Nothing against crisp, sunny days, but rainy autumn weather beckons, too, for misty walks along the shore or swishing through the leaves in a shimmering forest. If you’ve forgotten, or never seen, how beautiful Cape Cod is at this time of year, round up your kids, dogs, or better half for our favorite late-fall walks.
If you’re aiming to impress, Marconi Beach and nearby Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail in Wellfleet have been known to make miracles happen. (Yup, Marconi Beach is famous for both rocket launches and the site of the world’s first trans-Atlantic communication.) Begin with a walk on the shore below the 40-foot beach cliffs, then wander over to the swamp trail, where an innocent journey along the wooded path suddenly sweeps you off your feet with a boardwalk through the moss-covered forest. If you haven’t fallen in love yet, head over to PB Boulangerie Bistro for whatever is warm from the patisserie oven, and rest assured today (and you) will be a tough act to follow. Already a time-tested couple? You live on happy compromise: After taking in the views of Vineyard Sound on a Sunday, stroll along South Cape Beach in Mashpee (sweet-talk your way to a detour through one of the picturesque hiking trails that links to Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve). Your next view should be of the Patriots, over drinks and pizza at nearby Dino's Sports Bar in Mashpee.
Bring the Kids
Romping along the woodland and salt marsh trails at Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster is kid-heaven—especially when they discover those funny little sea pickles covering the ground are edible, or just how catchable those crabs and critters are scuttling across the tidal flats. In other words, you’ll need to fuel up first: Start down the road at Snowy Owl, where small-batch coffees are almost decadent enough to forgo the baked goods (but not quite). On the Upper Cape, Beebe Woods is a 383-acre wonderland of walking trails; see if kids can find their way to the “Punch Bowl” (hint: it’s a pond) in the middle of the woods.
Walk the Dogs
Autumn is for the dogs—all those beaches that were closed to four-legged friends are open to pets again until the spring. Pup-friendly Sandy Neck in Barnstable is an exception, open to dogs year-round, but you can unleash the beast after mid-September—4,700 acres of dune, forest, and marshland trails are worth the wait. (Don’t miss the spectacular boardwalk, soon-to-be the most popular photo on your Instagram.) If you’re on a getaway, you’re in luck: local Lamb & Lion Inn is a rarity—the quintessential New England B&B, as inviting to pets and people.
It’s not that the kiddos and significant-o’s aren’t good company; it’s just that once you’ve followed the meadow trail down to the sweeping view of patchwork, gold-tinged salt marsh at Fort Hill in Eastham, you’ll want it all to yourself. (No dogs allowed on the Cape Cod National Seashore’s self-guided trails.) Assuage your guilt by bringing back treats—take your crowd-pleasing pick from nearby Hole in One Donut Shop, wraps from The Box Lunch, or dog biscuits from The Cape Cod Dog.