Are you planning a Cape Cod summer vacation? Although it’s the busiest season for the peninsula, you have the chance to do activities and visit places that aren’t available during the winter. In particular, warm waters and cool breezes make spending time on the beach an absolute treat.
No matter where you land on the Cape, there’s something to explore. When you’re planning your trip, consider some of our favorite things to do on Cape Cod in the summer.
Visit the Best Brewster & Cape Cod Summer Beaches
In July and August, Cape Cod summer temperatures range from the 70s to the 80s during daytime hours, which is perfect for enjoying the beach. You might need a light jacket when the evenings cool down into the 60s, but it doesn’t get cold enough to keep you inside.
Fortunately, there are a lot of beautiful beaches across Cape Cod. Several of them are great for swimming, and Brewster is home to freshwater beaches too.
In Brewster and within walking distance from the Candleberry Inn, Breakwater Beach is a family-friendly beach with soft sand and calm water. While it’s fun to wade and swim during high tide, kids might think that low tide is more fun.
That’s when the tidal flats are visible and filled with crabs, shells, and small fish. Kids will also be interested in the ice cream truck that passes by during the summer months.
Paine’s Creek Beach
Ideal for swimming and building sandcastles, Paine’s Creek Beach in Brewster is fantastic for skimboarding as well. Like Breakwater, the landscape changes between high and low tides. The waves crash into the jetties during high tide, but sparkling sand and a colorful marsh are exposed at low tide.
With warm water and calm waves, Skaket Beach in Orleans is lovely for families. The beach is good for swimming and skimboarding during high tide, and you can explore the tidal flats during low tide. Keep in mind that the town charges a fee to access the beach, and you can pay daily at the gate or get a weekly beach pass.
Locals and visitors alike consider Mayflower Beach in Dennis to be one of the most scenic beaches on the Cape. It has white, powdery sand for walking and playing volleyball, and the water is calm enough for skimboarding and swimming. You can purchase a weekday, weekend, or weekly parking permit to access the beach.
Freshwater Beaches in Brewster
Ponds are plentiful in Brewster, and many of them have freshwater beaches for those who prefer completely calm, non-salty water. A few of the beaches are located within Nickerson State Park, but Cliff Pond Beach is fun for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. You can hike around the pond too.
On the Brewster side of Long Pond is Long Pond Beach, where lifeguards are on duty between July 4 and Labor Day weekend. North of there (on Sheep Pond) is Fisherman’s Landing, a small beach with a public dock for paddleboats, picnic tables, and a swimming area.
Don’t Forget About Cape Cod National Seashore Beaches
The beaches above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Cape. We haven’t mentioned any beaches within the Cape Cod National Seashore yet. Many people consider visiting these beaches to be one of the best things to do on Cape Cod in the summer.
This protected land stretches for almost 40 miles along the outer arm of the Cape. Because of that, it encompasses numerous beaches, biking and hiking trails, and lighthouses. We’ve chosen to highlight three beaches, but we challenge you to visit them all.
Nauset Light Beach
Contained by a glacial bluff, Nauset Light Beach in Eastham has a wide, sandy beach. You get to the sand by walking down a short path from the parking area above the dunes. Although the water temperature is a little cooler than what you’ll experience on a Cape Cod Bay beach, it’s awesome for bodyboarding, swimming, and surfing.
Lifeguards are on duty from early July through Labor Day weekend.
Head of the Meadow Beach
Situated on the “wrist” of Cape Cod’s arm, Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro is another wide, visually stunning beach. There’s plenty of room for beach games, the waves are perfect for bodyboarding and surfing, and the sand is ideal for relaxing.
Additionally, this beach has dynamic shifting sands, so sandbars are exposed just off the main beach at low tide. These sandy spots often attract lounging seals during late summer. The area is a nesting habitat for the piping plover, which is a federally protected bird, as well.
Race Point Beach
Extending along the outer tip of the Cape Cod arm in Provincetown, Race Point Beach has several miles of luxurious sand. The water is rougher than the other beaches on our list, so swimming is more challenging. But, the sand is wonderful for sunbathing and taking long walks.
To the west of the parking lot, you can cross over dunes to reach the Race Point lighthouse. As you get away from the crowds, you’re more likely to see wildlife. Sometimes, you can see whales breaching in the distance.
- Orleans and Eastham | photo via Bev B
Capture the Beauty of Cape Cod Lighthouses
As you might expect, Cape Cod has a lot of lighthouses — 18 towers, in fact! A handful of them are rather iconic, so you’ll find tons of photos of them on social media. Why not contribute your own photos? Or, you could capture pictures for your personal collection.
Built in 1876, the 40-foot brick and cast iron Nobska Light in Falmouth is open to visitors during the summer. The station was originally established in 1829. Other buildings on the property include a keeper’s house, oil house, garage, and storage building.
Three Sisters Lighthouses
At the mercy of coastal erosion and decay, the Three Sisters Lighthouses in Eastham have an interesting history. The original towers were lost in 1890, and 22-foot wooden towers were erected farther inland two years later. The center tower was moved and attached to the 1875 keeper’s house in 1911.
Over the years, the two decommissioned sisters moved a couple of times. After many years of service, the central tower was decommissioned and replaced. All three sisters were eventually reunited, and the property has been open for public tours since 1989.
Replacing the central tower of the Three Sisters Lighthouses, Nauset Lighthouse has become an important part of maritime history. It’s arguably the most well-known and photographed lighthouse on Cape Cod. The open-house-style tours are free.
The oldest lighthouse on Cape Cod, Highland Light in Truro was built in 1857. The tower is also the tallest on the peninsula at 45 feet. Even when you can’t climb the tower, the light, keeper’s house, and surrounding property make splendid photos.
Race Point Light Station
Resting on the tip of the peninsula (what looks like the pinkie finger), Race Point Light Station in Provincetown was built in 1876. It’s made of cast iron and has a brick lining. The property features an 1874 signal building, 1876 keeper’s house, and 1902 oil house.
Take a Cape Cod Bike Tour or Scenic Drive
Whether you want an adventure or a relaxing ride, touring the whole Cape is one of the best things to do on Cape Cod in the summer. There are two routes that you can follow — the Cape Cod Rail Trail or Route 6A.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a paved pathway for biking and walking that stretches across the peninsula for 27.6 miles, connecting to other trails. It passes through six towns from Yarmouth to Wellfleet, and there are plans for expansion. There are plenty of bike shops and things to do along the trail as well.
For nearly 65 miles, Route 6A (Old King’s Highway) runs between Bourne and Provincetown, literally stretching across the entire peninsula. The Candleberry Inn is on this historic route, which was designated a National Scenic Byway in January 2021, and many publications say that it’s one of the best scenic drives in the world.
Play Outdoors at Cape Cod Parks & Golf Courses
Outdoor recreation is the No. 1 Cape Cod summer activity, so a plethora of options are available across the peninsula. However, a few of them really stand out to us.
Skull Island Sports World
In South Yarmouth, Skull Island Sports World is a premier sports complex for excitement and fun. It’s easy to spend a whole day making your way through all of the activities:
- Baseball and softball batting cages
- Kick and whiffle ball
- Driving range
- Miniature golf
- Video game arcade
Nickerson State Park
The 1,900-acre Nickerson State Park in Brewster is a diverse destination for recreational activities. It offers boating, kayaking, fishing, and swimming on three ponds. There are 8 miles of bike trails and more wooded trails for walking, including access to the Cape Cod Rail Trail. A park campground has 400 sites too.
Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club
Also in Brewster, Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club has an impressive 18-hole course. What makes it so special, though, is that it was designed by pro golfer Jack Nicklaus and is the only one of its kind on the peninsula. The fact that it’s one of the most beautiful golf courses in the region is just icing on the cake.
- photo via Heritage Museum & Gardens
Walk the Heritage Museums & Gardens
One of the most relaxing things to do on Cape Cod in the summer is taking a walk through nature. The Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich is a magnificent place to do that. With 100 acres, it’s the largest public garden in the region. Alongside the gardens are the Hidden Hollow discovery area, Shawme Pond, three indoor galleries with impressive exhibits, and more.
Another Option — The Sandwich Boardwalk
To walk a historic path, head to the Sandwich Boardwalk. This wooden walkway stretches for 1,350 feet, crossing Mill Creek and a salt marsh. It was originally built in 1875 but has been rebuilt several times after weather damage.
Excellent Things to Do on Cape Cod in the Summer — Whale Watching & Shark Tours
Are you fascinated by awe-inspiring or fearsome creatures of the sea? We’re referring to whales and great white sharks. Cape Cod is the ideal destination to see them both!
Whale Watching Tours
A variety of whales migrate to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary from about mid-April to late October. Humpback, finback, pilot, right, and minke whales are often seen feeding and breaching the waters just north of Cape Cod. To see them up close, book one of the Cape Cod whale watching tours.
Great white sharks are the largest predatory fish in the world with up to 300 teeth. They prefer cool water and feed on small sea mammals like seals. Although the peak seal season doesn’t start until September, great whites can migrate north in July, giving you the opportunity to book shark tours during a Cape Cod summer trip.
Learn About History & Art on Cape Cod
Cape Cod is overflowing with history, and it has a strong background in the arts as well. Learning about either or both is one of the most cultural things to do on Cape Cod in the summer.
Sandwich Glass Museum
Throughout the summer, the Sandwich Glass Museum features glassblowing demonstrations and teaches you about the town’s long history in American glass production. It has interesting exhibits and a collection of nearly 6,000 artifacts, ranging from candlesticks to vases and tableware.
John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum
JFK visited Cape Cod with his family a lot, and the family still has a home here. The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum is committed to preserving and teaching others about this former president’s life and contributions to society. On display are Kennedy family photographs, heirlooms, and other memorabilia.
Cape Cod Museum of Art
Founded in 1981, the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis is home to works by the finest Cape artists. The museum celebrates the unique artistic identity of the peninsula and surrounding islands. The complex of seven galleries is surrounded by a Sculpture Garden.
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
You can learn about the Cape’s natural history at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. In addition to its own collection of artifacts, it features exhibits on loan and traveling displays.
This facility is more than just a museum, though. It’s also a nature education center and a steward of more than 400-acres of land, which encompasses a beach and walking trails.
Pilgrim Monument & Museum
Standing over 252 feet high, the Pilgrim Monument was built in 1892 to honor the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Surprisingly, it only takes about 10 minutes to climb the 116 steps and 60 ramps to the top.
Next to it is the Provincetown Museum, an old-fashioned museum of history. It chronicles everything from the Pilgrims’ arrival to the construction of the monument.
See a Movie or Live Performance on Cape Cod
Catching a movie or live performance is probably something that you can do in your hometown. But you get a one-of-a-kind experience when you see a play or stop at the drive-in on Cape Cod.
The Cape Playhouse
In Dennis, The Cape Playhouse performs live shows throughout the summer. It’s one of the 50 Best Small Stage Theatres in the country and one of the most famous. Many high-profile entertainers have performed at this professional summer theater — such as Julie Andrews, Betty White, and Ginger Rogers.
Cape Rep Theatre
Dedicated to telling incredible stories, the Cape Rep Theatre typically performs four to five indoor plays from May to December. Some of its past performances include “Mama Mia!” and “Shakespeare in Love.” During the summer, the actors put on children’s shows in the outdoor theatre.
Now to that drive-in theater we mentioned. Wellfleet Cinemas is sort of a jack-of-all-trades and has the only drive-in theater on the Cape. It features a 100-foot screen and plays first-run, double features every summer night between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The complex has an indoor theater with four screens, a mini-golf course, a dairy bar with snacks, and a flea market too.
- photo via Peter M
Eat the Freshest Seafood in Massachusetts
With such a flourishing culinary scene, it’s no wonder why ordering fresh seafood is one of the most satisfying things to do on Cape Cod in the summer. While there are more than two dozen seafood restaurants, the highlights below are a few of our top picks from various corners of the peninsula.
Water Street Kitchen
Serving modern flavors, Water Street Kitchen in Woods Hole is a chef-owned restaurant. The menu focuses on seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients, so everything is made from scratch.
If you decide to explore Sandwich, you have to stop by Seafood Sam’s. The menu has more than 100 items, including options for land-lovers. Established in 1974, this restaurant gives you a good view of the Cape Cod Canal while you eat.
The Naked Oyster
In Hyannis, The Naked Oyster is a bistro that specializes in having a fresh menu. The oysters come from its own farm, which is situated on Barnstable Harbor. The restaurant has a long wine list as well.
The Brewster Fish House
A contemporary bistro, The Brewster Fish House is popular among locals. The seasonal menu is based on whatever fresh ingredients are available at the time and includes oysters, scallops, and octopus. It has a full bar with craft beer, cocktails, and wine.
The Mews Restaurant & Cafe
Transformed from the Provincetown Mews Food and Wine Society, The Mews Restaurant & Cafe has been serving Provincetown since 1964. You have the option to eat in the main dining room on the beach or the bistro upstairs with Cape Cod Bay views.
Get a Taste of Cape Cod’s Grape Vines & Brews
Do you dream of sipping beer or wine with an ocean view? You can do that on Cape Cod! The peninsula is home to a few wineries and breweries that offer tasting experiences. You could even book a wine and vineyard tour.
Cape Cod Winery
Less than 3 miles from the ocean, the Cape Cod Winery in Falmouth is a fabulous place to relax with a glass of wine in your hand. It makes nine varieties, so you’re bound to find one that suits your tastes.
Cape Cod Beer
For some yummy brews, head to Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis. It makes a wide range of double IPAs, pale ales, porters, and more. You can tour the facility and see a presentation about the brewing process. Food trucks and pop-up kitchens set up on the property to serve delicious fare.
First Crush Winery
For decades, First Crush Winery has been producing award-winning wine in Harwich. The winery aims to create varieties that will impress everyone, even the most knowledgeable wine enthusiasts.
With a standard wine tasting, you get five samples and a plate of crackers and local cheese. The premier tasting adds a vintner reserve sample, chocolate cookie, and keepsake wineglass. Turbo wine slushies are available too.
Offering tours and picnics on well-manicured grounds, Truro Vineyards resides in an 1813 Federal-style property that used to be a fruit and vegetable farm. Most of the time, a food truck is set up in the front and serves lobster for picnics.
Take a Day Trip to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket Island
Beyond the variety of things to do on Cape Cod in the summer are even more experiences to be had on Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket Island. These islands make wonderful day trips, and we’ve put together a few highlights to get you started with planning.
You can get to Martha’s Vineyard via the ferry terminal services that run from Woods Hole and Hyannis. While you’re here, don’t miss visiting Edgartown, the oldest European settlement on the island. A couple of other places worth visiting include the Aquinnah Cultural Center and Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
Ferries regularly operate from Hyannis and Harwich Port to Nantucket Island. We recommend visiting the Nantucket Whaling Museum and Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum. Also, you have the chance to visit Cisco Brewers Inc., which runs the island’s first and only craft brewery, distillery, and vineyard.
Choose Candleberry Inn for Your Cape Cod Summer Lodging
Candleberry Inn can provide luxurious accommodations in a convenient location as you check off this list of things to do on Cape Cod in the summer. Our bed and breakfast is almost in the center of the peninsula.
Consider booking our Seacroft Suite, which has a king-size bed, separate sitting room, and gas fireplace. In the newly renovated bathroom, the tub is made of volcanic stone so that the water stays warmer longer when you need to soak after a long day of exploring.
Of course, you receive access to other luxurious amenities, such as a gourmet breakfast and trip planning assistance, when you stay at Candleberry Inn. Check our availability for your next Cape Cod summer vacation.