Spanning salt marshes, crimson cranberry bogs and former sea captains’ homes, Cape Cod’s historic Route 6A is easily one of the most picturesque byways in the United States. The seaside stretch known as Old King’s Highway mixes old-world charm and breathtaking vistas with quaint shops, trendy restaurants, cultural venues and eclectic galleries.
Here’s an ideal itinerary traveling east towards Provincetown.
Just before you hop on 6A, watch artisans in action at Pairpoint Glass. (851 Sandwich Road, Sagamore), America’s oldest glass company that once created pieces for Queen Victoria and former presidents. Pick up one-of-a-kind glass-blown treasures in the shop.
Take home a playful fish sculpture from the husband-and-wife team at Grainger Pottery (478 Route 6A, Sandwich). Choose from life-size wall hangings to handmade ceramics of more than 110 varieties of sea creatures. With three floors of books, toys, games and puzzles, Titcomb’s Bookshop (432 Route 6A, East Sandwich) is a book lover’s dream. The independent shop, which frequently offers meet & greet opportunities with acclaimed authors, has been a town staple for more than 50 years. Peruse the pearls, diamonds, modern designs and estate pieces at Robert E. Guertin Jewelers (8 Merchant Road, just off 6A, Sandwich). The store also offers handmade pieces by local artisans inside a showroom that feels like a boutique. If your favorite part of a road trip is the food, put the address to The Original Marshland (109 Route 6A, Sandwich) in your GPS. A Route 6A landmark for over five decades, the restaurant is known for home-cooked comfort foods and mouth-watering baked goods.
Genealogy lovers take note: The Sturgis Library (3090 Route 6A, Barnstable) is the oldest library building in the country. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s worth a stop for both the architecture and impressive historic collections, including the Lothrop Collection, which includes Mayflower Society records. With artifacts and models dating back to the 1790s, the Coast Guard Heritage Museum (3353 Route 6A, Barnstable) is one of Cape Cod’s hidden gems. The building, a former US Custom House, is as interesting as the exhibits. The property also includes the Village Smithy, a working blacksmith shop and the oldest wooden jail in America. A quaint coffee house experience awaits at Nirvana Coffee Company (3206 Route 6A, Barnstable), where a wide selection of hot and iced lattes, coffees and cappuccinos pair nicely with tasty homemade muffins, biscotti and panini sandwiches. Sit inside, or people-watch from the Adirondack chairs out front.
Steeped in history (and rumored to be visited by ghosts), the Old Yarmouth Inn (223 Route 6A, Yarmouth Port) is a great stop for roadtrippers. Built in 1696 and the oldest inn on Cape Cod, the award-winning seasonal menu boasts classic New England dishes and modern American cuisine. Founded by interior and fashion designers, Design Works (159 Route 6A, Yarmouthport) offers unique gifts, home décor, jewelry, clothing and outdoor accessories from artists and manufacturers around New England and the globe. Savor the Cape’s freshest and most authentic Japanese cuisine at Inaho (157 Route 6A, Yarmouth Port), located in a charming white clapboard house. Pair your sushi, sashimi and tempura with a cocktail from Inaho’s expansive drink menu, like the house specialty ginger martini.
Stock up on fresh produce, showy blooms or locally made snacks at the delightful Cape Abilities Farm (15 Route 6A, Dennis). Art lovers should plan a stop at the Cape Cod Center for the Arts (820 Route 6A, Dennis), which houses three of the region’s top cultural attractions. The Cape Cod Museum of Art showcases the area’s finest artists with a permanent collection and rotating exhibits in its seven galleries. Take in Broadway-style theater at the adjacent Cape Playhouse. The Cape’s favorite summer tradition has been attracting up-and-coming stars and screen legends—from Julie Andrews to Bette Davis—since 1920. Also on the grounds is one of New England’s most historic theaters, the Cape Cinema, where you can enjoy everything from an independent movie to a live simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera. Built to resemble a Congregational church on the outside, the inside is a sparkling Art Deco masterpiece.
After your cultural pit stop, a cozy meal at the neighboring Scargo Café (799 Route 6A, Dennis) is in order. Nosh on a hearty meal in this historic colonial setting, but leave room for the famous grapenut custard. If you’re looking for a place to call home for the night (or two), the main building of the Sesuit Harbor House (1421 Route 6A, East Dennis) - a grand colonial built in 1735 - is steeped in history. It was once the home of one of the Shiverick Shipyard investors, whose shipyard went on to produce eight magnificent clipper ships in the mid-19th century. On your way out of Dennis, leave time to visit Ross Coppelman, Goldsmith (1439 Route 6A, East Dennis). Coppelman has been handcrafting high-karat gold, platinum and sterling silver jewelry for over four decades, and his Cape Cod Ocean Jewelry Collection is inspired by the region’s coastal landscape.
From romantic watercolors to seascapes and engravings, admire the work of Cape Cod artist Timothy Jon Struna at Struna Galleries (3873 Route 6A, Brewster). Browse the gallery or take home an original piece of art. For buttery lobster rolls, crispy onion rings and the kind of snacks you crave after smelling the salt air on Cape Cod, take a seat at the picnic benches at Kate’s Seafood (284 Paine’s Creek Road, just off Route 6A, Brewster). The classic shack serves up New England favorites and dozens of flavors of ice cream, too.
Devour upscale versions of your favorite roadside eats at the knack (5 Route 6A, Orleans). From avocado burgers to clam rolls, the owners work with local growers and fishermen to serve up sustainable, locally produced fare. Outdoor enthusiasts have a lot to love at Goose Hummock Shop (15 Route 6A, Orleans), the largest independent outdoor outfitters in Massachusetts. Shop fishing, active or sailing gear, or rent kayaks, paddleboards and boats. Browse an impressive gallery of local artists at Artworks (57 Route 6A, Orleans), then peruse everything from home accents to outdoor decor at Snow’s Home & Garden (22 Route 6A, Orleans). Plan a stop at Hole in One (98 Route 6A, Orleans), where decadent, house-made doughnuts and breakfast favorites await. You’ll be happy you did.
Route 6A transitions into Route 6 after the Orleans Rotary. Bring your appetite as you cruise this stretch through Eastham. Along the way, you’ll pass Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar (3580 Route 6, Eastham), where you can get your fried seafood fix; Fairway Restaurant (4295 Route 6, Eastham), for a hearty breakfast and some of the best pizza around; and 4940 Brickhouse Restaurant (4940 Route 6, Eastham), to find American-style cuisine infused with rich Caribbean flavors.
You can’t drive down Route 6 in Wellfleet without spotting the iconic sign for the Wellfleet Drive-In (51 Route 6, Wellfleet), where first-run double features are shown nightly in season. Also on the grounds is the Wellfleet Flea Market, where you can pick up antiques, collectibles, clothing, jewelry and Cape Cod memorabilia; a beer garden and snack bar are offered at the market in season.
Sample locally crafted wine at Truro Vineyards (11 Route 6A, North Truro). Take a tour or try vintages produced from the Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes grown on the five-acre farm. Blackfish Restaurant’s Crush Pad food truck serves lunch and snacks in season.
Cap your scenic journey off with a sunset at Herring Cove Beach. Just a few miles from the center of Provincetown, you can peer out to what feels like the end of the world.