Cape Cod or “The Cape” as many New Englanders call it, is one of those vacation spots that people tend to visit year after year. That is not surprising, due to its beautiful New England beaches, the many towns and villages, and the unique experiences. A Cape Cod vacation is a one-of-a-kind experience. If you have never been, here are five great reasons you should take a Cape Cod vacation.
1. The Beautiful New England Beaches
There are beaches to suit every taste when you take a Cape Cod vacation. Cape Cod has more than 550 miles of coastline and boasts 40 miles of beautiful sandy beaches along the Cape Cod National Seashore, which is protected by the National Park Service. That means the beaches will always remain pristine and full of wildlife. If you are from New England or have ever visited a New England beach, you are familiar with the rocky coast lines and the cold ocean water. You will find that same cold water all year around the Cape, but you will also find a variety of white sand beaches.
Cape Cod Bay offers beautiful sandy flats where children can play in the tidal pools at low tide. There are some great windsurfing locations at Hardings Beach in Chatham or Kalmus Beach in Hyannis. Coast Guard Beach in Eastham is typically found on annual lists of the Top 10 Beaches in America and makes for a spectacular sunset beach walk. There are even barrier beaches with off-roading trails like Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable.
Some of the most popular beaches for Cape Cod vacation visitors include Old Silver Beach in North Falmouth, Nauset Beach in Orleans, Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, and Mayflower Beach in Dennis. So no matter where you decide to vacation along the Cape, there is access to a beautiful New England beach.
2. Lots of Interesting History
From the Native American Indians to the Pilgrims, to more modern points of interest, Cape Cod is full of history for those who are interested in learning new things and exploring. You can start in Sandwich and make your way all the way to Provincetown and you’ll have no shortage of interesting spots to stop and learn about Cape Cod and the people who have called it home. Take a drive along Cape Cod’s Route 6A, also known as Old King’s Highway. It is one of America’s most historic roads and the largest continuous historic district in the United States. The route was used by the Wampanoag, the early settlers, and now by you.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Museum in Mashpee details the history and culture of the local native Wampanoag tribe. Set within a restored historic property, the museum includes ancient artifacts and heirlooms and provides a picture of life and times on Cape Cod prior to the arrival of English settlers.
If you want to learn more about the early inhabitants of Cape Cod, visit Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, situated right at the mouth of Cape Cod. Here, they recreate the experiences of the Wampanoag people and the colonial English community. This living history museum allows you to interact with people who live, dress, work and speak like they did 400 years ago.
The Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown is a must-see for history-loving travelers. Near the tip of the Cape and 252 feet tall, the tower is the tallest all-granite structure in the United States and was built to commemorate the site of the Mayflower’s first landing. It takes about ten minutes to climb up the tower. Visitors say the climb is worth it. The view from the top is one of the best on Cape Cod.
There are so many more places and things to explore. Other places of note to check out on your Cape Cod vacation include the Provincetown Museum with its exhibits highlighting the arrival of the Mayflower pilgrims and the town’s maritime history, among other things; the Wing Fort House in Sandwich, the oldest home in New England continuously owned by the same family, which has been restored and furnished with family antiques showcasing the house’s long history; and the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, which houses folk art, cultural artifacts, acres of lush gardens, and a collection of rare antique cars ranging from an 1913 Ford Model T to a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette.
3. So Many Lighthouses
For many people, a lighthouse alongside the lighthouse keeper’s house on a rocky shore is an iconic New England picture. Maybe that is because there is no shortage of lighthouses along the New England coastline. Cape Cod is no exception. The Cape alone is home to 14 lighthouses. Many are historic and a number of them are still active. That is because the coast of Cape Cod has always been difficult to navigate due to the rugged coastline, sandbars, and dangerous rip tides.
Many of the lighthouses are open to the public and offer tours. If you love lighthouses, set a goal of making it to and photographing all 14. That would make a wonderful plan for a Cape Cod vacation.
4. Whale Watching
If you have not been whale watching, a Cape Cod vacation is the perfect place to make your maiden whale watching voyage. The waters off Cape Cod Bay attract a number of different whale species, especially humpback whales. This area has even been named one of the Top 10 Whale Watching Sites by USA Today.
Many of the same whales return to the area year after year and whale watchers can frequently catch a glimpse of a female with her new calf. The whales often like to show off for whale watching boats, so you could be in for a real treat if they are feeling especially playful. It is so amazing to see a humpback whale swimming alongside your boat.
5. Nothing Like a Cape Cod Vacation
There is nowhere else quite like Cape Cod. A Cape Cod vacation offers beautiful sandy beaches, marshes, ponds, walking and biking trails, quaint villages, lighthouses, and even cranberry bogs. It is a special place with a certain something about it that you cannot quite put your finger on or describe – once you have been there, you just know the feeling.
Part of that special feeling is from the unique Cape Cod style of the homes and buildings. They are instantly recognizable – a small, rectangular cottage covered in unpainted clapboard or side shingles with a steeply pitched roof and side gables seated on small plots of land and surrounded by hydrangeas or climbing roses. Over time, the side shingles weather in the elements and turn that weathered-gray color typical of Cape Cod homes.
Nowadays, Cape Cod homes are typically built bigger than the original two-room houses, but they still typically feature those iconic elements. Walking through the towns and villages along the peninsula on your Cape Cod vacation, you will likely notice other things typical of the Cape like the narrow roads and cobblestone walkways.
Another unique thing about Cape Cod is how similar-looking the towns along Old Kings Highway are while also being so different. There are the traditional, Colonial seaside towns with tree-shaded streets, a laid-back pace, and loads of history like Sandwich, Barnstable, and Yarmouthport. These towns have minimal commercialism and are free from name-brand hotels, fast food restaurants, and those terrible T-shirt shops you find at some beaches. Instead, they offer loads of bed and breakfasts, motels, and seasonal seafood restaurants.
Other towns like Chatham, Brewster, and the villages of Osterville and Hyannisport in Barnstable are the favorites of celebrities, offering upscale accommodations, five-star restaurants, and pampering. There are budget-friendly options in and around these areas, but they also offer a little something more, if that is what you are after.
Then, there is Provincetown at the end of the Cape, with its 3,000 or so permanent residents. Provincetown may be one of the most unique places you visit on your Cape Cod vacation. Proudly celebrating individuality and freedom of expression, Provincetown has long been known as a haven for artists and one of the most LGBTQ-friendly towns in the country. It is the oldest continuous art colony in the United States. It is the place to be if you want to feel free and easy, plus it is a destination that will keep you busy, as it hosts a number of festivals and week-long events throughout the year.
If you enjoy vacationing at the beach, Cape Cod is one of those must-visit East Coast destinations. It can get busy in the summers, but if you do not mind mingling with other tourists and can stay patient, you will get along just fine. Cape Cod is worth a visit any time of the year. There is still plenty to do in the spring and fall, but with less people around. The air is cooler, so you may spend less time in the ocean, but otherwise the experience is still an amazing vacation.
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