Cape Cod National Seashore

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

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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.

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Nauset Light House

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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.

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Pilgrim Monument

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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

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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

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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.

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Things to Do in Cape Cod National Seashore

Cape Kayaking

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

Billingsgate Charters

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

Chatham Squire

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

Paramount

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.



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30 Comments

  1. Bex Arnold

    I remember the first time my parents took me to Cape Cod. It has a magnificent energy and such beautiful and vast scenery. This post brought back to me a fond memory and inspired me to consider another visit but this time with my little one!

    Another great post Leahrae!

    Thank you!!

    -Bex

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed Bex! Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  2. Demi

    Cape cod looks beautiful. As you mentioned it is ideal for beach lovers, I would very much like to explore this beautiful destination. I have explored California and Florida beaches but never been to Cape Cod National Seashore. The light house looks stunning and I’m always fascinated by light house destination. So this place is a must in my travel list.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Sounds like the perfect fit for you Demi. It will exceed your expectations, knowing you have been to Florida and California. Unique in it’s own way but absolutely beautiful!

      Reply
  3. Asen

    Six swimming beaches got immediately my attention. It’s so damn far from me but I will find the time to visit this gorgeous place too.
    Thanks for the thorough and useful depiction!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome, and it will be so worth it! You will fall in love with Cape Cod!

      Reply
  4. Bex Arnold

    Wowzas!! The vast landscape the beautiful vistas! Cape cod looks so magnificent! I remember visiting there as a child but have yet to experience it as a parent. The various ponds that yield higher temperatures for the little ones sounds exactly like something me and my little seven year old would totally love to check out!

    Great post and chalk full of really helpful tips and information.

    Thank you Leahrae!

    -Bex

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Bex! I am glad you enjoyed. Yes, your little one will love the kettle ponds 🙂

      Reply
  5. Daniella

    HI Matts,

    Oh, wow, Cape Code is stunning!

    I have traveled to many places, but to Cape Code, never. The hotels are beautiful. The one that I’ll choose is the Brass Key Guesthouse. It must be quite expensive, but worth the price. Also, we love biking with our kids when we are on vacation, it’s fun and great for health. Do we have to have to book the activities and the hotel separately or it comes with the hotel package?
    Thank you for this excellent post!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You will have to book your activities separately, but the hotel can help you with that. Just keep in mind, because you do mention your kids, that the Brass Key Guesthouse is an adults only hotel, and does not allow anyone under 18 to stay at the hotel. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

      Reply
  6. Randy

    Wow! I had no idea there was such a beautiful seashore in the Cape Cod area. My only experience is from what you see in the movies, usually a ferry heading somewhere. You did such a wonderful job showing us when to visit depending on personal preferences and listing the available attractions. I can see my wife and I biking down the Cape Cod Rail Trail in the spring or fall months. 

    We generally head a little further south when we visit the east coast. You have definitely piqued my interest in expanding our horizons. We love a good restaurant and your review shows there’s no shortage of options. I’d have a hard time deciding on one of the accommodations you have so wonderfully described.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to such a beautiful National Seashore.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Randy.  Yes, you do need to expand your horizons for sure.  This is a wonderful area and I live in Florida where there is no shortage of beautiful beaches.  Cape Cod is unique and worth vacationing too.  Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  7. Juliet

    Thank you for this post Leahrae, now you are making me want to go to Cape Cod. The photographs are so great. I think I would love to visit In September or October. They are the months I like to relax before it gets Christmas busy. And the hotel that tickles my fancy is the Brass Key Guesthouse. 

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Good choice on hotels Juliet and I never thought of it that way, traveling before the hectic Christmas season.  I like that idea!

      Reply
  8. Keenan

    I’ve never been to Cape Cod before but after reading this post it’s very hard not to think about booking a trip! It seems like it has many different beautiful scenery attractions which is great for me because I love the outdoors!
    I will be bookmarking this website for future trips!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed visiting the Cape Cod National Seashore. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  9. Yormith96

    Hi laehrae, this is just another wonderful post about Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, a visit to Monomoy National Wildlife will not really be a bad idea for me and I also checked on coast guard beach, it’s not actually a bad place to visit, I have really enjoyed reading your post all different Beaches since 

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great, I am glad you are enjoying your visits to beach travel destinations and the Cape Cod National Seashore.  Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  10. Oneal22

    Amazing and insightful write up on the Cape Cod national seashore I must say, I wondered while reading about if the six beaches and twenty ponds are natural ponds or if they were artificial, I was also stunned by the Cape Cod rail trail, it was an eye catcher for me, the fact that the best visiting times are may – June may not work for me, but September to October will definitely work for me. Best regards.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      None of the beaches or kettle ponds are artificial.  All are natural with wonderful natural beauty.  If heading to Cape Cod, a bike trip on the rail trail is definitely a must.  I hope you can make it to Cape Cod National Seashore soon.  Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  11. Katya

    Hi Leahrae, first things first, I absolutely love your website. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. Since I love cycling, hate cold water and prefer secluded, windy beaches I believe Cape Cod wins over San Gregorio, I checked before. Should I bring a bicycle with me or they have a rental in town? I would love to do a Rail trail and visit the Lighthouse.

    Thanks,

    Katya

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Katya,  I love windy beaches too!  I don’t get too hot when there is always a breeze.  You will find bike rentals there, so no need to tug along your bicycle.  The best place to rent bikes from is Little Capistrano Bike Shop.  Please let me know if you have any other questions.  Thank you for visiting beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  12. Olufemi

    Hi Leahrae,

    Thanks for giving a beautiful presentation of nice places to visit in Cape Cod, MA. I wonder how far they are from MIT. One of my children has hopes of attending MIT and that would be a great opportunity to visit these places. You also have a wonderful lineup of nice places to eat and stay. This is a very useful article.

    Thanks again

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you 🙂  It’s only about an hour and a half drive from MIT.  That’s not too far!  You can visit your college son/daughter and visit Cape Cod or take them there for the weekend.  Nice!

      Reply
  13. Devara Garrison

    I’ve never been to Massachusetts before, but Cape Cod National Seashore sounds like a great place to visit! I will surely bookmark this page!
    You captured my attention in the first few sentences! With several swimming beaches to choose from, the kettle ponds, places to walk and ride bikes, beautiful scenery. I love to see different lighthouses too! Sounds like a great vacation idea. I like the idea of the dune-buggy tours as well. I’ve always wanted to do that.
    Thanks for sharing another great vacation idea; 1 more on my bookmark list!

    Devara

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I know I keep growing your bookmarks and hopefully your bucket list for vacations 🙂 It is really a beautiful area to vacation to, and plenty for the whole family. Dune buggies are a blast!

      Reply
  14. Effie

    If you ask a European citizen about beaches in the US he will mention California or possibly Florida. Every time I visit your website I realize that there are lots of really amazing places to visit. The list is enormous and I don’t know which one I should choose. Cape cod is definitely one of my favorites. Great article Leahrae !

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are so right Effie! I have a lot of family in Germany and when they found out I moved to Florida, they all want to come visit. No when I was in Texas, there was zero interest. And I found Texas to be such a great place as well. Granted they don’t have the wonderful and tremendous about of coastline and beaches. But they do have beaches 🙂 Cape Cod National Seashore is just a wonderful place, and it is up there – hands down – with Florida and California!

      Reply
  15. Karen

    Wow, what a great review of everything Cape Cod National Seashore has to offer. I love biking, being from the Netherlands it is in my second nature. I did not know this region, but I am definitely interested in discovering it, it has such a wide variety of things to do and to see. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Karen. I am glad you learned about the Cape Cod National Seashore. It is a very beautiful place worth seeing in person 🙂 Thanks for stopping by beach travel destinations.

      Reply

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