New England’s Cape Cod is a popular summertime destination – and for good reason! Its miles of sandy beaches, quaint towns, and picturesque lighthouses are the perfect backdrop for a summer getaway.
However, summer is not the only time to visit Cape Cod. In fact, there are loads of things to do at the Cape, whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, cultural attractions, or just some good old-fashioned fun.
If you love history, drop by the Cape Museum of Natural History or the Pilgrim Monument. If nature’s on the agenda, take a hike through sand dunes and pitch a tent at one of the many campgrounds dotting the Cape. And, of course, there’s always the beach for swimming, sunbathing, and exploring!
The food is sensational, too. New England’s seafood is some of the best in the world, and you’ll find no shortage of freshly-caught lobster, clams, and fish on Cape Cod. And don’t forget the Cape’s famous cranberries!
With so many things to see and do, you need a game plan before you go. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Cape Cod for you. Stick to our Cape Cod bucket list recommendations, and you’re guaranteed to have a good time exploring this naturally beautiful corner of Massachusetts!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to Do in Cape Cod
1. Catch a Movie at the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre
A visit to the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre is like taking a step back in time and is one of the most fun things to do in Cape Cod. Opened in 1957 and one of the few drive-ins operating in the US, the Wellfleet Drive-In is a classic summertime activity. There’s something so wholesome about watching a movie under the stars and listening to the sound through your car radio.
As for the movie selection, the Wellfleet Drive-In plays a mix of new releases and cult classics. Expect everything from the Avengers: Endgame to throwbacks like Top Gun and Dirty Dancing. There are also a few double features throughout the week, so you can catch two movies for the price of one!
The lot works on a first-come, first-serve basis, so be sure to arrive early to snag a good spot. And don’t forget your snacks! There’s a snack bar on-site that sells popcorn, hot dogs, burgers, pizza, nachos, candy, and other movie theater staples.
While waiting for the film to start, you can walk out to play some mini-golf or grab ice cream at the Dairy Bar. Just be sure to request a re-admittance pass when you leave so you can come back in for the movie.
2. Climb to the top of the Pilgrim Monument
If you’re looking for things to do in Cape Cod that are a little more active, consider climbing to the top of the Pilgrim Monument. The 252-foot tall structure was built between 1907 and 1910 to commemorate the first landing of the Pilgrims in 1620. It’s the tallest all granite structure in the US and offers stunning views of Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod Bay, and the dunes of Province Lands.
To reach the top, you’ll need to climb 60 spiraling ramps and 116 steps (don’t worry, there are landings along the way to take a break). The walk upstairs is a bit strenuous, but it’s well worth it for the panoramic views at the top.
Once you’re done admiring the view, don’t forget to stop by the Pilgrim Monument Museum for a crash course on the history of the Pilgrims. Learn all about their journey from England on the Mayflower to their establishment of the Plymouth Colony.
3. Hop on a Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket
If you only have time for one day trip from Cape Cod, make it a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. You can only reach both islands by boat, and the ferry ride is half the fun!
At Martha’s Vineyard, you can spend the day lounging on one of the island’s many beaches, exploring the quaint town of Edgartown, or hiking through Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. You can also end the day with a sunset stroll along the famous Aquinnah Cliffs or visit one of the many oceanfront restaurants for a glass of wine.
Celebrity spotting is also a fun activity on Martha’s Vineyard. Who knows, you might see one of the many A-listers who have homes on the island!
On the other hand, Nantucket is the perfect place to experience New England’s charm. Stroll down cobblestone streets lined with quaint shops and restaurants or relax on the beach. Be sure to take pictures, too!
If that’s not enough to tempt you, Nantucket is home to the Whaling Museum, which is definitely worth a visit. Learn all about the island’s rich history as a whaling hub in the 18th and 19th centuries.
4. Get Your Fill of the Cape’s Fresh Seafood
You can’t come to Cape Cod and not eat seafood. That’s almost all we ate during our visit, and we’re still craving it!
If you’re in the mood for lobster, stop by any one of the countless lobster shacks dotting the Cape. We recommend getting it boiled and served with butter and lemon. It’s so simple but so good. Eat it with your hands like a true New Englander, or use a fork if you prefer.
New England clam chowder is another must-try. This creamy and rich soup is made with fresh clams, milk, butter, potatoes, ham, and onion and is usually served with oyster crackers. It’s hearty, filling, and fresh.
For something a little lighter, try a lobster roll. This Cape Cod specialty is simply lobster meat served on a toasted New England-style hot dog bun with mayo, celery, and chives. What makes it so amazing is how succulent the lobster meat is. They’re usually caught that morning, so you know it doesn’t get any fresher than that!
Other yummy eats include fresh oysters, scallops, haddock, and cod. For the full experience, get a table by the water and enjoy your meal with a view.
5. Explore the Magnificent Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
The Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Located on the southern tip of Cape Cod, the refuge is made up of two large islands – North Monomoy Island and South Monomoy Island. This sanctuary is a haven for wildlife, and you can see animals like seals, crabs, and seabirds in their natural habitat.
The best way to explore the refuge is by taking a boat tour. The local tour companies know the area like the back of their hand and will take you to all the best spots.
Explore the wildlife refuge, and you’ll encounter eight miles of beaches, salt and freshwater marshes, and sandy dunes. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, including cute seals basking in the sun on the sandbars!
6. Conquer the Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a 26-mile paved bike trail that stretches from Dennis to Wellfleet. If you’re looking for a scenic place to ride your bike, this is one of the best Cape Cod attractions! The trail takes you through some of the Cape’s most beautiful towns and features stunning views of both the ocean and the bay.
For instance, one of our favorite sections is the stretch between Brewster and Orleans. This section takes you through the Cape Cod National Seashore, and you’ll have the ocean on one side and a beautiful pine forest on the other.
The trail is relatively flat, making it ideal for both beginner and experienced cyclists. And since it’s so popular, you’ll never feel like you’re alone on the trail. There’s always someone around to chat with or pass the time. And, when you’re done, be sure to refuel with a pain au chocolat or blueberry cream cheese danish from PB Boulangerie in Wellfleet!
7. Enjoy Art & Nature at the Heritage Museums and Gardens
The Heritage Museums & Gardens is a Cape Cod landmark and a must on any Cape Cod bucket list. You’ll find everything here: stunning gardens, a working carousel, an art museum, and so much more.
The museum grounds are home to a stunning collection of over 10,000 plants, as well as a variety of sculptures and paintings. The gardens are beautiful in any season, but they’re especially lovely in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. The smell alone is absolutely heavenly!
The 100-acre property is divided into different sections, each with its own unique offerings. For instance, one section has a beautiful butterfly garden, and another has a stunning collection of rhododendrons. If you’ve got extra time, take a spin on the antique carousel or explore the folk art museum.
In addition to the gardens, the Heritage Museums and Gardens also house a number of kid-friendly attractions and events. Your kids can take fun classes at the Hidden Hollow certified Nature Explore Classroom, ride the 1908 Charles Looff Carousel, and so much more!
8. Stroll Along the Breathtaking Cape Cod National Seashore
The Cape Cod National Seashore is one of the most beautiful places on earth, period. Spanning over 44,000 acres, the seashore includes a variety of landscapes. Check out the sweeping dunes, sandy beaches, hidden coves, and towering cliffs!
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the seashore, but our favorite is simply taking a leisurely stroll along the beach. Sink your toes in the sand, listen to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, and check out the tide pools for a closer look at the creatures that call the shore home. Just be sure to bring your sunscreen because the sun can be pretty intense!
The best time to visit the seashore is during the shoulder seasons – that is, in the spring and fall. The weather is cooler, and the crowds are thinner, making it the perfect time to enjoy the peace and quiet of this natural wonderland.
9. Check Out All of Cape Cod’s Lighthouses
Cape Cod’s lighthouses deserve their own spot on this list because they’re just that cool. There are 14 lighthouses in total, and each one has a unique history.
For example, the Chatham Lighthouse is one of the oldest and most iconic lighthouses on the Cape. Locals say it’s haunted, so don’t be surprised if you see a ghostly figure peering out from the top!
You can also check out the Nobska Lighthouse, which is located in one of the most beautiful spots on the Cape. The views of Vineyard Sound are absolutely breathtaking, and you can even see Martha’s Vineyard on a clear day.
The Highland Light, on the other hand, is one of the tallest lighthouses on Cape Cod and has spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. Remember to bring your binoculars so you can spot some of the marine life that calls this area home. Another notable lighthouse on the Cape is the Nauset Lighthouse (aka Nauset Light), which is located on the Cape Cod National Seashore.
No matter which lighthouses you visit, you’re sure to be impressed by their beauty. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even climb to the top of some of them for an unbeatable view!
10. Go Camping at the Nickerson State Park
The Cape’s Nickerson State Park is a marvelous place where you can reconnect with nature while indulging your adventurous side. The park has tons of campsites, so you can pitch a tent or park your RV for a few nights. Just be sure to bring your mosquito repellent because the bugs can be pretty bad, especially at dusk.
As for activities, take your pick! You can relax by the lake, explore the numerous hiking trails, or even go for a swim. In addition to camping, Nickerson State Park is also a great place for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing.
Try catching your own dinner in one of the park’s many ponds or simply enjoy a leisurely paddle around the lake. No matter how you choose to spend your time at the park, you’re sure to have a blast.
11. Join a Dolphin & Whale Watching Tour
This quintessential Cape Code activity is a truly unforgettable experience. Imagine being out on the open ocean, surrounded by nothing but blue sky and water, then suddenly spotting a dolphin or whale breaching the surface. It’s an exhilarating feeling, and you’re sure to see plenty of amazing marine life on one of these tours.
Some of the most popular spots for dolphin and whale watching on Cape Cod are Barnstable Harbor, Hyannisport, and Sandwich. There are plenty of tour companies to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that fits your budget and schedule.
Some of them are also committed to eco-tourism and education, so you can feel good about supporting a great cause while you’re enjoying the ride.
12. Visit the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is the perfect place to learn about the area’s rich history and ecology. The museum has interactive exhibits on topics like the Cape’s geology, Native American culture, and maritime history.
There are also live animal displays, where you can get up close and personal with some of the sea creatures that call Cape Cod home.
The Museum of Natural History is also home to a variety of educational programs, so there’s always something new to learn. For example, you can participate in a nature walk with one of the museum’s naturalists, which is a terrific way to get outside and explore the Cape’s unique ecosystem.
13. Go Paddling at the Barnstable Great Marsh
The Barnstable Great Marsh is one of the largest salt marshes in New England, and it’s a great place to go paddling. Rent a canoe or kayak and paddle out to explore the winding creeks and tidal flats. You might even spot some osprey or eagles while you’re out on the water.
It’s a family-friendly activity, but be sure to wear sunscreen and insect repellent, as there are lots of mosquitoes in the marsh. You should also bring along a dry bag to keep your belongings safe and dry.
Aside from paddling, the Barnstable Great Marsh is a wonderful place for birdwatching, fishing, and picnicking. So pack some lobster rolls and plenty of water, and enjoy a day in one of Cape Cod’s most beautiful natural areas.
14. Stop by the Wellfleet Farmers’ Market
Want to see what local life on Cape Cod is all about? Then you need to check out the Wellfleet Farmers’ Market. There are so many delicious things to eat, from freshly caught seafood to locally grown fruits and vegetables.
You can also find artisanal bread, cheeses, and other specialty items like honey and jam. Of course, you’ll find tons of fresh seafood at the Wellfleet Market, so stock up on lobster, crab, and shrimp to take home with you.
We loved mingling with the friendly locals and doing some people-watching while we ate our lunch. The market is also a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts for your friends and family back home, such as hand-painted postcards, jewelry, and pottery featuring Cape Cod’s iconic lighthouses.
The Wellfleet Market is open from May to October, so if you’re in town during that time, be sure to swing by. Better yet, schedule your trip around the market so you can start your day with a tasty breakfast or lunch!
15. Spend a Fun Day in Hyannis
Finally, no trip to Cape Cod would be complete without spending some time in Hyannis, the largest village in Barnstable. Main Street is where you’ll find most of the shops, restaurants, and bars, as well as the iconic JFK Memorial.
There’s plenty to keep you busy on Main Street, but if this is your first time in Hyannis, we recommend checking out the local specialty shops. Buggs Place Toys is a great place to find unique gifts for kids, while Seaporium is a must-visit for Cape Cod-style décor and DIY crafts classes.
Hyannis is also home to several museums, including the JFK Hyannis Museum, the Cape Cod Maritime Museum, and the nearby Whydah Pirate Museum.
For lunch or dinner, head to one of Hyannis’ many seafood restaurants, such as the Black Cat Tavern or The Naked Oyster Bistro & Raw Bar. And if you’re looking for a place to have some fun, Main Street has you covered there too. Play some video games at the local arcade, or catch a movie at the Cape Cod Mall Cinema.
No matter what you do, Hyannis is the perfect place to experience the best of Cape Cod. So take your time, explore, and have fun!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Cape Cod. What’s your favorite thing to do in Cape Cod?
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