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9 Can't-Miss Experiences in Cape Cod

Discover underrated hidden gems across the Cape.

U.S. News & World Report

9 Can't-Miss Experiences in Cape Cod

Nobska Lighthouse in Cape Cod on a snowy Winter day

With laid-back vibes, dune-filled beaches, charming cottages and lesser-known hiking trails, the Cape beckons for exploration.(Getty Images).

New Englanders know that there's a quaint magic around Cape Cod, the peninsula perched on the easternmost tip of Massachusetts. A vacation here offers more than just a beach break. Here, you can explore a mix of historical and the quintessential attractions, charming clam shacks, rocky shores, wild dunes and shingled cottages. Every side road seems to lead to an undiscovered entrance to a private beach. Those who have vacationed here for many years know that the Cape is filled with tucked-away treasures and natural splendors awaiting discovery. Look for these gems and must-visit attractions on your next trip.

Stroll Along the Boardwalk at Long Neck Beach
Sandwich, Massachusetts

While the boardwalk has been a staple in the town of Sandwich for some time, not everyone is aware of a favorite pastime among locals: bridge jumping. In the summer, you can see crowds of people jumping off the boardwalk during high tide. Many bring rafts and even hunt for crabs. In the low season, the boardwalk empties and your road to the ocean is a serene walk overlooking miles of picture-perfect dunes.

Stay at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel
Falmouth, Massachusetts

As one of the coveted oceanfront resorts in the area, the Sea Crest Beach Hotel enjoys it luxury status in the Falmouth area. It has its own 700-foot-long private beach. Staying true to its roots, the Sea Crest is geared toward the laid-back guest, but has all of the amenities for a high-end stay, with ocean-facing views, fireplaces, pool bars and more. Though the hotel has changed ownership, it has been a staple for over 100 years. Enjoying s'mores on the beach and lounging beneath an orange umbrella are musts here.

Get Your Coffee Fix at The Daily Brew Coffee House
Cataumet, Massachusetts

The Daily Brew, a popular local coffee haunt, offers a homey atmosphere and oh-so-delicious coffee, making it the perfect place to relax with a hot cup. What's more, the small eatery and coffee shop provides its own organic coffee flavors and is stocked with games, newspapers and books when you need to take a break from the beach.

Delight in a Meal at Landfall
Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Woods Hole is special for a number of reasons. There's the local aquarium where you can take the kids on a rainy day. And then there's the world-famous Woods Oceanographic Institution and Landfall, a seafood restaurant made out of old wooden ships. The waterfront views are another top draw, but the spot's classic seafood menu is what makes it a patron favorite. Have your lobster any way you want it – boiled, baked with seafood stuffing, in a pie casserole, Savannah style or as a roll. Plus, Woods Hole offers an easy launching pad to Martha's Vineyard.

Visit Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary
Barnstable, Massachusetts

Geared toward nature lovers, the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable has a little bit of everything. In the spring and summer, butterflies cover the meadows, while kids search for critters at Sandy Neck Barrier Beach. There are hiking trails perfect for families and tidal flats made for kayaking. Tours are available, so visitors know exactly where to look to spot the best animals and views. There's even a seasonal goat encounter program. Cap off your visit with a trip to the Barnstable Harbor and the surrounding dunes.

Check Into the Chatham Bars Inn
Chatham, Massachusetts

The best part of visiting the Cape is discovering unexpected pleasures along the way and the Chatham Bars Inn is no exception. The property offers luxurious surroundings, with a private beach, waterfront cabanas, tennis and golf. Plus, the property offers excursions like seal-viewing cruises, whale-watching, fishing and a seashore tour. You can even leave the water and take a tour of their local farm that's connected to the inn's kitchen.

Savor a Lobster and Sublime Views at Mac's On the Pier
Wellfleet, Massachusetts

When all is said and done, visiting the Cape isn't about fancy food and attractions, but rather the seaside atmosphere with a no-frills attitude. Mac's on the Pier along the Wellfleet Harbor gets right to the heart of what the Cape stands for. The cashier takes your lobster and oyster order from a window and you sit at wooden picnic tables until your number is called. Don't let the low-key clam shack presentation fool you. The food is delectable. Crack open a claw as you watch the sun go down.

Grab a Memorable Meal at the Canteen
Provincetown, Massachusetts

Cape Cod isn't all quiet moments watching the water. Head to Provincetown for an epic night out. Commercial Street is where you can find the heart of the action. It has an electric vibe and is known for being LBGT-friendly. Once you've arrived, head straight for the Canteen. Order from the small room at the front, and then make your way to the back patio where you can sit right on the beach, under cafe lights, complete with a fire pit. Almost all of the food at the Canteen is made from scratch and there is special emphasis on local beer, making the little-known spot a hit a with beer aficionados.

Explore Race Point Lighthouse
Provincetown, Massachusetts

It's no secret that New England is known for its lighthouses. People come from all over the country to see these iconic structures. But what makes Race Point's Lighthouse stand apart is that you can't just drive there. You can walk or take a special ATV meant to travel on sand. A permit is also required to visit the Cape Cod National Seashore landmark. Alternatively, you can schedule a tour, so you can skip paying the permit. Though it may seems like an extra step to see a lighthouse, the experience is worthwhile.


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About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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