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I need Cape Cod vacation advice

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My family has had a place in Chatham for like 80 years. It’s now where my folks live all year - so I’m partial to Chatham, and in my best wistful voice it’s not what it once was. It’s friggin mobbed - my folks get up at the crack to get whatever they need and then never venture back near town because it’s a s&*t show.

In fact my wife and I get there maybe twice a year because I just don’t want to deal with it. We’ve got a real good crew up there so it makes in enjoyable once there because we don’t have to go beyond a few house for roving food and drink.

The seals suck - ruined the striper fishery - it’s not near as productive as it once was - the halcyon days of push poling the flats for BIG cruising stripers are long gone. There’s been some big changes to the channel off the Coast Guard light over the winter and from what I remember from when I was there this winter the beach has eroded pretty significantly

The Chatham Bars Inn or Wequassett are both nice properties.
 
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I'd second recs for Brewster. Centrally located, one of the few Cape towns that isn't a total traffic poop-show, access to tons of kettle ponds that are great for kayaking, canoeing.

Also has Nickerson State Park. Miles and miles of hiking trails, paved bike path throughout the park.

Brewster also has pretty easy access to the rail trail for miles of biking up and down the cape. As of right now, there are two craft breweries right next to the rail trail (Devils Purse in Dennis & Hog Island in Orleans)...cool to ride to either or both and stop for samples!

I've vacationed in Brewster for decades. Can offer up more recs if interested.
 

HuskyHawk

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Um, it's called the "Cape and Islands" for a reason. They are all right there. His tentative plan was to spend a few nights in Falmouth and that's where the Vineyard ferries depart. He might want to know of that option. For me, Falmouth is a quaint town but nothing more than a way station en route to the Vineyard because I can't imagine leaving my town for a shore vacation that is not on an ocean shore; Falmouth is on the Vineyard sound so you don't get any waves, and for me that's the same as going to the beach in my town, which I rarely do because I get antsy and bored just sitting on a beach if there are no waves.

Yeah, but for many that isn't an issue. He lives in the mountains. I don't like the open ocean beaches on the cape. Waves make it too hard to swim (undertow can be dangerous, along with sharks) and the water is too cold. I would pick Old Silver over any ocean side beach, especially in June. That water will be under 55 degrees in June. In North Falmouth, on Buzzards bay it will be 70+.
 
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Stay in Chatham. Go see the seals.

Don't get to the Sagamore (or the Bourne) any later than 7am.

Second seeing the seals in Chatham. It's fun to go down to the fish pier in the afternoon and watch the fisherman bringing in their catches with all the seals hanging around them trying to mooch scraps.

And the bridges definitely suck for most of the day. We usually try to plan our drive out so we hit them super esarly (like MattMang23 mentions), or after 9pm.
 
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My family has had a place in Chatham for like 80 years. It’s now where my folks live all year - so I’m partial to Chatham, and in my best wistful voice it’s not what it once was. It’s friggin mobbed - my folks get up at the crack to get whatever they need and then never venture back near town because it’s a s&*t show.

In fact my wife and I get there maybe twice a year because I just don’t want to deal with it. We’ve got a real good crew up there so it makes in enjoyable once there because we don’t have to go beyond a few house for roving food and drink.

The seals suck - ruined the striper fishery - it’s not near as productive as it once was - the halcyon days of push poling the flats for BIG cruising stripers are long gone. There’s been some big changes to the channel off the Coast Guard light over the winter and from what I remember from when I was there this winter the beach has eroded pretty significantly

The Chatham Bars Inn or Wequassett are both nice properties.

My parents showed me some pictures of Nauset beach post-winter storms. Apparently it took a huge hit from all the storms… The ocean made it all the way up to Liam's clam shack…they ended up tearing it down because of the damage.

Not sure what it's going to be like for beach crowds this year at Nauset. I found a video of the damage. Those of you who've been to Nauset know how far the ocean had to come up to reach those structures shown. Incredible.

 
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Do people actually like the Cape?

Just seems like a desperate mediocre beach escape for those locked in New England and a traffic nightmare. Especially as OP is coming from the beaches of California.
 

HuskyHawk

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Do people actually like the Cape?

Just seems like a desperate mediocre beach escape for those locked in New England and a traffic nightmare. Especially as OP is coming from the beaches of California.

Tahoe is a good 3 hours from NoCal beaches, and those aren't really a prize. Like the outer Cape, the water is always cold. Some are pretty, and Santa Cruz beach/boardwalk has a lot to do. Certainly ok for surfers, although I think surfing at Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz is flat out crazy (Mavericks even more so). There is a stretch of fairly empty beaches between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay, but they are boring. NoCal beaches are not like SoCal beaches.

Once I'm on the Cape, I never really have major traffic problems. It's just the bridges, and even that is about timing it right.
 
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I've been all over the Cape. Many times. I think your general plan is good. Maybe check out Chatham also. Nice downtown area with great beaches. Stay away from the Hyannis area. Not my favorite part of the Cape. Traffic stinks there and it's just too low grade touristy.

Falmouth is a busier part of the Cape but there are good beaches there and a nice downtown area. I think Anejo Mexican Bistro in downtown Falmouth is the best restaurant there and a cool place to have a few drinks. There is a bike path on an old rail line called Shining Sea Bikeway that goes from North Falmouth down to Woods Hole. You can rent bikes in Falmouth. Ride down to Woods Hole, cool town where the National Oceanographic Institution is located. Have a meal there, some drinks, an ice cream and ride back to Falmouth.

If you want to check out Martha's Vineyard there is a 30 minute ferry ride there that leaves from Woods Hole or from Falmouth (From Woods Hole: Steamship Authority - Serving The Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. From Falmouth: Martha's Vineyard Ferry Schedule | Ferry to Martha's Vineyard). Might be a day trip if you want to check out the island.

You might want to stop in Chatham, even if you don't stay there. Cool beaches, nice downtown area. Just don't swim with the seals unless you want to get eaten by a great white shark. Chatham Bars Inn is the place to stay. Really expensive though. Impudent Oyster is my favorite restaurant in downtown Chatham. Could always just hit the beaches there for the day on the way up the Cape to Provincetown if you don't want to stay there.

Wellfleet and Eastham have the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches, which are the classic Cape beaches with huge dunes and you walk down the stairs to get to the beaches. Marconi Beach in Wellfleet or Coast Guard Beach in Eastham are pretty similar. Bigger waves there than most places on the Cape. Water will be really cold in late June. Heck, the water is cold there even in August! Wellfleet also has a little downtown area on the bay side. It's pretty small though.

Provincetown is the classic beach town. Funky area with lots of art and downtown is full of bars and restaurants. Haven't been in a while so don't really have any recommendations. If you've never been on a whale watch this would be the place to do it. We always went with Dolphin Fleet. Boats leave from the dock right downtown, so pretty easy.

You mentioned kayaking. I've only gone in Falmouth in an estuary. I guess there's probably lots of places on the Cape in estuaries and rivers that go into the ocean where you can rent kayaks. Try this web site: Active Traveler: Best Kayaking Spots on Cape Cod | Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce

Don't really know of any good hiking places on the Cape. Maybe Nickerson State Park, where there are some trails. Remember that the Cape is a narrow strip of land and there are no hills. So probably not the most exciting place to go hiking.

Have fun.
 
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Do people actually like the Cape?

Just seems like a desperate mediocre beach escape for those locked in New England and a traffic nightmare. Especially as OP is coming from the beaches of California.

Are the beaches of California even good?
 
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Yeah now that I think about it, both times I've been to Lighthouse Beach it was August.

Lighthouse beach is where I got engaged. My now wife grew up going to Chatham every summer for weeks on end as her family owns a house just off the strip.

I’ve been to East Sandwich (fun time to drive if you have the vehicle on the beach and camp out and bbq/drink all day) but Chatham is great. Nice walkable downtown with plenty of shopping, restaurants, a movie theater, etc. It’s obv very touristy in the summer but you get the true “New England” feel.

I suggest, if you don’t stay in Chatham, to at least hit it for a day. Do lunch or dinner at the Squire.

If you decide to stay there a nice little B&B is the Chatham Inn at 359 Main, not to be confused with the extremely expensive Chatham Bars Inn.
 
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Im going to be in Providence in late June for work (I live in Reno/Tahoe) and my girlfriend and I are going to head to the Cape for 5 days of vacation afterwards. I’ve never been and honestly don’t know anything about the area. Any suggestions on areas to stay in, things to see, places to avoid?

We’re pretty active and enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, etc but not adverse to sitting on the beach all day drinking booze. Our initial thinking was to spend a couple of nights around Falmouth and a few nights in Provincetown. Not sure how we came up with that plan or if it makes any sense. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

I like that plan.

So many pros to Falmouth.

1. Less traffic since it's at the start of the cape.
2. Nice beaches, especially Old Silver Beach in N. Falmouth.
3. Has a town with plenty of restaurants.
4. has a great bike path
5. Close to Woods Hole
6. Ferry to Martha's Vineyard
 

HuskyHawk

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Lighthouse beach is where I got engaged. My now wife grew up going to Chatham every summer for weeks on end as her family owns a house just off the strip.

I’ve been to East Sandwich (fun time to drive if you have the vehicle on the beach and camp out and bbq/drink all day) but Chatham is great. Nice walkable downtown with plenty of shopping, restaurants, a movie theater, etc. It’s obv very touristy in the summer but you get the true “New England” feel.

I suggest, if you don’t stay in Chatham, to at least hit it for a day. Do lunch or dinner at the Squire.

If you decide to stay there a nice little B&B is the Chatham Bars Inn, not to be confused with the extremely expensive Chatham Inn.

I think you have the hotels backward. The Chatham Bars Inn. is the big resort on the beach. Very pricey (cheap room $750 a night in June) and already full anyway.
 
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My two cents:
Stay in wellfleet, eastham or Chatham ... take day trips to Provincetown and the Vineyard

The best beaches are Nauset and Coast Guard in Eastham... also some great bayside beaches there, too

Chatham for dinner options - there are a bunch of great places so you probably don’t need to look further... maybe one dinner on the Vineyard, in Edgartown.
 
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Do people actually like the Cape?

Just seems like a desperate mediocre beach escape for those locked in New England and a traffic nightmare. Especially as OP is coming from the beaches of California.
I always ask myself that also because I live in MA and don't think it's a big deal. But for other people from around the country it's a cool place. Just like I think the North Carolina Outer Banks is a cool place but for someone from North Carolina it's not that cool.

One year we stayed for a week on Nantucket. On the ferry ride there was a couple with their 2 kids from Northern California who were renting a place on Nantucket for a week. I laughed and asked them why they came all the way here for a week on Nantucket. They said it was always a place they wanted to vacation on. So everyone has their own perspective.
 
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I'm glad someone brought up the "do people even like the Cape," angle. I've been many, many times and I find it more trouble than it's worth in the summer. Considering the traffic, cost, and everything else. Of course, I've been there a great deal so I am jaded.

I dig it in the fall and early spring. Brewster is my fave of the places I've been. Highly, highly recommend Brewster by the Sea B&B.
 
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I'm glad someone brought up the "do people even like the Cape," angle. I've been many, many times and I find it more trouble than it's worth in the summer. Considering the traffic, cost, and everything else. Of course, I've been there a great deal so I am jaded.

I dig it in the fall and early spring. Brewster is my fave of the places I've been. Highly, highly recommend Brewster by the Sea B&B.

We vacation in Rhode Island now after many years of doing the Cape. Our kids love Misquamicut, but we like Napatree and Blue Shutters. All 3 are better than Cape Beaches. You can even do the historical thing at Mystic. And there's plenty of great places for seafood. Our favorite is the Two-Ten Oyster Bar and Grill.
 
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My two cents:
Stay in wellfleet, eastham or Chatham ... take day trips to Provincetown and the Vineyard

The best beaches are Nauset and Coast Guard in Eastham... also some great bayside beaches there, too

Chatham for dinner options - there are a bunch of great places so you probably don’t need to look further... maybe one dinner on the Vineyard, in Edgartown.
Nauset Light beach and Coast Guard both got pounded hard this winter. Wife’s family has been going to Eastham for over 60 years. Now our family does, with cousins, brother/sisters-in-law. I’m told Arnold’s seafood is very good, but I usually order from the kids menu.
 

uconnphil2016

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Im going to be in Providence in late June for work (I live in Reno/Tahoe) and my girlfriend and I are going to head to the Cape for 5 days of vacation afterwards. I’ve never been and honestly don’t know anything about the area. Any suggestions on areas to stay in, things to see, places to avoid?

We’re pretty active and enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking, etc but not adverse to sitting on the beach all day drinking booze. Our initial thinking was to spend a couple of nights around Falmouth and a few nights in Provincetown. Not sure how we came up with that plan or if it makes any sense. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Ive only been once. Stayed in Truro and loved it. Try to book a place further up the Cape...itll be more quiet and prettier
 

HuskyHawk

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I like that plan.

So many pros to Falmouth.

1. Less traffic since it's at the start of the cape.
2. Nice beaches, especially Old Silver Beach in N. Falmouth.
3. Has a town with plenty of restaurants.
4. has a great bike path
5. Close to Woods Hole
6. Ferry to Martha's Vineyard

Yeah, I've come to really like N. Falmouth. Even at peak season it isn't crowded. HooperScooper is right about the Anejo Mexican Bisto too. It's excellent.
 

HuskyHawk

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We vacation in Rhode Island now after many years of doing the Cape. Our kids love Misquamicut, but we like Napatree and Blue Shutters. All 3 are better than Cape Beaches. You can even do the historical thing at Mystic. And there's plenty of great places for seafood. Our favorite is the Two-Ten Oyster Bar and Grill.

I see people say this all the time and I've never understood it. I've never seen any beach on Cape Cod that was half as busy and crowded, or as hard to get to through traffic, as Misquamicut is. I can't even enjoy the beach when there are that many people on it.
 

SubbaBub

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If you want the full experience stay between Chatham and Wellfleet. Eastham is about a central as you can get on the "forearm". Not a ton of quality lodging, we used to rent a cottage on the dunes in Eastham. You can day trip to various beaches, Chatham, P-Town from there. Not a ton of dining and entertainment options and it will be crowded during the summer but there is more than their used to be.

For a little more buzz and less tourism you can try the Dennisport/S.Yarmouth area. More year round residences and development plus you can catch a ferry to Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket from nearby Hyannis.

Honestly, not my favorite place but if your plan is to hunker down and sit by the water, it will fill that need well.
 
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Beach drinking day - Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet drinking at The Beachcomber. Arrive early to get parking without having to walk a bit. The bar/restaurant is at the top of the dunes. There are no stairs down to the beach. You have to walk down the dunes. That keeps some of the families and older folks away. Check The Beachcomber's schedule. They have live music some afternoons and weekend evenings.

Biking on The Rail Trail from Orleans out to Wellfleet is about a 25 mile stretch of bike trail. There are also good trails in some of the National Seashore beaches along the outer Cape.

Moby Dick's in Wellfleet or Arnold's in Eastham are institutions for whole belly fried clams and seafood. Nothing fancy. Just tasty. And there are a variety of restaurants in and around Eastham & Wellfleet (in town and on the bay's waterfront) ranging for stands to nice sit-down dining.
 
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Cal, I live in Truro in the summer (snowbird) and don't disagree with anything said so far. Are you renting a house or staying in hotel as there are a few in Ptown (none I would stay in in Truro) Wagner is ok in Wellfleet but I haven't stayed in it since it was the Duck Creek Inn and it wasn't good. We love the Red Inn which is all the way out in Ptown. In Truro The Blackfish is good and in Wellfleet either the Wicked Oyster or Mac's Shack are great. Mac's has a place on Shankpainter in Ptown which is good also but the ambiance in Wellfleet is great. I wouldn't stay in Falmouth. Chatham Bars Inn is always a good option. I doubt you will be swimming in the ocean in June so the sharks aren't really an issue. Try the bay beaches or kettle ponds if you really want to swim.
I too have a house in Truro. Jimmy's Hideaway in P-town used to be pretty good. Did spend some time at MAC's eating oyster but really don't go into town anymore unless I have some visitors or to the Stop and Shop. If you golf, do try Highland Links. Small course but closest I have seen to Scotland in this country.
 

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