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
When it comes to summer weekends, we tend to get stuck in a rut. Year after year, decade after decade, itâs the same Cape towns and the same old clam shacks, bars, and shops. âWhy mess with a good thing?â we say. Hereâs why: Thereâs an entire peninsula of thrilling new experiences out there just waiting for you â stunning beaches, amazing golf courses, and a better lobster roll (promise!) than your old standby. In the spirit of shaking things up, weâve put together a few perfect escapes. So grab your swimsuit and letâs get going. Thereâs 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
There’s a karmic release when Route 6 finally tapers off, a realization that the driveÂ isÂ 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.
3 p.m.:Â 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 rosĂ© 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.:Â Provincetown is the countryâs 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.:Â 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.Â
9 a.m.:Â 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 youâll be taken with the view, why not book a nightâs stay at either the Keeperâs or Whistle houses on site? Both come with 42 acres of beachfront property.Â
12 p.m.:Â Vibrant works by abstract artist and one-time resident Robert Motherwell are the centerpiece later this summer at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (7/20â9/30; 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.Â
3 p.m.:Â 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.:Â By now youâre tired of fried seafood, which is why itâs off to Wellfleetâs PB Boulangerie Bistro (508-349-1600, pbboulangeriebistro.com). This place has real Francophile credâthe chefs, who hail from Lorraine and Lyon, make a mean steak frites and spit-roast chicken. Take a pastry to go for Sundayâs breakfast.Â
9 a.m.:Â Provincetown and Truroâs famous dune shacksâthe 19 rustic cottages that once sheltered writers and artists like Jack Kerouac and Jackson Pollockârecently 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 townâs Natural Resources Department (508-240-5972, eastham-ma.gov), then take home a bucket of quahogs, littlenecks, and steamers. âJANELLE NANOS
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:Â 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:Â Everything about this beach is dramaticâfrom 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:Â 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:Â 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*
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 âwith its chichi eateries, stellar golf courses, and cushy spasâ 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.
4 p.m.:Â Thereâs no better way to salute the end of a day than with a refreshing âMango Tangoââvodka, tangerine liqueur, and mango purĂ©e âat Libaytion, the Wequassett Resort and Golf Clubâs waterfront bar. From there, itâs a quick stumble to the hotelâs posh Twenty-Eight Atlantic, where chef James Hackney (formerly of LâEspalier) turns out butter-braised lobster and lavender roast chicken. Long wait? No problem. Order from the dinner menu at the adjacent bar, Thoreauâs (508-432-5400, wequassett.com).
9 a.m.:Â Ease into the day with coffee and a bagel at JoMamaâs (508-255-0255, jomamascapecod.com). The cafĂ© has 20 types of cream cheeseâplus vegan tofu spread.
11 a.m.:Â You didnât come to the Lower Cape to exert yourself. Emerald Hollow Farm (508-685-6811, emeraldhollow farm.com) offers relaxing guided horseback rides through Brewsterâs Punkhorn Parklandsâ835 acres of wooded conservation land full of cranberry bogs and kettle ponds.
1 p.m.:Â If itâs fresh off the boat, itâs 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 doesnât 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.:Â 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.:Â 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 influencesâtry the lobster-and-shrimp pad thai. Bonus: an oenophile-approved wine list.
8 a.m.:Â Itâs 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. Brewsterâs 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.:Â Aaah the afternoon away at the Chatham Bars Innâs spa (508-945-6737, chathambarsinn.com). Arrive early to your appointment and enjoy a steam shower and the relaxation room and gardens. The âSpa Escapeâ is the ultimate indulgenceâa 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 couplesâ massage.
3:30 p.m.:Â 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 Schoolâfickle sweet tooths should opt for the four-scoop sampler (508-430-2444, sundaeschool.com). Then itâs back to Route 6 and the real world.Â âLINDSAY TUCKER
GET SOME SUN
Nauset Beach, Orleans:Â 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:Â 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:Â 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:Â 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:Â 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).
Get your art fix (and an impromptu lesson) in BrewsterâJames 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.
5 p.m.:Â After strolling Hyannisâs quaint downtown, duck into the Island Merchant (508-771-1337, theislandmerchant.com) for gourmet Caribbean-fusion fare, a decent kidsâ menu, and live music.
7 p.m.:Â Because one is never enough, Pirateâs Cove (508-394-6200, piratescove.net) features two 18-hole mini-golf courses.
9 a.m.:Â 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 âquest.â
12:30 p.m.:Â Lunch at the Barnstable Restaurant and Tavern (508-362-2355, barnstablerestaurant.com) means upscale Cape fare for the adultsâseafood with more olive oil, less beer batterâand thin-crust pizza and burgers for the tots.
2:30 p.m.:Â The Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis (508-775-1723, capecodmaritimemuseum.org) offers a fun look at the regionâs 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.:Â What is there left to say about Captain Parkerâs (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.:Â 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 â93) or Tim Lincecum (Harwich â05) before he lands in the major leagues.
10 a.m.:Â 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.:Â Crispy scallops or flounder at Kream ânâ 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 rideâbubblegum and cheesecake are among the 24 flavors. – Sharon Kunz
GET SOME SUN
Bass Hole/Gray’s Beach, Yarmouth:Â 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:Â Calm bay waters and some of the best views on the Cape. Enough said.
Craigville Beach, Centerville:Â 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:Â 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:Â 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).
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.
5 p.m.:Â After inching over the traffic-clogged Bourne Bridge, youâll 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.:Â 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).
9 a.m.:Â Locals start the day right with Belgian waffles and bottomless cups of coffee at Moonakis CafĂ© (508-457-9630) in East Falmouth. Like a side of politics with your bacon? Pick up one of owner Paul Rifkinâs âMake breakfast, not warâ tees.
11 a.m.:Â 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 âAmerica the Beautifulâ scribe (and town native) Katharine Lee Bates are also on view.
1 p.m.:Donât let the crowds deter you from stopping by Mashpeeâs Raw Bar (508-539-4858, therawbar.com) for the buzzed-about lobster rollâyou can split one and still leave full.
3 p.m.:Â Take in glass-blowing demos and peruse items made at the now-defunct Bostonâ&âSandwich Glass Company at the Sandwich Glass Museum (508-888-0251, sandwich glassmuseum.org). A hologram (yes, a hologram) of Rebecca Burgess, a ship captainâs wife, watches over a Victorian-era dining room table set with finger bowls , an epergne, and other glass pieces.
6 p.m.:Â 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.:Â Tucked away in a former Catholic church, the Belfry Inneâ&â 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 aprĂšs-dinner tipple or two. Feeling chatty? It could be because wine is stored in an old confessional behind the bar.
10 a.m.:Â Oh-so-fluffy pancakes at the Danâl 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.:Â Wrap up a weekend of antiquity with a spin on the 1908 carousel and a stroll through the hydrangeas at Sandwichâs Heritage Museumsâ& Gardens (508-888-3300, heritage museums.org). Donât miss the new exhibit âNorman Rockwell: Beyond the Easel,â which features more than 150 works by the legendary painter. âNaomi Kooker
GET SOME SUN
Old Silver Beach, North Falmouth:Â This crescent beach boasts Buzzards Bay water temps (in the 70s), tide pools on the southern end, and striking sunsets.
South Cape Beach, Mashpee:Â 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:Â Relax among 4,700 acres of dunes and maritime forestsâor hike from the beach to the Great Marsh wildlife sanctuary.
REST YOUR HEAD
Sea Crest Beach Hotel, North Falmouth:Â 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:Â 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).
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).
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