Cape Cod is an amazing destination in the summer, but the fall season is equally spectacular. Prices begin to go down, you’ll experience fewer crowds and very mild weather compared to the rest of New England. On top of that, you’ll get the best of both worlds when it comes to enjoying the stunning coastal landscapes with all the must-do fall activities. This post is all about the best things to do on Cape Cod in the fall (or, as the locals call it, second summer) to help you plan your trip!
Once Labor Day is over, you’ll find far fewer crowds (especially later in September through October and November), and the weather stays pretty mild. Cape Cod is typically warmer than the rest of New England, which is an added benefit!
Many of the reasons Cape Cod is worth visiting year-round are still applicable in the fall season, including seeing the Cape Cod National Seashore, eating fresh seafood, tackling all the amazing hiking trails, and enjoying all the natural beauty of the coastline.
Best Month To Visit Cape Cod In The Fall
September is regarded as one of the best months to visit Cape Cod, and it’s actually many of the locals’ favorite season. Referred to as “Second Summer,” once Labor Day is over, tourist crowds get much smaller, and the weather is usually beautiful. You’ll find that you’ll still likely be able to go swimming in September, and the weather will often feel just like summer on most days.
October is the perfect time to visit Cape Cod if you’re looking for cooler weather, definitely want fewer crowds, cheaper hotel prices, and are also looking to infuse a bit of fall scenery and activities into your trip. You’ll find fall seasonal flavors highlighted in many of the restaurants, uncrowded beaches, perfect weather for walking trails and hikes, and pumpkins and mums will adorn all the beautiful houses.
November is actually a really nice time to visit Cape Cod, too, and often doesn’t get the credit it deserves. In November, you’ll pretty much mostly find locals, as it’s not a popular time for tourists to visit, and therefore, you’ll hardly see any crowds at all. And because Cape Cod doesn’t get as cold as other places in New England, you’ll still have pleasant weather that’s not frigid yet.
Can You Go Swimming On Cape Cod In The Fall?
Yes – likely through September, and if it’s an especially warm year, maybe through the beginning or middle of October. The first half of September is the best time to go swimming on Cape Cod, actually, as the water temperatures are usually at their highest after having the whole summer to warm up. If the Atlantic beaches are usually too cold for you, September is a great month to take a dip!
Where To See Fall Foliage On Cape Cod?
There are still some really beautiful displays of fall color on Cape Cod that are perfect for working into your fall itinerary. You’ll get to see some nice color on trees, but you’ll also want to look for beautiful amber hues on coastal landscapes as the beach grasses and marshes begin to change for the fall.
Below is a list of the best places for seeing fall foliage and color on Cape Cod:
- Nickerson State Park in Brewster
- Bell’s Neck Conversation Lands in Harwich
- Brewster Herring Run & Grist Mill in Brewster
- Red Maple Swamp Trail in Eastham (be sure to enjoy the foliage on the road leading you to the trail!)
- Heritage Gardens in Sandwich
- Views from the top of Scargo Tower in Dennis
- John Wing Trail in Brewster
- The Knob Trail in Woods Hole
- Scorton Creek in Sandwich
- Salt Pond Visitor’s Center in Eastham (the parking lot surprisingly has some great fall trees!)
When Is Peak Fall Foliage Season On Cape Cod?
The best part about Cape Cod foliage is that it actually lasts longer than most places in New England because of the mild weather patterns. Evenings on Cape Cod will start to cool down enough to start the color changing process, but the days are warmer than average for the region, and therefore, fall foliage can last through October on the Cape.
The best time to see peak fall foliage on Cape Cod is all of October, but specifically mid to late October. Peak foliage on the Cape often extends into the first part of November, depending on the year, so if you’re hoping to see some foliage on your trip, I would say mid October is prime time.
Best Things To Do On Cape Cod In The Fall
Visiting the lighthouses is especially perfect in the fall season. While these don’t tend to be overly crowded in the summer, you’ll definitely always run into people during a visit in July and August, with weekends being a bit crowded.
Some favorite lighthouses to see on Cape Cod are:
- Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham – the one featured on the Cape Cod chips bags!
- Highland Lighthouse in Truro
- Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth
- Chatham Lighthouse at Chatham Lighthouse Beach
- Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown
Free parking at the beaches is another awesome perk to visiting in the fall season. Each town and region will have its own exact dates when they stop charging, but a big one to know about is the Cape Cod National Seashore.
The National Seashore is home to six of the most beautiful beaches on Cape Cod, and in the summer, it’s $25 per day to park. However, September begins free parking (fees only collected on weekend through mid-September), so this is a wonderful time to visit, and save a few bucks, too. Most other beaches will also be free to park at once Labor Day is over.
Some of the popular beaches that are far less crowded in the fall that you should definitely see are:
- Coast Guard Beach in Eastham (National Seashore)
- Nauset Beach in Orleans
- Race Point Beach in Provincetown (National Seashore)
- Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet
You’ll also want to explore some of the best towns on your trip in the fall season, which will also be less crowded. Chatham and Provincetown are popular towns that are packed with quaint charm and more than worth your time. They have wonderful shopping and beautiful scenery, as well as picture-worthy moments pretty much everywhere.
Lastly, the fall season will allow you an easier time getting reservations at popular restaurants, and shorter wait times at places that don’t take reservations!
Things To Do On Cape Cod In September
Go To The Beach
If you’re visiting the Cape in the fall and want it to still kind of feel like summer, September is the month to visit. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the ocean waters will be at their warmest during this month, and one of the best things to do on Cape Cod in the fall is to visit the beaches and go for your last few swims before the water becomes too cold to jump in.
Even if you’re not a swimmer, exploring the beaches should be on your list whenever you visit (yes, even in winter!). The best place to see beaches in this area is at the Cape Cod National Seashore, and if you visit after Labor Day, you likely won’t have to pay the $25 daily fee to park, as mentioned!*. The National Seashore beaches have the most beautiful stretches of pristine sand, and are backdropped by the impressive sand dunes. You’ll often spot seals swimming along the shore, too.
Other really great beaches to explore in the fall for amazing views are Cahoon Hollow Beach and Nauset Beach.
*Note: Select beaches will still charge on weekends through mid-September, so it’s best to check and plan accordingly. Credit cards are accepted at the National Seashore, and select town beaches are cash only.
Grab The Last Of The Ice Cream
September is the month where most ice cream places will begin to shut down, and grabbing some while they’re still open is one of the best things to do on Cape Cod in the fall. With weather in September still feeling warm, ice cream will also totally hit the spot.
Places like Sundae School, Schoolhouse and Ice Cream Cafe begin to really limit their hours after Labor Day, and begin to close down toward the end of the month. They usually do a great job at keeping you up-to-date on their closing day on their social media pages, so check them out on Facebook and Instagram before making a special trip.
Places like Cape Cod Creamery in Hyannis are open year-round, so you don’t necessarily have to rush to grab your last cone in September, but most places do close down for the season this time of year.
Dine Al Fresco By The Water
A lot of restaurants will still have outdoor dining through October, weather permitting, but September is a great time to get in as many waterfront dining experiences as possible. I know I sound like a broken record, but I’ll say it again! With weather in September pretty much perfect (not too hot, not too cold) this is one of the best months to sit and enjoy the scenery outside while you have a nice meal.
Favorite places for outdoor dining are Sesuit Harbor Café in Dennis, Ocean House in Dennis Port, and The Canteen in Provincetown.
What Is Cape Cod Like In September?
September will be the most crowded of all the fall months on the Cape, but it’s not nearly as busy as the summer season. September is gaining popularity as one of the best times to visit for this reason, but beaches, restaurants, and attractions will feel much more quiet, with weekends being the most busy.
You’ll want to expect that some places will begin to shut down throughout the month of September, but most places will still be open. Places most likely to shut down in September (or offer very limited hours) will be seafood shacks and ice cream places.
Weather in September will often feel a lot like summer, with evenings beginning to cool off a bit, and the end of September will start to feel more chilly. Average daytime temperatures are around 72-75°F, and nighttime temperatures can get down to about 55-58°F. Keep in mind that the earlier in September you visit, the warmer it will be (and vice versa!).
Things To Do On Cape Cod In October
When you think of fall, you’re likely thinking of October, right? Many of the best fall things to do on Cape Cod are in October, making this a great time to visit for the perfect mix of celebrating harvest season, Halloween and also enjoying all the usual Cape Cod sites.
Get Your Last Sesuit Harbor Café Lobster Roll
A lot of people (myself included) consider the highlight of their summer on the Cape to be getting a lobster roll at Sesuit Harbor Café. One of the best things to do on Cape Cod in the fall is to grab one before they close after Columbus Day weekend.
While the lobster rolls are awesome here, all the food is honestly great, and they also have a really nice raw bar. All the tables here are seat-yourself picnic tables by the harbor, and it’s also BYOB. I always suggest you pack up a nice bottle of wine, or some good beers, and really make a night of your visit. In the summer, this place is packed, and you can wait in line for up to an hour just to order food. In October? The lines will be much shorter!
Book A Whale Watching Tour
October is the last month that the whale watching tours are operating, as the whales in this region tend to migrate south for the winter season in November. So, October is your last chance to take a whale watching tour for the year! Cape Cod is regarded as one of the top spots for whale watching in the country, so I do recommend considering this if you’ve never done it before.
The company I recommend for whale watching on the Cape is Dolphin Fleet.
Tip: It will be pretty cold out on the water in October, so come bundled up, and also consider bringing a hat and gloves (yes, even if the weather is warm on the mainland).
Take A Ghost Tour In Provincetown
For something a little spooky to ring in the Halloween season, you’ll want to head up to Ptown and take a ghost tour with Provincetown Ghost Tours.
These walking tours take place at night and recap the town’s sordid history, and all the haunted happenings are based on real facts and stories. So not only will you learn some really interesting things about the area, you’ll probably walk away with a few goosebumps, too.
Celebrate Fall At Coonamessett Farm
Head to Falmouth to celebrate fall and Halloween with Coonamessett Farm! On weekends through October, the farm hosts Harvest Weekends with live music, hayrides, U-Pick pumpkins and fall baked goods. Right before Halloween (typically the Saturday before), be sure to take the kiddos to their Halloween Celebration event. Everyone comes in costume, and with activities like pumpkin and face painting, a blueberry maze and hayrides, it’s sure to be the perfect fall day.
Pick Your Own Apples & Pumpkins
There are a few places on Cape Cod where you can pick your own apples and pumpkins. As mentioned above, Coonamessett Farm offers U-Pick pumpkins, which is a great place to stop and get all the supplies you need to decorate your front porch.
There aren’t as many places offering apple picking on Cape Cod, but you’ll want to check out these farms that offer either apple picking or pumpkin picking with lots of other fall activities:
- Crow Farm (Sandwich) – U-Pick apples and pumpkins, farm stand with homemade items, corn maze, baked goods, mums.
- Tony Andrews Farm – U-pick pumpkins, no apple picking but offers pre-picked pecks of apples, hayrides, farm stand and fall decorations.
Head Out On A Sailing Tour
One of the best things to do on Cape Cod in the fall season is to take any chance you have left to head out onto the water in October before it gets too cold. There are a lot of different options when it comes to sailing tours in the area, and many of them stop operating around mid-October, so now is the time to squeeze one in.
Here are a few recommendations on places to check out for a sailing tour in October:
- Sail Cape Cod (Provincetown)
- Liberate Schooner (Falmouth)
- Captain Curley (Wellfleet)
Get Some Cranberry Wine At Cape Cod Winery
Cape Cod Winery does a really great job providing seasonal flavors throughout the year, and October brings their famed cranberry wine and specialty drinks! During the month of October, you’ll start to see offerings pop up on their social media pages that are infused with their cranberry wine, which is perfect for this time of the year.
Party Your Way Through Spooky Bear Halloween Weekend
If you’re looking for the ultimate party on Cape Cod during Halloween, you’ll want to head straight to Provincetown and attend Spooky Bear Halloween Weekend. You’ll pretty much find it all during this weekend, including dances, a costume ball (with, of course, a costume contest!), a variety of parties, a drag brunch and tons more. Art’s Dune Tours also offers special tours that weekend.
Enjoy All The Family-Friendly Halloween Events
One of the best things to do on Cape Cod in the fall season is to scout out all the Halloween events throughout the area. Almost every town has some kind of celebration that’s perfect for everyone to enjoy.
Here’s a list for some ideas on the best Halloween celebrations on Cape Cod:
- Heritage Gardens Halloween Festival (Sandwich) – Tickets for this one sell out fast, so book early! Scavenger hunts, carousel rides, glitter tattoos, fortune tellers and tons more!
- Pumpkin People In The Park (Chatham)
- Spooktacular Weekend (Falmouth)
What Is Cape Cod Like In October?
October is the month where the weather will begin to cool down, especially at night, but still provide days that are in the 60’s. You’ll see even fewer crowds than September, and more business begin to close down (but most are still open).
Fall will definitely be in the air, and all the beautiful houses will be decorated for Halloween, fall foliage starts to make an appearance at the beginning of October, and Halloween decorations will be seen around town centers. More restaurants will begin to incorporate fall flavors into their menus, while still offering the best seafood catches of the day.
Things To Do On Cape Cod In November
Enjoy An Indoor Meal With A View
If the weather is too chilly to eat outdoors, you still can’t dine indoors with a fantastic view. In fact, one of the best parts of the Cape year-round is the water views, so stay cozy by booking a table at a restaurant that has beautiful views from inside.
Some of the best places to dine with water views that you can enjoy from inside in November are Ocean House in Dennis Port, Fisherman’s View in Sandwich, The Marsh-side in East Dennis and Ross Grill in Provincetown.
Check Out The Artisan Craft Fair At Coonamessett Farm
In early November, Coonamessett Farm hosts an artisan craft fair that features over 30 vendors selling unique, handcrafted items (a great way to start your holiday shopping early!). Since weather starts to really cool down in November on the Cape, this is a great way to get outside and enjoy the crisp air, and also pick up some fresh produce from their farm stand to make a cozy dinner (and pre-order your Thanksgiving turkey)!
Grab A Poinsettia Cocktail Or Mulled Wine At Cape Cod Winery
These two special drinks are offered throughout the month of November (although, the mulled wine is typically released in October, but definitely hits different in November when the weather actually turns cool). And with the grounds being a perfect place to hang out on a crisp day, especially with a warm drink in hand, this is a really nice way to cherish the final warm-ish days of the season.
Have A Glass Of Wine By A Cozy Fire At Truro Vineyards
If the Outer Cape is more convenient for you, Truro Vineyards is another amazing place to spend a nice November day. Grab some friends and crowd around one of their seating areas with a fire pit to enjoy a cozy glass of wine or seasonal cocktail featuring their own South Hollow Spirits. Keep an eye on their Instagram page because they update often with new hours and fun, special drink releases.
Take A Scenic Walk
Honestly, November is a great month to head out on a scenic walk, and this is definitely one of the best things to do on Cape Cod in the fall season. The weather has cooled down quite a bit, and with all the fall color setting in, and nature beginning its transition to hibernation season, it’s so peaceful out on the trails in November.
I would highly suggest checking out the John Wing Trail in Brewster or hiking out to Race Point in November (two of my personal favorite relaxing walks), but click the link below to read my post on my favorite scenic walks and hikes on Cape Cod.
November is also a great time to take on hikes that are mostly in direct sunlight, and some of the ones I recommend checking out are the Dunes Shack Trail and Great Island Trail. The Dunes Shack trail is especially tough in the summer with the humidity, and the sun beating down on you, as the entire hike offers no shade. This is also one of the most otherworldly sites on Cape Cod, and is so worth all the effort!
The Great Island trail is regarded as one of the most scenic hikes on Cape Cod, and this is another one that’s perfect for cooler weather.
What Is Cape Cod Like In November?
November is the most quiet of all the fall months on Cape Cod, and when you’ll see the fewest tourists, as most tend to visit in September and October. If you visit in early November, you’ll catch the last of the fall foliage around the region, and begin to feel the colder winter days approaching. Because of that awesome mild weather, you’ll still have some days that get up to the 60s, but generally temperatures are in the 50s in November.
This is a great time of year to enjoy hiking and walking trails, and then reward yourself with a warm bowl of New England Clam Chowder after.
Best Place To Stay On Cape Cod In The Fall?
Look no further and make sure to stay with us at the Old Manse Inn, you’re home away from home. Especially after the busy Labor Day Weekend our rates drop anywhere between 15-20% based on room preference. Our B&B is a romantic antique sea captains manor located in the heart of historic Brewster, MA, Cape Cod – the “Sea Captain’s town”. We offer twelve (12) deluxe luxury rooms, individually decorated and preserved, each with private bath. Enjoy a multi-course gourmet breakfast each morning in our Cape Cod-styled, sun-filled fireside dining room. Relax in one of our three distinct common areas, uncommon to most inns in Brewster and on Cape Cod. So be sure to check us out as well as all the amenities that we offer to ensure your stay with us is a memorable one during the Fall season on beautiful Cape Cod.