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Cape Cod Travel Tips

Cape Cod Photo info
Kenneth Wiedemann/Getty Images

Keep in Mind...

  • Dress neat-casual Cape-wide, dress codes rarely go beyond casual; still, beachwear isn't appropriate away from the shore. It's best if you leave your rattiest sweatshirts at home.
  • Eat very local Noshing on fried scallops and clams at a dinky seafood shack is a must — the closer to the ocean, the fresher the fish. If you're feeling adventurous, you can always charter a boat to fish for your supper or dig for your own oysters in Wellfleet.  
  • Traffic is a problem With only two bridges, getting on and off the Cape can be a production, especially in the high season. Avoid commuting on Friday and Sunday afternoons at all costs. Stay up-to-date on traffic conditions by dialing 511, the automated MassDOT Traffic service. 

With its colorful clam shacks, shingle-style cottages and serene beaches, it's easy to see why Cape Cod — or simply "the Cape" to locals — is a top summer retreat for New England mainlanders. Quaint bed-and-breakfasts wrap around rugged sand dunes, scenic bike trails snake along forests and the seemingly endless seashore is punctuated by bright kayaks and fishing boats. Life moves at a slower pace here — but that's part of the charm. And while the Cape is a sought-after spot for celebrities and athletes, it's actually an unassuming place, with a surprisingly laid-back personality.

Spend a day getting acquainted with the Cape's artsy side with a trip to Provincetown, a bohemian (and particularly gay-friendly) seaport that boasts quirky art galleries and excellent whale-watching spots. Then, continue south to Sandwich, the Cape's oldest town, where glass-blowing demonstrations and storied New England homes await. Spread across four diverse regions — the Upper Cape, Mid Cape, Lower Cape and Outer Cape — the Cape offers much to explore. And though you'll only need a few days to sample the Cape's pristine beaches, striking views and superlative seafood, to truly soak in the Cape's quiet calm carve out a few weeks to experience the low-key vibes that captivate visitors each summer.  

How To Save Money in Cape Cod

  • Visit during the off-season Prices soar in the summer, but if you visit in April, May, September or October, you'll find mild temperatures, thin crowds and affordable hotel rates. And though it may be a little chilly along the beach, many top sites and restaurants remain open during the shouldering months.
  • Plan your own clambake Thanks to the Cape's bounty of seafood, you can easily slash meal costs by netting your own clams, mussels, oysters and scallops. But before you start clamming, keep in mind each town requires a shellfish license. Consult each town's official site for specific requirements.
  • Skip the weekend In the summertime, especially on Saturdays and Sundays, crossing over the Cape Cod Canal can be a challenge. But if you plan a trip during the middle of the week, you'll find fewer crowds and reduced nightly rates and many hotels and bed-and-breakfasts. 

Cape Cod Dining

A beacon for seafood lovers, the Cape serves everything from oysters and scallops to fried clams and lobster rolls. Casual clam shacks, bustling fish markets and fine-dining establishments abound. Wander along the streets of Wellfleet and you'll find local haunts shelling out succulent oysters, from Pearl, which plates everything from Wellfleet oysters to pan-steamed mussels, to the Wicked Oyster, which offers inventive twists like fried and buttermilk oysters. The nearby Moby Dick's — a relaxed eatery known for its fried clams, littlenecks and lobster — is also a top spot for sampling a traditional taste of the Cape. For fresh chowder and lobster bisque, head to Chatham, where tried-and-true institutions like the Chatham Pier Fish Market and upscale dining spots like the Impudent Oyster lure local and visiting seafood fanatics, alike. You'll also find a variety of ethnic eateries around the Cape, ranging from buffet-style Brazilian establishments in Hyannis to Asian, Middle Eastern and European-inspired venues, such as Abba in Orleans.

For an upscale meal filled with imaginative takes on Cape classics, head to the Naked Oyster Bistro & Raw Bar, which plates French-inspired creations like short rib bordelaise and oysters Bienville (oysters slathered with Applewood-smoked bacon, wild shrimp and cream). Another crowd-pleaser is Twenty-eight Atlantic, a Four Diamond Award-winning restaurant located at the Wequassett Resort that features menu items like paella risotto with mussels, baby octopus and littleneck clams.

For more cost-effective, family-friendly options, try The Lobster Pot in Provincetown, Seafood Sam's in Sandwich or Pie in the Sky in Woods Hole. The Lobster Pot offers scenic Provincetown harbor views paired with specialties like lobster avocado cocktail and oysters Rockefeller, along with kid-approved meals like hamburgers and fish tacos. Meanwhile, Seafood Sam's dishes up entrees like fried clam strip platters and lobster salad rolls, along with menu items designated for kids ages 12 and younger, such as grilled cheese and popcorn shrimp. And Pie in the Sky is ideal for dessert-lovers, thanks to its flavorful blueberry, apple and key lime pie varieties and popular crumbly popover layered in jam.

You might also like...

  • Nantucket Nantucket
    • Quaint island off the Cape's coast
    • Pricier destination overall
  • Boston Boston
    • Filled with Revolutionary War history
    • An hour drive from the Cape
  • Outer Banks Outer Banks
    • Island chain off the coast of N.C.
    • Home of the lost Roanoke colony
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