Cape Cod is a peninsula extending into the Atlantic Ocean from southeastern Massachusetts in the northeastern United States. Cape Cod has changed so much over the last decade. What was once a quaint and quiet peninsula is now a summer vacation spot for thousands of people. Cape Cod consists of 15 towns, Barnstable being the largest.
The Cape is home to 220,000 people year-round, but that number triples to around 600,000 residents during the summer. During the winters, the Cape becomes a complete ghost town, leaving retirees and very few families.
Here’s our ultimate local guide to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with all the tips to plan an unforgettable getaway!
Things To Do In Cape Cod
With 15 towns, over 600 miles of coastline, and over 100 beaches, it’s easy to see why this is a popular summer destination for people from all over the United States and worldwide. If beaches aren’t your thing, there are plenty more things to see and do in the area.
Here are the top things I like to see and do in Cape Cod:
1) Explore Downtown Chatham
Full of unique stores and great food, downtown Chatham has something for everyone. Some of my favorite stores in downtown Chatham are Mahi Gold, The Fisherman’s Daughter, and The Black Dog. Downtown Chatham also has lively nightlife; check out Chatham Squire restaurant and entertainment venue for a great night out.
Downtown Chatham is also perfect for an overcast day on the Cape; a great place to visit is The Chatham Orpheum Theater.
2) Relax On The Beach
You can’t go to Cape Cod without going to the beach. The beaches I recommend visiting on Cape are:
Located in Wellfleet, Cohoon Hollow is home to the famous Beachcomber with live music, delicious sandwiches and summer cocktails. The beach is also great for surfing, boogie boarding, or hanging out with friends.
Located in Dennis, Mayflower Beach is perfect for families with children. The Mayflower Beach is on the bayside of Cape Cod and the water is much warmer and more transparent than the open ocean on the outer Cape. You can walk far out in the shallow water here, especially at low tide.
Herring Cove Beach
Located in Provincetown, Herring Cove Beach has calm waters and a peaceful environment. Watching the sunset at Herring Cove is a great way to spend an evening. Many people love to have a picnic and admire the sparkling sea.
South Cape Beach
Located in Mashpee, South Cape Beach is known for having pristine white sand beaches and a light crowd. South Cape has a view of Martha’s Vineyard and a ton of hiking trails right near the beach.
3) Have A Round Of Mini Golf
There is mini golf on every corner of the Cape. Mini golf is fun, easy to find, and inexpensive and children will love the pirate and whale themes. Some of my favorite places to play mini-golf are The Weatherdeck in Harwich and Pirates Cove in Yarmouth.
4) Explore and Walk Around Provincetown
Provincetown (also known as P-town) is unique and different from the rest of the Cape. P-town is all about the LGBTQ community, with rainbow flags lining the streets and unique art all over town. P-town is about being a part of community and acceptance; it’s so wonderful to see.
Many shops and restaurants are along Commercial Street, with lots going on around the area. Ensure you appreciate the unique environment you can’t find anywhere else in the US.
5) Walk Along The Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a 25-mile trail that runs through six of the Cape’s towns. A section of the Rail Trail goes around Cliff Pond in Brewster, so wear a bathing suit and stop for a dip. If you don’t have a bike, there are plenty of places you can rent a bike from. If you are not into biking, this is a great trail to walk or run on.
6) Go Kayaking
Kayaking is my favorite pastime on the Cape, but I avoided kayaking in the ocean. You need to know the waves and currents if you decide to kayak in the open ocean.
Kayaking in rivers and lakes is much safer, especially with children and Bass River and Herring River are great kayaking spots. You can rent a kayak from many places in the area.
7) Explore Downtown Wellfleet
Downtown Wellfleet has funky shops, galleries and restaurants. My favorites are Aim Thrift Shop, Herridge Books, Sickday Surf and Skate and Mac’s Seafood on the Beach.
Be sure to check out the Wellfleet Flea market, which is enormous. Here, you will find some junk, but you will also find some diamonds in the rough for super cheap. Even if you are not looking to buy anything, exploring the flea market is worth it.
8) Have A Go At Surfing On Nauset Beach
Nauset is a great surfing beach on the Cape. The waves are massive and are so fun to swim and surf in. You can rent a surfboard right at the beach if you don’t have one, but be careful of the undertow and marine life; there have been some shark sightings at Nauset recently.
9) Go Bridge Jumping
This one is for my fellow thrill seekers. I cannot tell you how proud I was the first time I did a backflip off the Herring River Bridge. You can jump off bridges into rivers all over the Cape; just be sure that the one you decide to jump off is safe (meaning it’s high tide, no strong currents and you see other people jumping).
10) Walk Around Harwich Port
Harwich Port has restaurants and shops. It is smaller and low-key than the nearby Chatham but is within walking distance of the beach. Harwich Port is great for grabbing lunch or ice cream during your beach day. Check out Pleasant Street Beach, right next to Harwich Port.
Some of my favorite shops in Harwich Port are Sativa and Sundae School.
11) Have A Boat Day
Having a boat day on the Cape is so fun. You can go on a tour or rent a boat to use. If you are lucky enough to do this, go to Monomoy Island and see if you can spot any Great White Sharks. You could also grab a tube and water skis and zip around Nantucket Sound.
Best Day Trips From Cape Cod
Cape Cod is an excellent place to visit or spend a weeklong or weekend trip with plenty of things to do in the area and surrounding area. I recommend spending a day or morning outside of the city and some great places to explore are Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
Nantucket is the perfect place for a day trip from the Cape. This preppy island has ferries running all the time from Harwich and Hyannis. If you take the fast ferry from Hyannis, you will be on Nantucket in an hour.
While on Nantucket, visit Cisco Beach, Downtown Nantucket, and Jetties Beach.
Martha’s Vineyard is also an island off the Cape known for its adorable gingerbread houses (a street of tiny houses resembling gingerbread houses), the movie Jaws, and its gorgeous beaches.
While on Martha’s Vineyard, check out Oaks Bluff, Jaws Bridge, and the gingerbread houses and enjoy a tour of the island.
Best Tours To Take In Cape Cod
Cape Cod offers a variety of enjoyable tours for exploring the area, taking to the water, and visiting unique landmarks. For a trip to the Cape, here are four great tour options:
- Discover Martha’s Vineyard on a Boston day trip. See the charming gingerbread cottages of Oak Bluffs, quaint shops in Edgartown, and stunning Gay Head Cliffs.
- You can explore all that Cape Cod offers on a self-guided audio tour from the comfort and flexibility of your own vehicle.
- Discover Cape Cod and Provincetown on your own time with this self-guided audio tour. Admire the area’s rich history, breathtaking scenery, and hidden gems from the comfort of your vehicle.
- Embark on a whale-watching cruise from Provincetown and spot marine wildlife in their natural habitat off Cape Cod.
Best Places To Stay In Cape Cod
No town on the Cape is “bad” or “unsafe” to stay in. Of course, some areas are more excellent and some are more affordable than others.
Some of the more expensive areas of Cape Cod include Chatham, Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet and Brewster. The more affordable towns include Dennis, Harwich, Hyannis, Barnstable and Yarmouth.
My favorite towns to stay in on the Cape are Harwich, Chatham, Provincetown and Brewster.
Here are 10 of the best places to stay during your Cape Cod getaway:
Where To Stay In Harwich
Harwich is where I grew up. Located on Nantucket Sound, Harwich is laid-back but preppy, with an adorable downtown on the beach.
- Wequassett Resort and Spa – Located in Harwich, this hotel has a private beach, is within walking distance of other beaches and is within a ten-minute drive of restaurants and bars. The hotel also features 120 rooms, an outdoor swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course.
- Winstead Beach Resort – Located close to Chatham Lighthouse and Cape Cod Lavender Farm, this hotel has 14 individually furnished rooms with bicycle rentals and a self-serve breakfast.
Where To Stay In Brewster
Brewster is all about biking. Located on the beach directly north of Harwich, Brewser is the Cape’s hidden gem. Brewster is home to the hippies; it is a ‘go to a cafe and ride your bike to a yoga class’ type of town.
- The Mansion at Ocean Edge – This luxury upscale hotel has three outdoor swimming pools, two indoor swimming people and a golf course. Active guests can enjoy cycling, basketball and aerobics.
- Four Points by Sheraton Eastham Cape Cod – This 3-star hotel is located just a 15-minute walk from the Cape Cod National Seashore and rooms sleep between one and six people.
- The Inn at the Oaks – This hotel has rooms that can comfortably sleep up to five people. The hotel also has free self-parking, a complimentary continental breakfast, a terrace and a garden.
Where To Stay In Chatham
Chatham is where the rich and famous go for their Cape Cod vacation, and Chatham is the definition of preppy.
- Chatham Bars Inn – Located in the heart of Chatham on a private beach, this boutique hotel has 217 rooms, including suites and deluxe suites.
- Edgewater Beach Resort – Located just a three-minute walk from the beach, this hotel has rooms that can sleep up to six people. The waterfront aparthotel also has an outdoor swimming pool.
Where To Stay In Provincetown
Provincetown is located on the tip of the Cape; if you drive from Harwich, it takes an hour. It is worth the drive! Unique Provincetown is full of great restaurants, LGBTQ pride, art and more.
- Brass Key Guesthouse – This adults-only hotel has 43 rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, a breakfast buffet, a nightclub and a poolside bar. Located in Provincetown, this hotel is within walking distance of Commercial Street and numerous beaches.
- The Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s – Located in Provincetown, this hotel features 22 individually decorated and furnished rooms with thoughtful touches and numerous room options.
- Crown Pointe Historic Inn and Spa – This upscale hotel by the ocean features an onsite spa, a restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool. All 40 rooms include premium bedding and all the amenities needed for a great stay.
Best Places To Eat In Cape Cod
Cape Cod has a large number of different places to eat and drink. Whether you are looking for a lively brunch, a relaxing lunch, or a lovely evening meal with your friends, there is something for everyone in Cape Cod.
Here are ten of the best restaurants in Cape Cod:
- Snowy Owl Coffee Roasters – Locations all over the Cape. (Chatham, Brewster, Sandwich) Snowy Owl has the best coffee on the Cape and maybe in Massachusetts. This rustic cafe also serves delicious food! I would recommend the empanadas.
- Wolfies – Wolfies, located in Dennis, has amazing muffins your head size. These muffins are delicious. Wolfies will have a line out the door, so ensure you get there early.
- Hot Chocolate Sparrow – Craving something sweet? The Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans will satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious mocha lattes and excellent pastries.
- Sea Grille – The Sea Grille is a luxurious seafood restaurant in Harwich. If you are looking for a classic New England meal, the Sea Grille is for you. I love the Lobster pasta.
- Anejo – Anejo is a mexican restaurant in Hyannis. This joint has excellent margaritas and tacos.
- Chillingsworth – Located in Brewster, Chillingworth is as fancy as it sounds. In this French restaurant, you will feel like a billionaire. The food at Chillingsworth will melt in your mouth.
- Mac’s On The Pier – Located in Wellfleet, Mac’s On The Pier is a seafood joint known for its insane lobster roll. Mac’s On The Pier is on the beach, perfect for a midday munch.
- Far Land Provisions – Looking for some insane sandwiches in Provincetown? Far Land Provisions is the perfect lunch on a beach day. These sandwiches are top-notch. I love the Pilgrim Lake!
- Sundae School – You should never skip dessert while on vacation! Sundae School has the best ice cream in town. Locations in Dennis and Harwich Sundae School will leave you wanting another sundae.
- Chatham Squire – Located in downtown Chatham, the Chatham Squire is a lovely tavern with live music and a rowdy crowd.
- Duck Inn Pub – The Duck Inn Pub is located in downtown Hyannis. A local spot, the Duck Inn Pub, will leave you with exciting stories.
Things You Need To Know About Cape Cod
The Cape is known for having amazing summers and the many Great White Sharks that terrify beachgoers. As of 2023, around 800 sharks are swimming off the coast of Cape Cod. Sharks are something to take into account when visiting the Cape. Years ago, I would have swam to the buoy (the buoy signifies the farthest you can swim out from the beach), but now I wouldn’t go past my waist.
Avoid swimming in Chatham, Truro, Provincetown, Wellfleet, Eastham and Orleans. Most of all, avoid Monomoy Island. If you take a trip to Nantucket, avoid Great Point.
Swimming is safe in Harwich, Dennis, Yarmouth, Hyannis, Barnstable and Brewster.
Best Time To Visit Cape Cod
Visit Cape Cod in the summer months. July and August tend to be extremely expensive and crowded, so if you want to save money, go during a shoulder season. September is a great time to go if you want to avoid crowds and save money.
How To Get To Cape Cod, Massachusetts
One of the things that makes Cape Cod a great summer destination for a getaway is that it is easily accessible by direct flight from several cities around the United States.
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is the closest airport, which has daily domestic and international flights worldwide.
The airport is located an hour outside of the peninsula and you can pick up an Uber at the airport, taxi, or rent a car.
Cape Cod Wrap Up
I hope you’ve found this Cape Cod guide helpful and that you are now excited to visit the peninsula with your girls!
If you have questions about Cape Cod or tips for our readers, please leave these in the comments below! And suppose you’re interested in visiting other cities in the United States. In that case, you can check out all our Bachelorette party articles for inspiration or all our girls getaway guides for other trip ideas.
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