Story by Willa Tellekson-Flash
You need a break from the muggy, humid heat of New England summers. So you bear the five miles of traffic leading to the Cape Cod Coastline’s Sagamore Bridge on a Friday afternoon. Don’t let the traffic deter you — with a coastline of over 500 miles, there is plenty of beach to go around.
You have a choice of fifteen towns, but you settle on the Lower Cape. Known for idyllic lighthouses, sandy beaches, and old New England charm, towns like Chatham and Harwich draw vacationers from all over. Once you’ve arrived, you won’t have to venture very far. Thanks to 22 miles of bike paths, many forgo their cars in favor of bicycles.
After the drive, you’ll probably want ice cream. Be sure to stop by Sundae School in Harwich Port, which has been serving homemade ice cream for nearly 40 years. Try a local flavor, like Bass River Mud (Coffee ice cream with roasted almonds, chocolate chunks, and a fudge stripe) or a classic, like Oreo Crunch (Vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreo cookies). If you’re feeling indulgent, order the signature hot fudge sundae with fresh whipped cream or marshmallow sauce.
If the weather cooperates, maximize time on the beach. Head first to Lighthouse Beach, located half a mile out of Downtown Chatham. A grand lighthouse will let you know you’ve arrived. You won’t find a snack bar or on-site bathrooms, but that’s what makes it a true Cape Cod beach. As one of the largest beaches on the Cape, you’ll have plenty of space to set up your umbrella and picnic. Look for seals playing in the surf right in front of you or walk further down the beach to South Beach—inaccessible by car—for a more remote experience.
After a long day, enjoy local seafood. The Chatham Pier Fish Market offers plates of freshly fried fish, clams, and shrimp. If you’re a lobster fan, don’t pass up the opportunity to try the lobster roll, served with thickly cut french fries.
Once the sun has set, check out one of the Cape Cod League Baseball games. Bring a picnic blanket and sit on the grass at Veterans Field, located just off Main Street. The league is the most respected amateur summer league in the nation and dates back to 1885. The players still use wooden bats and many go on to become Major League Baseball stars—alumni include Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, and Tim Lincecum.
If you’re a movie fan, venture out to Welfleet to see a movie under the stars at the Welfleet Drive In Theatre. The only drive-in theatre on the Cape offers a double feature every night from late May to mid September. Turn your car radio to the right station, roll down the windows, and enjoy the movie from outside.
Before you go, be sure to stop at the Chatham Candy Manor for homemade fudge and saltwater taffy for the drive home. Drive back towards route 6 through Harwich Port so that you don’t miss the views of scenic Saquatucket and Wychmere Harbor or the opportunity to drive by one of the Cape’s functioning cranberry bogs.
It’ll be hard to leave the no-frills beaches and fresh seafood behind come Sunday evening, but keep in mind – you can come back next Friday.
This story appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Baedeker.