Cape Cod, located in the eastern portion of Massachusetts, is one of the most visited destinations on the East Coast. With an abundance of top rated beaches, beautiful parks, plenty of natural recreation, historic lighthouses, and fun tourist attractions it is no wonder that so many flock to the area each summer. “The Cape” as it is referred to by locals, consists of 15 towns within a 65 mile radius, stretching from Falmouth to Provincetown at the tip. The islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are also included.
For those of you who are curious, here are the 15 towns that comprise Cape Cod: Falmouth, Bourne, Mashpee, Sandwich, Hyannis, Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown.
All of these gorgeous towns offer their own unique attractions, parks, restaurants, and lodging. Cape Cod is one of the most beautiful places in the world, so no matter which town you choose to vacation in, you will be surrounded by amazing natural landscapes. A vacation to Cape Cod would not be complete without enjoying a few of the best beaches and parks found within this magnificent region.
Below, I have highlighted 7 incredibly scenic places in Cape Cod. As an added bonus, they all just happen to be be free as well! Feel free to share some of your top recommended scenic Cape Cod attractions as well!
1. Marconi Beach
I discovered this beautiful beach after taking a bike ride on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, Marconi Beach is well known as one of the top beaches in the area. Marconi is an excellent spot to whale watch. You will also find great waves here for swimming or surfing as well. The beach is very pristine with clean sand and water.
Marconi is not overly crowded even during the busy early summer months, therefore, making it a great choice for a lazy summer afternoon. Kickback and enjoy nothing but the sound of soft waves and beautiful views everywhere you turn.
2. Pilgrim Monument
Provincetown is the most popular vacation spot on Cape Cod. The main attraction, the 252 foot tall Pilgrim Monument, was built in the early 1900’s to commemorate the first landing of the Pilgrims in Provincetown. Did you know that the Pilgrims actually landed in Provincetown first before making way to Plymouth? Back in the early 1600’s, the Pilgrims explored Provincetown before finally settling in Plymouth.
For spectacular views, be sure to climb the 116 steps to the top of the monument. The panoramic views of the harbor can’t be missed! While in P-Town, also be sure to check out Herring Cove and Race Point Beach, both frequently rated amongst the best beaches in the US!
3. Cape Cod Rail Trail
Taking a ride along Cape Cod’s gorgeous 22 mile paved bike path is an absolute must while visiting the area. Yes, it’s a lot of exercise, but the views are beautiful! You will pass so many picturesque towns including Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet. The path is mostly flat due to the course following the former path of an old railroad. This trail is one of many former railroad routes across the country that have been transformed into public recreational paths.
Riding this path is so relaxing because you are completely immersed in nature. Awaiting you is a beautiful tree-lined path with views of beaches, marshes, cranberry bogs, and state parks along the way. Detours to top Cape Cod attractions such as Coast Guard Beach in Eastham and Marconi Beach just north of trail end in Wellfleet make the path even more attractive. As an added perk, there are a few cafes along the way including a great clam shack called Cobie’s and a delicious coffee shop called Hot Sparrow which has the best ice cream ever! Additionally, this is the only path where I have seen a bike rotary! How cool is that?!
4. Great Island Trail
One of the most beautiful places to explore in Cape Cod, by far, is the gorgeous Great Island Trail, one of the 11 trails of the Cape Cod National Seashore. This secluded trail gives you the feeling of being alone on a deserted beach: it really offers you the chance to escape and enjoy a solitary nature experience. No photo can accurately portray the beauty of this trail.
Along the way, you will pass amazing diverse scenery including salt marshes, forests, sand dunes, and a gorgeous unspoiled, deserted beach. The views from Great Beach Hill (pictured above) are nothing short of spectacular. The full loop is approximately 8 miles long and hard to walk in some spots due to the sand, but worth it for the solitary, picturesque landscapes.
5. Scusset Beach State Reservation
This Southeastern Massachusetts beach is located on the East end of the Cape Cod Canal. Scusset is a great place to watch the boats pass by on the Cape Cod Bay. In addition, SeaGlass is abundant with lots of chances for finding beautiful rare pieces. Arrive early in the morning for your best chance of finding one of these frosted gems (formed from years and years of tumbling along the ocean). I found so many beautiful pieces including my first jewelry grade piece!
The clean, smooth sand is perfect for morning walks and jogs. Located right next to the beach is the Cape Cod Canal path, an excellent place to bike, run, or walk. The beautiful views, abundance of recreational activities, and opportunities for collecting SeaGlass make this beach a year-round winner.
6. Cape Cod Canal Path
The Cape Cod Canal Bikeway offers easy access to Scusset Beach with the path running 8 miles down the canal before finally hitting the beach. Beautiful views of waterfront homes, amazing views of the Bourne and Sagamore bridges, and lots of big boats passing by keep you entertained through your flat (but very windy!) journey down the canal.
This canal path is a great place to exercise, whether you are a biker, runner, or walker – if this path doesn’t motivate you to get out there and getting going than nothing will! At the end of the path, you will be treated to beautiful Scusset Beach for much needed R&R.
7. Cape Cod Provincelands Trail
There is no better way to experience the beauty of Cape Cod than by getting out there and seeing it for yourself. The hilly 5+ mile Provincelands Trail offers tremendous views of the beautiful sand dunes that Cape Cod is so famous for. You will also have plenty of other photo opportunities along the way including marshes, cranberry bogs, forests, and saltwater kettle ponds.
From the path, you can access both Race Point and Herring Cove beaches. Although the hills are pretty tough, the beautiful serene views of the dunes more than motivate you to keep pedaling along. Provincelands is a short, yet memorable bike ride that definitely ranks amongst my top rides in Massachusetts.
For long bike rides and hikes always bring enough water. I used to always run out until I finally got a hydration backpack. These handy backpacks hold more than enough water so you do not have to worry about hydration along the way. The weight is evenly distributed on your shoulders, and thus, they are very comfortable for hiking, biking, and even jogging. As an added bonus, there are storage pockets for your phone, car keys, sunblock, etc. It holds 1.5L of water which should be enough for a single day outing.
Get out there early in the morning, especially during the summer season. This is when these places will be the least crowded. From my experience, Cape Cod does not get as crowded as other tourist destinations across the country because it is so spread out – the exception is Provincetown, which is the go-to spot. Get here early if you want the free street parking!
If you intend on taking a whale watching or harbor cruise in Provincetown, be sure to check on Groupon Boston. There is almost always some deal available. I have also found restaurant coupons.
What are your favorite things to do in Cape Cod? Have you visited any of the places on my list?