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Cape Cod is a vacationer’s Mecca for travelers from around the globe. Once thought of as only a “summer” destination, Cape Cod has become a haven for visitors spring, summer, fall, and winter. As the seasons change, so does the flavor of Cape Cod. But each season offers its own treasures, whether it be the rhododendrons of spring, the balmy breezes of summer, the crisp and colorful cranberry harvests of autumn, or winter’s festivals of lights. In fact, there is so much to see and do at any time of the year, that it is difficult to truly experience Cape Cod in just a few days. But we know that vacation time is precious and the world is a big place, so we have put together a suggested itinerary to fit everyone’s time limits, be it 3, 5, 7 days or more that you have allotted for you Cape Cod vacation.
Here are our ideas if you have 3 days on Cape Cod:
Day One: The Olde King’s Highway
For an overview of the historic north side of Cape Cod, and a good introduction to what Patty Paige was singing about in her famous song “Old Cape Cod”, drive the length of scenic Route 6A, which has been designated one of the most scenic byways in America. Also known as the Old King’s Highway, Rt. 6A will take you past lovely antique shops, art galleries, boutiques, and one-of-a-kind gift shops where you can shop ‘til you drop. Our favorite lunch stop on this tour is the Brewster Fish House. After lunch visit the Natural Museum of Natural History and walk the nature trails across the marsh to the Brewster Flats at Paines Creek. Later in the afternoon stop for a soft serve at Captain Frosty’s in Dennis and catch the sunset along the boardwalk at Gray’s Beach in Yarmouthport.
Day Two: The National Seashore
After breakfast this morning, head east along the Mid-Cape Highway to see the National Seashore. In Eastham, take a side trip to Fort Hill to one of our favorite picnic spots for a view of Nauset Beach and a lovely walk along the nature trails. As you head back you will pass the Penniman House, an historic sea captain’s mansion that boasts a whale jawbone as its front gate. Wend you way back to Route 6 and continue on to the Salt Pond Visitors Center at the entrance of the National Seashore. Visit the Coast Guard Station at Coast Guard Beach, the Nauset Beach Lighthouse, and the Marconi Wireless Station site. Then drive down Lecount Hollow Road to Ocean View Drive where you will find lovely old Cape Cod cottages set in among the dunes. Lecount Hollow, Cahoon Hollow, and Newcomb Hollow are magnificent beaches where you will encounter great surf and perhaps spot a whale offshore. On your return stop at Arnold’s on Route 6 for onion rings and fried clams then catch a movie at the Wellfleet Drive-In, one of the nation’s remaining few original drive-in theaters.
Day Three: Provincetown
Day 3 finds you back on Route 6 where you should make a bee-line for Provincetown. Along the way you can detour for a tour of Truro Vineyards and the Atlantic Spice Company at the junction of Route 6 and 6A in Truro. Take the Shore Road into P’Town, as the locals call it and park, which will take you past one of the iconic images of the lower Cape: Days Cottages. Tiny one-room shacks built in the ‘40s, each one sports a front yard that encompasses Cape Cod Bay. Park you car along Commercial Street near MacMillan Pier. Start your tour of downtown with a climb to the top of the Pilgrim Monument for a spectacular view. Have lunch at the Lobster Pot, then stroll the shops and galleries along Commercial Street or take a one-of-a-kind tour of the dunes with Art’s Dune Tours. Alternatively take a whale watching excursion to Stellwagen Bank with the Dolphin Fleet. On your return, drive out through the Province Lands and stop at the Visitors Center. To end the day, watch the sunset over Race Point.
…if you have 5 days on Cape Cod, add:
Day Four: Chatham
Historic Chatham, at the “elbow” of Cape Cod, is one of the most picturesque towns on Cape Cod. You could easily spend the morning browsing the lovely shops along Main Street. Have lunch at the Chatham Squire, one of the local dives with lots of great local color. After lunch drive to the end of Main Street where it intersects Shore Road. There you’ll find the Chatham Lighthouse and Lighthouse Beach. If you take a left onto Shore Road you will drive past the Chatham Bars Inn, one of the most elegant hotels on Cape Cod. If you take a right you will meander down Morris Island Road, which will take you out to Morris Island and the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. There you can take a seal cruise aboard the Rip Ryder or have them drop you off for an afternoon at the beach on South Monomoy. Late in the afternoon, drive out to the Chatham Fish Pier to see the day boats unload their catch. Have dinner at The Impudent Oyster before heading home for the evening.
Day Five: Sandwich
Spend the day in Sandwich, the oldest town on Cape Cod. You can take a tour of the Sandwich Glass Museum, visit the Hoxie House, and the Dexter Grist Mill. For a bit of British flavor, have tea at the Dunbar Tea House. If you need a little exercise later take a walk along the Sandwich boardwalk out to Cape Cod Bay or stroll along the 6-mile trail that lines the Cape Cod Canal. At the canal you can grab an early dinner at Seafood Sam’s or order a steamed lobster from Joe’s Seafood Market and dine at the picnic tables along the canal. Alternately, spend the afternoon at the Heritage Museum and Gardens where you can stroll acres of perennial gardens, visit the historic Shaker round barn with its spectacular classic car collection, and the exhibits of military miniatures, antique toys and Native American artifacts in the American History Museum. Be sure to take a spin on the restored and fully-functioning carousel and stay for an evening concert at the amphitheater.
…if you have 7 days on Cape Cod, add:
Day Six: Falmouth and Woods Hole
This morning you’ll head south to Falmouth and Woods Hole for a glimpse of the other side of Cape Cod. Follow Route 6A east to the Bourne rotary to Route 28 that leads into Falmouth. We suggest you take a detour via Route 28A for a more scenic drive through the lovely community of West Falmouth, with its many antique shops. If you prefer, you can take a side trip to Old Silver Beach for a morning of frolicking on the sand, or out to the Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary for a quiet respite. Just past West Falmouth, follow Sippewissett Road, a windy 8-mile route that takes you past beautiful homes with great views of the water into Woods Hole, home to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Have lunch at the Fish Monger, overlooking the drawbridge that leads into Eel Pond from Vineyard Sound. From Woods Hole you could take a short ferry trip to Martha’s Vineyard aboard the Steamship Authority, but this is better saved for a day of its own. Alternately you can ride your bike along the Shining Sea Bike Trail from North Falmouth to Woods Hole, an 11-mile trip that takes you through the salt marsh with views of Buzzards Bay, then into the woods and along Vineyard Sound to Woods Hole. If you decide to ride, stop for lunch at Dana’s Kitchen for unusual sandwiches, homemade soups and salads on Palmer Ave near downtown Falmouth. On your return trip stop for dinner at the Chapoquoit Grill, then catch the sunset from Chapoquoit Beach near the restaurant.
Day Seven: Hyannis and Hyannisport with afternoon Whale Watching
No visit to Cape Cod is complete without a trip to the John F. Kennedy Memorial on Ocean Street in Hyannis overlooking Hyannis Harbor and a tour of the Kennedy Museum on Main Street. The exhibits focus on the “Cape Years” of President Kennedy’s life and covers the span from 1934 to 1963. The Museum offers a glimpse into the Kennedy family, including photos and vintage footage of the Kennedy’s at play. Hyannisport is home to the Kennedy compound, but as some of the family still live there, the compound is not open to the public. Downtown Hyannis has some delightful shops as well as its fair share of tourist traps, and along the harbor are some great seafood restaurants, seasonal artist studios, and the ferry docks for the ferries to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. After lunch the Black Cat or Spanky’s Clam Shack, head into Barnstable Village for an afternoon of whale watching aboard the Hyannis Whale Watcher. This 3.5-4 hour excursion takes you out to Stellwagen Bank where humpbacks, finbacks, and minkes feed and frolic from May through October.
Stay tuned for our next post on how to expand your Cape Cod vacation to accommodate a trip of 8 to 16 days.