With six swimming beaches, 20 (warmer) kettle ponds, a forest that invites exploration on foot or bike, scenic outlooks, lighthouses, dune-buggy tours, and ranger-led events, there’s plenty to do without leaving the Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, the miles of dunes, beach, and wild lands in the heart of one of the most popular summer destinations in the country. The Cape Cod National Seashore is a haven for beach bums, nature lovers, history buffs and sea worshipers. Here’s what to see, do and eat in each town along the way.
Cape Cod National Seashore Kettle Ponds
Kettle ponds formed when the ice sheets retreated around 18,000 years ago. They’re ideal for children and are usually around 10 degrees warmer than the ocean. Most are operated as town swimming beaches. Great Pond, Gull Pond, and Long Pond are the more popular bodies of water, set right off main roads. Visitors can also rent canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddle boards to use here.
Weather – When to Visit
The best time to visit Cape Cod is May, June, September or October. These shoulder months have pleasant temperatures for outdoor activities, fewer crowds than the busy summer season and reasonable room rates. Visiting between July and August is best if hitting the beach is a top priority for you, but you’ll shell out a pretty penny for a seaside cottage during the peak tourist season. In contrast, the Cape is near abandoned from December through March and hotel prices are much less expensive than the warmer months, though many shops and restaurants close in the off season. If you’re looking for some time to curl up with a good book in quiet solitude, winter is the time for you.
Cape Cod National Seashore Attractions
Cape Cod Rail Trail
Popular with bikers, roller bladers and horseback riders, this 22-mile paved trail is a breezy ride through the Lower Cape’s diverse ecosystems. Previously known as the Old Colony Railroad corridor, the Cape Cod Rail Trail is considered one of the best bike trails in New England.
Nauset Light House
Nauset Light, is the most famous and photographed lighthouse on Cape Cod, is located within the Cape Cod National Coast. It is an important part of Easthams cultural and maritime history. Nauset Light is helping private fleets and uses of small sailing boats that sail near the coast it is also important to note that the lighthouse is no longer under the auspices of the United States Coast Guard.
The Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association built the Pilgrim Monument to honor the Pilgrims’ first landing in Provincetown. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1907. In 1910, President William Howard Taft dedicated the finished 252-foot tower. In 1910, the Cape’s first building built to house a museum opened at the base of the monument, to educate the public about Provincetown’s role in Pilgrim history and American history.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
With more than 7,600 acres of protected dunes, salt and freshwater marshes and a decommissioned lighthouse, the gorgeous Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge will make you feel like a trailblazer. But there’s more than rugged scenery; the encompassing islands of Morris, and North and South Monomoy are a nesting habitat for hundreds of species of migratory seabirds. Off the coast of South Monomoy, a large harbor grey seal population congregates to mate, play and sun themselves on the shore.
Coast Guard Beach
Coast Guard Beach is a prime swimming beach during the summer season. From mid-June to Labor Day, the parking area at this location is closed to all but park staff and visitors who are disabled, and access is provided by shuttle bus from the Little Creek parking area. There are seasonal restrooms and a wheelchair-accessible ramp way to the beach.
Things to Do in Cape Cod National Seashore
Explore parts of the Cape that are inaccessible by any other means but personal watercraft. Learn about the geography, ecology and history of Cape Cod while paddling 3 hrs.+ through narrow water trails, inlets, coves and bays. Cape Kayaking provides some of the best sleek and efficient touring kayaks, extremely light weight paddles and PFD’s for the entire family. A variety of different tours are available throughout each week that include paddling around seals, birding and learning how to comb the mud flats and sandbars for an array of different clams. Telephone: 508-247-7402 Web: Cape Kayaking
Blue Claw Boat Tours
Sightseeing Boat Tours on Cape Cod. We offer Seal Watch Adventure Cruises, Combination Beach combing and Seal Watching Trips, Relaxing Evening/Sunset Cruises,and Private Custom Cruises. Telephone: 508-240-5783 Web: Blue Claw Boat Tours
Captain Curley’s Sailing Charters
Captain “Curley” has been taking guests on Jeremy Point outings and sight seeing tours of Wellfleet Harbor since 2013. Some of his more memorable experiences have been finding live scallop in the tidal pools off of Jeremy Point, seeing a dolphin cruising the harbor waters, and viewing the impressive cloud formations and weather patterns unique to the Cape. Telephone: 508-784-6691 Web: Captain Curley’s Sailing Charters
Outer Cape Sailing
The Original small boat charter in Wellfleet. Daysail or Sunset sail in scenic Wellfleet Harbor with Coast Guard licensed captain. Go ashore on Great Island for picnics, beachcombing, or swimming. Sailing lessons with US Sailing certified instructor. Affordable, private, and fun. “Not Your Typical Cocktail Cruise.” Since 2004. Telephone: 508-237-4012 Web: Outer Cape Sailing
Lobster Charters, Sport Fishing Charters, Combo Charters and Harbor Cruises – Affordable Family Fun! We also sell fresh lobsters right off the boat at a great price! Telephone: 781-706-0145 Web: Billingsgate Charters
Best Cape Cod National Seashore Restaurants
$-Inexpensive $$-Moderate $$$-Pricey $$$$-Ultra High End
$$ The Beach House at Chatham Bars Inn
Fresh, local “just caught” seafood, classic seaside favorites, sunset clambakes in the summer season, seasonally inspired cocktails and local beer served in an unforgettable oceanfront setting. Featuring live music and attentive, upbeat service. Telephone: 1 800-527-4884 Web: The Beach House at Chatham Bars Inn
$$ – $$$ Pilot House Restaurant & Lounge
Enjoy dining hearthside with family and friends or unwind at the bar while sipping on a refreshing cocktail. If dining outside is something you enjoy, stop by for lunch on the patio under the sun, dinner under the stars or a beverage of choice at their fully stocked outside bar (weather permitting and seasonal). Telephone: 508-888-8889 Web: Pilot House Restaurant & Lounge
$$ – $$$ Popponessett Inn Restaurant
It’s tucked inside an inn that’s tucked inside a country club that’s tucked into a golf course. Inconspicuous, to say the least. But it’s also 50ft from the ocean, with glass windows that guarantee every diner a sweeping beach view. If you’re jonesing for more saltwater time, check in for the night: guests gain access to the tony beachfront bar and raw bar, otherwise available to members only. Telephone: 508-539-8322 Web: Popponessett Inn Restaurant
$$ – $$$ Quicks Hole Taqueria
Quicks Hole Taqueria located at 6 Luscombe Avenue in Woods Hole is a unique combo of Baja California surfer hangout meets New England clam shack. Open mid-May to late September, this seasonal restaurant specializes in tacos, burritos, salads and from-scratch soups like watermelon gazpacho and quahog chowder made the traditional way with bacon and roasted corn. Telephone: 508-495-0792 Web: Quicks Hole Taqueria
$$ – $$$ Mattakeese Wharf
Mattakeese is one of those places that caters to multiple generations: baked stuffed shrimp for the grandparents, baked stuffed lobster for the ‘rents, and straight-up steamed lobster for yourself (with a starter of oysters and a side of steamers, of course). Frankly though, going for sunset cocktails and appetizers on a weekend when there’s live music is the best! Telephone: 508-362-4511 Web: Mattakeese Wharf
Best Nightlife – Cape Cod National Seashore
British Beer Company
This traditional British “public house” has a great menu that includes fish, ribs, and pizza. Entertainment options throughout the week include karaoke, trivia night, and a variety of bands that perform Thursday–Saturday. There are two other Cape locations in Falmouth and Hyannis. Telephone: 508-833–9590 Web: British Beer Company
Boasting four bars (including a raw bar), this is a rollicking year-round local hangout, drawing a young crowd to the bar side and a mixed crowd of locals to the restaurant. There’s live entertainment on weekends. Telephone: 508-945-0945 Web: Chatham Squire
Governor Bradford Restaurant
This bar is dark and rustic, and lacks the glittering lights of some of the other town nightspots. It’s on a busy corner of Commercial and Standish Streets, where you can sit at tables with windows open to the street or inside at the long bar. Late-night fun includes drag karaoke, a great time and wildly popular; downstairs are multiple pool tables, darts, and a jukebox. Telephone: 508-487-2781 Web: Governor Bradford Restaurant
Harvest Gallery Wine Bar
Near the Cape Playhouse, this friendly place has an extensive wine list, a good variety of hors d’oeuvres and other nibbles, eclectic artwork, and live music. Telephone: 508-385-2444 Web: Harvest Gallery Wine Bar
Part of the Crown & Anchor complex of entertainment options, the Paramount is the hotel’s main nightlife venue, offering poolside dancing to skilled DJs—including many names from the top international dance scene—on many nights. It’s also host to cabaret performances and live theater. Next door is a video bar and a male-only leather bar, The Vault. Cover charges vary. Telephone: 508-487-1430 Web: Paramount
Best Cape Cod National Seashore Hotels
Wequassett Resort & Golf Club
Any visitor of this property will tell you how beautiful and impressive they find Wequassett Resort and Golf Club. Then they’ll probably rave about renting a boat, putting on the greens, lounging poolside, or any of the many other activities available to resort guests. Perhaps a recounting of the tasty seafood dish they ate at Twenty-eight Atlantic will follow. Basically, this hotel gets kudos upon kudos from travelers and experts alike for its variety of amenities and elegant accommodations. Rooms and suites are appointed with spacious patios, gas fireplaces and flat-screen TVs. For most guests, these things make the perfect Cape Cod getaway. For more information, pricing or to reserve your room visit the Wequassett Resort & Golf Club.
Chatham Bars Inn
Since 1914, the Chatham Bars Inn has been a cozy oceanfront retreat that beckons to Cape Cod visitors with its laid-back luxury. The nautical color palette extends to the hotel’s guest rooms and cottages, which guests adore for their seaside views and massive wraparound porches. Accommodations are equipped with Bose Wave radios, L’Occitane toiletries and Nespresso coffee makers. The New England-inspired fare dining venues STARS, The Sacred Cod, The Beach House and The Veranda, earns rave reviews. For more information, pricing or to reserve your room visit the Chatham Bars Inn.
The Mansion at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club
With 429 acres to host a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, miles of coastline, several tennis courts, a 26-mile bike trail and five pools (including two indoor), the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club stacks up well against its Cape Cod competitors by the numbers. Rooms come in two main types: villas available on one portion of the property and guest rooms or suites inside the main building called “The Mansion.” All types feature entertainment centers, coffee makers and sofa beds. For more information, pricing or to reserve your room visit the Mansion at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club.
Brass Key Guesthouse – Adults Only
Accommodations are spread out across nine historical buildings that have been fully restored. Ranging from a classic queen room to a penthouse suite, all of the 43 accommodations are individually decorated and include coffee makers, flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi access and minifridges. Guests can also take advantage of the on-site infinity pool or 12-person whirlpool, along with the expansive gardens and courtyard. For more information, pricing or to reserve your room visit the Brass Key Guesthouse.
Belfry Inn & Bistro
The unique Belfry Inn & Bistro is located right in downtown Sandwich, Massachusetts, about a mile from the coast. Housed in a renovated church, which was built in 1901, the inn boasts a one-of-a-kind experience, having maintained much of the structural and decorative elements of the original building. The on-site Belfry Bistro offers fine dining and complimentary breakfast daily for guests. The Belfry Bistro also hosts various live music series, complete with drink specials. Inside each of the inn’s 22 accommodations, visitors will find a cable TV, Wi-Fi access and a soaking tub. Many rooms have balconies and fireplaces too. For more information, pricing or to reserve your room visit the Belfry Inn & Bistro.