Cape Cod is all about good times and summer vibes. Its expansive 40-mile-long seashore makes it one of New England's premier beach destinations, but there's more to do here than simply top up your tan. Whether you hop aboard a whale-watching tour, visit lively Provincetown or get your fill of fresh seafood, this arm-shaped peninsula in Massachusetts is the ultimate destination for some R&R. Dreaming of a summer getaway and need a little help curating an itinerary? Read on for the best things to do in Cape Cod.
- Explore the coastline
- Get your fill of fresh seafood
- Wonder at whales
- Take the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard
- Cycle the Rail Trail
- Enjoy cinema classics at Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre
- Learn about the Nauset Lighthouse
- Visit the Cape's LGBTQ+ Capital
A visit to the Cape wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the breathtaking coastline at the Cape Cod National Seashore. This 40-mile-long stretch of shoreline was designated a protected National Seashore by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. It encompasses more than 43,600 acres of land, including woodland areas, ponds, and six beaches – including Coast Guard Beach, which consistently ranks among the nation's best beaches. Spend your time here indulging in some of the quintessential things to do in Cape Cod: hiking, cycling, exploring with a local ranger, or simply relaxing on the sand.
Cape Cod is synonymous with seafood so tucking into the local catch had to make our list of the best things to do in Cape Cod. The options are endless, from clam chowder served in sourdough bread bowls to platters piled high with fried clams and, of course, lobster rolls. Head to one of the many seafood shacks, such as ‘The Lobster Pot’ in Provincetown (which is something of an institution in the town) and don't forget to try Cape Cod's unique spin on fish and chips – the cod here is as fresh as it gets. You'll find it served in various forms across the peninsula's restaurants, but we recommend seeking out a cosy, family-owned establishment for the true Cape Cod culinary experience.
Cape Cod's proximity to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary makes it one of the world’s best places to get up close and personal with the giants of the sea. Set sail on a whale-watching tour from Provincetown, Barnstable or Hyannis, and keep your camera ready for breathtaking sightings of humpback, finback and minke whales as they breach and play in the Atlantic.
Just a 45-minute ferry hop from Cape Cod is the idyllic island of Martha’s Vineyard. Plan a day trip to see the photogenic Gay Head Light, a historic lighthouse overlooking the ancient Aquinnah Cliffs; take a whirl on the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest operating platform carousel in America; or stretch out on sleepy beaches. To learn about the island's history, including its whaling heritage and the Indigenous Wampanoag people, head to Martha's Vineyard Museum.
Take in the best of Cape Cod's natural sights and sounds with a day of peddling the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a fantastic 25-mile path connecting six quaint towns from Dennis to Wellfleet. Along the way, it dishes out stunning views of beaches, lush forests, charming New England neighbourhoods, and even picturesque cranberry bogs. Don't worry if you're not a cycling champ; you can also glide on rollerblades, stroll along or get your jog on.
Get ready for a dose of nostalgia at the Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre. The outdoor cinema is the last of its kind on Cape Cod and offers its annual first-run double features on a 100ft screen every night from Memorial Day through to Labor Day. During the summer, it transforms into the bustling Wellfleet Flea Market, an emporium of handmade crafts and vintage treasures.
If you have a smidgen of curiosity for New England's iconic landmarks, you're in luck because Cape Cod boasts a whopping 14 lighthouses. But the star of the show is the Nauset Lighthouse, a real head-turner which still serves as a warning to passing boats. Seasonal tours and signage tell the story of the 19th-century structure, which was relocated from Chatham and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is one of the top things to do in Cape Cod for history lovers, with a wealth of maritime tales to uncover.
Provincetown, affectionately known as P-Town, is the LGBTQ+ heart of Cape Cod. It's one of the most open-minded towns in the U.S. and is famous for the Provincetown Carnival – a fabulous bash that draws crowds of 80,000 every August. But the LGBTQ+ spirit shines all year round. Pay a visit to Atlantic House (also known as ‘A-House’), which is regularly touted as the oldest gay bar in America, or groove at the Boatslip Resort's Tea Dance.