Cape to exert yourself. Emerald Hollow Farm (508-685-6811, emeraldhollow farm.com) offers relaxing guided horseback rides through Brewster’s Punkhorn Parklands—835 acres of wooded conservation land full of cranberry bogs and kettle ponds.

1 p.m.: If it’s fresh off the boat, it’s for sale at the Chatham Pier Fish Market (508-945-3474, chathampierfishmarket.com). Call ahead for a steamed lobster, or spring for the fresh local sushi. The takeout shack doesn’t offer much in the way of ambiance, so grab your order and hail a charter boat to quiet North Beach for a romantic picnic.

5 p.m.: The liveliest cocktail hour is at Orleans hangout Land Ho! (508-255-5165, land-ho.com), where everyone seems to know one another. And before long, the bartenders will be calling you by name, too.

7 p.m.: Reservations are a must for dinner at Abba (508-255-8144, abbarestaurant.com), a bistro serving up an oft-changing menu of refined Mediterranean food with Thai influences—try the lobster-and-shrimp pad thai. Bonus: an oenophile-approved wine list.

 

SUNDAY
8 a.m.: It’s tee time. You may have heard about the top-notch golf with spectacular scenery at the Wequassett or Ocean Edge resorts. But those courses are open only to members and guests. Brewster’s Captains Golf Course (508-896-1716, captainsgolfcourse.com) is a great public option, with 36 holes and PGA pros on hand to give quick swing tips.

12 p.m.: Aaah the afternoon away at the Chatham Bars Inn’s spa (508-945-6737, chathambarsinn.com). Arrive early to your appointment and enjoy a steam shower and the relaxation room and gardens. The “Spa Escape” is the ultimate indulgence—a three-hour treatment that includes a body scrub with sea salts or raw sugar; a neck and back massage; a heated-oil scalp rub; and a pedicure. Sweetheart in tow? Try a couples’ massage.

3:30 p.m.: Now that your limbs are feeling like Jell-O, hop in the car, roll down the windows, and head down 28 for one last hurrah at the Harwich Port ice cream joint Sundae School—fickle sweet tooths should opt for the four-scoop sampler (508-430-2444, sundaeschool.com). Then it’s back to Route 6 and the real world. —LINDSAY TUCKER

Photo by Scott M. Lacey

The Pristine pool area at the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club (Photo by Scott M. Lacey).

The Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club's lush links (Photo by Scott M. Lacey).

The Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club’s lush links (Photo by Scott M. Lacey).

The pristine pool area at the Chatham Bars Inn (Photo by Scott M. Lacey).

The pristine pool area at the Chatham Bars Inn (Photo by Scott M. Lacey).

 


GET SOME SUN

Nauset Beach, Orleans: It boasts eight miles of shoreline (just under a quarter-mile is watched by lifeguards), but it’s the waves that make this place a favorite among Cape visitors and surfers alike.

North Beach, Chatham: Actually the southern end of Nauset, this hidden gem is accessible only by boat. But trust us, it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

Skaket Beach, Orleans: A serene stretch that’s perfect for a sunset stroll or devouring a juicy novel in your lounge chair.

 

REST YOUR HEAD

Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, Harwich: There are many reasons to stay here, but our favorite is the oceanfront pool, complete with Jacuzzi and bar. There’s also the fantastic private golf course and one of the Cape’s best restaurants (summer rates from $410, 508-432-5400, wequassett.com).

Chillingsworth, Brewster: We love this place for the private beach, afternoon wine and cheese, knowledgeable staff, and award-winning eatery (summer rates from $110; 508-896-3640, chillingsworth.com).

 

RAINY-DAY PLAN

Get your art fix (and an impromptu lesson) in Brewster—James Maddocks paints New England seascapes and chats with onlookers in his 1860s carriage house turned gallery (508-896-6223, jamesmaddocksgallery.com).

Mid-Cape: For Fun-Seeking Families

If schoolchildren designed a perfect stretch of highway, it would look a lot like the 10 miles of Route 28 between Hyannis and Dennis, with its abundance of mini-golf courses and ice cream stands. Families have been flocking to the “Disney Cape” for generations, and for good reason.

Mini golf at Pirate's Cove (Photo by Trent Bell).

Mini golf at Pirate’s Cove (Photo by Trent Bell).

FRIDAY
5 p.m.: After strolling Hyannis’s quaint downtown, duck into the Island Merchant (508-771-1337, theislandmerchant.com) for gourmet Caribbean-fusion fare, a decent kids’ menu, and live music.

7 p.m.: Because one is never enough, Pirate’s Cove (508-394-6200, piratescove.net) features two 18-hole mini-golf courses.

 

SATURDAY
9 a.m.: Breakfast is a latte and a croissant to go from Nirvana Coffee Company (508-744-6983, nirvana coffeecompany.com) en route to Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable (508-362-7475, massaudubon.org), where there are two and a half miles of trails to explore. Pint-size naturalists can earn points for spotting osprey, sparrows, painted turtles, and other wildlife and landmarks in a self-guided Mass Audubon “quest.”

12:30 p.m.: Lunch at the Barnstable Restaurant and Tavern (508-362-2355, barnstablerestaurant.com) means upscale Cape fare for the adults—seafood with more olive oil, less beer batter—and thin-crust pizza and burgers for the tots.

2:30 p.m.: The Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis (508-775-1723, capecodmaritimemuseum.org) offers a fun look at the region’s nautical heritage, from the boat builders in the workshop to the remains of a 17th-century ship- wreck. You can brush up on your pirate trivia, too.

5:30 p.m.: What is there left to say about Captain Parker’s (508-771-4266, captainparkers.com)? This West Yarmouth spot is a multi-time Cape Cod Chowder Champion, and even had a cameo on Jeopardy(!). A cup is practically mandatory.

7 p.m.: The summer of 2012 marks the 128th season of the Cape Cod Baseball League (most games start between 5 and 7 p.m.; capecod baseball.org). Grab a seat at Red Wilson Field in South Yarmouth or McKeon Field in Hyannis on select Saturdays and you might catch the next Nomar Garciaparra (Orleans ’93) or Tim Lincecum (Harwich ’05) before he lands in the major leagues.
SUNDAY
10 a.m.: Putter along the Bass River to explore a windmill built in 1791, a marsh island frequented by ospreys, and Boaters Beach, where you can take a break at the concession truck. Bass River Cruises and Kayaks in West Dennis (508-398-0060, capecodkayaking.com) will supply the kayaks and life jackets, plus extras like cushions (so the kids can see), half paddles (so they can help), and tow lines (in case someone gets too tired to row back to shore).

1 p.m.: Crispy scallops or flounder at Kream ‘n’ Kone in West Dennis (508-394-0808, kreamnkone.com) make for a worthy final fried-food fix before you head back to the mainland. Prolong the vacation with a soft-serve cone for the car ride—bubblegum and cheesecake are among the 24 flavors. – Sharon Kunz

A treat from Kream 'n' Kone (Photo by Scott M. Lacey).

A treat from Kream ‘n’ Kone (Photo by Scott M. Lacey).

The boardwalk at Bass Hole (Photo by Trent Bell).

The boardwalk at Bass Hole (Photo by Trent Bell).

Idyllic Chapin Memorial Beach in Dennis (Photo by Christian Kozowyk).

Idyllic Chapin Memorial Beach in Dennis (Photo by Christian Kozowyk).


GET SOME SUN

Bass Hole/Gray’s Beach, Yarmouth: At high tide, it can feel like there’s more boardwalk than beach, but the long walk over the salt marsh is part of the appeal, and children will love exploring the teeming tide pools.

Corporation Beach, Dennis: Calm bay waters and some of the best views on the Cape. Enough said.

Craigville Beach, Centerville: Older kids will like the social scene at Craigville, and the soft white sand and mild water make it a good pick for little guys, too. The lovely sunsets are a great day ender.

 

REST YOUR HEAD

Red Jacket Blue Water Resort, South Yarmouth: The Kids Klub, included with your stay, keeps the tykes (ages 6 to 12) occupied with soccer, swimming, and arts and crafts while you relax at the resort’s private Nantucket Sound-side beach (summer rates from $145; 508-398-2288, redjacketresorts.com).

Town N’ Country, West Yarmouth: Tidy rooms, outdoor and indoor pools, and a small arcade make this a perfect kid-friendly base of exploration (summer rates from $70; 508-771-0212, towncountrycapecod.com).

 

RAINY-DAY PLAN

The indoor wave pool and water slide at Hyannis’s Cape Codder Resort and Spa will dull the sting of a missed beach day (855-861-4370, capecodderresort.com).

Upper Cape: For History Buffs

Highlights here include relics from Falmouth’s whaling past and vestiges of the salt-works business in Bourne and the glass industry in Sandwich, the oldest town on the Cape. If you’re feeling spendy, hit the shops to take home a treasure from a bygone era.

Antiques hunting in Sandwich (Photo by Trent Bell).

Antiques hunting in Sandwich (Photo by Trent Bell).

FRIDAY
5 p.m.: After inching over the traffic-clogged Bourne Bridge, you’ll feel like a Pilgrim arriving at Plymouth Rock: tired, thirsty, and famished. Soothe rumbling stomachs with porcini-dusted day-boat haddock and lobster strudel at the Glass Onion (508-540-3730, theglassonion dining.com) in Falmouth.

8 p.m.: Help create, or at least witness, theatrical history at a play read-through presented by the Cape Cod Theatre Project at Falmouth Academy (508-457-4242, capecodtheatreproject.org). Your feedback for the actors and director could go far; many a production launched here has landed on Broadway (The Mineola Twins) or off-Broadway (Modern Orthodox).

 

SATURDAY
9 a.m.: Locals start the day right with Belgian waffles and bottomless cups of coffee at Moonakis Café (508-457-9630) in East Falmouth. Like a side of politics with your bacon? Pick up one of owner Paul Rifkin’s “Make breakfast, not war” tees.

11 a.m.: Enjoy whaling artifacts at the Conant House (508-548-4857, falmouthhistoricalsociety.org), an 18th-century Colonial-style home on Falmouth green. Spectacles once worn by “America the Beautiful” scribe (and town native) Katharine Lee Bates are also on view.

1 p.m.:Don’t let the crowds deter you from stopping by Mashpee’s Raw Bar (508-539-4858, therawbar.com) for the buzzed-about lobster roll–you can split one and still leave full.

3 p.m.: Take in glass-blowing demos and peruse items made at the now-defunct Boston & Sandwich Glass Company at the Sandwich Glass Museum (508-888-0251, sandwich glassmuseum.org). A hologram (yes, a hologram) of Rebecca Burgess, a ship captain’s wife, watches over a Victorian-era dining room table set with finger bowls , an epergne, and other glass pieces.

6 p.m.: Fans of yard sales and Pawn Stars will enjoy a live auction at the Sandwich Auction House (Saturdays in June, Wednesdays in July and August; 508-888-1926, sandwichauction .com). You could score a glittering art deco bauble on the (relatively) cheap.

8 p.m.: Tucked away in a former Catholic church, the Belfry Inne &  Bistro in Sandwich (508-888-8550, belfryinn.com) has stained-glass windows and tasty dishes like seafood risotto. Live piano music is the perfect excuse for an après-dinner tipple or two. Feeling chatty? It could be because wine is stored in an old confessional behind the bar.

 

SUNDAY
10 a.m.: Oh-so-fluffy pancakes at the Dan’l Webster Inn (508-888-3622, danlwebsterinn.com) should fortify you for a trip to the 6,000-square-foot Sandwich Antiques Center on 6A (508-833-3600, sandwich antiquescenter.com), where you can lose yourself among the clocks, lighting fixtures, and furniture.

2 p.m.: Wrap up a weekend of antiquity with a spin on the 1908 carousel and a stroll through the hydrangeas at Sandwich’s Heritage Museums & Gardens (508-888-3300, heritage museums.org). Don’t miss the new exhibit “Norman Rockwell: Beyond the Easel,” which features more than 150 works by the legendary painter. —Naomi Kooker

The tree house at the Heritage Museums & Gardens (Photo by Trent Bell).

The tree house at the Heritage Museums & Gardens (Photo by Trent Bell).

An artisan at the Sandwich Glass Museum (Photo by Trent Bell).

An artisan at the Sandwich Glass Museum (Photo by Trent Bell).

A view of Quissett Harbor in Falmouth (Photo by Keller + Keller).

A view of Quissett Harbor in Falmouth (Photo by Keller + Keller).

 


GET SOME SUN

Old Silver Beach, North Falmouth: This crescent beach boasts Buzzards Bay water temps (in the 70s), tide pools on the southern end, and striking sunsets.

South Cape Beach, Mashpee: Situated between Waquoit Bay and Vineyard Sound, this beautiful one-mile stretch of white sand has plenty of blanket space and over-the-dunes boardwalks.

Sandy Neck Beach, Barnstable/Sandwich Town Line: Relax among 4,700 acres of dunes and maritime forests—or hike from the beach to the Great Marsh wildlife sanctuary.

 

REST YOUR HEAD

Sea Crest Beach Hotel, North Falmouth: Fresh off a multimillion-dollar renovation, this hotel on Old Silver Beach features gorgeous rooms, a fitness center, and two pools (summer rates from $360; 508-540-9400, seacrestbeachhotel.com).

Woods Hole Passage B & B, Falmouth: Between the cheery welcome, full breakfasts, and garden grounds, you won’t want to venture too far from this carriage house cum inn (summer rates from $199; 508-548-9575, woodsholepassage.com).

 

RAINY-DAY PLAN

At Titcomb’s, a three-floor, 42-year-old Indie bookshop in Sandwich, you’ll find everything from classic Dickens to a Thoreau first edition to the latest non-fiction bestseller (508-888-2331, titcombsbookshop.com).

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/2012/05/rediscover-cape-cod/