Cape Cod is one of those perennially popular tourist destinations. In fact, it’s so familiar, it’s easy to think you know everything there is to know about it, whether you’ve actually been there or not!
But you might be surprised that there’s far more to Cape Cod than meets the eye – especially if you’re heading to the Cape with children or your extended family. Read on for insider tips on Cape Cod gems you might have missed.
1. Take a Hike
Cape Cod is well-known for its beaches and restaurants. But did you know that Cape Cod is also a place with gorgeous hiking trails? Wildlife refuges and conservation areas, as well as well-known local parks, offer hiking opportunities for tourists and residents alike.
Visit the Beebe Woods Trailhead in Falmouth, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham, or Sandy Neck Beach Park in Barnstable. Bike trails can be found on the Cape Cod National Seashore. A quick Internet search for Cape Cod and hiking trails turns up several leads to get you started. Be aware that trail conditions can vary by season, and access fees may apply, so it’s a good idea to do some legwork in advance before heading out.
2. It’s Not a Single Place
Cape Cod is always talked about in the singular, but Cape Cod is really made up of 15 towns: Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Provincetown, Sandwich, Truro, Wellfleet, and Yarmouth.
Dozens of smaller villages make up these towns, too. Each town and village has its own “personality”. For example, Provincetown is affectionately referred to as P-town and well known for welcoming LGBTQ visitors. Sandwich is the oldest town on Cape Cod, founded in 1639, and home to several museums and historic sites.
3. The Kennedy Connection
While one of the most famous families in American politics is closely associated with Cape Cod’s Hyannis Port, it’s because of President John F. Kennedy that there’s a Cape Cod National Seashore. It was established by him on August 7, 1961.
Today, it’s run by the National Park Service, and visitors can enjoy beaches, bike trails, ponds, and woods. Families can enjoy park ranger-led programs that cater to kids, such as campfire talks, canoe trips, musical performances, and yoga on the beach – many of which are free.
4. Land of Lighthouses
There are roughly 20 lighthouses on Cape Cod, and some of them are open to the public! Thousands of shipwrecks have occurred off the Cape since the area was first settled, and the oldest lighthouse, Highland Lighthouse, dates back to the late 1700’s (although the original structure has been replaced since then).
The Highland Lighthouse in North Truro and it’s maintained by the National Park Service; enjoy the view on a seasonal basis during late spring, summer, and early fall months. Tour schedules vary widely by lighthouse, and some lighthouses, like Race Point Light Station in Provincetown, even offer overnight accommodations. Imagine having your next family reunion on Cape Cod, and staying at a lighthouse!
5. Off-Season isn’t Off-Limits
While lots of folks head to Cape Cod during the summer months, if your schedule allows, heading to Cape Cod during the off-season offers some special benefits.
Enjoy a budget-friendly getaway with off-season lodging rates, and more flexibility in available dates. Experience the Cape like a local because there are fewer tourists jamming streets, shops, and beaches, to say nothing of the roads! Many museums and attractions are indeed open year-round, like the Woods Hole Science Aquarium and the Cape Cod Museum of Art.
Some Cape Cod events are only held during the off-season, too. For example, come to Wellfleet for the Wellfleet OysterFest every October, enjoy the annual Seaside Christmas in Orleans events from late November through December, and First Night Sandwich.