Cape Cod Guide 2010: Where to Eat, Play & Stay

by Jennifer Kaine DeFoe, Donna Garlough, and Scott Lajoie

Photograph by Christian Kozowyk

Photograph by Christian Kozowyk

Chatham Bars Inn
The price for eggs may be steep, but there’s simply no better way to take in stunning seascapes than to sit down for breakfast or brunch at Chatham Bars Inn. With walls of ocean-view windows, stellar service, and knockout food, CBI, as locals refer to it, is a must-visit for any vacationer. The Main Inn, where the dining room is located, was built in 1914, and is the only remaining grand Victorian seaside resort on the Cape. As for the food, CBI vets usually go for the eggs Benedict, the Belgian waffles with fresh berries and whipped cream, or the Chatham lobster frittata with asparagus and tomatoes. Make a morning of it by lingering on the inn’s veranda. 297 Shore Rd., Chatham, 508-945-0096,

Land Ho
Thanks to an expansion 10 years ago, Land Ho restaurant is hardly a locals-only secret anymore. Provided you know what you’re doing, though, it’s still a great spot to schmooze with some real-live Cape Codders. Head to the Ho’s Orleans location and straight to the “old” side of the restaurant, where you’ll find the original bar and dining area. (The new side is where tourists queue for tables.) Everyone from builders to bestselling writers, fishermen to fine-art collectors, congregates here — all wearing appropriately casual attire, and many with the requisite yellow Lab waiting patiently in the bed of a pickup truck outside. It’s this mix (of people, not dogs) that invariably marks a true Cape hangout. Corner of Route 6A and Cove Road, Orleans, 508-255-5165,

Brewster Fish House
It’s not fancy, at least not in the frilly, French way that the area’s more raved-about restaurants are. But who comes to the Cape for foie gras and escargot? Not us. With a combination of impeccably fresh seafood, a menu that changes seasonally, and a carefully chosen wine list, this “fish house” feels effortlessly superb. The lunch options skew casual (think fish and chips and oyster po’ boys) but the dinner entrées — like day-boat scallops with crisp pancetta and chive béarnaise, or the grilled ponzu-lacquered native lobster — are elegant without being over the top. 2208 Main St., Brewster, 508-896-7867,

The Chatham Squire
Sure, it’s touristy, but the unpretentious, somewhat divey tavern at the Squire is a quintessential Cape Cod hangout — one of those places you just can’t avoid if you’re staying in the area. And why would you? There’s cold beer on tap, Sox broadcasts on the TVs, live music on weekend nights, and a cheerful crowd of summer residents, first-time visitors, and 40-year patrons. (The tavern opened in 1968.) Come in for a pint, and you’ll probably stay for three. 487 Main St., Chatham, 508-945-0945,

Four Seas
Owner Douglas Warren has strong feelings about what makes an ideal scoop. Unlike at many tourist traps, he won’t name any of his flavors after Cape landmarks. (“You shouldn’t have to give good ice cream a fancy name,” he says.) Nor does he believe in jimmies. (“Why would you put something that’s mostly wax on top of a good scoop?”) What he does believe in is doing things the old-fashioned way. Which makes sense: The shop has been churning out simple flavors like fresh peach and mocha chip since 1934. 360 s. Main St., Centerville, 508-775-1394,

Wequassett Resort and Golf Club
While Cape Cod has lots of high-end hotels, few really have it all. Provincetown has some gems, like Carpe Diem Guesthouse and Crown Pointe Historic Inn, but they’re small, and the downside of their in-town location is, well, that they’re in the middle of town. When we want to feel far, far away from it all — not to mention ridiculously spoiled — we check into Wequassett. Ultraplush suites and clapboard cottages, a pristine pool and cabanas overlooking Pleasant Bay, superb dining at Twenty-Eight Atlantic, picture-perfect golf courses and tennis courts, an outdoor fire pit…are we there yet? One Pleasant Bay, Chatham, 508-432-5400,

Days’ Cottages
Bare-bones cottage colonies are everywhere on Cape Cod, especially on its outer reaches, where families come to spend sun-drenched afternoons by the shore. Why not stay at the most famous ones on all of the Cape? Built during the Depression, the 23 identical Days’ Cottages — often called the “flower cottages,” as each bears the name of a different bloom — are a source of local pride. Many families return year after year, so reserve early. 271 Shore Rd., Truro, 508-487-1062,

Province Lands Trail
Like the Shining Sea Bikeway, this trail got a major upgrade last year. Originally built in the ’60s, this 7.3-mile route runs through the sandy dunes of the Province Lands, with one spur out to Herring Cove Beach and another out to Race Point Beach. Where there were once death-defying curves and chewed-up asphalt, there’s now a straighter, smoother, more user-friendly path. Free parking at Province Lands Visitor Center, Race Point Road, Provincetown, 508-487-1256,

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watching Tour
A great whale watch should be as educational as it is entertaining. The team of naturalists that leads Dolphin Fleet’s trips along the coastline and to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is headed by Carole Carlson, an adjunct scientist at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies. All whale sightings are documented, and photographs are catalogued to help various organizations study humpback whale populations. During a trip, guides also offer information about the birds and other marine species you’ll encounter. 305 Commercial St., Provincetown, 508-240-3636,

Left Bank Gallery
In a burg that’s dubbed itself “Gallery Town,” Left Bank rises above the fray for both its size and its selection, a frequently changing rotation of well-known Cape artists. High on the summer’s list of wine and cheese openings is the July 4–ish reception for Jim Holland, a local painter with an eye for capturing the Cape’s light. Those with a little less cash need not be intimidated here: The back room contains shelves full of ceramics, jewelry, cards, and other small pieces priced right for anyone wanting to bring home a piece of the Cape without breaking the budget. 25 Commercial St., Wellfleet, 508-349-9451,

Old King’s Highway
The stretch of Route 6A from Sandwich to Brewster offers many of the finest antiques shops, art galleries, and gift stores on the Cape. Some are nestled in old ship captain’s houses along the scenic route; others cluster around points of interest, like the Cape Playhouse in Dennis Village. Highlights include Titcomb’s Bookshop, the Glass Studio on Cape Cod, Gallery Gourmet, and Painted Daisies in East Sandwich; Harvest of Barnstable in Yarmouth Port; Armchair Cottage and Barn & Co. in Dennis; and Lemon Tree Village and Countryside Antiques in Brewster.

If you’re looking for a harborside hole in the wall, this isn’t it. There’s an ever-present line out the door, an ice cream stand out back, and (clam shack purists, cover your ears) a mini golf course. But Arnold’s has lasted 30 years for good reason, namely the perfectly fried clams, giant lobster rolls, and craveable crisp onion rings. (And we mean craveable: Arnold’s serves 2,000 pounds of rings each week.) Go before you’re actually hungry, wait out the line, and be rewarded with heaping baskets of summery deliciousness. 3580 State Hwy. (Rte. 6), Eastham, 508-255-2575,

Shining Sea Bikeway
Falmouth went native when it named its bike path for a line in “America the Beautiful,” which was written by hometown daughter Katherine Lee Bates. The paved and blessedly hill-free route does indeed run right along the “shining sea,” and has long been a fave of both residents and visitors. Last year the trail got even better, with an expansion that tripled its length: It now runs a total of 10.7 miles, from northwest Falmouth throughthe town center and down into a parking lot at the Steamship Authority’s docks in Woods Hole. Free parking at County road lot, just off RoUTE 151, North Falmouth.

Ocean Edge
Although many of the Cape’s noteworthy courses — Eastward Ho, Wianno, New Seabury, Hyannisport, and Woods Hole, to name a few — are not open to the public, there are great public courses for weekend visitors to enjoy. If you simply want majestic views, check out Highland Links in North Truro or the Brookside Club in Bourne. But serious golfers will love the new, Jack Nicklaus–designed course at Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster. It is formidable terrain, from the undulating hills and deceptive doglegs to the unforgiving deep bunkers. Bring plenty of balls. 2907 Main St., Brewster, 508-896-9000,