August 1, 2012
By Alexandra Taylor
Those looking to avoid the DC heat this summer could hop on the shuttle to Boston and within a few hours arrive on the sandy beaches of Cape Cod. This world-famous travel destination promises relaxation for every age group, as well as year-round cultural enrichment ensured by the lively retired population. Savvy travelers willing to venture off the beaten path will be able to dodge the crowds and discover many of the hidden gems that the Cape has to offer.
Surrounded on both sides by water, the lower Cape offers two distinct styles of beaches: the ocean side, where you can bodysurf and spend all day soothed by the sound and sight of crashing waves, and the bay side, with calm, shallow waters perfect for families with small children. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from the Goose Hummock in Orleans to observe the shore from a new perspective, or to explore many of the salt- and freshwater ponds that dot the interior. For those eager to experience marine life, hop on a whale watch out of Hyannis or Provincetown. Look for a vessel without open propellers to get closer than you may have thought possible.
A long day at the beach is perfectly complemented by a sumptuous meal. Many fine dining restaurants, such as Chillingsworth in Brewster, offer an “après beach” menu, where you can relax and chat with the bartender while sampling delicious cuisine. For something more formal, however, you are likely to need a reservation. The Cape Sea Grille in Harwichport, run by James Beard Award winner Douglas Ramler, serves up a diverse and creative array of coastal favorites. Abba in Orleans delivers a masterful union between Thai and Middle Eastern ingredients. For more casual fare just down the road, check out Mahoney’s Atlantic Bar & Grill or the Land Ho!, both perpetual family favorites.
The Cape is not short on evening entertainment. Both the Cape Rep Theatre of Brewster and the Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theater offer top-notch stage performances throughout the summer, often featuring professional actors on loan from Boston. Both theaters also offer daytime performances for children. Families should not miss out on Cape League baseball games, which occur almost every day up and down the peninsula. This non-professional summer league uses wooden bats and has nurtured many future MLB players. The Wellfleet Drive-In’s double feature is a great way to take in summer blockbusters while enjoying the night air. This outdoor theater includes a full snack bar and a playground for children, and shows vintage cartoons between films. For those in search of nightlife, take in a live show on Main Street in Hyannis, or explore the many bars and nightclubs in spirited Provincetown.
Although summer often seems the ideal time to visit, consider making your journey in the off-season to experience a different aspect of peninsula life. While many restaurants will shut down come fall, a few favorites, such as Buca’s Tuscan Roadhouse in Harwich, stay open all year—a great opportunity, since their waiting list during the summer sometimes reaches triple digits. Though the weather might not be perfect for swimming, the beaches after Columbus Day are pristine and unpopulated, except by locals out to enjoy the newly slowed pace of life. Rather than hole up and wait for next season, the Cape community continues to flourish after all the rental homes have been vacated. The Wellfleet OysterFest, which occurs every year in October, celebrates the bountiful shellfish for which this region is world-renowned. Oyster-lovers flock to the outer Cape every year to witness cooking demonstrations and the shucking competition, and to enjoy all they can eat.
The Cape has much to offer at any time of year, thanks to a vibrant and diverse mix of natives and newcomers (the latter are known colloquially as “Washashores”). Rooming options are varied and include large resorts, such as the Chatham Bars Inn, and quaint, quintessentially “New England” bed and breakfasts. The idiosyncratic landscape, which fluctuates between gigantic dunes, idyllic ponds and meadows, and the meandering, tranquil white cedar swamps, ensure that nature-lovers will never run out of new terrain to explore. Cape Cod has been a premier travel destination for decades, and its unique mix of timeless beauty and constantly updating attractions keep people coming back year after year.
Cape Cod Bike Guide – http://www.capecodbikeguide.com/trails.asp
Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce – http://www.capecodchamber.org/
Candleberry Inn – http://www.candleberryinn.com/
Old Sea Pines Inn – http://www.oldseapinesinn.com/
Provincetown.com – http://www.provincetown.com/
Ridgewood Motel & Cottages – http://www.ridgewoodmotel.com/
Whale Watch Dolphin Fleet – http://www.whalewatch.com/