Mark and I just got back from what we agreed upon was our best vacation yet. He and I have gone on many trips, the most exciting include Nashville, Puerto Rico, Florida and Acadia National Park, but this local trip to Cape Cod took the top spot.
So what was so special about a local vacation just an hour and a half away from home versus the lively cities and national parks? Low stress. No crowded bars to squish into late into the night, no tourist ridden sites to see, and no long list of hiking trails to cram into one day. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bar, historical site, and breathtaking view, but a vacation without rushing and agendas was very welcome.
Below is a list of activities we did on vacation. You can do these activities, not only on your next Cape vacation, but any beach vacation!
Sweetwater Forest Campground
Yes, we camped in a tent for the WHOLE week! We have traveled to a few campsites down the Cape, but this was my favorite. It was so big and had something for every style of camping you want: seasonal trailers, full hookups, water and electricity, or primitive tent sites.
We had water and electricity and it cost $50 a night. After accounting for the cost of firewood and ice to keep the cooler cold all week, it is still an incredibly affordable option.
The store was equipped with the necessities (firewood, ice coffee, groceries, papergoods), there was a Wi-Fi café, mini golf course, yard games and playground. During non-COVID years they have a lodge for evening events, arcade, and other family activities.
We lucked out that we had great weather (it briefly rained two mornings, and the rain was light). If you’re willing to gamble with the weather and have a good air mattress, camping is a great option!
Deep Sea Fishing
I was incredibly nervous to go deep sea fishing. Mostly, I was nervous about getting sea sick and being stuck on a boat for hours at a time. I took some measures to prevent this: didn’t drink too much the night before, took Dramamine about two hours before going on the boat, and wore a sea band, and they worked! The water was rough and the fog was thick which was more nerve wracking than my stomach dropping, but it didn’t take me too long to learn how to ride the waves.
Our trip was 3 hours long and the perfect way to spend an afternoon. We caught 3 fish, which seemed like a small quantity. The fisherman said that he had caught 6 fish the trip before us. He filleted the fish for us on site and, after getting a recipe from him, made a quick stop at the grocery store on the way back to the camp site and cooked fresh fish on the grill.
Did you know there are only 300 drive-ins left in the country? 2 of them are in Cape Cod! We went to the Wellfleet drive-in to see the double feature of Grease and Dirty Dancing. Aside from these being two classics, the drive-in was a great evening activity!
For starters, the cost of the double feature was the same as it is to see one movie in the theatre. Second, there is no fifteen minute interlude of movie trailers before the film. If there is a drive in near your beach down, I highly recommend spending a night there.
Atlantic Cedar Swamp Trail
If you head down the Cape for vacation, the Atlantic Cedar Swamp Trail is a hidden gem. Right by Marconi beach, it is a piece of nature unique to anything else on Cape Cod. The ground is covered in Moss, the trees lean and drape across the board walks, it looks like a scene from Snow White.
The trail is only a mile long, it is mostly in the shade and is all flat. It’s a great walk to do with kids. In fact, the only other time I did it I was 12 years old. If you finish the walk and the family still has energy, right next to the trail is a path to an ocean view. It is also a good activity to do off-season. Though this scene is unique to Marconi beach, you can take the idea to any other beach town. I recommend researching nature trails near the beach and finding other nuggets of scenery outside of the typical beach view.
Give me all the lobster rolls and fried clams! Those are my go-to when ordering from a seafood shack. Plus whatever else may be the restaurant’s special, like homemade onion rings.
If you are headed down the Cape, Mark and I ate at Kate’s Seafood in Dennis, Cobie’s in Brewster, and Arnold’s in Eastham. We had lobster rolls at both Cobie’s and Arnold’s, and it’s a tie for which is better – I liked Cobie’s lobster roll (I eat mine cold), but Mark liked Arnold’s lobster roll (he eats his warm).
Our tip for seafood shacks is to plan on an early dinner, that way you avoid the long lines and crowds. We tend to have late and/or big breakfasts, snack during the day, and go for an early dinner so that we can also hit up the ice-cream stands before the crowds.
We beached it 4 days! Cape Cod has a bay side (inside the arm) and the ocean side (under the arm). There are pros and cons to both, but we prefer the bay side because the water is calmer and warmer. Neither of us love going in the water, but when it feels like a bath and I can see the bottom, I’m way more likely to go in to cool off.
Guidelines for Massachusetts beaches during COVID are that you have to stay 12 feet apart from others. With the exception of one day, we had no problem doing this, even at high tide. The day that was a little more challenging, I would say we were probably more like 4-6 feet apart (still better than the average summer). Dennis beaches controlled the population by getting rid of their overflow parking. We combated this by going to the beach in the evening! We went at 5pm and watched the sunset. Brewster is having guests purchase passes online, and we found parking every day we went (without having to wake up and show up by 7).
I haven’t ridden a bike since I was 12. More influential to my low expectations of biking was that I HATE doing the bike at the gym. But riding the Cape Cod Rail Trail from Brewster to Dennis and back way surpassed my expectations.
The trails is pretty much flat the entire way, so I was able to do the 13 miles with little fatigue. My legs were JUST starting to feel sore at the half way mark, and by the time we hit mile 11 I felt like I was having a good workout. Come mile 13, it was a very good place to stop. Despite the fatigue in my legs, I didn’t even feel sore the next day.
I loved this way more than I thought- getting to ride through different parts of the woods, alongside the beach, and passing all sorts of bike riders small, big, experiences, and novices like me.
One tip would be to purchase true biker shorts. No, not the trendy biker shorts from Target or H&M. TRUE biker shorts from an athletic store. They have built in cushion in the bum. Though my bum was still feeling a little sore at the end, Mark was complaining about his butt way sooner than I was.
We were able to do all of these activities without rushing, crowding, or stressing. It was ultimately a GREAT vacation, and I highly recommend getting to your local beach town for at least a day trip, if not an overnight, before the end of the summer!