Summer on the Cape

We asked those who know the shore best to share their secret haunts.

cape cod travel guide

Photo by Joel Meyerowitz / Typography by Liz Noftle

Crossing the Bourne Bridge. A crispy bite of clam roll. That first chilly dip in the Atlantic. These are the milestones of summer, just as they have been for generations. We’re celebrating traditions—the people, places, and institutions that keep us coming back to the Cape (and flirting with the Islands) season after season. We asked those who know the shore best to share their secret haunts. These iconic stops—some favorites from a bygone era, some newly minted classics—will define a trip and live on in memory long after you’ve left the beach.

—Edited by Janelle Nanos and Sara James Mnookin. Reporting by Steve Annear, Calin Brown, Brennan Carley, Patrick Doyle, Courtney Hollands, Brittany Jasnoff, Molly Mirhashem, and Jason Schwartz.

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cape cod travel guide

Photo by Joel Meyerowitz

Alone in Truro

When I’m in Truro, I run nearly every morning. Sometimes I’ll head east-ish, two miles past the marshes of the Pamet River to the rough Atlantic. Sometimes it’s west-ish, to the undulating hills along the bay. If I’m feeling ambitious, I can do both in one run. But whichever route I take, I’m guaranteed to see one thing: nobody.

Okay, maybe a cyclist or two, taking the scenic route, or perhaps another jogger plodding back home. But that’s it. Instead of people, I’ll see strutting wild turkeys. Instead of cars chasing me onto the shoulder, I’ll be pursued by a cloud of biting black flies. (That’s when I run fastest.) But for the most part: silence and solitude, and the sense that water is always close by.

Apart from the asphalt, Truro isn’t much different from when the Pilgrims found (or maybe looted) a cache of Indian corn on what is now Corn Hill, where Edward Hopper painted a clutch of rhomboid houses in the dunes 310 years later. Of course, I know things have changed—new people, new houses, new complaints—but the magic of Truro is that it makes you forget.

Even now, Truro doesn’t have much, especially compared with its neighbors, cosmopolitan Wellfleet and hopping Provincetown. The population is just over 2,000. You’ll find only a handful of restaurants (including the worthy Blackfish). There’s a vineyard that produces dependably drinkable wines, and an arts center that draws talent from far beyond the Cape (the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rosanne Cash). We have a few beaches and a few ponds, but nightclubs, mini golf, skate parks—those are for other towns, not our village.

Here, our world contracts. We buy seafood at Mac’s or Cape Tip. We cook at home, inveigling wives and cousins to help shuck oysters, or studying a sister-in-law’s Manhattan-mixing method. Outside—is there anything going on but the rising of the moon? The neighbors’ house, I know, is just beyond that ridge, and if we’re really quiet we can hear them being quiet, too.

Now the only sound is teeth chattering—it gets cold at night—so in we go, to watch movies, play board games, and drink whiskey, just as everyone here has done going back 20, 50, 80 years.

Matt Gross is the author of The Turk Who Loved Apples: And Other Tales of Losing My Way Around the World, which was published in May.

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Fish Tales

I can’t recall a summer on the Cape that wasn’t memorable—it’s the most beautiful place. But one particular summer, about four years ago, I was out tuna fishing with some friends. I hooked up at exactly 9 a.m. It was a good fish—seemed like it was around 250 pounds. At exactly 1 p.m., after four solid hours of the toughest fight I’d ever had with a tuna, we saw it surface about 10 feet from the boat. We were screaming with excitement…until about 10 seconds later, when he snapped the line.

—Harry Connick Jr., whose new album, Every Man Should Know, will be released on June 11.

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Summer Love

We spent summers in Falmouth, fishing off the jetties, playing Wiffle ball in the backyard—and spying on the babysitter when she was taking a shower.

There was a little hole my brother and I drilled in this outdoor shower for when you came home from the beach. I was about eight or nine years old, and we used to come back home and watch her. Finally, one day, I’m looking through the hole, and I’m waving my brother Pete over, and he is pushing me aside because he knows it’s payday. But when he looks, he says he doesn’t see anything. I say, “What do you mean?” And then all of a sudden we hear, “Peter, I see you!” She came right up to the hole and was peering out. I snuck away, and my brother took the blame.

—Filmmaker Bobby Farrelly, whose parents still live on the Cape.

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cape cod travel guide

On the Water

Some of my earliest memories on the Cape involve a fishing rod. Whether it was catching sea robins off the pier or hiding from the November wind as my dad tried to catch the last bluefish of the season, we were always on the water. And whenever we needed bait, hooks, or advice, we went to the Sports Port bait-and-tackle shop, on West Main Street in Hyannis, where a mannequin, dressed in full rain gear and sitting in a bright-red dinghy, would greet us in the parking lot.

I called their number so many times when I was a kid that I still remember it. Every year for nearly a decade we entered their fishing contest for the biggest striper and bluefish. When I was 15, I somehow hooked into one that took home first place. The picture of that fish still hangs in the room where I grew up.

—U.S. Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, pictured above at age 15.

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  • jake481

    I saw The 2 lead singers from Squeeze (Difford and Tillbrook) play the Chicken Box. They were playing with Elvis Costello’s backing band the Attractions. Absolutely incredible band, one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen and the Chicken Box is a really cool building but it’s filled with HORRIBLE people. Steve Nieve, the incredible keyboard player from the Attractions opened the show with a set of solo piano and the audience never shut up for one second. Rich people who were so lazy and entitled they couldn’t be bothered to put their empty beer bottles anywhere. They literally just dropped their empties on the floor.