No trip to Cape Cod is complete without a ride down historic Route 6A, a scenic byway offering glimpses of former sea captain's homes dating back to the 1600s, picturesque marshes, and dozens of small, independent shops, restaurants and art galleries that reflect the charm of the region.
Perhaps no section of 6A, also knowns as Old King’s Highway, epitomizes that better than Barnstable Village. There, history aligns perfectly with the ethos of small-town New England to provide a refreshing escape for visitors.
The eye candy to Barnstable Village can be found on 6A, starting roughly at Railroad Avenue to just past Hyannis-Barnstable Road. This small stretch of road is the setting for many of the village’s year-round events, including its traditional Fourth of July parade and Halloween & Christmas strolls. You'll find several quaint shops, artists studios and popular eateries there, including The Barnstable Restaurant and Tavern, which was originally constructed in 1799 and once operated as an inn.
The restaurant is rumored to be haunted, one of several buildings in Barnstable that are a supposed favorite of ghosts and apparitions. From April through November, paranormal investigator Derek Bartlett leads nightly walking tours of the village, detailing its connection to the supernatural.
The tours begin and end at the Old Jail, which was built in 1690, serving as the oldest wooden jail in the United States. Adjacent to it is the Coast Guard Heritage Museum, which proudly showcases the history and origins of the military agency. The museum features lightships, artwork and over 100 vessel & aircraft models that have been used since the Coast Guard’s inception in 1790.
With its close proximity to the water, the museum is in an ideal location for those inspired to navigate the high seas. And there are a number of opportunities to do just that a short distance away at Millway Marina, located on Barnstable Harbor.
Barnstable by Water
For a scenic cruise of the harbor that allows passengers to take in the beauty of nearby Great Marsh and Sandy Neck Beach, all while learning about the area’s maritime history, Barnstable Harbor Eco-Tours is the perfect choice. The trip provides spectacular views of the privately owned Sandy Neck Lighthouse, which was built in 1857.
For those looking for a little more adventure, Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises gives patrons a front-row seat to the ocean’s most captivating animals – Humpback, Finback and Minke whales - that call Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary their summer home. In recent years, tours have encountered great white sharks, a Yellow-nosed albatross and bottlenose dolphins.
The excitement doesn’t end there, thanks to several fishing charters that offer you a chance to reel in the big one. Ideal for families and friends, these outings can last as little as one hour and as long as a full day. Pick from expert captains at Aquarius Fishing Charters, Lucky Lady II, or Cape Cod Family Fishing Charters, all of whom are familiar with the Cape’s waters and where to go to land a prize-winning striped bass, bluefish, tuna or shark.
Once back on land, you’ll want to stop at Mattakeese Wharf, with its stunning waterfront views of Barnstable Harbor, an ideal setting to catch a sunset, dine on fresh seafood, and enjoy live entertainment during the summer months. The restaurant also happens to be a favorite of our regional mascot, Doug the Quahog, who predicted 100 beach days of summer there at the 8thAnnual Quahog Day.
Steeped in History & Culture
As one of the state's designated cultural districts - based on its abundance of artists, attractions and historical sites within walking distance - Barnstable Village offers a number of opportunities to satisfy your cravings for all things arts and culture. A must-see destination is the Cape Cod Art Association on Route 6A, which holds year-round exhibits featuring the work of Cape Cod’s top artists. From November through May, the Barnstable Comedy Club continues to showcase the best in community theatre, producing four shows per season. The comedy club has the distinction of being the oldest running theater on all of Cape Cod.
History buffs wanting to learn more about Barnstable’s past should head to the Barnstable Historical Society and Tales of Cape Cod, situated on Route 6A, across the street from one another. Founded in 1949, Tales of Cape Cod has helped preserve the oral history of the region, recording the voices of residents who have provided firsthand accounts of simpler times. It also plays host to a number of special events, from historical lectures to reenactments, which celebrate and honor the past.
Finish your tour of Barnstable Village with a visit to the bronze sculptures of Mercy Otis Warren and James Otis Jr., which stand tall on the front lawn of the Greek Revival Barnstable County courthouse. Born in Barnstable in the 1720s, siblings Mercy and James were outspoken advocates for the American Revolution.
Blogger's Note: This is part of a series of "Road Trip" blogs spotlighting each of Cape Cod's distinctive towns and villages!