5 Best Things to Do on Cape Cod | The Outer Cape

Only have a day or two on the Outer Cape? From whale watching to wine tasting to exploring the seashore, here are five of the best things to do on Cape Cod.

By Yankee Staff

Jun 28 2022


Wood End Light, Provincetown, Massachusetts

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Please check with individual businesses and organizations for the latest information before making travel plans.
After taking a 30-mile walk along Cape Cod’s outer shore in 1849, Henry David Thoreau predicted that the wild and beautiful place he saw would be “a place of resort for those New Englanders who really wish to visit the seaside.” And in fact all of Cape Cod, the famed Massachusetts peninsula wrapped with more than 500 miles of coastline, is today a seaside hot spot for travelers from New England and around the world. It has four distinctive regions — Upper Cape, Mid-Cape, Lower Cape, and Outer Cape — each of which could easily serve as home base for vacationing and exploring. Today, though, we’ll focus on the Outer Cape, which stretches like a forearm from the “elbow” of the Lower to end in a curled “fist” at the northern tip of the peninsula. The Outer Cape is home to fine beaches, great biking and birdwatching, lighthouses, art galleries and restaurants — not to mention a one-of-a-kind dune tour. You could easily spend a week or more exploring this stunning seaside retreat, but if you have just a day or two, here are the five best things to do on Cape Cod.
5 Best Things to Do on Cape Cod | The Outer Cape
A hike through the Cape Cod National Seashore leads to this classic view of Wood End Light in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

5 Best Things to Do on Cape Cod | The Outer Cape

Cape Cod National Seashore

Created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy and operated by the National Park Service, the Cape Cod National Seashore stretches for 40 miles around curve of the Outer Cape from Orleans to Provincetown. Outdoor enthusiasts can find endless ways to make their fresh-air escape in these 44,000 pristine acres. Kettle ponds and ocean beaches invite sunbathing and swimming. Cyclists can choose from three bike paths, including the Province Lands Bike Trail, a paved 5.5-mile scenic loop with views of open dunes, forest, and beach. There are hikes ranging from 15-minute strolls to hour-plus walks, with one three-to-five-hour hike for the most ambitious. And if you don’t even feel like getting out of the car, Ocean View Drive in Eastham hugs both sea and marsh, and leads to historic lighthouses.

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch

Six miles out to sea from Provincetown lies Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a massive nutrient-rich mesa that offers a smorgasbord for humpbacks, finbacks, and minkes. From spring to fall you can see these gentle giants up close on a trip with Provincetown’s Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, which lays claim to being the originator of East Coast whale watching. On these three-to-four-hour trips, experienced naturalists are on hand to share stories and scientific lore to enhance passengers’ awareness of whales, marine life, and the habitat surrounding Cape Cod.

Truro Vineyards

Using grapes from its five-acre property just a stone’s throw from the ocean, as well as varietals sourced from around the country, Truro Vineyards offers wines ranging from cabernet francs to sauvignon blancs (and even has a “Lighthouse” family of vintages that come in lighthouse-shaped bottles). It also recently opened an on-site distillery, South Hollow Spirits. Visitors are welcome to come for a tasting and some relaxing on the idyllic grounds. Crush Pad, a food truck run by beloved local restaurant Blackfish, provides tasty fare, and there’s a bonus for art lovers: The 1813 farmhouse that holds the gift shop was once immortalized by Edward Hopper (Rich’s House, 1930), and it’s one of the few buildings he painted on the Outer Cape that are open to the public today.

Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre

While the drive-in has faded into memory in communities across New England, in Wellfleet this summer icon (it opened in 1957) is alive and well. Big cars, small trucks — they all parade into the lot, and moms and dads pour out of those cars to set up shop for the evening. Out come the beach chairs. Then the coolers of cold drinks. Kids collect small wads of dollar bills to buy candy at the snack shack. Then, as darkness descends, the scene grows still and everyone, locals and tourists alike, settle in to watch the featured attraction. Forget streaming services and multiplexes: The best moviegoing experience on the Cape still happens at the Wellfleet.

Seafood al Fresco

Clams, scallops, lobster — no matter how it’s prepared, somehow seafood just tastes better out in the fresh, salty air. You can’t go wrong with PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet, which Yankee food editor Amy Traverso once called “the Boston Whaler of restaurants: reliable, innovative, unsinkable.” There’s seating on an airy covered patio, or take your order to go and find a sunny seaside spot for picnicking. Another favorite in Wellfleet is Mac’s on the Pier, located right so close to the water that the picnic tables are planted in the sand; the lobster roll is a standout, as are the water views. And Eastham is home to the venerable clam shack Arnold’s, where more than two dozen picnic tables await diners ready to feast on lobsters, steamers, mussels, clam chowder, and other delicacies. This post was first published in 2020 and has been updated. 

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