With an expansive 40 miles of national seashore, Cape Cod is one of New England’s premier beach destinations. But there’s more to do here than sun and sand: Thriving summer theater scenes draw out the best of Broadway while miles-long bike trails and well-protected wildlife showcases the one-of-a-kind Cape Cod environs. You can’t miss a chance to hop aboard one of the best whale watching tours in Cape Cod, and don’t forget to visit lively Provincetown, where a lesser-known chapter of the Thanksgiving Pilgrim story waits to be uncovered.
Cape Cod Rail Trail (Free)
Popular with bikers, rollerbladers and horseback riders, this 22-mile paved trail is a breezy ride through the Lower Cape’s diverse ecosystems. Previously known as the Old Colony Railroad corridor, the Cape Cod Rail Trail is considered one of the best bike trails in New England.
Many outdoor enthusiasts highlight the trail as one of the best ways to experience the natural attractions across the Cape. They also praise how well-marked and clean the trail is, and report that it’s mostly flat and easy to navigate. Some of the Cape’s best beaches and ponds are scattered throughout the area, especially in Orleans and Wellfleet. Unique snack shacks and lunch spots are perfect pit stops when your stomach starts to grumble. And don’t forget to explore the area’s smaller villages for a taste of the Old Cape.
Cape Cod National Seashore
In 1961, summer native President John F. Kennedy designated the east shore of the Outer Cape a national park. Today, the 40-mile stretch of coast is recognized as having some of the best beaches on Cape Cod, including Nauset Beach in Eastham, Marconi Beach in Wellfleet and Race Point and Herring Cove beaches in Provincetown.
Beyond the shores, there are plenty of hiking and biking trails for you to explore, and two helpful visitor centers that are worth a pit stop. Plus, the seashore is a great place to attend lecture series and take in the spectacular scenery along the beach. Past visitors called sunsets along the shore “magical,” and recommend stopping at the visitor centers to learn more about the area.
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
With more than 7,600 acres of protected dunes, salt and freshwater marshes and a decommissioned lighthouse, the gorgeous Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge will make you feel like a trailblazer. But there’s more than rugged scenery; the encompassing islands of Morris, and North and South Monomoy are a nesting habitat for hundreds of species of migratory seabirds. Off the coast of South Monomoy, a large harbor grey seal population congregates to mate, play and sun themselves on the shore.
You can opt to take a guided tour in the summer season or stroll along the beach on your own with the help of self-guided maps. Recent visitors praised the staff at the welcome center and say that it’s a beautiful area to walk.
Heritage Museums and Gardens
Sandwich’s Heritage Museums & Gardens appeal to travelers of all ages and interests. Car fanatics will drool over the Josiah K. Lilly III Antique Automobile Collection, a living timeline of the evolution of the automobile. Art aficionados can browse the eclectic collection of American folk art while the kids enjoy a ride on the vintage, hand-carved carousel. And there are more than 100 acres of gardens – full of lilacs, daylilies, magnolias, hydrangeas and the notoriously flamboyant rhododendrons – that attract nature lovers. A delightful two-acre children’s area called Hidden Hollow is packed with things to do and explore, such as log balance beams, water experiments, sensory gardens and more.
Recent visitors praised the versatile exhibits and serene surroundings at the Heritage Museums & Gardens, citing the area as a peaceful respite for visitors of all ages.
Edward Gorey House
Edward Gorey’s name might not ring a bell immediately, but his drawings sure will. His more recognizable works include the macabre alphabet in “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” and the illustrated edition of T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” as well as illustration and design credits on Broadway and PBS. So if you love this distinct illustrator, you’ll enjoy a tour of his home in Yarmouth Port, located along the Mid Cape.
According to past visitors, if you are a Gorey fan, this quirky museum is must-see. Travelers say that the museum offers a glimpse into the life of Gorey, along with eclectic personal items and informative tour guides.
With more than 90 seasons under its belt, the Cape Playhouse is the country’s oldest professional summer theater. Complete with the original – and somewhat uncomfortable – pews serving as the venue’s seats, the interior makes for a quaint theater experience. But don’t let the shabby-chic atmosphere fool you: The playhouse boasts quite an impressive alumni base, including Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart and Bette Davis.
Though tickets can be pricey, many theatergoers say the productions are well worth the cost, praising the production quality and the ambiance. Many past visitors described the venue as beautiful and the atmosphere as welcoming, though some do lament the stiff seating and lack of strong air conditioning.
Whether your planning a day trip or a couple of days on the Cape there are so many great things to see and do as you make many memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy Cape Cod as it is a truly special place!