Going places: Driveable destinations: Cape Cod welcomes visitors for well-deserved holiday

Karen Rubin
Ocean Edge beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Cape Cod, MA — If ever there was a time for a Cape Cod getaway, it is now, and with the safe reopening of businesses and organizations, Cape Cod’s beaches, trails, golf offer well-deserved respite.

The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce has provided this guide for visitors:

Beach are Open: Across the 70-mile peninsula Vineyard and Nantucket Sounds, Atlantic Ocean, Cape Cod and Buzzard Bays beaches are open — including Cape Cod National Seashore’s six dazzling beaches. Inland, hundreds of lakes and ponds, more than a dozen rivers and other waterways offer refreshing ways to explore the Cape without the crowds. Kayak, SUP, canoe, sail, motorboat, Jet ski, water ski or swim. Hyannis’ Kalmus Beach (at the end of Ocean Street, with a dedicated surfing area) and West Dennis Beach are favorite wind- and kite-surfing locations because of their favorable high winds. It is also enjoyable to watch from the beach!

Hiking, Walking Trails: Throughout Cape Cod’s 400 square miles there are miles and miles of hiking, walking and mountain biking trails, comprising Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries (no dogs), Trustees of Reservations nature reservations, US Fish & Wildlife Service wildlife refuges, MA Wildlife Management Areas (Frances Crane in Falmouth and Hyannis Ponds in Hyannis), Barnstable Land Trust and 15 Town conservations trusts. Within these pristine land tracts one can find peace and serenity, varied hiking, walking and mountain biking terrains from beginner to extreme, a wide variety of flora and fauna including more than 100 varieties of trees. Coastal marshes offer superb opportunities to view wildlife and typical coastal wetlands biome, such as ferns, bulrushes, cattails, reeds, sedges, and rushes. These lands are ideal for plein air painting, photography, bird watching as well as more active pursuits.

In Provincetown, walk across Provincetown Harbor on the bouldered Breakwater to Long Point (about 1½ miles one way) and see Long Point and Wood End Lighthouses up close. Walk back or take the Long Point Shuttle over or back (be aware, high tide is not a safe time to cross!).

Cycling: Cape Cod is one of the best destinations anywhere for cycling, with 114 miles of cycling trails from the Upper to the Outer Cape (on top of generally bike-friendly roads). Among our favorites: Cape Cod Canal’s Cycling Trails are 7.1 miles, paved and off-road, along each side of the Canal. Falmouth’s 10.7-mile Shining Sea Bikeway rail trail is truly a coastal treasure hugging the Buzzards Bay coast from Woods Hole (where there is the famous marine research center and aquarium) to North Falmouth past Sippewissett Marsh, cranberry bogs and overlooking Chapaquoit Beach. Cape Cod Rail Trail, now running from South Yarmouth to South Wellfleet is 25.7 miles end to end, including a new bridge over Bass River and other improvements.

Besides the larger, well-known trails, there are several other cycling trails such as Chatham Loop (five-mile loop accessible from Chatham Fish Pier); Nauset Marsh Trail (3¼ miles roundtrip from Doane Rock picnic area to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, intersecting with Cape Cod Rail trail); Head of the Meadow Trail (two miles; access in Truro at Head of the Meadow Beach parking area; its runs to Head of the Meadow Beach); Province Lands Trail (7½ miles; challenging paved loop through majestic dunes to Herring Cove and Race Point Beaches in Provincetown. This hilly loop starts from the Province Lands Visitor Center in Provincetown).

Culture & History: Explore the Cape & Islands Bookstore Trail, a great way to get out and visit some new parts of the cape and score a great read! History and culture buffs can find much to enjoy along the Cape Cod Museum Trail featuring 80 museums, historical societies and other cultural locations. In the Town of Yarmouth, be among the first to explore the Olde Cape Cod Discovery Trail, and discover the natural beauty and historic heritage of Yarmouth, including the ever-popular Edward Gorey House, celebrating the life and work of this enigmatic American writer, illustrator, playwright and set designer who purchased this unassuming house in 1970 and lived here until his death in 2000. While in Yarmouth, take a Town-wide tour of the 17 whimsical sand sculptures along the Town’s Sand Sculpture Trail using a downloadable map and perhaps win a prize by entering the annual Sand Sculpture Trail Photo Contest (details on the website).

Heritage Museums & Gardens’ many magnificent gardens and nature trails are open for strolling, as is the Café (although its museums and collections remain shuttered for the present).

Along Hyannis Harbor, HyArts Artists Shanties are now open daily (Hyannis Harbor Overlook shanties, just opposite at the end of the Walkway to the Sea, will open soon)! These small fishing shack-style “seaside studios” provide Cape Cod artists and artisans space to work and sell. Stroll around, speak to artists and artisans, take pictures and enjoy the harborside location and nearby restaurants.

Old King’s Highway (also called Route 6A), runs 62 miles along the Cape’s northern coast through nearly all the Cape’s towns from Bourne to Provincetown. This meandering former Native American path was a principal east-west cart route for early Cape farmers and settlers. In the 17th century it evolved into an extension of Plymouth’s King’s Highway. Along the Highway you can find four centuries of architecture (including former sea captains’ homes), centuries-old stone walls, as well as shops, galleries, restaurants, scenic pullovers, museums, and Cape Playhouse (oldest summer theater in America). The Historic Cape Cod Route 6A Map with helpful markers and hyperlinks can be downloaded from Google.

Nothing can be more evocative of Cape Cod than its treasure trove of more than a dozen lighthouses. These maritime sentinels are nostalgic and, even in the 21st century, vital navigation guideposts for seamen. Most of the Cape’s lighthouses are accessible and some are open for tours. You can download the map (https://www.capecodlighthouses.info/) which includes background and hyperlinks to the lighthouses that have websites.

For a dazzling look at one of Cape Cod’s most magnificent unexpected and edifices, take a free tour of Church of the Transfiguration at Rock Harbor in Orleans (https://www.churchofthetransfiguration.org/tour/). The architecture, contemporary frescoes, mosaic tile floor and eye-popping apse are truly impressive. Its recently built 10-bell 100-foot Bell Tower is topped by a bronze angel statue. The Church also offers concerts of its E.M. Skinner Organ as well as its choir, Gloriæ Dei Cantores throughout the year.

(Museums are scheduled to open during Phase III, but dates are somewhat fluid, depending upon health metrics.)

Whale Watches: One of Cape Cod’s most popular and exciting activities is whale watching, which run July through October. Whale watches depart from Provincetown (whalewatch.com) and Barnstable (whales.net) lasting four hours.

Fishing: Whether at the Cape Cod Canal, taking a fishing charter, going out on a friend’s boat, surfcasting or shell fishing, Cape Cod is a prime place for fishing. Massachusetts does not require a license for recreational saltwater angling; but you need a license from the respective Town to clam for quahogs or oysters.

Golf: Cape Cod golf clubs are open, with restrictions such as shorter hours. Guidelines can be found at https://www.massgolf.org/play/safeplayguidelines/.

Drive-in Theaters: Wellfleet Drive-In has been the Cape’s only drive-in since 1957. But this summer the more drive-ins are open: West Yarmouth Drive-In, (669 Route 28, West Yarmouth ); Main Street, Hyannis Drive-In (Main Street & High School Road, 50 cars max; $20 /car; Fridays); Heritage Drive-In | (Route 130 Sandwich; admission $15, admission for military members, seniors, and children 11 and under is $12).

Lodging, Dining: Cape-wide, lodging establishments, restaurants (indoor and outdoor dining), personal services (day spas, salons, etc.) are open. Bars, museums, fitness gyms and everything else (besides nightclubs and large venues) are reopening under Phase III of Reopening Massachusetts. Cape Cod’s culinary scene runs the gamut from clam shacks to haute cuisine. Check out the Cape Cod Beverage Trail featuring craft beer and spirits.

For additional information about visiting Cape Cod call 888-33CAPECOD, visit www.capecodchamber.org. Information on reopening Cape Cod, is at the Chamber’s dedicated website, www.reopeningcapecod.org.
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