Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Whirlwind Tour of Cape Cod - #travel #vacation

I consider myself very lucky to live on Cape Cod...I grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, which is wonderful in its own right, but my little hometown of Bethesda has grown into a city over the years.  We moved to the Cape in 1998, when my husband was transferred to the Coast Guard base here.  Once we'd spent a few years here, we decided this was where we needed to stay to raise our family.  Yes, it's fairly quiet (blissfully so, actually) in the off-season--but when summertime hits, the entire peninsula explodes with seasonal residents and tourists.  And our house becomes a virtual bed and breakfast, hosting all our family and friends.

This July, we have had two groups of 6 guests almost back-to-back.  A lot of laundry and cooking and cleaning, but also a lot of fun.  So here are some of the things we did during the weeks we had a houseful of guests:

Cape Cod National Seashore - Cahoon Hollow Beach

The Cape Cod National Seashore is simply breathtaking.  However, in the summertime, parking anywhere near the beaches becomes an extreme sport.  We get an early start and head to Wellfleet (home of the drive-in movie theater that is also an antique/flea market several days a week).  At Cahoon Hollow Beach, we park in the Beachcomber Restaurant's parking lot, which is open to the public but does fill up quickly.  You have to pay a small fee, but in return you get a coupon for the restaurant in the same amount, which is helpful around lunchtime.  Getting down to the beach requires a zigzag path down the steep dunes.  You can often see seals swimming not too far off shore; however, the great white sharks have arrived as well, now that the seal population is protected and flourishing.  Even though the sharks aren't looking for humans, mistakes can (and have) been made, so we don't swim out too far.  There are also tons of kettle ponds around, along with shops to rent kayaks and canoes to enjoy freshwater fun.  GULL HARBOR, the title of my second novel, is a fictional town loosely based on Wellfleet.  You can see some of the pictures I used for the setting inspiration here.

On Friday nights, Coonamessett Farm in East Falmouth offers Jamaica Night - a Jamaican buffet with tons of authentic food, plus fantastic steel drum music by Vernon ("Vern-mon").  It's BYOB or wine, so you can come in with a cooler, set up at a table, and enjoy the food and music.  For the kids, there are play areas, tons of animals to see, little tractors to ride, and of course, dancing...the adults all join in, as well.  There's a little ice cream shop, a gift and produce store, plus ornamental plants for sale.  We always enjoy ourselves here, and it was perfect for my little nieces and nephew.

Christmas Tree Shops is my sister's must-visit store on the Cape.  If you've never seen one of these, it's worth stopping in.  No, it's not all about Christmas.  It has the oddest and largest assortment of items, from hair accessories to beach towels to furniture, for extremely low prices.  We end up with a ton of stuff, some of which we had no idea we needed.  But we never break the bank!

Commercial Street, Ptown
Our guests with older kids allow us to take longer daytrips.  We always visit Provincetown, the quaint and quirky town at the very tip of Cape Cod.  While it does become a bit wild at night, during the day it is filled with families shopping, eating, visiting the Whydah Pirate Museum (home of the only authentic pirate treasure in the world! *2017 edit- this museum has now moved to Yarmouth) and the Pilgrim Monument (did you know the Pilgrims landed in Ptown first, before sailing on to Plymouth?), biking the trails, and hitting the beaches.

A little hotel overlooking
Provincetown Harbor
We almost always do the Shining Sea Bike Trail (Bikeway), starting in Falmouth at the Corner Cycle bike rental shop (should our guests need bikes) and then biking past ponds, beaches, marshland, and in and out of the woods all the way to Wood's Hole, which is the a gorgeous little village at the extreme southwest corner of the Cape.  We eat lunch, visit the Woods Hole Aquarium, get ice cream and coffee, and bike back to Falmouth. 

In Mashpee, there's a state beach anyone can visit (South Cape Beach), and nearby, within the New Seabury community, there are wonderful beachfront spots where we like to get a bite and have a drink.  The Popponesset Inn is open to the public and overlooks the ocean--there's great food served both in the more formal dining area or in the more casual tavern/bar section.  A short walk down the crushed shell paths leads you to The Lure, a new raw bar right on the beach.  There are tables and big Adirondack chairs, a light menu featuring seafood (try the famous lobster roll!), and a full bar.  Many nights also include a local band providing musical entertainment.

A few of our favorite restaurants are in Hyannis: Tugboats, right on the harbor, and the Beech Tree Cantina, located on Main Street.  Tons of shopping and fun activities along Main Street Hyannis as well!  We also love Anejo in Falmouth; Main Street Falmouth is another collection of cute shops and old houses. 

Two beautiful islands are a ferry ride away: Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.  This year, we did Nantucket, which is smaller and farther away.  However, on a weekday, you can get high-speed ferry tickets (round trip) for $50 and get there in an hour from Hyannis.  Once you are there, you feel like you're in another world.  The entire island should be in the dictionary under "quaint".  Cobblestone streets, converted fishing shacks, antique stores, shingled houses with names and hedge borders, conservation land, and waterfront restaurants fit together seamlessly.  You won't find a neon sign or a billboard--there are strict rules that keep Nantucket pristine and unique (don't look for a Starbucks or a McDonald's here!).  I highly recommend one of the bus tours--you learn so many interesting facts and history about the island, and you get to see things you would not be able to see just walking around the downtown area. 

More on local attractions we love can be found in this blog post, with a focus on Martha's Vineyard, Provincetown, and the Spit.

If you ever visit the Cape, consider trying some of these wonderful attractions!  And if a trip to Cape Cod isn't in your immediate future, you can still experience some of the local spots in GULL HARBOR, my ghost story/romance set on the Cape.  Happy Summer!

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