From sandy beaches to historical treasures, Cape Cod offers a wealth of places to explore. If it’s your first time visiting this coastal retreat, make sure to add these five must-see places to your itinerary.
John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum
The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum is a state-of-the-art institution celebrating the life and times of the 35th president. Featuring rich multimedia exhibits, the museum tells the story of JFK through rare video footage, oral histories and photographs. The latest exhibit - “Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe” - features intimate, behind-the-scenes images of John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, and their children, Caroline and John, taken by Kennedy’s personal photographer. Also take time to explore the nearby Kennedy Legacy Trail, a self-guided walking tour across downtown Hyannis that highlights spots that are key to the family’s history.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a great way to get up close and personal with the Cape’s natural beauty. Stretching from South Dennis to Wellfleet (and recently extended into Yarmouth), this paved 22-mile trail will take you along a leisurely route spanning salt marshes, sand dunes, cranberry bogs, and pine forests. Stop for lunch in one of the charming towns the trail passes through, take a break to soak in the stunning ocean views at any of the scenic overlooks, and go for a swim in the Atlantic at a local beach. Bike rentals are available directly along the trail, and the relatively flat terrain makes it a great activity for all ages and fitness levels.
Heritage Museums and Gardens
Located in the historic town of Sandwich, Heritage Museums and Gardens is the largest public garden in Southern New England. The 100-acre grounds feature exquisite gardens with flowers and fauna native to the region, a rotating display of local and international art, an outdoor play oasis for children, and miles of hiking trails that wind along the banks of peaceful Shawme Pond. The museum also offers seasonal programs and events, including Rhododendron Festival, the Annual Auto Show featuring antique and classic vehicles, and concierge-lead tours with behind-the-scenes access and interactive experiences. At the adjacent Aerial Adventure Park, go climbing and zip-lining through the trees.
Whydah Pirate Museum
Geared towards ages “6 to 106,” Cape Cod’s newest museum in West Yarmouth is the headquarters for the ongoing recovery of the pirate ship Whydah off the coast of Cape Cod. The ship was wrecked in 1717, and the recovered contents that are on display represent an up-close and unique look at the lives of pirates from the 18th century. Spend an afternoon exploring the weapons, jewelry, and personal remains of the pirates who were aboard the ship—including an up-close look at the world’s only authenticated pirate treasure.
Herring Cove Beach
Located just a few miles from the popular artist community of Provincetown, this pristine beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and offers the sandy dunes and wind-swept landscape that the Cape is best known for. A walk along the water’s edge will expose you to the rich variety of animal species and fauna that are native to the area—you might even spot a humpback whale or seal off in the distance. Herring Cove Beach is also known for its spectacular sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean and provides changing rooms and plenty of parking for day-trippers. When you’ve had your fill of the sun and sand, head into P’town to explore the variety of local restaurants and shops this vibrant tourist destination has to offer.
For a well-rounded introduction to all that Cape Cod has to offer, these five spots are the perfect place to start. Before your first visit is even over, you’ll be planning your return trip.
About the Author: Jeffrey Ferraro is Director of Marketing and Sales for Diamond Tours, America’s leader in group bus tours. He has over 20 years of experience in the bus tour industry, with a background in direct and interactive marketing. Learn more about Diamond Tours on Select Traveler Conference.