Summering on the Cape—a phrase that evokes visions of chinos and clambakes. Both can still be found on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, along with family-friendly beaches, a stunning national seashore, and top-notch lobster rolls. Before the weather starts to cool, take a long weekend road trip exploring the coastline, which winds past cedar shake homes and hydrangea-encrusted hamlets. Seersucker jackets not required.
Day 1: Mid-Cape
Play Relax on one of the Cape’s 60 public beaches. Looking for more action? Go shellfishing. Yes, you too, can shellfish. Each Sunday the town of Yarmouth designates a site where you may dig with the proper permit. Or day-trip north, to Wellfleet, the oyster capital of Cape Cod. All you need is a license, a sharp eye, and a bucket. Patience and good shoes help as well. If oystering sounds daunting, hop on a kayak and explore the marshes in West Dennis.
Sip and Snack Stop by The Skipper to taste award-winning clam chowder or sip a dark and stormy while watching dusk fall over boats at the Summer Shanty. Sample local ice cream at the Cape Cod Creamery or the Sundae School, which serves made-on-premises flavors inside a historic barn designed as an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.
Dine For one of the best lobster rolls on the Cape, head to Sesuit Harbor Cafe, hidden at the back of a marina, behind stacks of dry docked boats. Lines form early for this cafe, favored by locals and visitors alike. Bring cash and your own wine or beer, and be ready to settle into a picnic table with an overflowing lobster roll.
Evening Discover baseball’s next all-star at the Cape Cod Baseball League. You might find yourself sitting next to a major league scout– one in seven current MLB players spent time in the CCBL.
Day 2: Nantucket
Rise early and catch the Hy-Line high-speed ferry for a one-hour boat ride to Nantucket. Cobblestone streets and dramatic bluffs draw visitors across the Hyannis Harbor to the island.
Dine Arriving in the downtown harbor, head past the t-shirt shops and join locals at Downyflake for made-from-scratch donuts or sample tempting pastries at the new Petticoat Row Bakery on Centre Street. For lunch, grab a sandwich to go at Provisions and sit at the harbor to watch yachts of all sizes dock.
Wander Walk off your breakfast indulgences around the village of Siasconset. Locally known as ‘Sconset, you’ll find the village on the east end of Nantucket. Stroll along the Bluff Walk, a romantic trail where bluffs fade into the ocean and paths tiptoe past cedar shake residences.
Shop Fill an afternoon with shopping at the clothing boutiques. The ubitquious Nantucket Reds are still found at Murray’s Toggery Shop. Current Vintage sells contemporary men’s and women’s clothing, home goods, as well as small batch wines. On Main Street stop at Vis-à-vis, for women’s casual luxury clothing, unique jewerly, and modern home goods.
Evening Before heading home for the evening, sample dishes from Nantucket’s critically acclaimed restaurants like Oran Mor, Le Languedoc, Dune, The Pearl, or Straight Wharf. If multiple courses sound like too big of a commitment, slide into the bar at The Boarding House, an island favorite serving farm-to-table cuisine. Delicately fried oysters and buttery rare tuna are the highlights of a short but impressive list of appetizers.
Day 3: Dunes and Provincetown
Dine The day will be busy, so head to Chatham and fuel up at the airport. Yes, the airport. Hangar B serves breakfast and lunch six days a week. Biscuits and pastries are made from scratch here and the menu is chock-full of locally sourced foods. Or if you prefer breakfast on the go, stop at PB Boulangerie Bistro, on the roadside of Route 6 in Wellfleet, for buttery pastries.
Wander Drive North on Route 6 and stay alert so you don’t miss Snail Road and the amazing hike it offers. Stop at the intersection marked by a small sign, “To Route 6A, Provincetown,” and park in the small lot on the right. A sandy entrance takes you through a wooded path from which you’ll begin your hike along towering sand dunes. A strenuous climb provides a big payoff at the top where you’ll be able to see the ocean and as far as downtown Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument.
Sip After a long day of hiking, relax on the patio at the Nor’east Beer Garden. The Nor’east has an extensive draft and bottle list, such as Berkshire Brewing Co.’s aged Scotch ale, Ommegang Rare Vos, and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel. Tight tables encourage you to chat with neighboring patrons.
Evening Skip dinner in Provincetown and drive south on the arm of the Cape. Stop in Wellfleet, order a gourmet pizza from Red Barn Pizza, and head to the movies. Wellfleet Cinemas is the Cape’s only drive-in movie theater. Eat under the stars and watch first-run movie releases from the comfort of your car.
Leave the Cape knowing you squeezed in a small taste of all it offers, and start booking your next trip. Maybe even pack your trademark Nantucket faded, red chinos for next time.
Sarah Polger is a senior photography editor for National Geographic Digital Media.