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48 Hours in Cape Cod

by Travelbag on 09 December 2019, 09:12AM

Provincetown Lighthouse

Jutting out of the Massachusetts coast, Cape Cod is the classic New England getaway. Vicki Power explains what you should see and do if you have 48 hours on the 65-mile long peninsula.

Day One

Make your first stop Provincetown and spend the day exploring the town and the surrounding area. Beloved of artists and writers, this is an upmarket and buzzing enclave on the very tip of the Cape, packed with independent cafés, shops, galleries and great restaurants, as well as the charming clapboard houses the area is known for. Take breakfast at Café Heaven on Commercial Street, looking out for local specialties such as banana cornmeal pancakes or eggs Benedict over crab cakes. Watch the day wake up through Heaven’s floor-to-ceiling windows, which overlook Provincetown’s pretty main drag.

Stroll over to Art’s Dune Tours for a bumpy-but-fun one-hour SUV tour over the historic sand dunes of Cape Cod National Seashore Park. Book in advance as the trips sell out, and the dunes are otherwise closed to cars. Your guide will explain the unique ecology of the area and point out some of the 19 remote shacks that were once sanctuaries to artists and writers, including Jackson Pollock, Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams. Get snapping – atmospheric viewpoints abound.

Make your way back to Commercial Street and get ready to splash some cash. There are lots of cool boutiques here, such as Marine Specialties, Inc – a warehouse packed to the rafters with oddities, including nautical gewgaws and vintage finds. Splurge on art at one of dozens of galleries – try Julie Tremblay Gallery, full of affordable photographs of Cape life. Stop by the exhibitions at Provincetown Art Association and Museum, which celebrate the region’s justified reputation for art. Grab lunch at The Canteen on Commercial Street and chow down on the lobster roll – a melt-in-the-mouth Cape delicacy made using freshly shucked lobster. For a post-lunch workout, head to Provincetown Bike Rentals on Bradford Street and embark on an invigorating, self-guided tour of the Outer Cape’s lighthouses and beaches. Electric bikes are available if you’d rather not sweat it out.

The biggest collection of beacons – Race Point Light House, Wood End Light and Long Point Light – is found on the Cape’s northern tip. But on your travels south tomorrow, make a point of stopping at Highland Light, which dates from 1857 and is recognisable from the paintings of Edward Hopper. Or you can save your lighthouse sight-seeing until just before dusk. Make your way to Race Point Beach to join others viewing the incomparable sunset. For dinner, we recommend The Lobster Pot, a cheerful waterfront spot where the seafood is fresh and plentiful, and whose dining rooms offer a fabulous harbour view. Or break the budget at The Mews Restaurant, where celebs go for high-end nosh.

Cape Cod Sand Dunes

 

Day Two

After breakfast, hit the road and check out a couple of the Cape’s small villages, where British-style B&Bs and rugged beaches add to the charm. Head south, to the pretty town of Chatham. Park up and stroll down Main Street – shops such as Yankee Ingenuity and The Mayflower are perfect for gifts and souvenirs. For a mid-morning coffee, try the Public Café or Chatham Perk. Enjoy a walk from the town centre to Chatham’s lighthouse, about a mile away, past rows of clapboard and wood shingle houses. Many feature plaques celebrating former residents, some of whom were distinguished seafarers – a nod to the whaling, fishing and sailing industries that once sustained Cape life.

You’ll reach Chatham Lighthouse Beach, where unpredictable currents and sharks (yes, really) make swimming hazardous – so it’s best to walk along the sand and admire the splendid ocean view from afar. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch sight of migrating seals and fishing boats. If it’s open, why not climb the lighthouse for an even better view? Having worked up an appetite, walk back to the village and make for buzzy local eatery Bistro on Main, where a pound of local mussels and French fries will set you up for the afternoon. Then hop in the car and motor to Falmouth – another pretty town set around a village green with mature trees. There’s plenty to distract you here, from the shops on Main Street to afternoon treats at Molly’s Tea Room, where the Queen’s Luncheon offers a US take on tea and scones.

If yesterday’s bike ride whet your appetite, rent a two-wheeler at Corner Cycle and venture out on the Shining Sea Bikeway – 11 miles of paved trails starting at Falmouth that run past cranberry bogs and Salt Marsh Bird Sanctuary down to Woods Hole. The Cape is flat and uniquely suited to biking, with 114 miles of dedicated bike trails. In high season, make sure you’re back in town in time for a two-hour sunset sailboat cruise on Liberte, a 77-foot schooner docked next to Jim’s Clam Shack. Chow down on a fresh clam strip roll before boarding the boat. Feel the wind in your hair as the captain takes you gliding over the gentle waters of Nantucket Sound – you’ll enjoy sigh-inducing views of Falmouth, Nobska Lighthouse and Martha’s Vineyard, as well as a glorious sunset. There’s a bar onboard if you fancy a refreshing tipple, but even after you dock back in Falmouth, the night will still be young. It’s just a short drive to The British Beer Company – a pub and restaurant opposite the beach that offers a raft of local craft beers. As you chink glasses, salute yourself on having made the most of your two-day excursion to Cape Cod, and make a vow to come back soon.

Cape Cod Sunset

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