9 Reasons Why We Love Cape Cod: Things to See

Pirate’s booty, towering views, gee-whiz science centers, unbeatable sunsets, and more. Here are some of our favorite things to see on Cape Cod.

By Yankee Magazine

Apr 10 2019


A bird’s-eye view of Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument, the tallest all-granite structure in the country.

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
There are so many reasons to make a summer escape to the Cape and Islands, in fact, that we filled more than two dozen pages of Yankee’s May/June issue with a selection of our favorites, including things to eat and things to do. Here’s a look at some of our favorite things to see on Cape Cod.

Favorite Things to See on Cape Cod

A bird’s-eye view of Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument, the tallest granite structure in the U.S.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

The Pilgrim-Inspired Panorama

Traversing 60 ramps and 116 steps may sound daunting, but summiting Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument takes only about 10 minutes at a leisurely pace (longer, if you pause to examine the many interior stones inscribed with the names of U.S. cities that donated them). At the top of the 252-foot tribute to the Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World, in Provincetown, you’ll be rewarded with a vista that on clear days stretches all the way to Boston. 


Museums That Put the Odd in Cape Cod

Though generally not known for the outlandish, the Cape does have a few worthy oddities among its attractions. The Cahoon Museum of American Art, a seemingly run-of-the-mill farmhouse in Cotuit, is filled with whimsical paintings by the late neoprimitive artists Martha and Ralph Cahoon (think: mermaids on a Ferris wheel). Yarmouth Port’s Edward Gorey House, where the famed artist with the Gothic sense of humor lived until he died in 2000, bursts at the seams with his quirky illustrations. And last but not least, the Susan Baker Memorial Museum in North Truro is the entertaining creation of a noted local humorist-painter who decided not to wait until her death for a museum of her own.


The Artistry of Faith

With so much natural wonder to be found on Cape Cod, it may come as a surprise to walk into the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans and be almost overcome by the richness of what human hands have made: the mosaic floor, the painted frescoes. And when you attend an organ concert here, the church’s unique surround sound will create a memory that will stay with you forever. 

Byzantine-style mosaics fill the Church of the Transfiguration in Orleans.
Photo Credit : Robert Benson


Science Is Happening!

Although Woods Hole boasts one of the nation’s most photographed lighthouses (Nobska), its true wonder is the scores of scientists who come here to further our understanding of the ocean and the life it holds. Their work at such places as the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will help the world make crucial decisions about climate change. Guided tours give a glimpse of the men and women engaged in research that has never been so important.


The Private Garden That’s an Eden for Everyone

Worthy gardens dot the Cape, including the granddaddy 100-acre Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, but Spohr Gardens in Woods Hole is an unparalleled waterfront oasis that feels like a hidden treasure. Thanks to benefactors Charles and Margaret Spohr, this spectacular six-acre private garden is yours to wander, free. More than 100,000 daffodils bloom in spring, followed by lilies, azaleas, magnolias, and hydrangeas. Heading down to the iris garden by the water, you’ll share the wide paths with geese and ducks. 


Race Point Beach at Sunset

There’s an unmatched quality to the light in the Cape and Islands, a special glow where sea meets the sky. But when daylight recedes, the real drama begins. Before sunset at Race Point Beach in Provincetown, people arrive with blankets, and those with permits stoke bonfires. As the sun sinks into the sea, the sky flames red and orange; on the beach, embers leap skyward. Soon darkness settles in. The sky fills with stars. A perfect summer day comes to an end.

Thanks to its location on the northwestern tip of the Cape, Race Point offers a front-row seat to sunset vistas.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming


Every Day There’s a Boat Parade

Hanging by the canal, checking out marine traffic? Yup. It’s a thing. On an average summer day, between 200 and 300 boats will pass through the Cape Cod Canal—from a 20-foot skiff to a cargo carrier. You’ll see tugboats, barges, fishing vessels, and pleasure yachts. Cruise ships, too. They usually pass through at night, when they’re all lit up. The paved pathways that run along both sides of the canal are wheelchair-, stroller-, bicycle-, and pedestrian-friendly.



Wrecked off Cape Cod in 1717 while carrying treasure from 50 plundered ships, the Whydah Gally was discovered in 1984 by underwater adventurer and Provincetown resident Barry Clifford. And at the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, you can see the booty! Coins, cannons, handmade weapons, and even a leg bone are part of a fascinating collection drawn from the more than 200,000 artifacts Clifford and his team have recovered. And if you’re really into the undersea-adventure angle, check out the Expedition Whydah Sea Lab and Learning Center in P-town, which serves as the headquarters for the ongoing exploration.


They’re Happy to School You on Sharks

As the only site in the North Atlantic where great white sharks reliably gather, Cape Cod has long known the importance of understanding these fearsome and fascinating summer visitors. A leader in separating fact from fiction is the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, which not only conducts research but also works for public safety and education. Stop in at its Chatham Shark Center to take a virtual-reality swim with sharks, snap a selfie in a diving cage, and support the conservancy’s mission with a one-of-a-kind souvenir from its gift shop. (Our pick? The drink cozy that reads “You’re Going to Need a Bigger Beer.”)

More Yankee Cape & Islands Love: 63 Reasons Why We Love the Cape & Islands