Cape Cod Massachusetts is world-famous as one of the best beach destinations to visit. It’s well-loved for a down-to-earth vibe and 500 miles of Cape Cod coastline and natural beauty. You’ll find fifteen unique towns and countless charming villages in this popular New England destination. So when you’re planning a Cape Cod vacation, where do you start? Read on to learn about which of these best towns of Cape Cod and the Islands are perfect for you!
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CONTENTS: In this article, you will find an introduction to Cape Cod, its regions and towns, and how to maximize your visit to this famous Massachusetts vacation spot.
- Where is Cape Cod?
- Brief History of Cape Cod
- Regions of Cape Cod
- Cape Cod Towns & Villages
- Final Thoughts on Towns of Cape Cod
Where is Cape Cod?
Cape Cod is easy to recognize as an “arm” that juts out from southeastern Massachusetts into the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll find this sandy peninsula a half-hour south of Plymouth and about a two hour drive from Boston.
Cape Cod is separated from the mainland by the Cape Cod Canal, so if you’re driving to the Cape, you’ll cross over either the Bourne Bridge or the Sagamore Bridge.
Once there, you’ll discover thirteen charming Cape Cod towns, each with its own unique personality and some having several villages. While visiting Cape Cod, be sure to plan a visit to one or more of the islands, too.
A Brief History of Cape Cod
Cape Cod’s history dates back to US colonial days. Colonial settlers, known as “The Pilgrims,” first came aground in Massachusetts in 1620. They landed in Provincetown and Plymouth.
Long before that, though, the Nauset and Wampanoag tribes called Cape Cod home. So, when you visit Cape Cod, you’ll notice some of the towns of Cape Cod (particularly the villages) have names with Native American origins. Here are a few examples:
- Pocasset – “where the narrows open”
- Cataumet – “great fishing place”
- Monomoy – “lookout place”
- Sippewisset – “small cove”
In 1788 Massachusetts became the sixth state of the United States of America…and the rest, as they say, is history.
Regions of Cape Cod
These best towns, Cape Cod can be broken into five distinct regions:
- Upper Cape – You’ll find some of the oldest towns and villages here, and it’s the easiest region to reach, being close to the bridges.
- Mid Cape – You’ll enjoy a sense of “getting away” but will still be close to bustling town centers and mainstream stores.
- Lower Cape – Here, you’ll discover quaint Cape Cod towns and villages, shops, soft sand beaches, and excellent dining options.
- Outer Cape – You’ll explore expansive beaches, fresh oysters, and private, sometimes remote, properties.
- The Islands – You’ll love Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands, reachable by ferry, boat, or air.
Read on to learn more and find in depth coverage of each of these Cape Cod areas, including more about the towns and villages within them.
Cape Cod Towns and Villages | Things To Do – Cape Cod
One of the most common questions people ask is “What is the best Cape Cod town?”
That is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer, because each of the towns and Cape Cod villages offers unique things. (You’ll find some that say they are all the best Cape Cod towns!)
So, to help you decide for yourself, read more about each Cape Cod town, below.
Upper Cape Towns & Villages
Upper Cape Cod is home to some of the oldest parts of Cape Cod, and includes the towns of:
Bourne is the Cape Cod town closest to the mainland and is split by the Cape Cod Canal. It’s known as the gateway to Cape Cod, with three bridges crossing the canal:
- The Bourne Bridge,
- The Sagamore Bridge
- The Cape Cod Canal Railway Bridge
Two bridges are free to cross by car. The Bourne Bridge, takes you to a rotary where you can branch off to Route 6A or 28. The Sagamore Bridge is nearly identical to the Bourne Bridge, except it’s an exit earlier off Route 495/28, and takes you further through Bourne where you can access Wareham/Onset, or continue down route 6 toward the Cape. (There has been recent talk of adding a third bridge with a pay toll to alleviate traffic, but to date, those plans have not materialized.)
In Bourne, the 14 mile Cape Cod Canal bike path runs along both sides of the canal, and is a great place to walk, bike, or fish. Or, pack folding chairs and spend an hour or two watching the tankers, tugs, cruise ships, and pleasure yachts motor by. There, you can get a close up look of the iconic Cape Cod Canal Railway bridge, suspended over the canal to let boats cross under. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the bridge descend for a train to pass through. It is the second-longest vertical lift bridge in the world
A Town Divided by the Cape Cod Canal
One one side, Bourne borders Plymouth and Wareham, and the canal actually splits the town in two. Buzzards Bay and Sagamore Beach are on the mainland side, flanked by Buttermilk Bay and Buzzards Bay. The remaining villages of Bourne are on the “Cape” side.
Bourne was originally settled in 1640 as a part of the town of Sandwich, and didn’t become it’s own independent town until 1884. Some say that makes Bourne both the oldest and the newest Cape Cod town.
You’ll find a number of historic points of interest in Bourne.
For instance, the nation’s oldest store, the Aptucxet Trading Post, may be one of the earliest remains of a Pilgrim building. Although it is a replica built upon the original foundation, which was replicated in the 1920’s, it’s said to be where the Pilgrims first traded with natives and the the Dutch of New Amsterdam (NYC) using wampum, a local currency made of polished quahog shells.
Bonus: The Aptucxet Trading Post is set within 12 acres of recreational land where you’ll find a wildflower garden, walking paths, and a windmill.
Other places of historical importance in Bourne are part of the Cape Cod Museum Trail This include the Briggs McDermott House, The Briggs Forge, and Alan Green Carriage House (which features vintage carriages and sleighs). The Alan Green Carriage House features vintage carriages and sleights, period furnishings and implements of the 1840s and 1950s, and special exhibits of marine artist Charles Raleigh. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Beaches in Bourne
Bourne has two beautiful bays, Buttermilk Bay and Buttermilk Bay, where you’ll find plenty of beaches:
- Barlow’s Landing Beach
- Electric Avenue
- Gray Gables Beach
- Hen Cove
- Monument Beach*
- Picture Lake
- Queen Swell Beach
- Sagamore Beach*
- Squeteague Harbor Beach
With the exception of Monument Beach and Sagamore beach, most beaches in Bourne are private. Of course, if you rent a private cottage or house on one of these beaches, you’re all set.
The Bourne Scenic Park, located beneath the Bourne Bridge is another of the popular Cape Cod places to visit. It offers camping facilities, picnicking, a playground and in-ground pool.
The Lobster Pot and Lindsey’s Family Restaurant come highly recommended for seafood. There’s also Mezza Luna for Italian.
One of our favorite things to do as we leave the Cape is to stop at The Seafood Shanty for the quintessential order of fried clams (with bellies, please). Or, we also love an order of Thai Food from Krua Thai, so we can eat on the shores overlooking the Canal.
The 10 Villages of Bourne
Bourne is made of 10 villages, some sharing a zip code, others with their own unique postal code. If you’re not familiar with the area, it can be confusing to hear these names, but these villages make up the greater Cape Cod town known as Bourne:
- Bourne Village – where you’ll find Old Bourne Village, a working blacksmith, preserved homes and historical buildings along the Cape Cod Museum Trail.
- Bournedale – north of the canal, where you’ll find and interesting rock formation called Sacrifice Rock, also known as Chamber Rock.
- Buzzards Bay – home to Massachusetts Maritime Academy, with degree programs in maritime-related fields.
- Cataumet – a former rail station in Post Office Square. Look for the Cataumut Schoolhouse Museum, Miniature Golf, and the Beaton Cranberry Bog.
- Gray Gables – the private railroad station frequently visited by President Grover Cleveland. He had his summer white house in Bourne.
- Monument Beach – for a visit to the beach of the same name with scenic views of Buzzards Bay, a boat launch, and some free parking.
- Otis Air Base – an Air National Guard installation and military training facility.
- Pocasset – have a look at Wing’s Neck Light, a lighthouse built in 1849.
- Sagamore – formerly housed a major freight car producer.
- Sagamore Beach – a residential village with a six mile stretch of public beach.
Other Bourne Attractions
Among many other worthwhile attractions in Bourne, you’ll find:
- The National Marine Life Center – a non-profit rehab and release hospital for stranded sea turtles and seals.
- Butterflies of Cape Cod – a native butterfly habitat.
- Main Street – this shopping area offers a variety antique and vintage shops. (Tip: You’ll find plenty of parking at Buzzards Bay Park on Main Street.)
- Pairpoint Glass and Crystal – America’s oldest glass company where glassblowers continue an almost 200-year-old tradition of glassmaking.
- The Massachusetts National Cemetery – where memorials honor veterans from the WWI error to modern day.
Sandwich is considered the oldest town down the Cape, established in 1640. It’s also one of the best towns on Cape Cod. It was once much bigger, incorporating Bourne as well, but that split off in 1950.
If you’ll be commuting to work off the Cape, it’s one of the best places to live in Cape Cod since you’re close to the bridge.
Sandwich has three charming villages.
The Villages of Sandwich
- Sandwich Village – the oldest part of Sandwich, first settled by about 60 families.
- East Sandwich – northeast portion of the town of Sandwich.
- Forestdale – the southern part of Sandwich, bordered by Mashpee.
You’ll find most historic points of interest in a walking tour of the blocks around Sandwich Village.
Here are some great things to see and do in Sandwich, including some with strong historic significance:
- The Sandwich Glass Museum – features a wide range of rare glass, including glass from Boston & Sandwich Glass Factory, plus glassblowing demonstrations.
- Heritage Gardens – a public garden and a museum featuring a collection of classic American cars, folk art, a functional 1919 carousel, a renowned collection of flowers, three gallery buildings, a Labyrinth, the Hart Family Garden Maze, Flume Fountain, and Hidden Hollow.
- Dexter Grist Mill – an early American mill in the center of Sandwich at the end of a lovely mill pond (Shawme Pond) complete with ducks, and next to a cool, splashing mill race and an old pump.
- Green Briar Nature Center & Jams – a natural history museum inspred by the writings of
- Hoxie House – the oldest house on Cape Cod and one of the oldest in the state, built in the mid-1600’s.
- Benjamin Nye Homestead – a 2.5 story timber house museum built in 1685.
- Route 6A Drive (The Old Kings Highway) – a scenic, winding drive at times flanked by marshes and cranberry bogs.
- The Sandwich Fish Hatchary – stocks the fish into 35 rivers and streams and 50 lakes and ponds in Southeastern Massachusetts.
- Wing Fort House – built in 1641 and recognized as the oldest house in New England continuously owned by the same family.
- Shawme Crowell State Park – a year-round, wooded campground with 285 sites.
- Peter’s Pond RV Resort – a family-friendly Cape Cod camp ground with cottages and an RV Park.
You’ll also find walking and bike trails, beautiful seashores, salt water estuaries, fresh water ponds, bird sanctuaries.
Must-See: The Sandwich Boardwalk
Be sure to check out the Sandwich Boardwalk. It’s been damaged and rebuilt many times by storms, but remains a wonderful walk to a lookout over Boardwalk Beach. You will see the marshlands, wildlife, and oftentimes, fisherman clamming. The last time I went I had the honor of trying a fresh oyster pulled from the marsh just moments before. (So good!)
If you want to plan a picnic, stop into The Brown Jug for a delicious, organic fare and pizza.
Some of my favorite shopping stops in Sandwich are:
- The Spotted Cod – a gift boutique with regional gifts and beach decor.
- The Weather Store – a unique assortment of weather gauges and the likes.
- Heart of Stone Geode Store – various geodes, stone jewelry, and more.
- Sandwich Antique Center – regional antiques and rare finds.
- Titcombs Bookshop – a curated selection of books for all ages, children’s toys, greeting cards.
Beaches in Sandwich
There are several beaches in Sandwich you’ll want to check out. The beaches themselves are most-often made up of larger, smooth, beach rocks. Listen for the rocks clicking together as shore waves drag them back and forth. Because Sandwich faces Cape Cod Bay rather than the seaside of the Atlantic ocean, you’ll find the beaches are a bit warmer.
- Sagamore Beach (on the mainland)
- Scusset (on the mainland)
- East Sandwich Beach
- Sandy Neck Beach & Dunes
- Town Neck Beach
- Paine’s Creek
- Scorton Neck Beach
- Sandy Neck Road
- Snake Pond Beach
Note the Scusset Beach State Reservation and Sagamore Beach are on the mainland side of Sandwich (so you don’t have to cross the bridge). At Scusset, you’ll find find a soft sand beach where you can walk the jetty and watch ships pass through the canal. There is a $20 admission fee during the summer, but plenty of parking. You’ll also find restrooms and an outdoor shower so you can hose off the sand. And, if you’re in an RV, you can also camp at Scusset.
In addition to beaches on the ocean, there are several ponds in Sandwich. They include:
- Peter’s Pond
- Snake Pond
- Wakeby Pond
- Shawnee Pond
- Hoxie Pond.
Where to Stay in Sandwich, MA
We’ve rented several traditional cottages on East Sandwich beach and thoroughly enjoyed being right on the water.
Sadly, it’s getting harder to find the smaller, classic cottages. Many have been torn down and replaced with much bigger beach front homes. So, if you can find the quintessential old-school beach house on East Sandwich beach, be sure to book it right away!
You might also consider two exceptional luxury accommodations where we’ve stayed in Sandwich Village. The first is the Dan’l Webster Inn. The Second is the Belfry Bistro & Inn. You can learn more about them, along with other elegant Cape Cod Bed & Breakfasts here.
Where to Eat in Sandwich
Both the Bistro and Dan’l Webster have great dining facilities. We especially love the mid-week wine-tasting at the Bistro, and casual fare at the Tavern at the Dan’l Webster Inn.
Our go to for coffee and picnic fixings is The Brown Jug, a gourmet grocer that has expanded to include wine, pizza, and other delicious things. For Breakfast, you can’t beat Marshland for a diner vibe and generous servings.
For bakery items, be sure to check out Beth’s Bakery and Cafe.
Pizza lover? Sweet Tomatoes has delicious Neapolitan style crust pizza.
Falmouth is perhaps one of the most favorite Cape Cod towns, especially for Massachusetts locals. Part of the reason this town on Cape Cod is so well-loved is because it’s not too far over the bridge.
Or, maybe it’s the 68 miles of coast line with white sand beaches along the “fingers” of Falmouth, making it one of the best Cape Cod beach towns.
Or, it could be because of the happening strip of Main Street, bustling with good food and shops and pizza. Or, maybe it’s because of easy access to Woods Hole where you can take the ferry over to the Cape Cod Islands.
Whatever it is, Falmouth is not to be missed.
Like Bourne, Falmouth has ten villages, including:
- East Falmouth
- Falmouth Heights
- Falmouth Village
- North Falmouth
- West Falmouth
- Woods Hole
Beaches in Falmouth are plentiful, and there are also plenty of free public beaches, too. For some, you can even get a season’s pass even if you’re not a resident. As mentioned, it’s one of the best beach towns in Cape Cod.
- Falmouth Heights Town Beach
- Falmouth Beach
- Woodneck Beach
- Bristol Beach
- Old Silver Beach
- Surf Drive Beach
- MBL Stony Beach
- Black Beach
- Trunk River Beach
- Nobska Beach
- Quisset Beach
What to Do In Falmouth
Beyond beach time, there is no shortage of things do to.
For one, there are some great restaurants and cafes in Falmouth. Our favorites are Anejo Mexican Bistro (Mexican) and Pie in the Sky (for coffee, pastry, and more). You’ll also find delicious Greek food at Estia, an Irish Pub, Liam MaGuire’s, and La Cucina Sul Mare, where you’ll find plenty of fresh-seafood, Italian-style.
Even if the restaurants have a wait list, you’ll enjoy shopping the stores on Main Street for some swanky beach wear, t-shirts, and other souvenirs. Perhaps you’ll select a children’s book from a local writer at Eight Cousins Falmouth Bookstore. Or, you’ll stop for an ice cream or homemade fudge after dinner. Main Street in Falmouth is always a good take!
You can rent a bicyle for the day to ride along the Shining Sea Bike Path, even bring the bikes with you to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket by ferry.
You’ll find many picturesque scenes in Falmouth, Nobska Lighthouse being one of them. It is one of the most photographed lighthouses on the Cape.
Or, you could check out the Wood’s Hole Science Aquarium, where you’ll learn about seals and lobsters and other sea life.
A Hidden Attractions in Falmouth
You’ll find a beautiful seaside garden experience and gardening inspiration at the Spohr Gardens.
You might also check out Cornelia Carey Sanctuary known as “The Knob.” It’s a short walking path which ends with trees and things juts out into the ocean. You can read more about the Knob in Falmouth here.
We love the art galleries, too, especially the Ruah Gallery. Nearby, the Highfield Hall & Gardens, a 19th-century estate, exhibits contemporary art.
Some other things in Falmouth not to miss:
- Ashumet Holly and Wildlife Sanctuary – 45 acres of woodlands, fields and hiking trails that are part of the Massachusetts Audubon Society.
- Coonamesset Farm – a membership-based pick-your-own farm with fresh vegetables, fruit, and lunch sandwiches.
- Peterson’s Farm – one of the oldest farms on Cape Cod. Town-owned with with tranquil pastures, walking trails, sheep, and other wildlife.
- Cape Cod Winery – A peaceful place to relax and sample nine different varieties of wine in East Falmouth. Also hostsVineyard vinyasa yoga, paint nights, and other events.
- Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery – a brewery and tasting room where you can enjoy some Bad Martha beer with cheese plates, charcuterie, crudité, and artisan pizza in East Falmouth (also in Edgartown).
Falmouth is also one of the best places to stay in Cape Cod, since you’ll have easy access to the ferry and beaches.
The town in Cape Cod is the site of the headquarters and most members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, one of two federally recognized Wampanoag groups. For more about the history of Native Americans in Mashpee, click here.
Villages of Mashpee
You’ll find seven villages in Mashpee to explore, each different from the next. They include:
- New Seabury
- Mashpee Neck
- Monomoscoy Island
- Popponesset Island
- Seconsett Island
Beaches in Mashpee
You’ll find several beaches in Mashpee, too:
- Attaquin Park Beach
- Mashpee town beach
- John’s Pond
- South Cape
Outdoor Activities in Mashpee
If you love the outdoors, Mashpee offers some great places where you’ll enjoy scenic beauty and get close to nature. Here are just few ideas:
- South Cape Beach State Park
- Lowell Holly Reservations
- Mashpee River Reservation
- Mashpee national wildlife preserve
- Quashnet Conservation Area
Still more things in Mashpee you’ll want to check out:
- Mashpee Commons – offers shopping and dining options. You’ll also find several places to rent stand up paddle boards
- Old Indian Meeting House – built in 1684, it’s the oldest Native American church in the eastern US, and the oldest church on Cape Cod.
- Naukabout Beer Company – small batch, craft brewery with “hop-forward” beers.
- Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Museum – cultural center in Mashpee and the only known museum devoted exclusively to Wampanoag history. You’ll find ancient artifacts, heirlooms, and a typical scene from an early Wampanoag settlement.
- Mashpee One Room Schoolhouse – built in 1831and one of the towns first two school buildings, constructed for underprivileged Wampanoag children.
- Cape Cod Children’s Museum – interactive play-&-learn exhibits for ages 6 months to 8 years old.
- Mashpee Mini Golf – family mini-golf in the heart of Mashpee Commons
- Cleveland Island – a small, heavily forested island within Wakeby Pond once belonging to President Grover Cleveland.
- Swiss Healing Center – wellness, yoga, massage, healing, and more.
Mid Cape Towns & Villages
In some ways, Mid Cape Cod offers the best of both worlds: “getting away” from it all, but having bustling town centers and mainstream stores close at hand. The Mid Cape cities (Barnstable) and towns in Cape Cod include:
Barnstable is an underrated Cape Cod destination with lots to do. It is the largest community in terms of acreage and population, perhaps the most famous being Hyannis, former home to the Kennedy’s.
Towns & Villages of Barnstable
You can explore villages of Barnstable, including some that are very well-known and others less famous.
- The Village of Barnstable (Cummaquid)
- Hyannis (includes Hyannis Port and West Hyannis Port)
- West Barnstable
- Marston Mills
Beaches in Barnstable
Since Barnstable is the biggest town down the Cape, it should be no surprise that you’ll find plenty of beaches here.
On the ocean side, you’ll find:
- Craigville Beach
- Hyannis Port Beach
- Millway Beach
- Veterans Park Beach
- Keyes Memorial Beach
- Kalmus Beach
- Dowses Beach
- Lewis Bay Beach
- Loop Beach
- Kalmus Park Beach
- Ropes Beach
- Eugenia Fortes Beach
- Keegan Beach
- Long Neck Beack
- Ocean Avenue Beach
- Wianno Beach
- Pompanesset Beach
- South Cape Beach
- Hanks Beach
- Riley’s Beach (Mother’s Beach)
- Oysters Harbor Beach
- Covell’s Beach
On the Bay Side, check out:
- Sandy Neck Beach
- Scorton Neck Beach
- Millway Beach
Pond Beaches in Barnstable
And then there are the Pond Beaches:
- Joshua Pond Beach
- Wequaquet Lake Beach
- Cousins Cove
- Main Beach
- Quiet Beach
Of course, there’s so muck to do in Barnstable, beyond the beach.
JFK fans, you’ll especially want to explore Hyannis in-depth.
That’s because John F. Kennedy loved to vacation in Hyannis Port, particularly at what’s known as The Kennedy Compound. These three houses on six acres overlooking Nantucket Sound have a long history in the Kennedy family. It was originally a cottage purchased by Joseph P. Kennedy in 1926. At one point during John F. Kennedy’s presidency, it served as a summer white house and presidential retreat.
Today, you can view the property from a distance, but it is privately owned. Instead, visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum and Hyannis Kennedy Legacy Trail.
More Fun Things to Do in Barnstable
Here are some other fun things to do:
Cape Cod Maritime Museum – boat-building exhibits and features on the maritime history of Cape Cod
You can take the Ferry to Nantucket from Hyannis.
Visit Mass Audobon’s Barnstable Great Marsh to see expansive salt marsh views, two open ponds, shady oak woodlands, wildlife.
In Barnstable, you’ll also find an airport, a mall, and the Cape Codder hotel/water park.
Rest Assured, in Barnstable, you’ll have no trouble finding great food and places to stay. For seafood, we love the Black Cat Tavern in Hyannis. You can sit on the heated deck and watch the boats in the harbor, or enjoy the nautical theme indoors. If you time it right, you might even catch some live music.
In addition to beaches and New England charm, both historic and scenic, Yarmouth also offers plenty of hiking trails and picturesque cranberry bogs to admire. The bogs bloom in early July and are harvested in September and October.
Villages of Yarmouth
There are a few different areas in Yarmouth you’ll want to explore:
- Bass River
- South Yarmouth
- West Yarmouth
- Yarmouth Port
Beaches in Yarmouth
Yarmouth has multiple sea water and fresh water beaches.
Salt Water Beaches:
- Bay View Beach
- Colonial Acres Beach
- Englewood Beach
- Seagull Beach
- Smuggler’s Beach
- Parker’s River Beach
- Sea View Beach
- South Middle Beach
- Wilbur Park Beach
- Windmill Beach
- Bass Hole (Gray’s Beach)
Fresh Water Beaches
- Long Pond Wing’s Grove
- Flax Pond Recreation Area
- Sandy Pond Recreation Area
- Dennis Pond
Things to Do In Yarmouth
You might like to climb the 30-foot cobblestone Scargo Tower, built in 1874, for a look out over Scargo Lake, or walk the Captain’s Mile, a self-guided walking tour of 54 original Captains homes from the late 1700s to early 1800s.
Yarmouth It’s also the home to the Cape Cod Potato Chip! Opt for a self-guided tour and help yourself to a sample at the end.
A fun thing to do in Cape Cod is to check out the Cape Cod Lighthouses from Wings Neck Light to Race Point Light. Along the way, make sure to stop at Yarmouth’s Point Gammon Lighthouse, located on the southern tip of Great Island.
Similarly, follow the windmill trail of Cape Cod to discover traditional windmills in Yarmouth like Sautucket Mill, Judah Baker, and Farris Mill.
Or, stop for Grist Mills, like the Baxter Grist Mill on Route 28 Yarmouth at Grist Mill Park. (Tip: You’ll find other Grist Mills on Route 130 in Sandwich and Satucket Road in Brewster.
More Things to Do in Yarmouth
And there’s still more to do in Yarmouth!
Have a look-see at The Taylor Bray Farm, a 22-acre working farm which gives tours.
You’ll find a long boardwalk over the marshes at Gray’s Beach, making an excellent spot for photography, especially at sunset.
And, you can enjoy a variety of water sports in Yarmouth, from kayaking and paddle-boarding to parasailing and jet-skis.
Finally, for a look at some whimsical surrealism, plan a visit to the Edward Gorey House, featuring the work of children’s writer/illustrator, Edward Gorey.
If you’re looking for a great place to eat, try the historic Yarmouth Inn. You’ll love their fresh warm rolls with whipped butter served before classic New England fare–and the ambiance is great.
As you approach Dennis, you are nearing the center of the Cape.
I must admit, for many years I mistakenly overlooked this part of the Cape, either staying closer to home or just passing through to visit family in Brewster. Boy, was I missing out!
Trut me – you won’t regret making Dennis part of your Cape Cod visit.
Villages of Dennis
Dennis can be broken down into 5 villages you might want to explore:
- Dennisport Village
- Dennis Village
- East Dennis
- South Dennis Village
- West Dennis Village
Beaches in Dennis
You’ll find beaches in Dennis on the Atlantic side of the Cape and also on the Bay side.
Atlantic Beaches in Dennis
- West Dennis Beach
- South Village Beach
- Sea Street Beach
- Raycroft Beach
Bayside Beaches in Dennis
- Chapen Memorial Beach
- Corporation Beach
- Cold Storage Beach
- Mayflower Beach
- Glendon Road Beach
- Haigis Beach
- Sesuit Beach
- Princess Beach
- Inman Road Beach
- Scargo Beach
- Howe’s Street Beach
You can also enjoy kayaking and canoeing at Swan Pond River.
Where to Stay and Eat in Dennis
We recently stayed over at what was once known as “The Dennis Motel.” It’s now called the Sesuit Harbor House and is more like a friendly family resort than anything I’d call a motel. In fact, we look forward to a return visit! You can read my full Sesuit Harbor House review here.
Another place you don’t want to miss out on is the Sesuit Harbor Cafe, where you can have a delicious lobster roll and all sorts of other fresh seafood (including a raw bar) overlooking the water.
The same talented family runs Encore Bistro, which offers more formal dining and creative fare. Encore is conveniently located right next to The Cape Cod Art Museum and the The Cape Playhouse. It’s also convenient to the Dennis common, where you might find apple festivals and other interesting community activities at this time of year.
Another great place to eat and/or drink is at The Pheasant. It’s in a historic farmhouse and serves up New England coastal inspired New American farm-to-table dishes using Cape Cod sourced ingredients. The food and drinks are a foodie heaven!
Other Things To See and Do in Dennis
- Scargo Stoneware Pottery & Art Gallery – beautiful but practical hand-made dishes, mugs, and bakeware.
- Hokum Rock Blueberry Farm – pick your own blueberries in July and August.
- Josiah Dennis Manse and Old West Schoolhouse – recently restored original home of the Rev. Dennis depicting 17th century life, including knowledgable period-dressed staff.
- Annies Crannies – a beautiful bog with a gift shop open in October through mid-November. Gifts include Bogside Honey, Beeswax Candles, Jams, Cranberry Recipes, Soaps and Annies’ Crannies Gift Boxes.
Lower Cape Cod Towns & Villages of Cape Cod
The Lower Cape Cod Towns are about 1.5 hours or 90 miles from the bridge. They represent some of my favorite Cape Cod towns, and include:
We spent a lot of time in Brewster when my children were young because my inlaws had a condo there. A visit to Brewster brings back many fond memories for that reason alone. You’ll find there is much to love about Brewster, whether you travel with children or, as we do now, as empty-nesters. It’s one of the best towns in Cape Cod to visit.
Villages of Brewster, MA
There are several villages of Brewster to check out, including:
- Brewster Village
- East Brewster
- Factory Village
- West Brewster
Beaches in Brewster, MA
All of Brewster’s beaches are on the bay side of the Cape, and the tides go way out leaving miles of the “Brewster Flats.” This is perfect for crabbing, shellfishing, or simply long strolls on the beach. You’ll also find this leaves many tidal pools, where warm waters are shallow and perfect for young children. Parking is very limited and many spots call for a sticker.
The beaches include:
- Breakwater Beach
- Paines Creek Beach
- Crosby Landing Beach
- Robins Hill Beach
- Mants Landing
- Ellis Landing Beach
- Point of Rocks Landing Beach
- Town Beach
- Linnell Landing Beach
- Saints Landing Beach
- Long Pond Brewster Beach
- Skaket Beach
- Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club Beach
Freshwater Ponds in Brewster, MA
You might be interested to know that there are many ponds in Brewster to explore, too! They are:
- Cliff Pond
- Cliff Pond Trail
- Little Cliff Pond
- Higgins Pond
- Seymour Pond
- Sheep Pond
- Walkers Pond
- Cobbs Pond
- Upper Mill Pond
- Flax Pond
- Slough Pond
- Blueberry Pond
- Pine Pond
- Owl Pond
- Blueberry Pond
- Griffiths Pond
- Black Pond
- Schoolhouse Pond
- Greenland Pond
- Eel Pond
Things to Do in Brewster, MA
No doubt, you’ll want to check out these attractions while you’re in Brewster:
- Nickerson State Park – more than 1,900 acres of state-owned, public recreation area with scrub pine and multiple kettle ponds.
- Cape Cod Museum of Natural History – a small museum about natural history and archeology.
- Cape Cod Rail Trail – a 25.5-mile paved rail trail passing through Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet. Perfect on foot or bike! (Tip: You can rent a bike right on Underpass Road.)
- You’ll also find some interesting boutique shops here and there in Brewster, as well as antique barns, artist galleries, and a garden center.
Harwich is one of the best places to visit in Cape Cod, especially since you’ll find so many unique villages to explore.
Villages of Harwich
Harwich has 7 villages:
- East Harwich Village
- Harwich Center Village
- Harwichport Village
- North Harwich Village
- Pleasant Lake Village
- South Harwich Village
- West Harwich Village
Beaches in Harwich
Harwich has some of the loveliest beaches. Here they are:
- Atlantic Avenue Beach
- Bank Street
- Earle Road Beach
- Fernandes Bog (Long Pond)
- Grey Neck Beach
- Pleasant Road
- Red River
- Sand Pond
- Wixon Memorial Beach (Long Pond)
- Cahoon Beach Landing (Long Pond)
- Jackknife Beach
- Wah Way Taysee Beach
- Merkel Beach
- Uncle Venies Parkhead Beach
Things to Do in Harwich
There are some great art galleries
- Art galleries, including The Art Gallery of The Guild of Harwich Artists
- Brooks Academy Museum
- Murphy’s General Store
- Dr. Gravity’s Kite Store
- Cap’n Kids Fishing Adventures
- Monomoy Island Excursions
- Freedom Cruise Line
- Yankee II Deep Sea Fishing
- Cranberry Bog Tours
If you love the look and scent of Lavender, visit the 12-acre Cape Cod Lavender Farmn in Harwich.
Related Article: Have a look at another amazing lavendar far in Nova Scotia here.
Grab an ice cream at Schoolhouse Ice Cream.
At the end of the day, check out the Mooncussers Tavern and retire to the Wequasset Resort and Golf Club.
Villages of Chatham, MA
- Chatham Port
- Chatham Village
- North Chatham
- South Chatham
- West Chatham
Beaches in Chatham, MA
- Forest Beach
- Ridgevale Beach
- Harding Beach
- Keegan Lighthouse Beach
- Cockle Cove Beach
- Chatham Lighthouse Beach
- Oyster Pond Beach
- North Beach Island
- Jackknife Beach
- Monomoy Beach
- South Beach
- North Beach Island
- Little Beach
- National Seashore
Things To Do in Chatham
- The downtown has some really quaint shopping
- Explore Monomoy and Morris Island, incredible nature preserves
- See the Sulfer Spring Marshes
- Check out Mill Creek or Cockle Grove Creek
- Chatham Bars is known for their spas and they have a great pub.
- Yoga on the Beach at the Lighthouse
- Definitely take a seal tour
- Tour the Shark Center
- The Godfrey WIndmill
- Atwood Museum
I really enjoyed my stay at the Chatham Tides Inn, which has it’s own private beach and a view to Monomoy. My suite had it’s own kitchenette and it was a perfect place for a solo overnight in Chatham.
You’ll find that some towns on the Cape are really driven by tourism and shut down in the off-season.
This New England Community offers a happening down town, wildlife preserves, and lots to see and do. In fact, it’s one of the best places to live on Cape Cod.
Villages of Orleans
There are three villages of Orleans:
- East Orleans
- Orleans Center
- South Orleans
Beaches of Orleans
Of course, there’s no shortage of beaches, either”
- Big Waves Side
- Nauset Beach
- Skaket Beach
- Orleans Beach
- Coast Guard Beach
- Cape Cod National Seashore
- Sunken Meadow Beach
- Cooks Brook
- Rock Harbor
- Thumpertown Beach
- Tonset Road Beach
- Priscilla Beach
- Hog Island
- Pochet Island
- Orleans Parks & Beaches
Check out these outstanding art galleries while you’re there, too:
- Addison Galleries
- Tree’s Place
- Collins Gallery
Outer Cape Towns & Villages
On the outer cape, the land starts to narrow.
Only a single main road, Route 6, will take you to the tip of Cape Cod.
But this stretch of coastal villages are vibrant and unique, and have some of the the best of the cape, if you care to take the drive from the bridge, two hours without traffic.
The towns of the Outer Cape, include:
Eastham is another of the best towns to visit in Cape Cod.
Villages of Eastham
- North Eastham
Beaches of Eastham
- Boat Meadow Beach
- Campground Beach
- Coast Guard Beach
- Cooks Brook Beach
- Dyer Prince Beach
- First Encounter Beach
- Great Pond
- Herring Brook Beach
- Kingsbury Beach
- Sunken Meadow Beach
- Thumpertown Beach
- Wiley Park
Things To Do in Eastham
Eastam is rich with history and attractions, if you know where to look.
Here are some ideas:
- Visit the Captain Penniman House
- Check out Dill Beach Camp (a dune shack)
- Tour Swift Daley House
- Visit the Chester Ranlett Tool Museum and the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum
- Have a closer look at Nauset Light and Three Sisters Lighthouses
- Learn about the Site of the “First Encounter”
- Visit the Olde Eastham Windmill
- Walk around the Old Coast Guard Station
- Discover Doane Rock
- Learn about French Cable Hut
- Explore the Cove Burying Ground and Bridge Road Cemetery
- Go kayaking in the marshlands
- Ride the Nauset Bike Trail and Cape Cod Rail Trail
- Explore the Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary with it’s scenic trails and overlooks.
Villages of Wellfleet
Welfleet has two villages:
- South Welfleet
- Welfleet Village
Beaches of Wellfleet
Many of these beaches feel like you’re at the ends of the Earth!
- Cahoon Hollow Beach
- Duck Harbor
- Great Pond
- Gull Pond
- Indian Neck Beach
- Lecount Hollow Beach
- Long Pond Beach
- Mayo Beach
- Newcomb Hollow
- Powers Landing
- Whitecrest Beach
- Marconi Beach
Things To Do in Wellfleet
- Have a drink and catch live music at The Beachcomber
- Get a chocolate croissant at Boulangeri, a French bakery
- Look for the trans-Atlantic station at Marconi Beach, the Marconi Wireless Station. (You’ll find the counterpart stationin Orleans.)
- Get close to Nature at the White Cedar Swamp, Great Island Trail, and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
- Go bargain hunting at the Wellfleet Flea Market
- Search for a fine art piece to take home from so many galleries
Villages in Truro
There are three villages in Truro:
- North Truro
- South Truro
- Truro Center
Beaches in Truro
You’ll also find some of the best soft-sand beaches here, including:
- Ballston Beach
- Coast Guard Beach – Truro
- Cold Storage Beach
- Corn Hill Beach
- Great Hollow
- Head of the Meadow
- High Head
- Longnook Beach
- Pond Village
- Ryder Beach
- Fisher Beach
Things To Do in Truro
Here are some things you might like to do in Truro:
- Visit Highland Light
- See the Truro Historical Museum and Truro Highland House Museum
- Walk the Pamet Area Trails and Pilgrim Spring Trails
- Relax by the Pamet River
- Look for the Cranberry Bog with an old house for the workers.
- Take a bike ride on the Province Lands Bike Trail
- Play Highland Links — Cape Cod’s oldest golf course
- Check out the Whydah Pirate Museum on MacMillan Wharf
- Stay over at the hostel at the old life guard building, one of only three hostels on Cape Cod (the others are Nantucket, Hyannis).
- Sample wine at Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod
“P-Town,” as it’s known by the locals, offers a vibrant community, LGBT communities, a thriving arts community, theatre and music, and perhaps some of the most beautiful beaches along the National Seashore. There are many little shops and restaurants.
Note: It can get crowded at the height of tourist season, but that’s part of the attraction!
Beaches in Provincetown
You’ll also find several great beaches in Provincetown, including:
- Herring Cove Beach
- Race Point Beach
- Cape Cod National Seashore
- Long Point Beach
- Bayside Beach
Things to Do in P-Town
Arts Dune Tours are fantastic. It’s one of the last operating tours authorized to ride through the dunes. Along the way, you’ll see the famous “Dune Shacks,” former rudimentary summer homes to artists during the 70s. Most are without electricity or running water. You can even apply for an artists residency.
Tip: A great way to see parts of the national seashore that are off-limits, like the dunes, is by taking a Dune Tour, where you’ll get a look at the famous Dune Shacks and maybe have a lobster bake at Race Point. The Dun Shacks were rudimentary places that were built or used by artists. Most are without electricity or indoor plumbing. A few are still open for artist residencies.
Of course, there’s plenty more to do in Provincetown. Here are just a couple of ideas.
- Explore the Beech Forest Trails, walk around kettle ponds (self-guided) and woods.
- Climb Pilgrim Monument, where you can climb up and on the way, find each of the Massachusetts towns etched into the bricks. (The view at the top is wonderful!)
That said, you may just want to go with the flow here, because there’s always something interesting going on in P-town!
The Cape Cod Islands
Two famous Massachusetts islands are off the shores of Cape Cod: Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, along with a small string of islands known as the Elizabethan Islands. They make up Dukes County.
Nantucket has a history that’s intertwine with the whaling industry. At one point in time, it was considered the whaling capital of the world. By today’s standards and understanding of the cruel whaling industry, one might be horrified. But in the 1800’s, it was a seat of honor that brought wealth and fame to Nantucket. In fact, the book Moby Dick was set off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
A “Nantucket Sleigh Ride” mean a whaling boat was dragged on a dangerous ride in the ocean by a harpooned whale.
While the annuls of history are marked in the Whaling Museum, islanders are sensitive to the cruelty of whale hunting. After all, by 1760, they had all but eliminated the whale population in persuit of oil, blubber and money.
It’s interesting to note that while the husbands were away, Nantucket was essentially a female-driven economy. The downtown was known as “Petticoat Row” in the 19th century.
Now, Nantucket is a fashionable summer resort with quaint Cape Cod homes and retreats and cobblestone paths. It’s said to be one of the best preservations of a 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town.
Towns and Villages of Nantucket
There’s only one town in Nantucket:
- Nantucket Town
There are several Villages in Nantucket:
You’ll find a small hamlet in the eastern part of the island known as Siasconset lined with rose-covered former fishing villages and crushed white shell paths.
There are also two small islands, Tuckernuck and Muskeget, that comprise the Town and County of Nantucket.
In the downtown, you’ll find art galleries and breakfast nooks, gracious beds & breakfasts just off the thoroughfare.
In early April, the annual Daffodil Parade strolls through the downtown with all sorts of vintage vehicles decorated with this yellow harbinger of spring.
Nantucket is often foggy (hence it’s nick name, “The Gray Lady”), and you’ll discover three lighthouses on the island for this reason.
Nantucket Draws the Rich and Famous
While the population is just over 10,000 Cape Cod islanders, it rises to over 50,000 in the summer months. It still attracts the wealthiest Americans, with property values among the highest in the country.
The best way to get to Nantucket (aside from a private boat) is the ferry from Hyannis or Harwich Port. You’ll also find ferries from: New York City, NY, and New Bedford MA. Note that the car ferry is often booked months in advance. Depending on your departure, the ride can take from 1-3 hours.
There is also an inter-island boat that runs between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard every hour or so in peak season.
Alternatively, you can fly into the Nantucket Memorial Airport on a private plane, or from Boston, New York, and Hyannis,
Beaches in Nantucket
Even though Nantucket is a fairly small island (about 105 square miles), as you might expect, there are plenty of beaches…80 miles of beaches to be exact. All of them are open to the public. They include:
- Brant Point Beach (& Lighthouse)
- Dionis Beach
- Cisco Beach
- Jetties Beach
- Ladies Beach
- Madaket Beach
- Miacomet Beach
- Steps Beach
- Surfside Beach
The island is very flat and you can see most everything by car.
Things To Do In Nantucket
Aside from renting a jeep and picnicking on the beach, you’ll find plenty to do in Nantucket. For instance:
- You can shop and dine in the downtown.
- Take the Bluff Walk through Rose-Covered Cottages.
- Explore the island on bicycle.
- You can visit the three Lighthouses on Nantucket:
- Brant Point Light
- Sankaty Head Light
- Great Point Light
- Finally, Visit the Jethro Coffin House, thought to be the oldest house on the island in its original state.
What to Wear in Nantucket
Nantucket may just be the most formal of the Cape Cod destinations, where you’ll want to pack a string of pearls, your stripes, and khakhis for men. The social scene is part of the draw for this exclusive destination. Don’t be surprised if you bump into some politicians and Hollywood types.
Going to “The Vineyard” is a favorite past time for the locals and world travelers.
With Nantucket, it was a prosperous center for the whaling industry in the 19th century.
It’s known for world class beaches, fresh seafood, and a laid back lifestyle.
You’ll find excellent restaurants and bars, as well as live music. It’s an exclusive destination–and also one of the priciest places to vacation, according to TripIndex. But, so worth it, even if you only have time for a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard–but try to spend the weekend!
To get to Martha’s Vineyard, you can take the ferry from Woods Hole in Falmouth. It’s about a 45 minute ride, weather depending. You can also arrive by air, as Martha’s Vineyard has a small airport. (Remember the TV show “Wings”?)
Towns and Villages in Martha’s Vineyard
Martha’s Vineyard is about 100 square miles and has six towns:
- Oak Bluffs
- West Tisbury
Chappaquiddick is an eastern penninsula and sometimes island in Edgartown.
On approach by sea, you’ll love the gingerbread houses dotting Oak Bluffs’ waterfront.
Vineyard Haven is the most commercial of Martha’s Vineyard’s villages, where you’ll find plenty of downtown shopping, the main port of entry to the island, and bikes to rent.
Edgartown is a bit more quaint and upscale, while Oak Bluffs is a little more lively.
You’ll find luxury retreats and waterfront rentals in West Tisbury.
If you’re looking for a more tranquil, relaxing sort of vacation, opt for Aquinnah, Chilmark, or Menemsha (a village in the fishing town of Chilmark).
Related Article: Read more about what to do on Martha’s Vineyard here.
Beaches in Martha’s Vineyard
As you might expect, there is no shortage of beaches on this island paradise.
- Aquinnah: Gay Head Cliffs and Beach, Aquinnah Public Beach (Moshup Beach), Lobsterville Beach, Philbin Beach
- Chilmark: Lucy Vincent Beach, Menemsha Public Beach, Squibnocket Beach
- Oak Bluffs: Eastville Beach, Oak Bluffs Town Beach, Joseph Sylvia State Beach
- Vineyard Haven: Lake Tashmoo Town Beach, Owen Park Beach, Tisbury Town Beach
- Edgartown: East Beach (Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and Wasque Reservation), Fuller Street Beach, Katama Beach (South Beach), Lighthouse Beach
- West Tisbury: Lambert’s Cove Beach, Long Point Beach (at Wildlife Refuge)
MV is a favorite summer retreat for some famous personalities, too. For instance:
- Newscaster Walter Cronkite
- Historian Henry Louis Gates,
- Former US President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
Among the famous who took up residence in Martha;s Vineyard are:
- First lady Jackie Kennedy
- Television host David Letterman
- Journalist Diane Sawyer
- Film director Spike Lee.
Going to Martha’s Vineyard is a very different experience than visiting the rest of Cape Cod. If you can possibly schedule a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard, you won’t regret it.
The Elizabeth Islands
You may not hear much about the Elizabeth Islands, but those who know of them, love them.
You’ll find this archipelago of 22 small islands and islets southwest off the coast of Cape Cod and north of Martha’s Vineyard. They make up the Cape Cod town of Gosnold, named after the first white man who landed here in 1602 (Barthomele Gosnold). Prior to his landing, the islands were inhabited by Wampanoag Indians. All the islands together amount to only about 13 square miles of property.
The seven major islands of the Elizabeth Islands include:
- Cuttyhunk Island
- Naushan Island
- Nashawena Island
- Penikese Island
- Pasqua Island
Today, all but two of this island chain are owned by the Forbes family since the mid 1800s, which leaves limited public access. Only two of the islands, Cuttyhunk and Penikese, are open to the public.
The only way to access these islands is by boat.
Penikese Island, a former leper colony, is currently home to a state-owned wildlife sanctuary worth exploring.
If you don’t have a private boat, you can get to Cuttyhunk on the Ferry service that year round out of New Bedford. You might even take one of the local cruise tours and make plans to stay overnight in Cuttyhunk.
Towns Near Cape Cod
There are a handful of towns sometimes thought to be part of the Cape, but technically, they are not. This includes Plymouth and Wareham. Both are lovely to visit as part of your Cape Cod travels when you’re nearby.
Final Thoughts – Towns | Cape Cod
So, from the Bourne Bridge to the tip of Race Point Beach, you can see how much there is to see and do in Cape Cod. (No wonder it’s loved by so many!)
Now that you have a better idea about what each of these charming towns of Cape Cod has to offer, you can begin to plan your summer adventures from these Cape Cod best towns. But don’t wait too long because this popular destination books up early in the year!
Do you have a favorite Cape Cod town or village? Which of these towns of Cape Cod do you think would be the best “home base” for your vacation? We’d love to hear tour thoughts in the comments below!
Photo Credits: Fishermans Wharf, Sandwich, Brewster Mill: Image by John French; Saltmarsh Image by Jennifer Crowder, Aquinnah; Pilgrim Monument portrait: Image by Mark Martins Image by D_Theodora; all via Pixabay | Post Card: By Pub. by The Mayflower Sales Co., Provincetown, Mass. Tichnor Bros. Inc., Boston, Mass. – Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection #62797, Public Domain; Cuttyhunk – By Arwcheek, Wiki Commons Public Domain
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