Hello from Cape Cod! I am on vacation this week, so will be recirculating some of my most popular posts from over the years all week long. As I’m here on the Cape and always get asked for recommendations for what to do, where to stay, and so on and so forth, I thought it would be fitting to kick off the week with my Cape Cod travel guide.
Cape Cod Travel Guide
Many of you know that I grew up in Dennis, Massachusetts (a small town in the middle of Cape Cod.) One of the questions I get most is where to go on the Cape… so I thought I’d put together a little guide for you. I originally published this piece in 2014 but have kept it updated over the years. (last update: July 2021)
I am obviously a little bit biased here as I grew up in Dennis, so naturally I think that Dennis is the best part of the Cape. Everyone who is from Cape Cod thinks that their town has the best beaches, but Dennis actually does (sorry, Chatham and Orleans.) And the best beach in Dennis (far and away) is Mayflower Beach. Really, it is just the best beach ever. You’ll see when you get there, but it’s my happiest place. Stretches of powdery white sand and when the tide goes out it feels like the beach just goes on and on forever. If you have four wheel drive, go to Chapin Beach. It’s right next to Mayflower but really fun to drive onto.
Lunch & Snacks:
The Merc in Dennis Village has the yummiest sandwiches ever. I’ve been known to stop in for iced coffee (their coffee is really good), sandwiches (and sometimes a China cookie) before a day at the beach. I’m partial to “The Veggie” on multigrain. It’s the most scrumptious, filling sandwich… every vegetable you can imagine with havarti cheese. My mom is a big fan of the chicken salad + apple sandwich. The broccoli salad is also to die for. They’ve been making it for decades (seriously) and it’s always exactly the same — incredible.
Sesuit Cafe in East Dennis makes the best lobster roll you will ever eat. It’s expensive (around $18, I think?) but it basically has an entire lobster in it. (see below photo!) It’s an absolute must-do while you are visiting. It’s BYOB, so pick up a bottle or two of wine beforehand and have a little picnic. Our favorite thing to do is sit at the raw bar and order oysters + littlenecks. They’ll also let you order a lobster roll there which means skipping the line. There are only 5 seats so it can be hard to get a spot but if you do, it’s the best!
Captain Frosty’s has my favorite seafood. I don’t eat fried food but when I do, you an find me at Frosty’s, munching on clam fritters and sucking down an Orange Freeze (the yummiest, creamsicle concoction – I can’t go home without getting one!)
Kender & Sisters just opened up a few years ago and they have the best wood fired pizzas! Also the pulled pork sandwich is insanely good. My dad is obsessed and he knows his food.
My parents sold their restaurant, The Red Pheasant! It recently opened up under new management as Pheasant (by a sweet couple in their thirties) and the food is fantastic. They’re doing a farm to table concept and the cocktail list is incredible. I love the brick chicken and the clam pasta.
Inaho is our favorite favorite spot for sushi. Everything there is so so good. Like, so good. The scallop sashimi is fantastic.
Encore is the new restaurant at The Cape Playhouse (a great spot to see a show!) The food is very good.
Grill 43 is my one of my parents’ favorite restaurants – it’s the old Abici and looks very good.
The Seagrill is our favorite place to eat right now, but for something fancy (and usually we are pretty casual when I’m home). If you’re looking for a fancy night out this is the place to go. Everything is amazing.
What to do!
If I had my way, I’d just stay in the hammock all day when I’m home, but trips to Chatham and Orleans are also really fun.
If you head to Chatham, go to the lighthouse, and take a stroll on the beach. Lunch at the Chatham Squire is a must (think beer, oysters, and more seafood) or if you are feeling a bit more fancy, go to the Chatham Bars Inn. (The Chatham Bars Inn is one of the nicest hotels on the Cape too… chances are, you know someone who has gotten married there.) I love shopping along the main street. Midsummer Nights is one of my favorite little stores (they stock a bunch of my favorite designers like DVF + Tory Burch) but also the most gorgeous stuff for home (I love their candles + bought all my Turkish bath towels there.) I also really love grabbing ice cream or buying some salt water taffy at the Chatham Candy Manor.
And if you go to Orleans, you have to get lunch at The Land Ho. Their clam chowder is so delicious and it’s just a really fun spot. My favorite vintage store (in the world… way better, and better prices than here in New York) is also in Orleans — every time I go, I end up with a new beaded handbag, pair of oversized clip on earrings, or fur stole. I buy all of my furs there (cheap!) and have gotten some really fun costume jewelry and coats there as well. They have an entire bridal shop too. On the way home, stop at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow. Seriously good coffee – and their chocolate covered oreos are insanely delicious.
Lastly, what to do at night! I love grabbing cocktails (and hitting the raw bar) at Chapin’s. They have a great outdoor space and it’s always low key + casual. Harvest Wine Bar in Dennis is really nice, too. Yummy appetizers + snacks and really great wine. They almost have live music (fun fact – my dad sometimes plays there with his band!) and it’s just a nice but chill place to hang out. For the longest time, there weren’t any good wine bars on the Cape so this spot really filled a (necessary!) void.
I also am a little bit obsessed with The Woodshed in Brewster. They almost always have great music playing, and it’s dive-y + fun. It’s where all the locals go. When I was younger I lived at The Improper Bostonian during the summer… live music and lots of dancing. I have a lot of great memories from the nights I spent there… but don’t really go back there anymore… I’m too old! 😉
I didn’t mention Provincetown because I don’t get out there a lot, but that is a really fun day trip… other than that, these are all my “spots” in one place!
Do you have any favorite spots? Leave ’em in the comments section!
I dated a guy with family in Orleans, and totally forgot about visiting the Hot Chocolate Sparrow when we were there- truly a little gem of a place! And that lobster roll…my goodness, heaven in a roll!
Looks so idyllic! That lobster roll is so mouth watering! Congratulations to your parents for their awards – definitely no reason to recommend anywhere else!
You are making me crave a trip to the Cape! So many great spots. And I plan on sitting in a hammock in NH and crushing the two books that have been sitting on my desk ALL summer. XOXO
Such a great post! Has me itching to take a weekend getaway! xx
Awesome!! it’s so cool that your parents have a restaurant!! I want to go.
A Hint of Life
Sounds like foodie heaven with a beach! I’m definitely putting the Cape on my list.
so beautiful ! i want to go there someday! xo jillian – cornflake dreams
YES CAPE COD. Spent every summer of my life in East Orleans (worked at Fancy’s Farm Stand and the Orleans Yacht Club; drove out on Nauset Beach every Saturday and Sunday at 7am; spoiled for life.)
Just seeing your mention of the Woodshed (YES. A thousand times yes.) and the Land Ho chowder (YUM) made me so happy. Also, The Red Pheasant was my parents’ favorite no-kids date night when we were growing up and I have since taken my husband to keep the tradition alive!
I might add Sir Cricket’s as a fried food destination in Orleans, and the Beachcomber and Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet as two of my personal favorites 🙂
How on earth did I miss the Beachcomber? MAJOR oversight… haha. But I need to check out Sir Cricket’s. And totally agree… we are 100% spoiled for life. 😉
Love this! Lobster rolls are my favorite!!
I’m radicoulously happy Captain Frosty’s made your list. It’s been one of my favorites since I was a child. 🙂
Ahhh it’s the best!!!
Definitely a YES to Mayflower Beach! Used to love walking when the tide was out, and searching for sand dollars. Also another yes to The Chocolate Sparrow! Love their frozen hot chocolate! Yum! Btw, The Land Ho in Harwich is equally is nice. I am partial to that one, because I am a resident there.
Love these photos! I would love to go to Cape Cod!
Ellen | A Pop of Pink
Your wrap up of Cape Cod is fantastic! I grew up spending summers in Dennisport, and you mentioned all my favorite places (except for Sundae School)! The jetty at Cold Storage Beach in Sesuit Harbor is my favorite place on earth.
Crazy – I have been reading your blog for ages and never knew your parents were the owners of the Red Pheasant, or “The Phez” as my mom and I call it! It is her favorite restaurant. She lives in Brewster and Denise (your mom, I guess!) and many of the servers know her well! We always go when I’m visiting her, and I ALWAYS get the sole meuniere and ask for extra gougeres! What a fabulous family you have!
Oh my gosh what a small world! This comment makes me so happy… I love it! Yup, The Red Phez! And my mom is Denise. Dying! The Sole is SO GOOD and I always ask for extra gougeres too!
I’m headed to the Cape on Saturday! We stay in Chatham. Thanks for the pointers.
You nailed it Grace. And yes, Dennis beaches are the best. And I love all your suggestions!!! I 100% agree!!!
I love this travel guide! I grew up spending summers in South Dennis and my in-laws live in Wellfleet year-round now so we spend a lot of time up there too. Huge fan of Land ho and I’m going to find that vintage place next time we’re up there. We’re also huge fans of The Red Inn since we got married there 🙂
We’re going to Cape Cod for the first time ever. This post is so helpful, but I’m curious if you have any recommendations regarding where to stay. Thanks!
I love Scargo Manor! It’s a B&B right next to my family restaurant! xx
So random that I found this! We grew up down 6A a bit, but I worked at The Pilot House (which is now Scargo Cafe) and we used to order to-go desserts from The Red Pheasant! It was mousse in a chocolate cup. Best. Dessert.Ever. Please thank your parents 🙂
And so much yes to all the others, Capt Frosty’s, Inaho, Sesuit Cafe, Harvest, The Woodshed……
Aw that makes me so happy! My mom loved hearing this, too!
Your recommendations are spot on. I had the sesuit lobster roll for the first time this year, it is easily the best out there. Next time you are in Wellfleet – Mac’s Shack! (their sushi rivals inaho for best on cape, IMO!) I feel like you would just love Wellfleet Harbor / the little downtown – the art gallery / local art scene is excellent.
By the way – I believe Chapin Beach has been closed to Oversand vehicles. (Crowes is open, but anyone with 4 wheel drive can’t just head out for the day, you need a special pass from town hall.) However, Chapin is just like Mayflower in that you can pay to hit up the parking lot!
This makes me so happy – glad you had a great time!!!
That’s so sad re: Chapin Beach. I need to update my post!
If you need a Ptown travel guide … here is mine! (I’ve owned a home there since 2016.)
Things to do:
Art’s Dune Tours – super fun & informative tour of the historic dunes in Ptown/Truro. Trucks leave from Ptown center. We love doing this. This is the only way to see the dunes … and the cabin from which Tennessee Williams did some of his writing! Jack Kerouc, Jackson Pollack, Norman Mailer and Eugene O’Neill all spent time here as well!
Truro Vineyards – TONS of outdoor seating that is VERY socially distanced. Taste good wine and spirits made right there while enjoying lunch from the food truck that is parked on the premises daily. As they say on their site, “Accepting reservations and walk-ins, always pet friendly!!” We always bring the dogs with us.
PAAM – If it’s hot & you’re looking to escape somewhere cool, the Ptown Art Assoc Museum is lovely. Not too pricey & some lovely art. Last I saw, you had to reserve timed tickets, but I don’t think they get that busy so I’m guessing same day tickets would be an option.
The Pilgrim Monument is the famous monument in town. Climb to the top … the views are incredible on clear days! They are building a tiny funicular from Town Hall to the Monument right now. Not sure when it’s opening, but it’s sometime this summer.
This next suggestion may seem random, but the Provincetown Public Library building is pretty gorgeous. The best part is the full scale model of the famous Rose Dorothea ship that is built inside the library. Worth a stop inside just to see that.
You can take Whale Watches from the Ptown pier if you’re into that sort of thing, but I much prefer a sail on the Schooner Hindu.
Ptown is famous for its many and varied art galleries. Always fun to just walk up & down Commercial St and pop into the galleries. Our favorites are Cortile, Julie Tremblay and Kobalt but we love others as well.
There is an awesome and fully paved bike trial system in the Ptown National Seashore. Parking at the Province Lands Visitor Center would probably be easiest for this.
Places to Eat
Canteen – Counter-service eats with first-come, first-serve beach seating & casual fare.
Central House Restaurant at the Crown & Anchor Hotel – Offers simple and refined delicious food featuring local, seasonal ingredients. We love the atmosphere here and there is tons of outdoor seating + seating on the open sided porch which is covered and has ceiling fans.
Joe Coffee – Great baked goods. Great coffee. Line gets LONG in the summer, so download the Toast App on your phone & place a mobile pickup order! It’s the best coffee shop in town, IMHO.
Liz’s Café – Refined New American cooking & cocktails by night, elevated omelets by day in a rustic-chic cottage. Great outdoor seating. No reservations for brunch, but can make them for dinner.
Nor’East Beer Garden – Name is a bit of a misnomer. Seasonal outpost serving craft beers, cocktails & amazing tapas fare in a cozy, all outdoors setting.
Patio American Grill – Stylish spot with ample outdoor seating & a diverse menu showcasing seafood. The haddock ceviche is to die for!! Great tuna tartare too. On Open Table.
Pepe’s Wharf – A Ptown landmark waterfront restaurant for lunch, dinner, or cocktails with awesome deck seating with sweeping ocean views. On Open Table.
The Pointe Restaurant – Farm-to-table fare, including seafood & steak, plus wine, craft beer & cocktails. Plenty of outdoor tables. On Open Table.
Provincetown Brewing Company – Only brewery in town. A taproom with personality, a great menu and lots of events. Outdoor patio perfect for eating & drinking with your pups.
Relish – Bakery, sandwiches & coffee
Sal’s Place – Only Italian restaurant in town with a deck on the water. Love their food.
Spindler’s – Chef Barbara Lynch’s restaurant focused on classic, French-style cuisine with Italian soul and the freshest of local ingredients. Plenty of outdoor seating in the courtyard + there is an upstairs covered deck. On Resy.
Victor’s – Cottage-like spot offering seafood-driven New American small plates, a raw bar, happy hour & brunch. Nicely covered outdoor seating area.
For premade meals & good to-go options:
Far Land Provisions – All-day deli/bakery offering sandwiches & light fare, plus specialty grocery items.
This is great, Grace. Thank you! As a Harwichport person, I’m a bit biased, but I would add 3 Monkeys and the Port. I also love Fin in Dennis.
The Corner Store (locations in Chatham and Orleans) has ridiculously good burritos.
Also, Midsummer Nights closed:( It was so good, but there are still lots of great shops in Chatham.
Thanks Grace. Any suggestions on the actual trip of getting to the cape? I hear the traffic is terrible. Do you drive or fly?
I personally always fly! The traffic is bad. I should note that I don’t have a drivers license, but I don’t take the bus either (also an option, there’s no train.)
Love this list! I would add Thoreau’s at the Wequassett resort for an upscale (but not stuffy) cocktail, and The Beachcomber in Wellfleet for a classic, casual, good time in the dunes (Goombay Smash, raw bar, and the best fried scallops on the planet for my ultimate trifecta of joy).
Have a lovely visit!
While we visit our family in Yarmouth Port, we always spend a week in our beloved Ptown, as well. So many great places. And, well…it’s Provincetown!