Your Guide to the Cape Cod National Seashore
With six swimming beaches, picturesque lighthouses, and plenty of historic sights stretched out along 40 miles of the Atlantic, the Cape Cod National Seashore is a haven for beach bums, nature lovers, history buffs and sea worshipers. Here's what to see, do and eat in each town along the way.
See: Catch glimpses of whales breaching in the distance at Race Point Beach. To experience this beauty you'll need to hike the dunes or take a scenic ride with Art's Dune Tours. On the journey you'll pass beach plums, beautiful pines and the famous "dune shacks" where famous artists and writers including Eugene O'Neill and Jackson Pollock came for artistic isolation. Herring Cove Beach, located at the very tip of the Cape, offers prime viewing for stunning sunsets.
Do: Visit the 200-year-old Race Point Lighthouse, which even offers B&B style accommodations (if you want to overnight on the furthest reaches of the Cape, you'll need to book your stay far in advance).
Eat: Crack open a whole lobster or dive into a fried seafood platter at the iconic Lobster Pot. Upscale dining with a stellar view of Pilgrim Monument is offered nearby at the Pointe Restaurant at Crowne Pointe Historic Inn & Spa.
See: Highland Light, Cape Cod's oldest lighthouse, remains an active beacon and is open for tours spring through early fall. The lighthouse was celebrated by painter Edward Hopper in his 1930 watercolor rendition of the historic landmark.
Do: Wander down to Head of the Meadow Beach, often less crowded that nearby beaches. You'll need to navigate dunes and thick grass to access the water, but once there, you'll feel like you have the beach to yourself.
Eat: The menu changes near daily at Blackfish, where you'll dine on refined seafood dishes & craft cocktails in a rehabbed blacksmith shop. Wine lovers should head to Truro Vineyards for tastings and free guided tours Memorial Day through Columbus Day.
See: Take in sweeping views of the Atlantic at Marconi Beach, named for the nearby telegraph station which was the site of the first wireless message between the U.S. and Europe. In summer, the beach is dotted with colorful umbrellas and sunbathers.
Do: Go exploring at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The 1,200-acre Mass Audubon reserve features 5-miles of peaceful trails on the hillsides and shoreline overlooking Wellfleet Harbor.
Eat: Slurp the town's most famous bivalve at the Beachcomber of Wellfleet. Named one of the best beach bars in the country, the seasonal restaurant offers waterfront views and a menu packed with such New England seafood classics as lobster rolls, and, of course, Wellfleet oysters.
See: Frequently appearing on lists of America's best beaches, Coast Guard Beach offers prime summer swimming (although the water remains cool), great waves for surfers, grassy dunes and a picturesque boardwalk. In summer, park at the nearby Little Creek parking area and take the shuttle to the beach. One mile north is Nauset Light Beach; while there, be sure to take the trail leading to the Three Sisters lighthouses.
Do: Tour the Eastham Windmill, the oldest of its kind on Cape Cod, and one of the oldest in the country. If you are ticking off quirky bucket list items from your travel list, be sure to visit Doane Rock. It's Cape Cod's largest exposed glacial boulder, which stands at 18-feet high.
Eat: Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar is an Eastham tradition serving up seafood classics alongside a full bar menu. Savor fried clams, ltasty chowder and variety of raw bar choices. Save room for dessert because there's an ice cream counter too.
See: Maritime buffs can go to Rock Harbor to view the restored Coast Guard lifeboat CG-36500, which was involved in the dramatic 1952 rescue of the SS Pendleton. The mission was the inspiration for the 2016 Disney film The Finest Hours.
Do: Stroll Nauset Beach. While Nauset Beach isn't located within the Cape Cod National Seashore, this is one of the most popular beaches on the Outer Cape, for good reason—the waves are popular with surfers and the the view of the dunes are striking. It's also great for long beach walks; the coastline stretches for many gorgeous miles.
Eat: Grab a hand-cut doughnut or hearty breakfast at Hole in One. For white linen dining, put on a tie and make a reservation at Captain Linnell House, specializing in local seafood, pasture raised meats, and a distinguished wine list.
See: Make time to see Chatham Light, one the most scenic lighthouses East Coast, or stroll Chatham Fish Pier, especially in the morning hours when you'll spot fishing boats unloading the day’s catch.
Do: Visit the Atwood House Museum, home to the Chatham Historical Society. The gambrel-roofed house was built in the 1750's and includes eight exhibits highlighting the town’s commercial fishing industry and the work of famed local author Joseph Crosby Lincoln.
Eat: The Sacred Cod at the Chatham Bars Inn serves up refined pub fare in a cozy dining room. Feast on local oysters, mussels, and scallops, along with popular menu items like lobster pie and gourmet burgers. The Red Nun Bar & Grill is also a treat with favorites for the whole family, from hand-packed angus burgers and fried local lobster to fish tacos.