Leave your car on the Cape. Nantucket’s iconic harborfront resort, and its well-appointed rooms, are no more than 10 minutes from anyplace you’d want to go: Young’s for bikes, the Juice Bar for ice cream, the beach and ferry, too. And if you’re looking for the best on-island massage, you don’t even have to leave the building. 50 Easton St., Nantucket, MA 02554, whiteelephanthotel.com.
There's finally authentic Mexican on the Upper Cape thanks to this bustling spot in Falmouth Center, which skips the gimmicks and gloppy cheese in favor of fresh, local seafood and a creative Sunday brunch menu with a twist—and a kick. Go for the gloriously runny eggs Benedict topped with smoky braised pork and chipotle hollandaise, or French toast laced with tequila-fried bananas. Bonus: Kids get a free chocolate taco (you might, too, if you ask politely). 188 Main St., Falmouth, MA 02540, anejomexicanbistro.com.
Save the formal service and immaculate silverware for your power lunches in the city. On the Cape, you want to grab something fast and friendly—and then head right back outside. At Blue Willow, the ingredients are fresh, the sandwiches inventive, and the baked goods all made from scratch. Our superlative midday meal: the signature grilled chicken and Brie panini followed by a fudgy, walnut-studded 'outrageous' brownie. 1426 Route 6, Wellfleet, MA 2663, .
This is the site to hit before you go anywhere. Updated every few minutes, SmarTraveler.com offers information about tie-ups on local roads and the MBTA. Even better than the concise written alerts are the live video feeds form problem-prone paces like the Central Artery, the Cape Cod bridges, and Route 128. The picture quality is good, though you can't quite discern drivers' obscene hand gestures as they back up on Storrow.
This half-mile stretch cuts a sandy swath into the rocky terrain of Cape Ann's coastline, giving picnickers plenty of sheltered space to spread out and dig in. Nearby, the Kitchen Witch makes packing the basket effortless with gourmet sandwiches, pints of pasta salad, and homemade cookies. Work off your lunch with a romp in the invigorating tide pools, or let your repast settle as you lie back and wallow in the view. Beach Street; the Kitchen Witch, 4C Summer St., Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA 1944, .
The long lines don't lie: Arnold's serves fried clams at their messy best alongside the fluffiest, tastiest onion rings we've ever eaten. The location doesn't hurt either: It's right on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, with picnic tables in the shade of tall pines where you can pitch your kickstand and enjoy surprisingly reasonably priced seafood on a cafeteria-style tray. As a gesture to gourmets, there's even a raw bar. But stick to the specialties: fried clams, steamers, lobster, and corn on the cob. Rte. 6, Eastham, MA arnoldsrestaurant.com/.
This tiny bakery makes breads, sandwiches, and European-style pastries worth searching out—plus unbelievable muffins, pies, and wedding cakes. But what puts it over the top is its inelegant-sounding "dirt bomb," a dense, indulgent breakfast pasty dusted with cinnamon and sugar. It's a sweet way to jump-start any Cape Cod morning. 5 Cottage St., Orleans, MA cottagestreetbakery.com/.
The food at Fin is subtle at first, but soon shows its adventurous side. Take the chowder. It's a go-to order at any restaurant on the Cape, but Fin uses oysters instead of clams and adds a drizzle of white-truffle oil. That level of detail and savory depth permeates the offerings here, from the flawless pan-seared scallops to the salted-peanut ice cream. 800 Main St., Dennis, MA fincapecod.com.
In a neighborhood that's more about hot dogs than haute cuisine, it can be hard to get a decent meal. That's where Audubon Circle comes in. This darkly lit, sleekly cool restaurant with the long slate bar has a small but satisfying menu of dressed-up pub grub, from the downright delicious burger with spicy home fries to the rare seared tuna with garlic mashed potatoes. The legendary pot stickers (dumplings and steamed vegetables served in a paper takeout container) can provoke food fights—over who gets the last bite. And thanks to the expertly mixed drinks and ample supply of local and national beers on tap, there's plenty to please diners and drinkers who long for more than the watered-down suds at Fenway. 838 Beacon St., Boston, MA auduboncircle.us/.
If brunch is the most civilized way to dine, the Harvest is the most civilized place to have brunch. First there's the restaurant's lovely garden patio, which in warm weather offers a leafy retreat from the traffic of Harvard Square. Then there's the table presentation. No paper napkins and messy tabletops here—brunch at the Harvest is a white-linen, Sunday-best affair. But it's the menu that renders this restaurant a class above, with its three-course, prix-fixe ($33) menu of gourmet takes on classic dishes. The eggs Benedict, for instance, are served not one but two ways: crab and avocado on one orb, smoked ham and asparagus with roasted red pepper hollandaise on the other. Omelets come with such citified ingredients as wild mushrooms, spring onion, or pancetta. It's the final course—dessert—that makes this tradition a proper indulgence, from the milk chocolate panna cotta to the irresistible classic chocolate layer cake. 44 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA harvestcambridge.com/.
Why limit yourself to one seafood venue when you can have it all on just one block? Main Street's dream team of major seafood players—Tom Shea's (for unbeatable grilled seafood), Woodman's (for topnotch classic fried clams, lobster tails, and scallops), and Periwinkles (for expertimental, fusion-minded fish dishes)—offers Cape Ann's highest concentration of fine fish. Put together, they provide what may just be the perfect seafood sampler. Main Street, Essex, MA .
Start your Saturday with a snack from the Great Cape Baking Company—we suggest the apple-cider doughnut or a hunk of rosemary bread. Load up on local seafood from C&C Lobster & Fish (based in nearby Hull) and fresh produce from Mary Bukujian's Hanson farm. Enjoy the view of Bathing Beach. Drive home happy. Hingham, MA 2043, hinghamfarmersmarket.org.
True, the Cape is an antique-hunting hub, but fun and funky finds abound as well. Provincetown's Roots has a unique, diverse collection of home and garden accessories, from Tibetan rugs and Tiffany-style lamps to bright hand-painted wooden bowls and bubbling slate fountains. If all this shopping leaves you looking to take a seat, choose from among classic wicker, soft leather, and fine wooden chairs. 193 Commercial St., Provincetown, MA shoproots.com/.
Cape Cod isn't exactly famous for its surfing, but the Beachcomber on Cahoon Hollow Beach is the quintessential surfers' hangout, with battered boards on the walls, sand on the wood floors, and an annual visit from surf god Dick Dale. Early on, the joint is full of families grabbing dinner, but once the sun goes down, a younger crowd moves in for strong mixed drinks and beer. 1120 Cahoon Hollow Road, Wellfleet, MA 2667, thebeachcomber.com.
It's actually two markets in one: On Wednesdays you'll find goods by the town clock in Hingham Square, while on Saturdays the vendors set up shop at Hingham Bathing Beach. Either way, South Shore denizens stream in for the colorful array of produce, meats, and seafood from stands like Weir River Farm, Great Cape Bakery, River Rock Farm, and more. Saturdays May through November, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Hingham Bathing Beach; Wednesdays June through October, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. in Hingham Square, Hingham, MA hinghamfarmersmarket.org.