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Cape Cod with the Family

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IMG_8723capecodheartWe went to Cape Cod every summer when I was young, and it was the highlight of the year. My family and my Aunt’s family met in a vacation rental and lazed away the week before the 4th of July. We went to beaches on the bay side and on the Atlantic side, swam in kettle ponds, built sandcastles, strolled through Provincetown, went to the drive-in movies, rode bikes, read books, dyed our hair, never wore the sunscreen we swore to our parents we put on, took showers in the outdoor shower, and always put on a play based on books we could find in the rental houses (generally Danielle Steele books).

It was the stuff all the best vacations are made of–enough things to do without actually taxing yourself too much. It all felt very American and our week often ended in a 4th of July parade in Wellfeet with a fireworks show over the dunes in Provincetown.

Then for some reason around 10 years ago we all just stopped going. None of us remember why we stopped going but we just didn’t keep up the tradition. I’m sure it was that some of us started having kids, health issues, being poor grad students, starting new jobs, and all the things that complicate life. We often traveled other places with my aunt and cousins, but the Cape was something we all said we should do again and never did…

Until this past memorial day weekend! We spent 4 idyllic days on the Cape with most of the old gang. You know the saying “you can’t go home again”? Well, you can on Cape Cod! Everything was the same! Our favorite restaurants were still making the same food, the beaches looked the same, the same smell of the sea was there, and the drive in was as kitschy and uncomfortable as ever. We reveled in the sameness of our favorite haunts. And I realized with horror that I was the same age as my mother was when we started going to the Cape! We have all decided that an entire week may be too long to dedicate to Cape Cod every year, but we can donate Memorial Day or Labor Day or a midsummer week to our favorite location.

If you want to begin your own Cape Cod tradition here are the things you must know:

Cape Cod is the muscley arm part of Massachusetts that boasts beautiful beaches on all sides. When you think of Cape Cod it might bring to mind Hyannis and the Kennedys, or the very tip that is Provincetown and its colorful community. But don’t limit yourself to the two well-known towns, there are so many beautiful towns in between that are less expensive, less crowded, and just as beautiful.

Our family trips were mostly in Wellfleet, but we have stayed in Truro and Chatham as well. I will focus on the areas near Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown.

Top attractions:

Cahoon Hollow Beach, Wellfleet

This is my favorite beach on the Atlantic side of the Cape. Huge sand dunes are behind you and the blue sea is ahead of you with big waves crashing in crescendo as you near them. In fact you have to walk down a 75-foot sand dune trail to get to the beach, so if walking back up is going to be hard, you might want to skip this particular beach. Cahoon Hollow is swimmable, but it is always colder than the calmer bay-side beaches. However, it is great for boogie boarding, body surfing, and sand castles.

Visit the Beachcomber restaurant next to the beach parking for great seafood. Don’t miss the raw bar and the beautiful Wellfleet oysters. Over the years we were all paid $5 or so to eat a raw oyster by our parents and older cousins. Although we had to gag down the first ones, we eventually grew to love them. This past trip my cousin paid each of my kids $2 to eat an oyster, so the fun continues.

*Wellfleet parking stickers are required or you can pay to park at the Beachcomber. But go early or late to be able to get parking at all.

Kettle ponds-

Although other Kettle ponds are scattered around the Cape, Wellfleet has the majority of them and is the main reason we continued to stay in Wellfleet year after year.

Our favorite of all the ponds is Great Pond (on the same road to Cahoon Hollow) and it is a beautiful pond (really its a lake) surrounded by pine trees with a small beach and quite a bit of shallow water for the little ones. Once again, it’s a little bit of a hike down but it is worth it!

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Long pond is another great one for small kids. It has a roped in swimming area, frogs to catch and a much bigger, sandy beach. However, it is always much more crowded than Great Pond. It is worth visiting both to see which one you prefer.

There are many other ponds that are wonderful but are harder to find and have no parking. If you are lucky enough to be staying by one make use of it!

Indian Neck Beach, Wellfleet

This is a bay side beach with calmer waters, a big sandbar, and lots of fun critters to see. This was nicknamed “Hermie beach” by my brother and cousin because they could find dozens of hermit crabs on the beach. The crabs are still there and easily found buried shallowly in air holes in the sand. Also to be found are horseshoe crabs swimming in shallow water, fiddler crabs on shore, snails, and beautiful shells. If you have little nature lovers be sure to allot an hour or two here.

Drive-in movie, Wellfleet

What is more nostalgic than a drive-in movie? I’m not old enough to remember them in their prime, so the nostalgia for me is actually of the Wellfleet drive in. I remember watching The Princess Bride, Pocahontas, and Toy Story while lying on sleeping bags in the hatchback of my parents van. The drive-in plays a double feature every night during the summer season and features a playground for early arrivees and a decent snack bar. Be aware that prices are per person and they only take cash.

Provincetown-

Although staying in Provincetown is not necessary and is generally more expensive, a trip to this beach town is a must. This is not your usual boardwalk town. The Mayflower landed there before heading toward Plymouth, and the Mayflower compact was signed here. The town then became a part of the Plymouth colony and was used primarily for fishing. It became a town in 1727 and continued to be a fishing and whaling center through the early 1900’s. The picturesque harbor attracted artists, and later the business guild began to promote gay tourism. Ever since then P-town (as the locals call it) has become the artistic capital of the Cape.

You can easily spend a day here with your family or stay longer for the many festivals P-town hosts. The souvenir shops have lots of fun and inexpensive treasures for you and your kids to take home with you. Stroll the historic streets that wind around, go visit the Pilgrim monument where the Mayflower docked, or rent bikes and ride the dunes trail.

Dolphin Whale Watch- Provincetown-

If you have an animal lover among you, this trip won’t disappoint. We have gone on these 3-hour boat trips and have always seen lots of whales, mostly humpbacks, very close to the boat. The boat has bathrooms, a snack bar and lots of seating, plus a great tour guide. A not-to-be-missed attraction.

Plan on 3-4 hours.

Lighthouses-

Many of the lighthouses on the Cape have tours that are short enough for the kids and informative enough for you. My picks for families is the Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham. It has free admission and has easy access from the road.

Or visit the Chatham Lighthouse overlooking Lighthouse Beach in Chatham. (This is a fabulous beach to visit as well.) I found the tour here to be a little more in depth but still very interesting. There is a lot of lawn to run on if the kids are too restless for the tour and parents have to take turns! I seem to remember reading that the Chatham lighthouse is the most photographed, but I can’t be positive.

Good Eats-

The Beachcomber, Cahoon Hollow Beach-

This is always the favorite of the family! Great raw bar, huge nachos, and decent kids meals.

See more under attractions and Cahoon Hollow.

Pj’s-

This may not be the single best place to get seafood on the Cape, but it is pretty delicious.

Clam strips, fish and chips, and good burgers and onion rings. Plus it is on the way to Cahoon Hollow, Great Pond and very close to Wellfleet center. This is a great grab and go option as well.

Bookstore and Restaurant-

This is a higher-end restaurant with a very diverse menu of baked and fried fish, pasta, salads and good kids meals. It is situated on the Wellfleet Pier and beach, and on a beautiful day it is great to sit outside to enjoy your meal. My favorite is the baked scallops; they are delicious every time.

Tips:

High season starts the week after the 4th of July and goes through August. Prices for rentals are cheaper in June and the Cape is beautiful so go early and save some money and beat the crowds.

Every town has beaches that require their own town’s parking stickers to park at them. Check out your favorite beaches and then stay in the town in which they are located. You can purchase a parking permit from the town for the week of your visit. Some beaches do have paid parking, so check before you go. Our favorite swimming spots were the kettle ponds in Wellfleet, so we continued to stay in Wellfleet in order to park at the ponds.

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Cape Cod is the perfect place to spend a week in the summer. The beaches, small towns, seafood, and festivals. You will love Provincetown as well. #capecod #beachvacation #summertravel #familyvacation #familyreunionCape Cod is the perfect place to spend a week in the summer. The beaches, small towns, seafood, and festivals. You will love Provincetown as well. #capecod #beachvacation #summertravel #familyvacation #familyreunion

41 Comments

  1. August 12, 2018 / 12:58 pm

    Sounds like a lovely area and a wonderful place to vacation! Thanks for all the great tips on things to do and places to visit.

  2. August 12, 2018 / 1:36 pm

    Sounds beautiful! It’s always nice to continue traditions that you had when you were young. Hope you get to keep going for many years to come.

  3. Melissa
    August 12, 2018 / 6:16 pm

    Ahhh….this makes me want to take a drive down the Cape. I love the Beachcomber Restaurant and yes, Cahoon Hollow is a beautiful beach, but quite a steep walk back up!!

  4. August 12, 2018 / 6:57 pm

    Wow!! Now I want to go to Cape Cod!! I’ve bookmarked your post for things to do because we’re hoping to get out there next summer.

  5. August 13, 2018 / 12:58 pm

    Great info! We always mean to get to the Cape. This is useful info for when we finally get there!

  6. Afaf Finan
    August 17, 2018 / 2:41 am

    What a great blog , Alicia. Very informative and has a more personal approach. Now I must put the Cape on my to go list.

  7. August 30, 2018 / 1:49 pm

    Im British and my trip to Cape Cod 10 years ago was one of the best holidays Ive had. Id love to take my own children there one day as I agree with you that it looks a perfect place to visit with kids.

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      August 30, 2018 / 2:37 pm

      Isn’t it a special place!?

  8. August 31, 2018 / 5:17 am

    It is so great that you were finally able to go back and have your family vacation again, it must have been very nostalgic! We haven’t visited the US yet but from your post we will consider putting Cape Cod on our list if we ever make it there 🙂

    https://mcadventureblog.com/

  9. August 31, 2018 / 9:10 am

    Looks like a fab place, and the tip for visiting in June to save money and avoid the crowds is really helpful. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  10. August 31, 2018 / 10:40 am

    I have always loved doing road trips with my family, and all the laughs we had along the way. Sounds like a great trip! Also a drive in movie?? Didn’t know those still existed, they are so cool!!

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      August 31, 2018 / 11:16 am

      I don’t think many drive ins still exist, but they are so much fun!

  11. Katerina
    August 31, 2018 / 4:23 pm

    So lovely post! And it must have been such a nostalgic experience for you to go back to Cape Cod! It looks like a wonderful place for vacations! Thanks for sharing! ?

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      August 31, 2018 / 6:19 pm

      Thanks for reading!

  12. August 31, 2018 / 6:19 pm

    We’ve never been to Cape Cod but now after reading this I feel we have! Great blog post!

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      August 31, 2018 / 6:19 pm

      Thanks so much!

  13. August 31, 2018 / 10:32 pm

    Cape Cod sound like a really good place to go and travel with your family. Thanks for tip and information on it. Would definitely help us all in planning trips there.

  14. Opposite Tourists
    September 1, 2018 / 8:45 am

    Sounds like there’s so much to do in Cape Cod. I love how you describe it as the “muscly arm part” 😛

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      September 1, 2018 / 1:05 pm

      Thames so much! I love your blog, so that means a lot.

  15. September 1, 2018 / 10:57 am

    The closest place I’ve visited that reminds me on Cape Cod is Catalina Island in Southern California. I love a vacation where everyone can enjoy and has something for them.

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      September 1, 2018 / 1:04 pm

      Catalina Island is a similar idea but Cape Cod is much more wild and it isn’t glamorous at all.

  16. September 1, 2018 / 11:30 am

    Yeah, I must agree with the others – what a family-fun looking place! Thanks for the tips! 🙂

  17. mohanaandaninda
    September 1, 2018 / 6:42 pm

    Great candid photos. The happiness in the faces make me instantly believe that Cape Cod is the place to be, enjoy and celebrate 🙂

  18. September 1, 2018 / 9:54 pm

    Oysters, dunes & driveins… sounds incredible! I’ve explored very little of the northeast, but Cape Cod is definitely high up on my list. It looks like a perfect place to enjoy family and make life long memories ?

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      September 2, 2018 / 1:51 am

      I hope you will go and enjoy it as much as we have!

  19. alison netzer
    September 2, 2018 / 1:38 am

    I love the cape and spent many summers there when I schooled and lived in Boston. It’s a great getaway. I love that you have those summer family memories. It’s such a nice feeling that you can always go back and feel like you never left or things haven’t changed.

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      September 2, 2018 / 6:16 am

      It is something that I don’t encounter often!

  20. Soumya Gayatri
    September 2, 2018 / 5:18 am

    I am mother to a five year old and this place seems just like the perfect place to visit with him. Looks so much fun. Thanks for sharing this.

  21. Suvarna
    September 2, 2018 / 11:20 am

    You certainly had a fun filled and exciting long weekend getaway.
    Well done to the kids who held down the oysters!

  22. J David Garnett
    September 2, 2018 / 1:47 pm

    Cape Cod is somewhere new to me but your blog makes it sound a very interesting place to visit. 🙂

  23. September 2, 2018 / 2:11 pm

    I want to go dolphin whale watching! I’ve never been to Cape Cod when in the US but would love to visit one day. It looks like there’s plenty to do!

  24. September 2, 2018 / 6:47 pm

    Looks like an amazing place to visit! I thought Cape Cod is in UK. lol. Good to know it’s just in Massachusetts
    which is more accessible!

  25. lukeandmeagan
    September 2, 2018 / 7:29 pm

    I love how each of these places and experiences is tied to such fond family memories – Cape Cod sounds fantastic, and this was such a lovely read!!

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      September 2, 2018 / 8:36 pm

      Thanks so much!

  26. September 5, 2018 / 7:47 pm

    Cape Cod seems so much fun, actually your photographs made it fun. I have never been there but now I have added this to my bucket list.

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      September 5, 2018 / 8:28 pm

      I’m so glad!

    • travelswiththecrew
      Author
      September 7, 2018 / 1:34 am

      Thanks! I’m so glad.

  27. September 9, 2018 / 1:58 am

    I never heard of Cape Cod, the food! oh so much goodness! I really want to try them!

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