The Cape is all about the simple luxuries in life. Whether it's a lazy day of fishing off a windblown drawbridge, munching on a platter of fried clams from a roadside shack, or sunny morning walks on the beach, The Cape is a place of memories. Even as it is becoming more and more chic, especially Martha's Vineyard, the Cape will never loose its old-world charm and (my favorite) saltwater taffy shops. The Cape today has evolved in a quaint, yet luxurious, summer destination where you can revisit old memories while making new ones too!
Understanding the Cape's Layout
Frequent Cape-goers will ask you which part of the Cape you are visiting with reference to it's four different distinct regions, plus Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Don't worry, we'll simplify these somewhat confusing regions because their names really don't make much sense with reference to their geographical location! First, take a look at the map below:
The Outer Cape and the Lower Cape are known for housing the most popular beaches in the United States, such as Nauset Light Beach and Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, and Race Point Beach in Provincetown. The Outer Cape is also well-known for its Great White Shark sightings during summertime as well as other exotic shark sightings. Usually, the Outer Cape and Lower Cape are associated with its more populated city, Provincetown; however, these are the most rural and "quaint" regions in Cape Cod.
Provincetown, or P-Town, is one of the most notable towns in the Outer Cape because it is has become a haven for LGBT communities, artists, photographers, writers, and whale-watchers.
The Mid Cape is the commercial center of Cape Cod and is usually avoided by locals unless they need to catch a ferry to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard. This part of the cape is dominated by Hyannis, the famous Kennedy enclave, which is also Cape Cod's biggest city.
The Upper Cape is home to four district towns: Bourne, Falmouth, Sandwich and Mashpee. Bourne is at the Cape's threshold so it can be easily reached and also provides great harbors to get to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Falmouth is best known for its annual road race but also has a beautiful boutique-lined main street and expansive waterfront facing Vineyard Sound.
The town of Sandwich has attracted tourists as one of the oldest seaside villages in the country. And finally, four of the largest fresh-water ponds on Cape Cod are located in the town of Mashpee, which also boasts miles of sandy, ocean beaches. If you visit in early July, attend the annual Wampanoag Pow Wow, where you can witness tribal drumming and dancing.
The Cape's Best Eats
The Cape's most widely-acclaimed restaurant is Abba in Orleans. It is definitely not "under the radar", but regardless, it is a must visit! Chef and co-owner Erez Pinhas has mastered the synergy between Middle Eastern, Asian, and southern European cuisine. The small restaurant can be hard to get a table at during the summer so make sure to call ahead and make a reservation or just opt for sitting at the cool tiled bar.
For something much more low-key, try out the Beachcomber in Wellfleet. This is the type of place where you will find locals with sand in their hair and sun kissed skin. This cool, surfer hangout is known for its Raw Bar where you can get some incredible oysters, littlenecks, of even classic Cape Cod clambake. Plus, the hangout also has really good local and New England bands that perform throughout the summer playing reggae, rock, and every other music genre.
If you're in the mood for a nice picnic, the Brown Jug is an great gourmet grocery store in Sandwich. Not only does the store have fresh bread, and the best foie gras and cheese selection, they will even help you assemble a picnic basket complete with cloth napkins! Even if you're not planning a picnic, this is a great place to enjoy a cappuccino or nice glass of wine.
Ice cream shops are what the Cape does best. One of the most well-known is Sundae School Homemade Ice Cream, which has three locations: Dennisport, Harwichport and East Orleans. Not only was the original store in Dennisport named one of the "Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S." by Food and Wine Magazine 2013, it is also a great place to find unusual and delicious flavors.
If you want the chance to enjoy ice cream next to a Kennedy, the most likely place is Four Seas in Centerville. Located in a former blacksmith's shop, this ice cream joint has been a Cape Cod staple since 1934. I recommend trying the Penuche Pecan flavor, inspired by the brown-sugar-based fudge that grandmas in New England know how to make so well.
Living the Cottage Life
The best way to truly experience the Cape's lifestyle is by renting your own Cape-style home for a weekend or two. Unfortunately, although most homes is the Cape have a charming exterior, their interiors are anything but. However, the Cape Cod House is just as luxurious on the inside as it is impressive on the outside.
This exquisite 18th century waterfront estate near Edgartown is a real rarity. Not only does is it have its own 300' private sandy beach on the Nantucket Sound, it is also set in three park-like upland acres.
Perfect for a large group getaway with family and friends, the main house and guest house include a total of eleven bedrooms--ten of which have water views!
The grand sixteen by thirty-four foot swimming pool has sweeping views of Nantucket Sound and is accompanied by an outdoor kitchen and dining area. You won't have any trouble organizing an event here, as the estate is well set up for both catered and self-arranged entertaining, either in the house, by the pool, or on the beach.
Activities You Don't Want to Miss
Martha's Vineyard Magazine claims the best place to kayak is Sengekontacket Pond in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. For years, families have been coming to this hidden gem to forget their worries and kayak until the sun goes down. Plus, there are a ton of nice boutiques and restaurants around the pond where you can grab a bite to eat!
Don't miss watching the sunset at Rock Harbor in Orleans. A while ago, the city planted trees in the surf to mark the channel for boats, and the result was a stunning silhouette against the setting sun. The scene is so breathtaking that onlookers at Provincetown's Race Point Beach usually applaud and cheer when the sun finally slips away.
One of Cape Cod's claim to fame is Edgartown, where Jaws was filmed on its fictitious "Amity Island". Many people like to stroll around Edgartown and experience "Amity Island" firsthand. However, you'll find that today, the locals aren't to keen on the idea of being linked to a Hollywood film.
Whatever the activity, food, or place, Cape Cod is a place you will make unforgettable memories. There is nothing like kids with ice cream all over their face, evening strolls on the sand, and sunny days by the pool.
Share with us some of your favorite spots on the Cape, or feel free to ask for some more suggestions!