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Dennis, Cape Cod

When you cross into Dennis, a more peaceful Cape Cod emerges. Stately sea captains’ houses, rambling summer houses, artists’ studios and rich history all comprise part of Dennis’ charm.

The quiet residential villages of Dennis and East Dennis run along Route 6A and Cape Cod Bay; West Dennis and Dennis Port lie to the south along Nantucket Sound. The town’s commercial hub of South Dennis is central to each of these villages, with easy access to Routes 134 and 6.

Dennis itself extends west and east from the junction of Route 6A and Old Bass River Road, just past the gazebo on the town’s village green. From its mix of residences and commercial offices, housed primarily in period buildings, to its glorious bay beaches, Dennis is a charmer.

There are ample calm bay beaches—Chapin, Mayflower, Bayview and Corporation Beaches—wonderful seaside haunts to be explored and relished.

Just minutes from these beaches, the renowned Cape Playhouse brings stars of stage and screen to Cape Cod every summer. What started in the 1920s as a way for actors to escape the unyielding heat of New York City summers has turned into a New England tradition, and is often referred to as the “Birthplace of the Stars.” Legends such as Bette Davis, Julie Andrews, Humphrey Bogart and Gregory Peck have graced the stage. Also at the playhouse campus, known as the Cape Cod Center for the Arts, sit the Cape Cod Museum of Art and the art deco-style Cape Cinema.

On the far side of Sesuit Harbor is East Dennis. Primarily residential in nature, the village has been protected from overdevelopment. Crowes Pasture, featuring 1½ miles of dirt roads through open uplands and evergreen groves which parallel the bay, can be reached either on foot or by four-wheel drive vehicle. Its scenic hiking trails along Quivet Creek are bordered by low vegetation and wonderful Cape Cod Bay vistas.

West Dennis, just across Bass River Bridge from South Yarmouth, is where the quieter portion of the southern Cape begins. Commercial activities dissipate, neighborhoods and period houses reappear. A predominant white steeple soars above large older homes and summer cottages and the roads slowly wend their ways towards West Dennis Beach, a popular spot for kiteboarding and windsurfing.

Cross over Swan River to Dennis Port, the “Olde Cape Cod” the late Patti Page made famous in her classic song, to find small summer bungalows and oceanfront dining and seaside motels. The village center, with its bricked sidewalks, antiques and other shops, is worthy of an afternoon stroll.

Dennis was home to many sea captains and manufactured some of the 19th century’s finest packet boats, clippers and schooners. The Shiverick Shipyard was known throughout the country and built at least eight magnificent clipper ships, all of which were recognized in the Golden Age of Sail. The Dennis Historical Society celebrates this history in its museums, including the Josiah Dennis Manse Museum, the Saltbox home of first minister and man for whom the town was named.

When in Dennis, make time to visit the iconic Scargo Tower, a 30-foot high cobblestone structure that was rebuilt in 1901. Bring your camera; the tower sits atop the highest hill on the Mid-Cape and boasts views as far as Provincetown and Plymouth on clear days. Nearby is a famous pottery studio of the same name started by Harry Holl, a founder of the Cape Cod Museum of Art.

There is easy access onto the Cape Cod Rail Trail right from Route 134 in South Dennis, and the town’s dog park offers a freshwater swimming area for your four-legged pals. There are two municipal golf courses in town.

Find more information on Dennis through the Dennis Chamber of Commerce.