Cape Cod is a gorgeous family destination. With tons of activities that appeal to every age, rustic beauty, and an easy-to-get-to location, the Cape is perfect for summer getaways.
Finding ideal accommodations can be tricky. “The Cape” actually refers to a very large and diverse area. Understanding the layout and caveats is essential to finding a place that suits your needs. The Cape offers something for every budget, from very modest cottages and motels, to privately owned islands.
There are many moderately priced properties that are very family-oriented—the only downside is that quite a few of these options are dated. Interestingly, there are only a handful of upscale, oceanfront resorts on The Cape and as a consequence, these properties are very expensive.
Moreover, many beaches on The Cape are private which means that beach visits require packing up the kids, loading, and unpacking. Given this set-up, understanding what you are booking is key and will help ensure that you don’t end up disappointed and exhausted at the end of what is supposed to be a vacation.
Lay of the Land
The Cape is divided into three sections: Upper Cape (closest to Boston), Mid Cape, and Outer Cape (furthest towards the tip).
Things to Consider
Water. Do you prefer the calmer, warmer waters of the bays (Cape Cod Bay & Buzzards Bay), which can be great for younger children, or more active waters with waves found at the ocean beaches?
Drive time. Is anyone going to be commuting? From Boston to the Bridges (Sagamore and Bourne), the drive is 1 hour without traffic. The drive from Bridge to Provincetown also takes just over 1 hour without traffic.
Sunsets. Maybe it’s the Californian in me, but something about watching the sunset over the ocean equates to vacation in my mind. Remember that you have to be facing the west to get those sunsets!
Ambiance. The most common Cape accommodations are motels, B&B’s and private home rentals. Many of these sit right on a main road and are centered around a parking lot pool—something I don’t find appealing.
Each area has different pros and cons—some are more commercial, some have nice town centers, while others are more remote and secluded. Private home rentals are abundant on the cape. Sites like VRBO offer many choices (see our recent VRBO post).
Here’s a list of my favorite towns for families:
Falmouth. Close for commuting from Boston and a cute town to walk around. Mild waters and sunsets on the West side. There is a terrific bike trail here that links to Woods Hole. There are ferries to Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket from here. I just investigated the Beach Breeze Inn for our portfolio, it’s a great, moderately priced option.
Mashpee/New Seabury. An all-villa beachside community that offers tons of activities. Not as quaint as some areas, but what you give up in charm, you gain in convenience. It’s packed with activities like, tennis, biking, beach, golf, tennis, and has a cute market area with live music on the weekends. This is a family favorite!
Dennis. I love this area for it’s gorgeous beaches, calm waters, laidback attitude, and sunsets! When the tide goes out, there are miles of tide pools that keep the kids delighted for hours. Great public beaches, but beware of the long weekend lines to the parking lots. Rt. 6A is loaded with antique and art shops. The Lighthouse Inn in our portfolio is in Dennis.
Chatham. Quintessential Cape! Sand dunes that stretch for miles, loads of boats, very preppy. Great town to walk around. Fantastic beaches, restaurants and the only real luxury resorts on The Cape - Wequassett Resort and Golf Club and Chatham Bars Inn.
Truro. More secluded and less developed, Truro offers calm waters, sunsets and a very quiet beach area.
Avoiding traffic is KEY! A 2 hour drive can become a 6 hour drive if you go at the wrong time. Avoid heading South from Boston between than 4:30-7:00 pm on weekdays and north to Boston between 7:00-9:00 am weekdays. Also, Saturday’s traffic between 9:00-1:00 pm is tough because it’s “switch over” day where the rentals change hands. Sunday’s from 3:00-7:00 pm—try to avoid all the people going home.
Top Cape Activities. Far and away, the best list of activities is found on both Kids on the Cape, Cape Cod Kidz, and Cape Cod Kids Guide.
Cape Cod Insider Guide from WeJustGotBack.com - an extensive article packed with great information.