7 picture-perfect things to do on Cape Cod

Published Date: January 6, 2023

Cape Cod in the summer
Classic Americana abounds on Cape Cod, and there are so many ways to take it all in. With quaint towns, endless historical sites, coastal lighthouses and beautiful beaches, the Cape Cod peninsula is truly an experience. Whether you’re a New England native who longs to spend “summers on the Cape” or a first-timer looking to explore the myriad charms of coastal Massachusetts, Cape Cod has it all. Here are seven wonderful ways to experience the Cape. 

1. Cycle the Cape Cod Rail Trail

Extending 25 miles from South Dennis to Wellfleet, the Cape Cod Rail Trail mostly follows what used to be the Old Colony Railroad Company route. Today, it’s a bike, walking and horseback riding trail that takes you to the towns of Yarmouth, Harwich, Brewster and Eastham, among others. Plot your course through mostly flat terrain and make your way along bucolic farmlands, salt marshes, beaches and bridges. 

2. See where the Mayflower landed

While the pilgrims famously settled in Plymouth, the Mayflower actually landed at what is now Provincetown, located on the tip of Cape Cod. Here you’ll find the 252-foot-tall Pilgrim Monument, the tallest all-granite structure in the country. Climb to the top, traversing 116 steps and 60 ramps, and you’ll be rewarded with incredible harbor views. Be sure to leave enough time to explore the Provincetown Museum, with exhibits highlighting the arrival of the pilgrims and the signing of the Mayflower Compact, plus a replica of a 19th-century sea captain’s parlor.

3. Enjoy a whale watching excursion

Mid-May to October is peak whale watching season off the coast of Cape Cod. From the deck of a whale watching cruise and guided by a local naturalist, you’re likely to see humpback whales, pilot whales or blue whales. Most tour operators visit the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the only one in New England. Be sure to take your excursion with a tour company recognized by Whale SENSE for responsible stewardship. 

4. Take a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard

Located five miles south of Cape Cod, the island of Martha’s Vineyard is 87 square miles and has six distinct towns. Hop on a ferry from Woods Hole, Hyannis or Nantucket, and in a matter of minutes you’ll be exploring this historic vacation spot. Wander on foot or by bike and discover rugged beaches, cute boutiques, charming restaurants and local coffee shops. You can even stop by locations where “Jaws” was filmed. As you wander through towns and villages, keep your eyes peeled for celebrities — Martha’s Vineyard is a popular destination for former first families, Hollywood types and musicians. 

5. Explore the Cape Cod National Seashore 

While millions of people visit the hook-shaped peninsula of Cape Cod every year, its beaches are delightfully unspoiled. Perhaps that’s because almost the entire shoreline is protected by the National Park Service as the Cape Cod National Seashore. Explore almost 40 miles of coastline that includes oceanfront, marshes, grasslands, dunes, wild cranberry bogs and woodlands. Among the best-known beaches are Nauset Beach in Eastham, Herring Cover in Provincetown and Marconi Beach in Wellfleet. As you wander, keep an eye out for waterfowl, turtles, deer, migratory birds and toads. 

6. Visit the Sandwich Glass Museum

The hamlet of Sandwich, on the Cape’s west end, was a major glassmaking center in the 1800s, and today Sandwich glass is still prized by collectors. The Sandwich Glass Museum shares the history and techniques of traditional glassmaking and displays more than 5,000 pieces of locally produced glassware. Visitors can also see hourly glass-blowing demonstrations throughout the day and take home a piece of glass from the museum shop. 

7. Eat all the lobster

Lobster bisque. Lobster salad. Whole steamed lobster. Famous lobster rolls. There are so many ways to enjoy this delicacy during your time on Cape Cod. Perhaps the most authentic way to dine like a local is at a classic Cape Cod lobster shack. Try the family-friendly Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar in Eastham — it even has an on-site miniature golf course. Sesuit Harbor Cafe in Dennis boasts incredible marina views alongside a massive, Instagram-ready lobster roll. And Wellfleet’s own PJ’s is an unassuming eatery that’s racked up a boatload of awards for its lobster rolls and chowder. 

Spend summer — and the other seasons — on the Cape 

Imagine owning a second home on Cape Cod and having all the time you need to enjoy charming towns, local cuisine, beautiful beaches and historical treasures. With your Pacaso second home as a jumping-off point, you can enjoy every moment without worrying about maintenance or management. Check listings and learn more about Pacaso co-ownership

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Jen Lyons

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