Whether You’re a foodie or art lover, passionate about golf or nature, we’ve compiled five different scenarios for whatever suits your interests.By Sarah Shemkus
Cape Cod’s reputation is all about summer: swimming, sun and sandy beaches. There is, however, a strong argument to be made that autumn is when the Cape is truly at its most enchanting. The traffic slows down, but the best shops and restaurants haven’t yet closed up for the year. The summer heat subsides, but days are still warm enough for a walk on the shore or a day on the links.
In fact, fall on Cape Cod has so much to offer you might find yourself a bit overwhelmed trying to decide what to do. That’s where we come in. We’ve put together some ideas for the perfect autumnal Cape Cod day, whether you’d rather browse an art museum, sample the culinary delights of the region, or wander an oceanside trail.
So no matter what you want from a day here, read on to learn how you, too, can fall for Cape Cod.
Your first destination for an art-oriented tour of Cape Cod is not a gallery or a museum, but the App Store. Produced by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and local arts organizations, the app will ensure that no matter where on the Cape you end, you get your fix of painting and sculpture.
OK, done downloading?
Start your day in Hyannis, where the charming downtown shopping district is packed with galleries and artsy gift shops. Our favorites include the quirky Red Fish, Blue Fish on Main Street, the Gallery Artrio on Pearl Street, and the Little Beach Gallery on South Street, which sells everything from colorful fiber sculptures to dreamy seascapes. If you visit before the end of September, stroll down to the waterfront and visit the seasonal Art Shanties, which feature photography, ceramics and carvings by local artists.
After lunch at one of Hyannis’ many eateries (Pizza Barbone is always a good choice), if you have enough ambition, point yourself toward Provincetown. The famously expressive town at the tip of the Cape is, unsurprisingly, home to dozens of galleries and studios showing work from the elegant to the flamboyant. Stroll down the main drag of Commercial Street and let your taste guide you.
If you don’t have the energy for an Outer Cape trek, stick to the offerings on Route 6A. In Barnstable, the Cape Cod Art Association has a rotating selection of exhibits by local artists. Up the street in Dennis, the Cape Cod Museum of Art features works by prominent Cape Cod artists and those who influenced them. If you are done wandering at this point, pop next door to the adjacent Cape Cinema to watch an independent movie and take in the sweeping Art Deco mural that adorns the theater ceiling.
There is more to Cape Cod cuisine than chowder and oysters (though we do those two staples pretty well, too). To kick off a day of culinary exploration, embrace the fact that doughnuts are now the trendiest of breakfast food and indulge in some glazed treats from Hole in One in Orleans or Eastham (the sour cream doughnut is particularly delightful).
Next, hit the highway and head further down Cape to the Atlantic Spice Co. in Truro. As the name suggests, the shop offers a mind-boggling (and aromatic) array of bulk spices, but it also has an enticing selection of cookbooks, teas and housewares. When you can tear yourself away, swing into Truro Vineyards + South Hollow Spirits, where you can tour the operation and taste the wines and rums it produces—Twenty Boat Spiced Rum and Twenty Boat Amber Rum.
For lunch, grab something from the vineyard’s resident food truck, Crush Pad, operated by Blackfish restaurant, or backtrack into Wellfleet to French bakery and bistro PB Boulangerie. The lunch menu is limited, but everything on it is superb and utterly delicious; chances are you will have a hard time resisting an exquisite French pastry for dessert.
After lunch, follow Route 6A into Brewster and make a stop at the Cook Shop, a small store jam-packed with pans, utensils, and specialty foods – consider buying a bag of locally roasted Beanstock Coffee. Continue up the street into Dennis and visit Cape Abilities Farm, established to create jobs and raise money for adults with disabilities. The award-winning tomatoes deserve their accolades and the farm shop offers goods from Chatham Jam and Jelly and Cape Cod Saltworks.
Ready for dinner? There are dozens of mouthwatering options, but for a casual Cape Cod classic, try a waterfront meal of fried seafood at the Sesuit Harbor Café in Dennis. For a more upscale option, Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar in Chatham or C Salt in Falmouth are excellent choices.
If your favorite way to spend a fall day is by playing 18 (or 36, or 54) holes, Cape Cod is an ideal destination. The region has dozens of golf courses full of rich history and gorgeous views. If you don’t have an “in” at prestigious clubs like Eastward Ho! or Hyannisport, don’t fret – the Cape’s selection of public courses offers plenty of choices for golfers of all levels.
A long day of long drives requires energy, so start off with a hearty breakfast at Ruggie’s Breakfast and Lunch in Harwich. We suggest you try one of their signature “Melting Pots,” breakfast casseroles stuffed with potatoes, eggs, meat, and cheese.
If you want to get some practice in before heading out for your first round, swing by Cranberry Valley Golf Course, right up the street, to warm up on the driving range. When you’re ready for the fairway, head out to the Captains Golf Course in Brewster, where you can choose from the relaxing Starboard course or the more challenging Port course.
For a stunning finish to your day, head out to Truro for a visit to Highland Links, Cape Cod’s oldest golf course, and arguably, its most beautiful. In traditional links style, the course’s nine holes feature undulating fairways; deep, natural rough; and sweeping, clifftop ocean views. Historic Highland Light juts from between the 7th and 8th holes.
After you drain that last putt, unwind and recharge by grabbing a cocktail and some dinner at acclaimed Truro eatery Blackfish. The restaurant’s rustic New England charm and inventive, satisfying food make it the perfect place to rehash that clutch birdie on the 18th hole.
When it starts getting too cold for long days on the beach, Cape Cod offers some less traditional adventures for kids and their parents. Start off a day of exploration at Sandwich’s Heritage Museums & Gardens, where youngsters can ride a vintage carousel, hunt down outdoor art installations as part of the museum’s Secret Shelters exhibition, or learn about the natural world in the Hidden Hollow.
After a morning of art and nature, meander up Route 6A, stopping for lunch along the way. Barnstable Market is a great spot to grab a sandwich, some snacks, and a cup of coffee to help you keep up. For a sit-down option, the Optimist Café in Yarmouth Port offers a kid-friendly dining space and a menu of sandwiches, salads, and flatbreads that will please adults tired of chicken fingers and hot dogs.
Once you’ve filled up, continue on 6A into Dennis, then head to Scargo Tower, off Old Bass River Road. Kids will love scrambling up the stone tower; parents will appreciate the sweeping views that stretch as far as Provincetown. Around the corner, check out Hokum Rock, a giant boulder big enough to excite young climbers, but small enough for the grown-ups’ peace of mind.
If you have any energy left, swing by The Brewster Store, an old-fashioned general store where the kids can explore all manner of unplugged entertainment from penny candy to a player piano. Finish out the day with a visit to the Orleans Bowling Center. The recently renovated spot offers candlepin bowling and a restaurant that is more gastropub than snack bar, with house-smoked BBQ and 16 beers on tap.
For lovers of the great outdoors (and the creatures that inhabit it), Cape Cod offers an embarrassment of riches, no matter which end you choose to launch your exploration.
If you focus on the Upper Cape, start your day with a leisurely 3.3-mile bike ride in Falmouth at the Shining Sea Bikepath, winding through marshes and the Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary. When you arrive at Woods Hole, fortify yourself with a treat at Pie in the Sky Bakery before completing your roundtrip. Grab a sandwich for lunch at the Parkside Market before heading further down the Cape.
If the Outer Cape is your preference, get an early start at the Wellfleet Bay Audubon Sanctuary just after sunrise for prime birdwatching; red-winged blackbirds, snowy egrets, and green herons are among the frequent avian guests. Spend the rest of the morning wandering some of the trails in the Cape Cod National Seashore. The popular Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail in Wellfleet is an easy walk, with an enchanted quality. Head into Orleans to enjoy lunch at Sunbird Kitchen, a new café focused on using the freshest local ingredients.
In the afternoon, take to the water. Try a kayak tour with Cape Kayaking, or, if you want to leave the work to others, take a cruise out of Chatham or Harwich to view the seals that call the Monomoy Island wildlife refuge home.
If you’re not ready to go back inside once you return to land, have dinner on the deck at Brax Landing in Harwich or Clancy’s in Dennisport. To finish the day on a sweet note, get a cone of the Sundae School’s premium ice cream to go. Take your dessert to West Dennis Beach, drive to the very end, and indulge in a little star-gazing. You couldn’t wish for a better day.