Cape Cod is one of many perfect little getaways here in New England. From late spring to early fall, the peninsula comes alive to locals and tourists alike. From the beaches on the Cape Cod National Seashore to unique restaurants and eclectic shops, people take full advantage of the beauty, culture and ocean breeze before the winter snow and frigid temperatures bring everything to a screeching halt up here.
It was our last weekend of summer before school resumed and we needed to break away from the monotony that had been our life the last few months. This particular summer had not been all we had hoped it would be, but we were making the most of the outcomes. To bring a little smile and fresh air back to our faces, we made our way over to the Cape, hoping that the ocean air and time together would rejuvenate us for all that lie ahead.
We drove out on a Friday and stayed just outside the Cape in New Bedford, Massachusetts. We were gearing up for an early morning dart onto the Cape to avoid those last minute weekend travelers who were looking for the same thing we were. While in New Bedford, we stayed at our favorite chain hotel, but chose to eat at a local restaurant. After a great meal and tremendous service, we explored the New Bedford area just a bit, finding ourselves on Fort Tabor, the site of a 19th century coastal fortification.
The boys enjoyed exploring the battery, weaving in and out of the dark, dingy tunnels that were meant to hold artillery pieces and cannons. We walked the beautiful trail paved out along the coastline, finding a spot for hubby to show the boys how to skip rocks across the water. There were a good handful of ornate and descriptive monuments perfectly situated along the path, dedicated to those who have lost their lives during military service, as well as to recognize the multitude of POWs and women who have served and are serving across the branches.
The fort itself was locked up, but we found an opportunity through a hole in the door that allowed us to see inside.
Most of all, I simply enjoyed hearing the water crash against the rocks…a sound that soothes my soul every time I hear it.
We settled in after that and prepared ourselves for a long day ahead. Up and “at ’em” early was our motto and, after enjoying our hotel breakfast the next day (something our middle son finds to be one of the highlights of any trip), we were on the road, ready to cross the Sagamore Bridge.
The day’s primary goal: To see lighthouses, to enjoy the beach and to see how far onto the Cape we could get before having to turn around and drive all the way home that night.
Our first stop was the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham to gather some information on the lighthouses we wanted to see and towns that may be worth visiting. While there, we took opportunity to speak with the forest park rangers, who were absolutely incredible!
They enlightened us with their immense knowledge of lighthouse history, which was particularly fascinating to me and very instrumental in helping us design our plan for the day. As it was the centennial birthday of the National Park Service that week, they were also eager to share how everyone had access to the National Parks in the area and across the country.
(NOTE: For those who are active duty and carrying active duty ID cards, you can obtain a free pass to enter all National Parks across the United States for a year!).
Based on all they shared, we determined to stop and see at least three or four of the lighthouses still standing and stop at the tip in Provincetown for lunch.
From the Visitors Center, we made our way to Nauset Light Beach. It was still early, so we literally just made it before the crowds. We parked for free in light of it being the centennial birthday of the National Park Service and made our way to see the first lighthouse of the day. It was a short walk, but we enjoyed the view (and the exercise). The Nauset Light is actually a structure that had been moved from Chatham in 1923 after erosion claimed the original light in 1892, as well as its replacement wooden towers, the Three Sisters.
The Three Sisters are actually still standing and located just a short walk inland from the Nauset Light. Two of the “sisters” had previously been sold and used as a summer cottage in 1911, while the third was replaced by one of the two Chatham lights. Now set back from the shoreline erosion, they are nestled in the woods, two of which having had their “heads” removed at some point. The boys could not help but get a sense as if they had been “decapitated” and spoke as if they were once representative of three actual individuals. I could not help but think of “Hocus Pocus” and the Sanderson sisters.
One cannot go to the edges of the Atlantic Ocean in the summer and not desire to step foot in the water. After visiting these first four lighthouses in such a short distance, we made our way down to the Cape Cod National Seashore to put our feet in the sand and see how crisp and cold the ocean was that late August day. The boys enjoyed burying their toes and daring the waves to touch the hem of their shorts. The undertow was a little strong, so we held onto our youngest tight. The beach was populated, but not overcrowded. You could tell that summer was coming to an end.
From there, we elected to start our way up to the tip, wanting to ensure that we made Provincetown for lunch. We enjoyed looking at houses, driving through small towns and laughing at the stores that sold ginormous flotation devices! I didn’t enjoy the traffic, to be honest, but we did begin this excursion expecting to encounter some slowdowns. We made it up to Provincetown just before noon and decided that we would first tackle the biggest sight-seeing opportunity available. We made our way up to Pilgrim Monument!
The Pilgrim Monument is a 252 foot, 7.5 inch monument erected by the Cape Cod Pilgrim Association to commemorate the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World before moving on to Plymouth. There are 116 steps and 60 ramps in the tower that are extremely daunting when looking from the ground up. Despite the intimidating appearance, however, I was determined to make it to the top, though it took me significantly longer than the leisurely ten minutes they recommend it should take. The three boys went ahead, while Hubby stayed behind with me. “Let’s do this thing” pushed me every step of the way.
I did it! I reached the top!!! The view is absolutely breath-taking and spectacular and I was so proud of myself for accomplishing this feat. I highly recommend it!!! Honestly – it’s hard to fathom visiting Provincetown without checking this off the bucket list.
Now we had some very hungry boys. It was time to eat. After exploring the museum at the bottom of the monument for a short period of time, we made our way down to Commercial Street, the busiest road in the town, packed with pedestrians, dogs, tourists, locals, cars, street performers, you name it – it was there! Culture was everywhere and we took it in like we were entering a candy store. Oh, wait – there is at least one of those there, too! After walking up and down the street for about 20 minutes or so, we found ourselves at a cute little restaurant called the Tin Pan Alley. As we had had such a great experience in New Bedford the night before with our son who has food allergies, we were hoping for another positive and great meal. As as is typical for a family like ours, we first approached them with the question on how they handle food allergies and they felt quite confident that they would be able to manage the situation without incident. So – we were seated.
I will admit that our time there was not as outstanding as it was at Fathoms Bar & Grille the night prior, but we seemed to have come out of the meal without a reaction. I’ll explain the “seemed” in a minute. The view from our table was gorgeous. We were situated at a corner table right at the edge of the beach with a beautiful view of the ocean. It was quiet and our server, J.C (Juan Carlos), was very sweet. My hubby and two older sons enjoyed their meals tremendously, having ordered the 9″ Cuban and the Steak Bomb, respectively. Our son with food allergies was a bit bored as there really ended up being only one thing on the menu he could have (another burger). Fortunately, their french fries were cooked in a separate vat, so he was able to indulge in something he enjoyed that meal! My sandwich, the Bistro Burger, left me disappointed. They first didn’t serve my burger with the listed aoli sauce…and then, when the aoli was delivered, it was extremely liquefied. Not to mention, I had ordered a Mudslide and was delivered a White Russian. Hmmmm….
Once we felt we had perused Commercial Street enough, we jumped in the car and made our way to the one place the boys had been longing to visit the entire day. We are HUGE fans of miniature golf and there is a place in Yarmouth that has one of the best miniature golf courses we have found during any of our travels Unfortunately, our youngest wasn’t feeling all that well and we thought the longer ride down to the other side of the Cape would help settle his stomach. We began to watch him closely to ensure he was not having a cross contamination reaction. No hives, just an upset tummy.
Of course, there was one more lighthouse I wanted to capture on film before we ended that part of our excursion. We made a quick 15 minute stop at the Highland (Cape Cod Light) in North Truro, which had traditionally been the first light seen on any ship’s voyage from Europe to Boston. The original building was erected in 1798, though the current construction was built in 1857 and moved inland in 1996. I found this one to be the most beautiful of all the ones we had seen that day, lending itself to some beautiful snapshots.
We finally made it to miniature golf! Pirates Cove is a fantastic two option miniature golf course in Yarmouth where we had played a game last year while visiting the Cape (and some new friends). Both courses are creatively designed and challenging. This year, however, the boys improved tremendously and it was another competitive round. If you love putt-putt and are in Yarmouth – be sure to stop by! (Active military, this is a place you WANT to check out!).
Just before we headed back over the Sagamore Bridge and on our long ride home, we had to end the day with something sweet and delicious. We found this adorable little place just down the road from Pirates Cove called Penguins Ice Cream Igloo, which seemed to have received tremendous reviews. We first found a delicious and safe alternative for our youngest elsewhere (I wasn’t taking any chances with his not feeling all that well) and then stopped and picked up some dessert to satisfy the rest of our very summer sweet-tooth craving appetites. From cherry moose tracks ice cream to a ginormous sundae to a simple mixed frozen treat – that hit the spot and we were ready to call it a day……
It’s hard to fathom that we barely touched the opportunities available to experience on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. There are more lighthouses to see, more towns to visit, museums to explore and we didn’t even shop! Needless to say, Cape Cod is a fascinating area for a day trip or a vacation and does provide safe options for those who have dietary restrictions, such as food allergies. The Cape tells a story, creates an atmosphere and holds it own culture. We accomplished exactly what we had hoped. We relaxed, smiled and made memories together that will last a lifetime.
Be prepared, Cape Cod – we’ll be back next year!
Until the next set of footprints ~ T
Share with me your family experiences on Cape Cod ~ I’d love to know where we should venture next year!
For more information on the places listed above, you can visit:
- Cape Cod National Seashore Salt Pond Visitor Center: https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm
- Nauset Light House / Three Sisters Lighthouses: https://www.nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/nauset-light-beach.htm or https://www.nps.gov/caco/learn/historyculture/the-three-sisters-lighthouses.htm
- Fort Tabor / Fort Rodman: http://forttaber.org/
- Pilgrim monument: http://www.pilgrim-monument.org/overview-faq#.V82K7pgrKhc
- Tin Pan Alley: https://www.tinpanalleyptown.com/
- Pirates Cove Miniature Golf: http://www.piratescove.net/south-yarmouth