My husband and I grew up in Massachusetts so a proper beach vacation has always meant Cape Cod. Now that the kids are old enough to endure the long drive from Pennsylvania we revel in the fact that we can relive our childhood experiences through their eyes. It is a haul but, in my opinion, so completely worth it. There is a certain unique quaintness that I could eat with a spoon. It is the definition of New England in my mind.
In the last few years we have been renting in the town of Dennis. We like it because it is mid-Cape making it accessible to everything and yet the north side of Dennis is peaceful and quiet. We rent houses on the bay side where the surf is low and the kids can run for what seems like miles at low tide.
Having vacationed on the Cape for years there are absolutely some suggestions I can pass on.
Corporation Beach area – If you have young children I promise you that at low tide you will actually be able to SIT in a chair and relax for the first time in a long time. Low tide on this side of the Cape is like a dream. The water recedes and tide pools emerge complete with minnows and snails. Child entertainment for HOURS. The last time I brought our 9, 7 and 5 year old there I actually finished a book on the beach while watching them by myself. It really is the tamest, most lovely beach ever. If your kids are looking to surf or boogie board you might look more into the ocean side (south side) of the Cape but be warned the surf over there is strong. I’ll take the gentle waves lapping at my feet of Corporation Beach, thankyouverymuch.
Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises – You are signing up for a three hour tour here. Yes, a three hour tour. (Couldn’t help myself.) I’ve done a few whale watches in my life and our last jaunt was early in the summer season. Apparently the whales migrate to New England as the water warms up, so while we did see whales in mid-June I suspect you might see much more later in the summer. Still despite boating for hours we learned a lot from the naturalist on board and the kids had a blast.
28 Atlantic – Have a special occasion to celebrate? This is where you want to go. I had heard good things about 28 Atlantic in the Wequasset Inn for a long time leading up to it so my husband and I tried it for our 13th wedding anniversary. Such a great decision. If I was to go back I might go a bit early and enjoy a drink out by the firepits overlooking the bay but if that isn’t possible, not to worry. You get the same breathtaking view from the main dining hall. The food was very good, the service was on point and the atmosphere was perfect for a special night out. Highly recommend.
Cobies – if you like onion rings even just a little bit, you must stop by Cobies. I don’t know what it is they do to them but they are by far the best onion rings on the planet. Additionally, you can absolutely get a full fried seafood/hamburger dinner here, with ice cream for dessert … but seriously, the onion rings.
Captain Frosty’s – this place has woven its way onto the must-do list from my childhood and present day. Typically, on our first night of vacation, we are making our way onto the Cape in the evening hours after having driven a million hours. Captain Frosty’s is an easy stop on our way to the area where we rent every year and the food (fried seafood and the like) is solid.
PB Boulangerie – If you find yourself anywhere on the outer Cape near Wellfleet, Truro or P-town you absolutely MUST work this place into your trip. Real french croissants, sandwiches and breads. If there is a line, just get in it. You are on vacation, you have time and I promise it will be worth your investment.
Sundae School – this is it guys – ice cream heaven. Sundae School has a few locations on the Cape but I would argue the Dennisport location is the best with its indoor and outdoor seating, total throwback decor and the piano that plays old timey tunes for a quarter. The ice cream is stand alone fantastic but I might insist that you get the sundae that the spot named itself after. It has REAL whipped cream, a fresh cherry and served in a glass cup. Total perfection.
Ice Cream Smuggler – A big part of a Cape culture is ice cream and so we tend to eat a lot of it. This parlor is the closest to the area where we typically rent and perfectly delicious but probably my number 2 choice after Sundae School. Also not sure how much longer they might be around due to a pending lawsuit. (Yes, apparently ice cream is scandalous – read about it here.)
Bud’s Go-Karts – This might be one of those recommendations that I regret giving. I grew up on these carts and my nostalgia makes me able to look past the fact that I don’t think they have invested a dime into this place in the past 30 years. I will say though we took our kids here for the first time this past summer and I think they loved it just as much as I did growing up. So. Much. Fun.
All in all you really can’t go wrong with Cape Cod. There is something about the salt air, and the winding little roads that take you from town to town that really needs to be seen. For me, it feels like Cape Cod is part of who I am and I can’t help but imagine living my days out in a tiny saltbox house near the beach. I sigh just thinking about it. Have questions about it? Email me.