So thrilled that Emily of A Little Gathering is here to tell us all about her favorite spots in this Cape Cod travel guide!
I have visited Cape Cod almost every summer since I was a baby. It is my family’s summer escape from work and school, so every chance I get to go back I do so eagerly.
Cape Cod, or “The Cape” as it is more affectionately referred to, is the arm-like peninsula off of Eastern Massachusetts. While there are many towns on The Cape, most of the places I would recommend are located in the central part of that peninsula. My favorite towns are Orleans, Chatham, Brewster and Wellfleet, especially for those who are visiting The Cape for the first time.
The Cape is a place to rewind and experience old-school Americana, New England-style. Steamed lobsters, fried clams and buttery steamers are always on the menu. Every town has an old-fashioned fudge shop as well as a few antique stores. It’s the perfect place for those that love sandy beaches and great seafood.
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EAT + DRINK
- Mac’s Shack is a lively spot, with locals and visitors alike looking for a superb cocktail, fresh local oysters + great seafood. There is usually a wait, but you can watch the sunset by the nearby pier.
- For a classic fried seafood joint with picnic tables, go to Cobie’s. It’s right off the bike path around Nickerson State Park. Have the classic fried clam strips, or the fried clam bellies, if you are more adventurous.
- A popular spot right by the ocean is The Beachcomber. Everything comes on a paper plate, but you can’t go wrong with a steamed lobster dinner and a frozen daiquiri.
- For lunch before the beach, Ollie’s Food to Go is super casual. They serve a killer BLT with applewood-smoked bacon. If you’re feeling extra festive, try their BLT with crab salad.
- Liam’s offers everything from crab salad to calamari, and the best onion rings you will have. They slice their onions extra thin and coat them in a flaky batter. Wash everything down with a raspberry lime rickey.
- A great first stop in the morning is Cottage Street Bakery. The must order is the dirt bomb, a plain muffin rolled in butter then coated with cinnamon sugar.
- Arrive early to avoid the wait at the Brewster Fish House where fresh seafood is the highlight. Everything on the menu is spectacular, but you cannot go wrong with their silky lobster bisque or their latest creation featuring lobster or scallops.
- While not unique to The Cape, the best ice cream is at Emack and Bolio’s. Dig into one of their unique flavors, but make sure you get it topped with their homemade hot fudge. Enjoy your ice cream on their spacious front porch.
- My favorite beach on The Cape is Nauset Beach. It’s the home of Liam’s (see above) but since it is a relatively small beach, it doesn’t take much walking to ditch the crowd.
- Visit Marconi Beach for large waves, even larger sand dunes and plenty of seagull chasing.
- Nickerson State Park is perfect for anyone that loves the outdoors. You can rent kayaks or canoes, swim in the lake, take a ride on the bike trail or even camp on one of their dedicated lots.
- As the sun sets, Cape Cod Baseball League players are getting ready to play. Most major towns on The Cape have their own teams, that compete against each other. Games are free, so fans often arrive hours early to get a great spot.
- A unique venue for music lovers is the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis. The circular stage sits in the center of the venue, rotating slowly so everyone has a great seat.
- The Academy Playhouse is a small theater venue, with a rotating schedule of well-known productions. Members of the local community are often in the plays, but you can also see young talent in a charming venue.
- Nothing is more old-school than a drive-in theater. Wellfleet Drive-In is where you can live in your Grease fantasies, while watching a blockbuster after a long day at the beach.
- Young’s Fish Market is a small shack near the water, Young’s has a great selection of fresh seafood, including fresh lobsters ready to purchase. They are known for their lobster rolls with a price that is hard to beat.
- For stocking your pantry, visit Nauset Farms. This grocery store has the usual suspects (fresh produce, butcher shop and bakery), but they also have an impressive wine selection and daily specials.
- The Brewster General Store is where I have been going there since I was too short to see over their penny candy jars! It is a great place for a morning paper and coffee, but be sure to browse their selection of dishware and pantry goods too.
- The Hopkins House Country Store is a go-to for unique home goods and decorative items. You can find something for every room in your home, but be sure to stop by the bakery counter before heading out. From lime bars to cherry muffins, they have a huge selection.
- There is a place in the world where you can taste as much olive oil and vinegar in the world. Gustare Oil and Vinegars is it. Sample their unique flavors (like honey ginger white balsamic or chipotle extra virgin olive oil), then have them pack up your favorites to go.
- Satucket Farm Stand is a small, but plentiful farm stand. Peruse their fresh produce, grab a fruit pie and take a look at their refrigerated section where gourmet cheese stand out.
- Chatham Candy Manor is a candy shop that sits cozy on Main Street. I don’t think I can leave The Cape without picking up chocolatey fudge or handmade chocolates. They have an old-school vibe, but are always inventive.
Provincetown, known as P-town, is at the very tip of the Cape Cod peninsula. It’s a quintessential Cape town, but it has a personality of its own which sets it apart from the others. The trip will be 40 minutes or so by car from Orleans, MA.
If you have never been whale watching, P-town is where you can change that. In town you can purchase tickets for one of the many boat excursions throughout the day. Watching the giant creatures emerge from the ocean is delightful.
While in Provincetown, walk up and down the streets perusing the various shops. When hungry, stop by Relish for sandwiches and pastries or The Canteen for fish tacos and a lobster roll. Finish the day at Aqua Bar, where you can relax on the water with a cocktail and oysters on the half shell.
Emily is the blogger behind A Little Gathering, a hub for food-obsessed creatives. She curates a weekly email series featuring shop suggestions to build your dream pantry and kitchen. You can sign up for that right here. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Media Studies, where she first started working with restaurants. She continues to work with freelance clients while working as a marketing coordinator at Animoto.