Cape Cod invokes images of Old New England villages, shores where the Pilgrims landed and quaint lobster shacks on remote beaches. These all exist but finding them is a small mystery. My Grandfather arrived in North Falmouth on the Cape 112 years ago by car with a friend. Not long before that, stage coaches made the trip and the narrow roads they used along the coast still remain as part of the scenic route. A train came from Boston and stopped at cute stations in the villages along the way. Some of these old station houses have been preserved and turned into galleries.
To get the full picture of Cape Cod, one could start in Boston and drive, stopping in Plymouth to see the replica of the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock where the Pilgrims first landed. Farther down the road is Plimoth Plantation, a copy of the original village with actors dressed in 1600’s costumes who speak in Old English.
As you cross the Bourne Bridge, you might be looking for a fun lunch, so follow the old Stagecoach road, 28A, until you come to the Lobster Trap, in what looks like a large lobster shack, now upgraded to bar and restaurant. Try the fried clams and cold slaw or steamers (soft shell clams) dipped in butter. And do try their Clam Chowder.
If that’s too busy, keep going past Monument Beach to Cataumet where you will find The Chart Room. It’s right on the water at Kingman’s Marina. For dinner, it’s hard to get in so reserve ahead. The atmosphere can’t be beat and be sure to order the “Lobster Roll on Portuguese Bread”. It’s not on the menu, it’s so popular. Private Yachts moor there for the night, their sailors and guests having an outdoor cocktail on the lawn at gray weathered picnic tables and deck chairs. And don’t worry about pronouncing the Whampanoag names; most came from the Native American tribes living there when the Pilgrims came.
My particular favorite route is continuing to the rather quiet town of Falmouth and it’s surrounding villages, including Woods Hole. It was settled by Congregationalists in the 1660’s and has a classic Village Green (Revolutionary Soldiers marched there) beside which stands an iconic white wooden First Congregational church with a Paul Revere Bell. Falmouth was home to Katherine Lee Bates who wrote ”America the Beautiful.” From Falmouth, the road takes you to Woods Hole, an old whaling and ship building center and since the 1930’s, the home to the Oceanographic Institution Center, famous for ocean research and from which the Titanic was discovered. Or for a more active afternoon, rent a bike and follow the "Sea to Shining Sea Bike Path” from Falmouth to Woods Hole, riding along the beaches, woods and ponds. Park your bike on the way and take a dip in Vineyard Sound. Stop at Shuckers Raw Bar & Café (it’s owned by a family friend from North Falmouth). Sit on the deck overlooking Eel Pond where all the fancy sailboats are moored.
From Woods Hole you can take the Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard; it’s only half an hour from either Woods Hole or Falmouth but the Island Queen from Falmouth is only for people and bikes. Hop over to the Vineyard for an afternoon or several nights. It’s famous for the Presidents who have gone there but there are plenty of cute villages and beaches. Besides being known for the Kennedys and the Edgartown Regatta, I went to sailing camp there for two summers. Ride a bike or rent a moped from Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven where the ferries dock and ride the 16 miles to Edgartown. Spending the night there is fun at the Harbor View Hotel, an iconic building right on the harbor.
And don’t forget to ride your bike over to the infamous Chappaquiddick. It’s a lovely beach.
To be fair to travelers wanting the well known towns of Chatham, Hyannis and Provincetown, from the Sagamore Bridge take Route 6 to the Outer Cape. Or if you have time, take the old Stagecoach road through Sandwich, the oldest town on the Cape, settled by the Puritans in 1637. Chatham is the most upscale with wonderful properties such at the Chatham Bars Inn and Wequassett Inn. A stay at Chatham Bars is to be at an iconic Cape Cod gray shingled hotel just beyond the sand dunes.
A special event not to be missed is their traditional Clam Bake on Thursday nights, held right on the beach, cooked over coals in a pit in the sand. The Wampanoag Indians were the original Indians who befriended the Pilgrims and showed them how to eat the shell fish and brought them turkeys and corn for the first Thanksgiving. Talking Turkey, even today, in October and November, wild turkeys show up in my yard. No wonder we have turkey for Thanksgiving. I had 23 one day right by my front deck.
From Chatham, it’s not far to the end of the Cape and well known Provincetown which is packed with galleries, shops and B&B’s. Take a Whale watch out into Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic to see whales. Also on the way is the National Seaside Park, miles of beaches created as a National Park by President Kennedy. Speaking of Wellfleet, famous for its oysters, be sure to stop at The Beachcomber, a great bar right on the beach. As Bostonians would say - "going down the Cape. It's wicked nice."