Cape Cod Vacation Guide and Tips For Families

Cape Cod Massachusetts is one of the most popular summer vacation spots on the East Coast. If you are looking for a quintessential fun beach vacation with charming towns, delicious, fresh seafood, ice cream every night, family mini-golf games, and beach days, you’ll definitely want to consider vacationing in Cape Cod. Here are our Cape Cod vacation tips for your next summer vacation in Massachusetts.

Disclosure: We’ve received complimentary/media rate stays at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel, the Harbor Hotel Provincetown, and Ocean Edge Resort in the past. We’ve also paid for some of our own stays throughout the years. This Cape Cod travel guide post contains affiliate links and a clickthrough/purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.

Cape Cod Vacation Guide and Tips For Families

Decide When to go on a Cape Cod Vacation

While summer is the most popular time to visit, there are other times to consider traveling to Cape Cod. If you can, consider visiting in early fall, when the crowds have retreated back home and the ocean water is warm. Prices are usually a little lower at this time too.

Summer, of course, is loads of fun and is definitely the most popular time to visit. The beaches are all open, as are the restaurants. The weather is usually nice and warm, with a cooling sea breeze.

Things to do in Cape Cod

Once you decide when you want to visit, you’ll want to think about what you’d like to do once you are on vacation. That will help you decide where to visit on the Cape.

Shop and Stroll: On your Cape Cod vacation, you may want to stroll around the quaint towns, stopping in the various small shops. You’ll find a variety of things, including pottery, jewelry, clothing, home decor, and more.

Museums: Within Cape Cod, you’ll find a number of museums dedicated to the history and landscape of the Cape. Here are a few of the most popular options:

  • The Heritage Museum and Gardens, located in Sandwich, offers a maze, car museum, and beautiful gardens.
  • The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, in Brewster, offers a nature walk, Oprey cam, and other exhibits focused on the natural history of the Cape.
  • The Whydah Pirate Museum is located in West Yarmouth and features a large collection of pirate artifacts recovered from a local shipwreck.
  • The Chatham Shark Center is a great place to learn about the sharks that live in the waters off of Cape Cod.
  • The Cape Cod Children’s’ Museum in Mashpee is a small children’s museum offering hands-on exhibits.

There are also a number of other small, niche museums including the Atwood, the Cape Cod Museum of Art, the Todd Hall Classic Sports Car Museum, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Museum. Plimoth Plantation is not technically on the Cape but is a short drive from the upper Cape. It’s best visited either on your way to the Cape or on your way back home.

The Chatham Lighthouse
The Chatham Lighthouse

Beaches: The Atlantic Ocean beaches are a big draw to any Cape Cod vacation with your family, and you’ll find that there are so many great options – from tiny beaches to larger ones. If you have a specific beach that you want to visit, you may consider staying at a Cape Cod hotel, resort, or vacation rental near that beach.

Because of their popularity, it’s always best to arrive at the Cape Cod beaches early. Parking lots can and do fill up early in the busy months.

The Cape Cod National Seashore includes six Cape Cod beaches. These include Nauset Light Beach in Orleans, Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, the Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, Race Point Beach in Provincetown, and Head of the Meadow Beach in North Truro. Each of these beaches offers different amenities, so check their websites in advance.

There are loads of other beaches beyond the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches. Here are just a few of the most popular ones. If staying in a hotel, motel, or resort, ask the concierge or other hotel staff for their recommendations closest to your location.

If you aren’t visiting a beach attached to your hotel, remember that you’ll need to bring along beach chairs, towels, and umbrellas.

  • Old Silver Beach Falmouth
  • Nauset Beach Orleans
  • Chatham Lighthouse Beach Chatham
  • Crosby Landing Beach Brewster

Resort activities: Depending upon where you stay for your Cape Cod vacation, you may be able to participate in various resort activities. These include golf, tennis, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, spa treatments, pools, water slides, and more.

Giant lobster roll
The famous lobster roll at the Raw Bar Mashpee

Eating: As you’d expect, you’ll find lots of fresh seafood restaurants throughout Cape Cod – many offering window ordering and outdoor seating. Some of our favorites include the following:

  • Cobie’s in Brewster
  • Sesuit Harbor Cafe
  • Moby Dicks in Wellfleet
  • The Raw Bar in Mashpee
  • Breakwater Fish and Lobster Market in Brewster

Other activities: There are a number of other fun activities that you can participate in while visiting Cape Cod for a family vacation. These include mini-golf, whale watching, and other boating excursions, and biking.

The Cape Cod Rail Trail, which runs through six Cape Cod towns, is a gorgeous place to bike. You can bring along your own bike, or consider renting one from your resort or some of the local bike rental spots on the Cape.

A small stretch of waterfront in Provincetown
A small stretch of waterfront in Provincetown

Choosing a Cape Cod Town

Unless you have a specific resort you plan to visit, or know exactly what you’d like to do, you may be wondering where to stay on Cape Cod. While it’s a small section of a small state, there are still many different towns you can visit.

The Cape has various regions based upon location. These include the upper Cape, the mid-Cape, the lower Cape, and the outer Cape. Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are small islands located off the coast of Cape Cod, and they can be accessed via plane or ferry.

Some of the most popular towns on Cape Cod include the following:

  • Provincetown – located on the outermost Cape, this quaint town offers shops, restaurants, and several beaches.
  • Chatham – another area with quaint shops and beautiful beaches, as well as the Chatham lighthouse. The Chatham Bars Inn resort is located here.
  • Brewster – this small town features several beaches, mini-golf, restaurants, Nickerson State Park, and Ocean Edge Resort.
  • Falmouth – located on the upper Cape, Falmouth is home to Old Silver Beach and the Sea Crest Beach Hotel as well as a fun town center.
  • Mashpee – also located on the upper Cape, Mashpee offers shopping at the Popponessett Marketplace and Mashpee Commons.
Blueberry Pond at Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster
Blueberry Pond at Ocean Edge Resort in Brewster

Hotels and Resorts in Cape Cod

When booking your Cape Cod vacation, you’ll find so many different lodging options. There are luxurious family resorts, family hotels, roadside and seaside motels, and vacation homes, and condos. Think about the amount of space you’ll need and what amenities you’d like to enjoy when considering your lodging.

Here are some of the most popular hotels and resorts on Cape Cod:

  • The Cape Codder – this family hotel located in Hyannis is most known for its’ extremely popular 30,000 square foot outdoor and indoor water park.
  • The Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club in Brewster offers villas, condos, and hotel rooms along with a private beach (for some resort guests), tennis, a spa, kayaking, indoor and outdoor pools, and more.
  • The Chatham Bars Inn is a luxury resort in Chatham offering a private beach, a pool, and a kids’ club.
  • The Waquasset Resort and Golf Club is located in Harwich and is rated as one of the top hotels in the United States. It offers a leisure pool, lap pool, and a number of family-friendly activities.
  • The Sea Crest Beach Hotel is a fun family hotel located right on Old Silver Beach in Falmouth. It offers two pools, an arcade, and beach access.
  • The Harbor Hotel in Provincetown is a motel with a pool, lively pool bar, and great location across the street from a small beach.
Hopkins House Bakery in Brewster
Hopkins House Bakery in Brewster

Tips for Traveling to Cape Cod

As a popular tourist destination, Cape Cod can be very busy. You can improve your experience with a little advance planning, however.

Visit Off-Peak

One of the best ways to avoid crowds is to travel in the off-season. Keep in mind, however, that some restaurants, shops, and attractions close seasonally. September is a good option because it’s still warm but much less crowded.

If you are visiting in the summer, mid-week is another good option. Weekends are always busy, and mid-week can be a little less crowded.

Visiting the Beach

Planning to visit a beach on your Cape Cod vacation? Before you leave, check out the specific details. Parking for some beaches is only available by permit, and other lots fill up early.

Bring along a beach wagon with your chairs, umbrella, and towels. You may need to walk for a while with all of your beach gear. (see more things to carry in your beach bag here).

Time Your Drive to the Cape

With only a few routes into Cape Cod, you are likely to encounter traffic, especially during peak travel times. Try to leave early or late to avoid the worst of the traffic.

Eating on Cape Cod

Many of the most popular restaurants on Cape Cod offer counter service. It’s best to visit these restaurants early or late to avoid the lines. If a restaurant does accept reservations, make those early.

Planning a Cape Cod vacation? This region in Massachusetts is a popular family vacation spot in the summer, and there are so many options of where to stay and what to do. Read our Cape Cod vacation guide before planning your trip.

Have you been on a Cape Cod vacation? What is your favorite place to visit?