Explore Cape Cod on a Budget
From epic ocean vistas to marsh-lined pathways, Cape Cod’s array of natural wonders draws travelers in and makes this popular destination affordable for nearly any budget.
With a little bit of planning and a comfortable pair of shoes, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing the riches of the Cape without a Kennedy-esque budget.
Pop by early in the morning or around dinnertime for a free stroll along the Sandwich Boardwalk. This wood-plank bridge, flanked by sea grass and scenic views, stretches 1,350 feet over Mill Creek and out to Cape Cod Bay.
The Kennedy Legacy Trail offers followers of America’s royal family and history buffs alike an opportunity to discover Hyannis by foot while delving into the past. Pick up a free map at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum or download a copy before visiting the ten sites along this self-guided tour.
Part biodiversity conservation area, part recreational vehicle hangout, the Mass Audubon Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary is a dynamic place. For a budget-friendly fee of $4 for adults and $3 for kids and seniors, visitors can explore the sanctuary’s highly educational Nature Center. You may also decide to make a beeline for the zero-cost woodland trails. Deer, osprey and horseshoe crab have all been spotted along the pathways leading to the majestic dunes at Sandy Neck Barrier Beach.
If the impressive panorama 160 feet above sea level at Scargo Hill doesn’t take your breath away, the climb up its 30-foot cobblestone Scargo Tower most certainly will. Thankfully, your huffs and puffs will be duly rewarded with a bird’s-eye view of Cape Cod Bay. Just don’t forget the camera in the car.
WALK & RIDE
One hundred and fourteen miles and counting. That’s how many miles of bike paths cyclists can enjoy around Cape Cod. Many of the flat and paved trails also welcome walkers, runners, and roller skaters. Regardless of your mode of transportation, each presents a unique vantage point to take in the Cape’s pristine landscapes. The Cape Cod Rail Trail, Shining Sea Bikeway, and Cape Cod Canal Trails are great places to kick off your adventures.
Ditch the stroller and bust out the Babybjörn for a family-friendly tromp up The Knob in Woods Hole. The Cornelia Carey Sanctuary, as it is more formally known, is a rocky point overlooking Buzzards Bay. Visitors love its selfie-worthy sunsets, hidden beaches and year-round sea breeze, but parking is extremely sparse (approximately 8-spaces sparse). Please plan accordingly.
Want to visit the Cape? Take a hike! No, wait, really… take a hike. In addition to plenty of inland options, the Cape Cod National Seashore has twelve walking trails. Look around Salt Pond, eat a packed lunch at the Doane Picnic Area, and observe a recovering forest as you ramble the Nauset Marsh Trail. Or, head north to Wellfleet for a more moderate, but equally scenic hike along the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail.
Good things come in small packages and the petite Woods Hole Science Aquarium is a prime example. Tuesday through Friday from 11 am to 4 pm, kids and children-at-heart can touch a variety of marine life, such as starfish, whelks and spider crabs. Admission to the aquarium is free, but donations are welcome.
Arrive at Cape Cod Beer by 11 am, Monday-Saturday for a free, guided tour of the brewery’s warehouse. Need a souvenir for a friend? For just $6, you’ll sample five beers and receive a take-home tasting glass. You’re such a good friend.
If you’re passing by the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory on a weekday, drop in for a self-guided tour. When the machines are running, you’ll see the chip-making process from spud to snack. Quick, informative and free. Visiting this Cape icon really is, “all that and a complimentary bag of chips.”
Stay for a few minutes or an afternoon as fishermen unload the day’s catch from their vessels at the Chatham Fish Pier. You’re likely to find yourself in good company as peckish seals often stop by to watch the commotion and snag a tasty bite as well.
Learn about the distinctive techniques behind maritime grape growing on a free, guided tour of Truro Vineyards. Held twice daily throughout the summer, tours lead you from the vine to the restored farmhouse where the fruit-forward merlots and crisp sauvignon blancs are barreled and matured. To sample some of the Truro Vineyards wines in the open air tasting room, tastings are $10 per person (take home your tasting glass as an added bonus).
After the vineyard tour, climb the Highland Lighthouse in North Truro. For more than 200 years, Cape Cod’s first lighthouse has illuminated the way to safety for sailors and fishermen alike. Profound history and a grand view of the Atlantic Ocean can be yours for a modest fee: $6 for adults, $5 for kids and seniors.
Your vacation time here may be limited, but you can bring a little of the Cape Cod spirit home with you. Treasure hunters will love the unique finds at the ever-affordable Mrs. Mitchell’s Gifts in Hyannis, from locally made cranberry jelly and handcrafted jewelry to nautical hoodies, home decor and Cape-themed souvenirs.
There’s no shortage of seafood restaurants on this prominent peninsula. Kate’s Fried Seafood in Brewster just happens to be one of them, conveniently located on 6A. This popular mealtime destination cooks up classic fried clams along with growing favorites like tempura-battered veggies.
Wrap up a day of windsurfing at West Dennis Beach with Kream ‘n Kone. The Phantom Gourmet listed this 65-year veteran of the Cape Cod dining scene a “Great 8.” Experience why for yourself as you overlook Swan River on the restaurant’s outdoor patio.
Whether you’re in Mashpee or Hyannis, there’s Cooke’s Seafood to keep your hunger pangs in check. This family-owned dining spot offers all the crispy crunchy seafood entrees you’d expect from a Cape Cod restaurant at an affordable price.
The creative menu found at all three Sundae School locations on the Cape (Dennisport, Harwich Port, East Orleans) includes cocktail-inspired flavors like Kahlua Chip, Amaretto Nut and the rum-based Frozen Pudding. Now, you don’t have to decide between an after dinner drink and dessert.
And a stop at Kandy Korner in Hyannis is always in order. Peruse the impressive collection of classic confections, including homemade saltwater taffy and chocolaty Bog Frogs. The shop’s selection of penny candies can help satisfy both a sweet tooth and a conscious wallet.