I began the blog a little over two months ago with my first travel post. I was lucky enough to go on three vacations this summer – well, one being a three-day weekend getaway and one being in April – but they count as summer vacations! In that first blog post, I wanted to give you tips on seeing the most prominent sites at our Nation’s Capital in Washington D.C. while only having a weekend and while maintaining a budget.
In this post, I want to tell you how you can spend a great vacation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts while still maintaining a budget, including taking a ferry to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard as well! Halloween is right around the corner and Massachusetts has some of the greatest ghost and historical tours around the town of Salem. All in all, I want to share with you some of my summer vacation tips in Cape Cod while keeping the state on your radar for Fall as well. Look for a Salem post coming up!
Cape Cod itself is made up of many small towns, so depending on what you’re looking for (for instance, nightlife vs. something for children) there’s really something for everyone that won’t break the bank. I stayed in Dennis, the middle section of the Cape. Staying in the middle section is a little more quaint, offering tree-lined streets with multiple mini- golf courses or restaurants to walk to. There isn’t any chain restaurants, but a lot of mom and pop shops instead. It’s a great location geographically to explore going East and then North to Provincetown or explore going West. Towns around Dennis, like Yarmouth and Hyannis are very family-friendly.
Top 10 hotspots:
- The Scargo Tower in Dennis is worth a visit. A wooden tower built on this site in 1874 was one of the Cape’s first tourist attractions; visitors would pay 5¢ to climb to the top for the views. That tower burned down, and the present all-stone 30-foot tower was built in 1901 to replace it.
- West Yarmouth is home to the inflatable water park. Rates here are $31 per person (at the time of this post). Tip: you can make it cheaper by going in the off-season or even summer evenings from 6-10pm for $17 per person. These areas offer many beaches popular for teens, parks for the kids, ice cream shops, mini golf, and water sport rental shops.
- Hyannis is home to an annual hydrangea festival July 7-July 16, 2017 at $5 per person per garden tour.
- The Heritage museums & gardens in Sandwich is 100 acres of gardens, making it the largest public garden in southern New England. It’s more than just gardens, however, with its museum exhibits and an outdoor Adventure Park with tree-to-tree bridges and ziplines. Tickets can be for just the gardens or the adventure park or together into a package.
- If flowers and plants aren’t your thing, Hyannis is also home to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis museum. The museum is open Monday to Saturday 9:00 am-5:00 pm and Sunday 12:00 pm-5:00 pm. Labor Day 9:00am-3:00pm. Tickets are $10 per adult 18 and over.
- If interested in lighthouses, click here for info, as they are spread out throughout Cape Cod.
- For a guide to whale and dolphin-watching, visit the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce for more info.
- A must-see that is decently priced is the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown! The monument commemorates the Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World and their signing of the Mayflower Compact. It has 116 steps and 60 short ramps to the top for a panoramic view.
- So, I cheated for #9. A little far from the Cape, but since Halloween is fast-approaching, don’t forget to check out Salem, Massachusetts. This town is known for its Halloween tours, centered around the 1692 Salem witch trials. There’s also foodie tours, street festivals, and must-see locations where the movie, Hocus Pocus was filmed, for the kids (and my 30-something self too). This blog does a great piece on a self-guided Hocus Pocus tour. More to come on Salem in an upcoming post!
- The islands of Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket – Discussed more below!
Places to stay
Places to stay in Cape Cod vary quite a bit. If you’re looking to stay a couple of days then a hotel, a motel, or a b&b may be best for you. If you’re looking to stay a week or longer, then renting a cottage or cabin may be your best bet. Like with any beach towns, you should reserve something pretty far out for the summer you plan on vacationing. TIP: We rented a house that was not within walking distance to the beach but still a very close drive to other family members who were walking distance to the beach. Our house had four bedrooms and two bathrooms to be able to share and split the cost. This also works best because you get a full kitchen to buy and make your own food instead of eating out every night with a hotel that doesn’t have a kitchenette. Cape Cod really has unlimited options for any budget.
Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket:
There are a few ferries to choose from that transport the locals, daily, to and from Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Day trips for vacationers is a great way to see the sites around Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket while staying in Cape Cod (which is less expensive). We were only able to get to Nantucket in the week we were staying there, and it was a day trip, so I cannot offer personal advice regarding Martha’s Vineyard. What I do know from speaking with locals in Nantucket, is that supposedly the people from Martha’s Vineyard are more laid back than those in Nantucket. The people we spoke with made it sound like they’re two hometown rival football teams, talking smack on one another. Look at this sign I found in a store in Nantucket. I thought it was extremely fitting!
I compared all of the ferry rates and found The Steamship Authority to be the cheapest. We took the high-speed ferry so that it’d only take an hour, leaving in the morning and coming back later at night. They had their own parking lot to keep your car in Cape Cod and then a shuttle to take you to the port – very convenient! At the time we went, tickets were $49 per person for roundtrip.
The recommendations I would give (and the visitors center gave) was to visit the Nantucket Whaling Museum.
Erotica scrimshaw pictured above in the museum.
The views from the top are nothing short of amazing!
The next stop recommended to us by the visitor center was the historic First Congregational Church of Nantucket. The fee here is a suggested $5 donation. Once at the top of the stair climb you get another amazing view of the harbor and town.
Back at the Cape = food!
For waterfront views & family-friendly dining, I loved Tugboats in West Yarmouth. The lobster roll had HUGE chunks of lobster and will not disappoint.
For a broad menu (and those allergic to seafood or shellfish), was this cute place that had every inch decorated in a nautical theme, so I couldn’t resist pictures. We got the seafood tower at Black Cat Tavern. Below is a slideshow, and I need that anchor carpet for my house!
Laid back with beach views and the best steamed littlenecks in wine, try Waydowntown in Provincetown.
Oyster lovers: My bf is an oyster connoisseur, and he swears by The Oyster Company in Dennisport. They are $1.25 each during Happy Hour or before 6:30 (at the time this post was written).
Craving something sweet? Every time we drove past this place, there were lines outside the building and wrapping around, so I pledged that we were going to eventually stop. Try the Cape Cod Creamery for homemade ice cream in Hyannis.
Leave a comment letting me know of your go-to places in the Cape. I have more foodie suggestions as well, so just ask! Be on the lookout for a Salem, Massachusetts post for money-saving traveling tips!