51 Things to Do on the Cape & Islands

The biggest draw for visitors to the Cape and Islands is undoubtedly the water. Many come simply to bask in the sun and play in the surf along the Cape’s 560 miles of sandy coastline. The area offers many water-related activities, to be sure, from whale and seal watching to surfing and sportfishing. You can paddle a kayak or sail on a sloop. Kids can learn about the marine environment aboard an educational cruise or play the role of buccaneers on a pirate cruise. In addition to water-related pursuits, the Cape and Islands offer museums and walking tours, hiking and biking trails, train rides and plane rides. The agricultural tradition continues to thrive here. You can tour wineries and small farms—even visit farmers’ markets. You can learn about the Cape’s abundant natural assets by visiting the 27,000-acre Cape Cod National Seashore or the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. For old-fashioned summer fun, play a round of miniature golf or take a spin on a carousel. In the evening, you can take in a drive-in movie, a Cape Cod Baseball League game, a concert on the town green or a show at the Cape Cod Melody Tent or any number of theaters. From stimulating to sedate, the activities here offer something for everyone. Here are 52 to consider:

 

1  |  National Treasure  

The Cape Cod National Seashore should be on the top of every visitor’s list. Millions visit the National Seashore each year for its pristine beaches, self-guided nature trails, bicycle trails, lighthouses, picnic areas, scenic overlooks and historic sites. Most of the park’s features are located along a 40-mile stretch of Route 6 between Eastham and Provincetown on the outer Cape. Begin your visit at one of the park’s two visitor centers: the Salt Pond Visitor Center (50 Doane Rd., Eastham; 508-255-3421), open year round, or the Province Lands Visitor Center (Race Point Road, Provincetown; 508-487-1256), open May through October. Here you’ll find all the information you need to plan your expedition. Sign up for ranger-led programs, such as the Junior Ranger program, which gives children ages 5 to 12 the opportunity to look for seals, tour a lighthouse or listen to stories around a campfire. The National Seashore provides an opportunity to see indigenous flora and fauna in marshes, ponds and uplands—all unspoiled by development. Most activities are free. Beach fees: $15 per vehicle or $3 per person on foot or bicycle.

 

2  |  Canal Capers

The primary purpose of the Cape Cod Canal—the widest sea level canal without locks in the world—is to provide a safe channel for vessels passing between Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Sound. On average, the canal saves 135 miles of open sea travel around the tip of the Cape, which can be dangerous to navigate. But the Cape Cod Canal has come to serve another purpose: recreation. On any given day, you’ll see bicycling, jogging and rollerblading along the canal’s 7-mile service road. You’ll find people fishing from the canal’s banks and those just sitting along the banks hoping to catch a glimpse of a yacht, ship, barge or tugboat. A self-guided bike/hike map, with numbered poles 500 feet apart, indicates points of interest. The Visitor Center offers interactive films and exhibits on the operation and history of the canal. For more information, call the Cape Cod Canal Field Office (Academy Drive, Buzzard’s Bay; 508-759-4431) or the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center (60 Ed Moffitt Drive, Sandwich; 508-833-9678). The Visitor Center is open from the beginning of May through mid-October.

 

3  |  Our Heritage

Enjoy the rolling lush lawns, gorgeous gardens and eclectic collections found in the 100-acre wonderland of the Heritage Museums and Gardens (67 Grove St., Sandwich; 508-888-3300). If you visit in spring, the rhododendrons will be in bloom in various hues of pink; in summer, the daylilies create swaths of blazing color; in fall, the changes in foliage become apparent; during the winter holidays, the grounds are bedecked with an enchanting light display. Among the three museums are the Shaker round barn replica, which houses a collection of antique automobiles—including a 1930 Duesenberg driven by screen star Gary Cooper. The Art Museum exhibits such art and artifacts as early folk portraits and whalers’ scrimshaw. Take a spin on the restored Charles I.D. Looff 1912 hand-carved carousel. The American History Museum houses military and Native American artifacts, as well as antique toys. Feel free to make a day of it. You’ll find food at the Magnolia Café—or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the grounds. Open seasonally from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: $15 for adults; $12 for age 60 and over; $7 for ages 4 to 12; free for children under 3. Gardens Aglow, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Nov. 25 through Dec. 18. Admission: $10 for adults; $5 ages 3 to 17; children 2 and under are free.

 

4 |  Seal Watching

The Lower Cape’s answer to whale watches is seal watches. Thousands of gray seals haul out along Chatham’s east coast, just a short boat trip from shore. Several services provide up-close views of the frolicking protected marine mammals: Beachcomber Seal Watch (508-945-5265), Outermost Adventures (508-945-5858) and Monomoy Island Ferry (508-945-5450). Prices range from $15 for kids to $25 for adults. Please call for schedules.

 

5  |  Rail Trail

For outdoor enthusiasts, the 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail (508-896-3491) from Dennis to Wellfleet offers one of the best ways to catch back-door glimpses of the real Cape Cod. Tool on two wheels in the sunshine and ocean air along a paved path that runs past houses, cranberry bogs, salt marshes, ponds and country stores. Following the former right of way of the Old Colony Railroad, the trail has recently undergone rehabilitation to ensure a smoother ride. While bicyclists predominate, the trail also accommodates in-line skaters, runners, walkers and horseback riders (on the unpaved shoulder). No motorized vehicles are allowed. Bicycle rentals, food and water are available at several points along the trail. You’ll also find opportunities to exit the trail to visit a beach or a village center. An 8-mile extension from Harwich to Chatham takes bicyclists along main roads through parts of Harwich and along the shoreline past such landmarks as Chatham Light and the Chatham Fish Pier. 

 

6  |  Train Ride

Rail fans are bound to enjoy a ride aboard the Cape Cod Central Railroad (252 Main St., Hyannis; 888-797-7245 or 508-771-3800). Trips range from the two-hour scenic excursion to the three-hour elegant dinner train, featuring a five-course meal served in vintage dining cars. Also offered are two-hour luncheon excursions and a family supper train, featuring entertainment for children. While rolling along 46 miles of track, you’ll see sand dunes, salt marsh, cranberry bogs and woodlands. Fares range from $18 to $65; $14 to $30 for children under 12.

 

7  |  Lighthouse Tours

Lighthouses are as much a part of Cape Cod and the Islands as the sea. For centuries they have guided mariners to safety through treacherous shoals. You’ll find eight working lighthouses on the Cape alone, mile-for-mile one of the largest concentrations of working lighthouses in the world. Be sure to check out the Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse (27 Highland Rd., Truro; 508-487-3397 or 508-487-1121), the oldest and highest lighthouse on Cape Cod. Also known as Cape Cod Light, it was one of Henry David Thoreau’s favorite spots on the Cape. Perched at the edge of a 120-foot-high cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the observation deck offers an incredible view. Open mid-May through mid-October, admission is $4. Children must measure 51 inches to climb the lighthouse. Other Cape lighthouses include Nobska Light in Woods Hole, Bass River Lighthouse at the Lighthouse Inn in West Dennis, Chatham Light next to the US Coast Guard Station in Chatham, Nauset Light off Ocean View Drive in Eastham and Race Point Light, Wood End Light and Long Point Light, all in Provincetown at the tip of the Cape.

 

8  |  Art Trails

Do you enjoy following an artistic path? The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, in its new Arts & Artisan Trails of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, offers routes to more than 200 artists and their studios. Following the trails outlined in the book will lead you to some of the Cape and Islands’ unique characters and their remarkable works of art, from carved decoys to scrimshaw. There’s the Shining Sea Trail, the Old King’s Highway Trail, the String of Ports Trail and more. New in 2008, the guide includes a watercolor map to help plan your trail-hopping. It also lists changes to the guide since the first printing and highlights new stops. The guide and map are available for $9.95 at the Cape Cod Chamber visitor center or online at www.capeandislandsartsguide.com. 

 

9  |  Natural History

Nature is the Cape’s chief asset, and the Lower Cape offers many ways to enjoy the outdoors. The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History (Route 6A, Brewster; 508-896-3867) provides a great introduction to the flora, fauna and natural history of the Cape, with exhibits about coastal processes and creatures of the land, sea and air. The “osprey cam,” trained on a nest near the museum of this once nearly extinct raptor, is a special treat. The property also includes walking trails that wind through various habitats, from woodland to marshland to beach. The museum is open daily June 1 through Sept. 30, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Wednesdays through Sundays the rest of the year, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 1 through May 31 and from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 1 through March 31. Admission is $8 for ages 13 and up; $7 for seniors; $3.50 for ages 3 to 12; free for under 3. 

 

10  |  Nantucket Walking Tour

Learn about Nantucket’s rich history of whaling captains, intrepid wives, Quaker roots and the Great Fire of 1846 on a 1-1/2-hour walking tour of historic downtown, offered by the Nantucket Historical Association (15 Broad St.; 508-228-1894, ext. 0) With more than 20 properties under its umbrella, the NHA brings island history alive with colorful narratives of historic sites and provides an unbeatable perspective of how Nantucket came to be an international destination. Summer tours leave from the Whaling Museum at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and at 2:15 p.m. on Sundays. Evening tours are available at 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday in summer. Tickets: $10 for adults; $8 for seniors; $4 for children.

 

11  |  Celebrity Go ’Round

With seats no more than 50 feet from a revolving stage, Cape Cod Melody Tent (21 West Main St., Hyannis; 508-775-5630) lets you get up close and personal with your favorite stars. Among those who have performed under the tent are George Carlin, Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, Willie Nelson and LeAnn Rimes. Typically, an evening’s entertainment includes an opening act and a featured performer. During intermission, enjoy libations under starry summer skies. Call or visit www.melodytent.org for this season’s calendar of events. 

 

12  |  Sloop Sail

It’s one thing to stroll the docks and look out at bustling Nantucket Harbor, with its hundreds of internationally flagged yachts of all shapes and sizes, but it’s quite another to tack among them and head out between the Jetties into Nantucket Sound. As the island’s longest-running sailing charter, the Endeavor (Slip #1015, Straight Wharf; 508-228 -5585), a replica of a 31-foot Friendship sloop, is a jaunty craft whose captain, James Genthner, narrates maritime history and points out waterfront landmarks. He also welcomes help setting the sails. Try a romantic sunset sail with musical entertainment or take children on a memorable trip with the Pirate Adventure. Excursions available May through October. Cost: $25; $35 for the sunset sail. 

 

13  |  Biplane Ride

This one-of-a-kind adventure will awaken all your senses at once. Captain Hal Averbuck, who has been flying for 55 years, takes you and one other passenger on an aerial tour in his rebuilt antique 1927 Waco GXE open-cockpit biplane, the oldest commercial operating airplane in the country. With Wilma Bi-Plane Sightseeing Tours (Provincetown Airport, Race Point Road; 508-740-9390), you’ll soar to your heart’s content for approximately 20 minutes over Provincetown beaches, harbor and dunes. On many occasions you will see whales as you’ve never seen them before. Averbuck says, on one occasion, his passengers glimpsed so many whales they asked to stay in the air another 20 minutes. On a clear day, you can see Boston and the Cape in their full glory. Cost: $75 per person. Flights Memorial Day through Columbus Day, weather permitting. 

 

14  |  Whaling Museum

The definitive source of Nantucket history is the Nantucket Historical Association, which brings history to life with its newly renovated whaling museum (13 Broad St.; 508-228-1894). Walk beneath the fully reconstructed skeleton of the 46-foot sperm whale that washed ashore on New Year’s Day 1998 like a sacrificial offering from the creature that made the island what it is today. See portraits of the men who led the whale hunts, their implements and the treasures they brought back from distant ports, and marvel at the 1847 candle factory with its two-story press used to extract oil from the spermaceti, or the wax in the head cavity of the sperm whale. Admission includes special exhibits and the Discovery Room for children. Open year round. Admission: $15 for adults and $8 for children.  

 

15  |  Dune Tour

Even locals take part in Art’s Dune Tours (departing from 4 Standish St., Provincetown; 800-894-1951 or 508-487-1950), a family-run business people rave about. Take the daily ride along the coast in an air-conditioned Suburban before driving through the Cape Cod National Seashore’s spectacular dunes (one-hour tour), or choose from other tours: the sunset tour; a meal tour with either clambake, barbecue or sushi; lighthouse tour; surf-fishing tour (equipment included) or a private charter. Daily tour: $21 for adults; $16 for children ages 6 to 11. Offered mid-April through Halloween. Call or visit www.artsdunetours.com for other tour rates and departure times.

 

16  |  Sportfishing

Martha’s Vineyard has long been the saltwater fishermen’s best-kept secret. Bluefish, striped bass, bonito and false albacore are plentiful and can be caught from shore. A quick trip to Coop’s Bait and Tackle in Edgartown (221 Upper Main St., Edgartown; 508-627-3909) will outfit you with all the surf-casting gear and advice you need to land a whopper. If game fish like white marlin, yellow fin tuna and shark are what you’re after, check out any number of charters on Cape Cod and the Islands. 

 

17  |  Peddle Your Kayak

“Why paddle? Come peddle,” is the slogan for the unique, energy-saving paddle and pedal kayaks offered by ACKKayak of Nantucket (508-332-3394). A patented propulsion system moves the kayak more efficiently than typical pedal boats and, when your legs get tired, a paddle attached to the outside of the kayak lets you use your arms. Launch sites in the harbor put you within an easy paddle of some of the world’s largest sailboats and power yachts, or go beyond those big crafts’ reach and meander up the protected harbor, exploring the ponds and inlets including Polpis Harbor and Coskata. Launch sites are also available in Madaket. Make a day of it with a fishing rod and a picnic on Coatue’s endless secluded white beaches. Rentals include a life vest and an emergency radio. Rentals available June 1 through Oct. 1. Cost for a tandem kayak: $80 for a half day and $100 for a full day. 

 

18  |  Surf Lesson

Here’s a non-threatening opportunity to get on a board. Sebastian Frawley of Wellfleet and his staff at Little Overhead Surf & Kiteboard (4900 Route 6, Eastham; 508-240-1455), who have surfed the world and then some, can show you how. The plentiful sandbars, smaller waves and uncrowded beaches of the Outer Cape are the perfect setting for your surfing lesson. Learn how and when a wave breaks, where to stand on the board, how to time your paddling, and how to cruise a wave. Or try the hottest new sport: kiteboarding. You’ll be hooked after you learn how to wind drag and body drag, and how to control your speed. Kiteboarders agree there is nothing like flying across the water on your board. Cost: $80 per person for a two-hour surfing lesson; kiteboarding rates slightly higher. 

 

19  |  Audubon Sanctuary

Chock full of scenic trails, Massachusetts Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (291 Route 6, South Wellfleet; 508-349-2615) contains such diverse habitats as beaches, woods, salt marsh, ponds and more. Its 1,100 acres attract a variety of wildlife, especially songbirds and shorebirds. The butterfly and hummingbird garden is a lovely addition to the sanctuary. Choose a bird walk led by a naturalist, or take part in Wellfleet Bay’s many educational programs for children and adults, including guided tours of the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Cape Cod Bay Marine Life Cruise, where you can see seals, shorebirds and other wildlife in their natural state. Evening lectures are also offered. There are camping facilities on the premises. The Nature Center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, Memorial Day to Columbus Day, and Tuesday through Sunday, Columbus Day to Memorial Day. Trails open every day, 8 a.m. to dusk (8 p.m. in the summer).

 

20  |  Educational Cruise

For family fun and education, try the Critter Cruise, a 75-minute interactive exploration of the marine world offered by Viking Princess Nature Cruises (MacMillan Wharf, Provincetown; 508-487-7323) or a two-hour Discovery Cruise offered by OceanQuest (Water Street, Woods Hole; 800-376-2326). See and touch tons of critters, guided by an expert naturalist. Pull up a lobster trap or bottom dredge and see the catch in the tide-pool touch tank.  Everything is catch and release, and kids are taught to handle marine life respectfully. Critter Cruises are offered May through October. Cost: $21 for adults; $16 for children ages 1 to 12. Discovery Cruises run Monday through Saturday during July and August. Cost: $20 for adults; $15 for children ages 4 to 12; $5 for children under 4. 

 

21  |  Summer Stock

Summer stage offerings on the Cape can run from the traditional to the truly astonishing. Local theater companies often take chances in the summer, testing the talent of the area’s thespians and broadening the horizons of audiences. Cape Cod Theatre Project (Highfield Drive, Falmouth; 508-457-4242) is a unique theater venue. Here, professional actors, directors and audience members are invited to join the playwright’s process of refining his or her script. Between performances, lines are adjusted after listening to audience feedback. Carefully selected interns further influence the development of new plays. Cape Cod Theatre Project’s dream of encouraging productions across the country has come to fruition in theater districts from New York to California. Many CCTP alumni have won awards for their work. Julie White, for example, won a Tony Award for Best Actress for her performance in “The Little Dog Laughed.” Tickets: $20.

 

22  |  Drive-in Movie

One of only four drive-ins remaining in Massachusetts (about 400 in the United States), the Wellfleet Drive-In (51 Route 6, South Wellfleet; 508-349-7176) has been screening movies since 1957. Rain or shine, the drive-in shows two first-run features nightly (plus cartoons!) from Memorial Day through Labor Day and weekends only from late April to Memorial Day and Labor Day through early October. Amenities include a full snack bar and playground. Admission: $8 for adults; $5 for children ages 4 to 11 and seniors 62 and older; children under 4, free. Box office opens at 7 p.m. 

 

23  |  Oceanographic Center

Cape Cod is home to the world’s largest private non-profit ocean research, engineering and educational organization. Learn about research conducted by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as well as about the vessels and tools developed by WHOI engineers and scientists for use in that research, at the Ocean Science Exhibit Center (15 School St., Woods Hole; 508-289-2663 or 508-289-2700). Short videos provide an introduction to WHOI, show a day in the life of the deep submersible Alvin and highlight the 1985-1986 discovery and exploration of the wreck of the Titanic. Visitors can step inside a full-size model of the inner sphere of Alvin and imagine life at the ocean floor while watching vivid footage taken at deep-sea hydrothermal vent sites. An interactive exhibit features whale and dolphin research, exploring the role sound plays in the lives of marine mammals. Other exhibits and videos feature the life forms and natural processes of the deep sea. Requested donation: $2. The exhibit center is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday from May through October and Tuesday through Friday in November and December. Closed major holidays and January through March.

 

24  |  Glass Museum

When Deming Jarves (1790-1869) founded a glass-working factory on the Cape in 1825, he never dreamed he was also creating, indirectly, the Sandwich Glass Museum (129 Main St., Sandwich; 508-888-0251). Jarves chose this village as the headquarters of the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company for its fuel-rich forests and hay for packing his renowned English-style wares. Wander through the museum’s 15 galleries displaying more than 500 objects, watch a professional multimedia show and attend a glassblowing demonstration on site. The Museum Shop is irresistible, as well. Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., April through December; Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., February through March; closed in January. Admission: $4.75 for adults; $1 for children, 6 to 14.

 

25  |  Winery Tours

Well-drained soil and a climate tempered by ocean breezes make the Cape and Islands great for growing grapes. And some award-winning wines resulting from the fermentation of this fruit can be found here. Cape Cod Winery (681 Sandwich Rd., East Falmouth; 508-457-5592), Truro Vineyards (Route 6A, North Truro; 508-487-6200) and Chicama Vineyards (Stoney Hill Road, West Tisbury; 508-693-0309) are all open in summer and fall for free tours and tastings. Oenophiles and plonk lovers alike will appreciate this diversion. And a bottle of local wine makes a nice souvenir. Call for hours and tour schedules.

 

26  |  Mini-Golf and More

Miniature golf has long been a part of the Cape Cod summer scene. Among the many courses is the popular Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf (728 Route 28, South Yarmouth; 508-394-6200 or 508-394-5252), featuring two 18-hole championship alternatives: Captain’s Course and Beard’s Course. For just under $8, you can putt around sunken treasure ships, sharks and peg-legged pirates. Open from mid-April through October. Mini-golf is just one of several amusements offered at Bass River Sports World (934 Route 28, South Yarmouth; 508-398-6070). To ensure maximum fun and excitement, the sports complex offers a golf driving range, skateboarding park, in-line skating rink, batting and soccer cages, large game room and arcade, and, of course, the pièce de résistance: Skull Island Adventure Miniature Golf Course. The 38,000-square-foot golf course is a nod to Swiss Family Robinson, which features a large tree house, 20 waterfalls, 25 fountains, dramatic cave and menacing steam-spewing, fiery-eyed skull. Open late February to late October. 

 

27  |  Seaside Pedaling

Short but sweet, the Shining Sea Bikeway offers a little more than three miles of paved, off-road trail running along some of the most breathtaking scenery on Cape Cod. Pedal past views of Vineyard Sound and Nobska Light, through woodlands, marshlands and the Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary. Ideal for casual and beginner cyclists, this trail links Falmouth and the seaside scientific community of Woods Hole. Centuries ago, the Wampanoag Indians traveled this trail. In 1976, the Shining Sea Bikeway was dedicated in memory of Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929), a Falmouth native and author of the poem “America the Beautiful.” Begin your ride in Falmouth and cycle to Wood’s Hole, where ample dining options await you, then pedal back and you are sure to enjoy your ride from “sea to shining sea!”

 

28  |  Outdoor Concerts

As much a Cape Cod tradition as seashores and clambakes are the free town band concerts. Join local residents and summer visitors as they flock toward tunes emanating from beneath a gazebo on a village green or at a local middle school’s band shell. Surrounded by fireflies, picnic blankets, beach chairs and summer breezes, you’ll sway to jazz, Broadway and classical music. Weekly summer concerts occur in Hyannis on the Village Green, in Dennis on the Dennisport Village Green and the Route 6A Village Green Gazebo, and in Yarmouth at the Mattacheese Middle School. Call the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce (888-332-2732) or visit www.capecodchamber.org for more information. 

 

29  |  Herb Farms

Farm-fresh produce is one thing, but how often can you get farm-fresh herbs? At the seven-acre Cedar Spring Herb Farm (159 Long Pond Rd., Harwich; 508-430-4372), you can wander among the organic herb gardens, walk through winding woodland trails or browse the small shop featuring dozens of homemade herbal remedies, skin products, fragrances and teas. Owner Donna Eaton also offers wellness consultations, classes and ceremonial gatherings. The farm is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a different sort of herbal experience, visit the Cape Cod Lavender Farm (Island Pond Trail, Harwich; 508-430-8397). The 12-acre spread is the largest lavender farm on the East Coast and consists of some 14,000 plants, which combine to spread a blanket of wonderful aroma over the area when the flowers bloom in June and July.  

 

30  |  Living History

If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to live in the past, here’s a chance to experience it at Plimoth Plantation (137 Warren Ave., Plymouth; 508-746-1622). Just north of Cape C od in historic Plymouth, you’ll step into the 17th-century world of Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians. Visit Native Wampanoag and Colonial interpreters reenacting life as it was in Plymouth in the 1620s. Discover how they sustained themselves by working the land, building homes, gathering food and cooking over the fire. Climb aboard the Mayflower II (Water Street, Plymouth; 508-746-1622), a working replica of the famous ship that brought the Pilgrims to the New World. See it, smell it, hear it and experience it at this premier living-history museum. The museum visitor center offers interactive indoor exhibits, a café and museum shops. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 22 through Nov. 30.

 

31  | Ferry to Chappy

If you want to tour the 14-acre Mytoi Japanese gardens, or just make the trip to Chappaquiddick, a short trip on the “Chappy” ferry will be in store for you. The small On Time Ferry (Memorial Wharf, Edgartown; 508-627-9427), with room for pedestrians, bikers and just three cars per trip, transports you from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick in less than four minutes. Fares: $3 per person round trip; $10 with car, $6 with bicycle, mop ed or motorcycle. Once on shore, you’re 2-1/2 miles from Mytoi. Allow about 30 minutes to follow Mytoi’s winding footpaths through a birch walk, camellia dell, stone garden and hillside garden. Other attractions that bring folks to Chappy are Pogue Lighthouse and great offshore fishing.

 

32  |  Carousel Rides

Watch the delight in the faces of your children as they experience the timeless joy of painted ponies going up and down—or join them. Carousel rides are part of summer fun, and you can get your fix at one of four locations on the Cape and Islands. History buffs will appreciate the Flying Horses Carousel in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard and the restored Charles I.D. Looff 1912 hand-carved carousel at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich. Built in 1876 by Charles W.F. Dare, the Flying Horses Carousel offers rides for $1.50. Grab the brass ring and win a free ride. The carousel ride at Heritage Museums and Gardens is free with admission. Other carousels include the Cape Cod Carousel & Fun House Arcade at 541 Main St. in downtown Hyannis and the Island Carousel at Cape Cod Mall on Route 132 in Hyannis.

 

33  |  Wildlife Refuge

Chatham’s Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge offers miles of unspoiled barrier beach to explore. The island can be reached by boat only. The Monomoy Island Ferry (508-945-5450) runs a regular shuttle service. Some areas may be closed when shorebirds are nesting; check at the visitor’s center on Wikis Way (508-945-0594). 

 

34  |  Art Show

The Cape and Islands have long attracted artists, and shows are held throughout the region. Eastham Painters Guild (Route 6 and Nauset Road, North Eastham; 508-255-7239) holds Cape Cod’s largest outdoor fine arts gallery on the lawn of the Eastham Historical Society’s Schoolhouse Museum, where local painters show their beautiful seascapes and more, generally on Thursdays through Sundays. The first show in 1980 debuted on the lawn of the Eastham Library, and paintings were hung on wood and wire from old chicken coops. Crisp, white display tents have taken their place, and the shows have evolved to include many more artists. Located across from the National Seashore Visitor’s Center in Eastham, it’s the perfect setting to take a picnic and enjoy the seashore and artwork that captures the surrounding area. Please call or visit www.easthampaintersguild.com for schedule and artwork samples. Offered late May through September.

 

 

35  |  Grist Mill

Thomas Dexter started building in 1637, and the Dexter Grist Mill on Shawme Pond (Route 130, Sandwich Village; 508-888-5144) you see today dates from 1654. It was the first on the Cape. In the 1700s, corn was money—as George Washington’s Continental Army could attest. The slightly coarse cornmeal ground at the mill daily is perfect for New England johnnycakes and Indian pudding. So purchase a two-pound bag for $3.50 to take home. Restored in 1961, this site makes for a great pit stop. Learn the difference between the two millstones—the bed stone (bottom) and the runner stone (top). Kids will get geared up watching the cypress “undershot” waterwheel in operation. Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., mid-June through mid-October. Admission: $3 for adults; $2 for children.

36  |  Polly’s Place

The Polly Hill Arboretum (809 State Rd., West Tisbury; 508-693-9426) calls itself a “living museum” with more than 1,600 varieties of plants on a 70-acre preserve. Named for legendary horticulturist Polly Hill, the arboretum is a Vineyard landmark and home of the famed West Tisbury Azaleas. If you’re in the mood for a peaceful walk, nature trails crisscross the property. Tours are also available. Serious plant enthusiasts will find a year-round schedule of educational opportunities and lectures. The grounds remain open throughout the year from sunrise to sunset. Admission: $5 for adults; free for children 12 and under. 

 

37  |  Historic House

What was it like to live in the mid-1700s here on Cape Cod? Costumed guides at the Josiah Dennis Manse Museum (77 Nobscusset Rd., South Dennis; 508-385-2232), a 1736 saltbox built by the town’s namesake, help answer that very question. In the kitchen, you’ll learn about how food was prepared and with what kind of utensils. In the garden you’ll see which herbs and vegetables were typically grown during the period. Spinning and weaving exhibits, information on Dennis maritime history and “Howes Chest”—an English oak chest Thomas and Mary Howes brought over with them from England when they settled in Dennis in 1639—are also on display. In addition, a 1770 one-room schoolhouse is located on the same grounds as the manse and offers some insight into how an average school day in the18th century was spent. Admission: free. Open mid-June to mid-September, Tuesday 10 a.m. to noon, Thursday and Saturday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

 

38  |  Birds and Reptiles 

World-renowned reptile and bird expert Gus Ben David spent 36 years as the director of the Massachusetts Audubon’s Felix Neck Sanctuary before fulfilling his lifelong dream of sharing his collection of birds and reptiles with Vineyard visitors. Today, World of Reptiles and Birds (Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, Edgartown; 508-627-5634) is home to the largest pythons on display in the United States, New England’s largest snapping turtle and assorted snakes and lizards, as well as fancy poultry, peacocks and a bald eagle. Open daily in season and most weekends year round. Admission: $5.

 

39 |  Edgy Theater

The acclaimed Wellfleet Harbor Actor’s Theater (Route 6, Wellfleet; 508-349-9428) is considered Cape Cod’s most adventuresome theater, offering groundbreaking works for playwrights, performers and patrons. WHAT has a national reputation for innovative and provocative productions. The edgiest music, theater and dance can be experienced at the intimate 90-seat theater on the harbor (1 Kendrick Ave., Wellfleet) or at the company’s recently added permanent home, the Julie Harris Stage (2357 Route 6, Wellfleet), which seats 200. WHAT for Kids provides theater for children. Please call for calendar of shows and events or go to www.what.org.

 

40  |  JFK Museum

From the JFK Memorial statue at the entrance to the multimedia exhibit inside, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum (397 Main St., Hyannis; 508-790-3077) offers a look inside the personal life of our 35th president and the time he spent at the family compound in Hyannisport. Four rooms of exhibits show various aspects of Kennedy’s life, from 1934 to 1963. Admission: $5 for adults; $2.50 for children 10 to 17. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, April through Memorial Day and Columbus Day through Halloween. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday though Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, November through mid-April.

 

41  |  Park It

Parents everywhere owe a debt to whoever invented the modern outdoor playground. When it’s time for a break from the beach, there’s no better place on the Cape to expend all that youthful energy than a spot like Drummer Boy Park on Route 6A in Brewster. A great place for a picnic, the park not only includes several acres of open lawn perfect for running around, but also a gingerbread-like playhouse adjacent to a small, feature-packed playground. In addition, there’s a restored 18th-century windmill on site and the Harris-Black House, a typical 18th-century Cape Cod house, as well as a gazebo where summer evening concerts are held.

 

42  |  Art Shacks

A leisurely summer stroll along Hyannis Harbor to enjoy the breeze and to look at the artist shanties in Bismore Park is the perfect way to view art made both by man and nature. The Harbor Your Arts shanties afford the public the opportunity to connect with local art and artists in a setting rich in natural beauty. Photographers, painters, sculptors, jewelry designers and potters have all found a creative home inside one of the 14 harborside shanties. Open daily June 16 through Sept. 30.

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43  |  Monumental Experience

The Pilgrims first landed in the New World in 1620 at Provincetown, as the Pilgrim Monument (One High Pole Hill Rd., Provincetown: 508-487-1310) so loftily reminds us. The 252-foot stone tower marked its 100th anniversary last year. Join the millions who have climbed the 116 steps to the top for an incredible view of Provincetown, Cape Cod Bay and the Cape Cod National Seashore. If you’re in town during Thanksgiving weekend, you can catch the annual lighting of the monument for the holiday season. A museum at the base of the monument offers exhibits about the building of the monument and Provincetown history. Open 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. daily, April 15 through Oct. 31; weekends only Nov. 1 through Dec. 2. Admission: $7 for adults; $5 for seniors and students; $3.50 for children ages 4 to 14. Free admission on Sundays from 9 a.m. to noon.

 

44  |  On the FARM

An agricultural non-profit organization located near South Beach, the Farm Institute (14 Aero Rd., Edgartown; 508-627-7007) offers many great diversions from another day at the beach. The institute offers weeklong “down-on-the-farm” summer camp sessions for 4- to 14-year-olds interested in learning about livestock, gardening and fiber arts and crafts. Kids of all ages (and their parents) will enjoy gathering eggs and milking goats during Saturday morning farm chores, and the 7-acre corn maze is a great place to lose yourself for an hour or two. 

 

45  |  Schooner Sail

Take a sailing trip to yesteryear on the largest passenger schooner on Cape Cod waters, the Bay Lady II (20 Berry Lane, Provincetown; 508-487-9308). Watch the sun set during a two-hour excursion into Cape Cod Bay with Captain Bob Burns and his crew. Depending on the wind, your sail will take you either across the bay towards the bluffs of Corn Hill or around Long Point Light at the tip of the Cape in the direction of Wood End Lighthouse. The boat leaves from MacMillan Pier with several trips daily, including the sunset sail. Daytime excursions are $18 for adults and $12 for children; sunset sails are $24 for adults and $12 for children. Reservations required.

 

46  |  Horseback Riding 

The family-owned and operated Emerald Hollow Farm (235 Run Hill Rd., Brewster; 508-685-6811) offers private, guided trail rides for parties of up to seven. The gentle 1-1/2-hour ride along scenic, wooded conservation trails in the 800-acre Brewster Punkhorn Parklands costs $75 per person. Reservations are required. Times are flexible. For children, pony rides along farm trails are offered at $15 for 15 minutes.

 

47  |  Nightlife

If you are looking for music and nightlife, you’ll find it in downtown Hyannis. On any given night, you can find live musical entertainment at many of the restaurants on or around Main Street, including the Roadhouse Café (488 South St.; 508-775-2386), Alberto’s (360 Main St.; 508-778-1770), HannaH Fusion Bar and Bistro (615 Main St.; 508-778-5565), Embargo (453 Main St.; 508-771-9700) and the Island Merchant (302 Main St.; 508-771-1337). While wining and dining, you can sit back and listen to a local singer croon a sweet tune or a jazz pianist work the ivories. For a more rousing, club- or bar-like atmosphere, try Harry’s Blues Bar (700 Main St.; 508-778-4188), the British Beer Company (412 Main St.; 508-771-1776) and Asa Grille’s club Reputation (415 Main St.; 508-775-9600), where you’ll find everything from blues and rock to reggae and pop.

 

48  |  Family Theater

Since 1952, Harwich Junior Theatre (105 Division St., West Harwich; 508-432-2002) has offered musicals, classical and contemporary drama, fairytales and adventures for kids and adults alike. This award-winning family theater is home to both the Junior Theatre (children’s productions) and Winter Theatre (adult resident company). The productions are always outstanding, with appreciative audiences. Please call for schedule or visit www.hjtcapecod.org. Tickets: $18 for adults; $16 for seniors over 65; $12 for under 21.

 

49  |  Provincetown Trolley

A great way to get an overview of what Provincetown has to offer, the picturesque Provincetown Trolley (508-487-9483) takes you on a 40-minute narrated tour of Provincetown, the first landing place of the Pilgrims. Highlights include Commercial Street, with its art galleries, boutiques, Portuguese bakeries, bed & breakfast inns and restaurants. Enjoy the salt air and spectacular view of the harbor while you ride in comfort. Also on the itinerary are views of Cape Cod Bay, the Atlantic Ocean and the National Seashore. Marvel at the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” the Pilgrim Monument and Museum, and the oldest home in Provincetown, constructed circa 1746 with timbers from shipwrecks. Trolleys leave every half hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from Town Hall on Commercial Street. Evening tours leave on the hour, beginning at 5 p.m. Tickets: $8 for adults; $5 for children 12 and under.

 

50  |  Fishy Business

A quarter mile south of the Route 28 intersection, on the way to Chatham Lighthouse, is one of the most photographed spots in the town: the Chatham Fish Pier on Shore Road.  Late in the afternoon, the fishing boats return to unload their daily catch, and the harbor seals come in search of cast-offs. Up the stairs on the left side of the building, you can look out from the observation deck. Farther down the shoreline, gaze upon the cottages on Nauset and North beaches. And, best of all, the experience is free.

 

51  |  Audio Tour

Modern technology has put a new spin on taking tours. Cape Treks (www.capetreks.com) offers audio walking tours—to download or on CD—of Provincetown and Nantucket and driving tours of Chatham, Route 6A from Sandwich to Orleans and Route 6 from Eastham to Wellfleet. Guided on your own, personal tour of the Cape by a very accommodating portable docent in the form of an Mp3 Player, iPod or CD player, you are able to start or stop at anytime to appreciate a scenic view or take a snack break. And better yet, if you have missed a little tidbit of information, you can always hit the rewind button. CD price: $13. Mp3 download price: $10.