Planning a Cape Cod Vacation

Visit the Massachusetts peninsula where the Pilgrims first set foot in their new home.

Quaint Cape Cod juts into the Atlantic before curving northward. To explore its nooks and crannies, we recommend sampling a 160-mile circuitous route on your Cape Cod vacation.

Provincetown is at the northern tip of Cape Cod

Photo: iStock

Begin at the Pilgrims’ settlement in Plymouth and follow Route 3 south to the Sagamore Bridge, an engineering marvel when it opened in 1935. Cross the bridge into Sagamore, where you can see artisans’ handiwork at Pairpoint Glass, the nation’s oldest glassworks; it opened in 1837.

In nearby Sandwich, the Cape’s oldest town, the Thornton W. Burgess Museum pays homage to its native son, who penned the classic children’s story The Adventures of Peter Cottontail.

Heading east on Route 6A, the road meanders through the quintessential Cape villages of Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis and Brewster. This area is known for hip boutiques and smooth beaches, and it’s dotted by weathered-shingled cottages, quaint bed-and-breakfasts and sprawling resorts. But you can still find freshwater ponds and lakes; there are several at Nickerson State Park in Brewster.

Cape Cod National Seashore
North of Orleans, Route 6 runs up the Outer Cape and the rugged fishing villages of Eastham, where you’ll find an entrance to the Cape Cod National Seashore. When Henry David Thoreau visited the shore of Cape Cod in the mid-1800s, he wrote that “A man may stand there and put all of America behind him.” A century later, President John F. Kennedy designated that same land as the Cape Cod National Seashore, which encompasses more than 44,000 acres of pristine beaches and marshland on the Commonwealth’s easternmost edge.

Farther up Route 6A, you’ll hit Wellfleet, where you’ll find the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary; and Truro, the breathtaking dunes of which are a timeless testament to the Atlantic Ocean’s relentless power and a must-see on any Cape Cod vacation.

With its windswept vistas and haunting light, Provincetown at the Cape’s northern tip has long been an inspiration to artists of every medium, including actors, writers and playwrights. Provincetown was the first spot where the Pilgrims landed. A commemorative 252-foot-high Pilgrim monument marks the event.

View of Nantucket Sound from the Nobska Point Lighthouse in Woods Hole

Photo: iStock

Woods Hole
South of Orleans, the road veers onto Route 28, passing through Chatham on the Cape’s “elbow.” Then it winds along the southern shores of Nantucket Sound. This stretch is a shopper’s delight, with stores selling everything from pure kitsch to high-art. The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum pays tribute to the 35th president as well as his illustrious family. The museum also houses Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame’s memorabilia. The 10-team wooden-bat league, which dates back to 1885, still plays today. Catch a game on your Cape Cod vacation.

Falmouth, a former shipbuilding and whaling center on Route 28, is the gateway to Woods Hole, site of several marine research centers.

Martha’s Vineyard
It’s a short ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard from Woods Hole. Famous celebs mix with residents at the Offshore Ale Company or Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Cafe & Bakery in Oak Bluffs (try the Back Door Donuts). For privacy, head west to the cliffs at Aquinnah, where the salt air will refresh you.

The experts at AAA Travel make it easy to explore Cape Cod—and the rest of New England. Call 877-396-7159 or contact a AAA Travel Counselor to start planning.

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Marco Ruiz, AAA Travel Counselor, Monterey, Calif.

I love to suggest Italy and Spain because of the culture and the flair of the people–their fashions, language and way of life. They take time to enjoy life's pleasures. When you're there, you feel it, too.

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