Make a pilgrimage to the place where pilgrims first landed on American soil. See historic sites like the Pilgrim Monument, which commemorates the landing of the Mayflower in 1620. A beautiful sandy coastline speckled with scenic lighthouses. Museums that celebrate American history with a local history far beyond any other place. Stroll the boulevards of quaint villages. See real-life pirate treasure recovered from a shipwreck. From unique shopping in seaside towns to sand dunes burgeoning with wildlife and history, you’ll find a place that retains its historic charm as a birthplace of American history.
Cape Cod is the iconic hooked peninsula that forms the easternmost point of Massachusetts. As a nexus of American history, Cape Cod draws both history buffs and those seeking a relaxing place to enjoy the beaches and surf of the Atlantic Ocean. Getting to Cape Cod is easy, with year-round air service from Boston’s Logan Airport to Hyannis (mid-peninsula) and Provincetown (the most remote Cape Cod destination and home of Pilgrim Monument). You can always rent a car on arrival, ride charming trolleys in many towns on the cape, or even take a sightseeing train Of course, many choose the scenic and historic drive to the peninsula or to take a fast ferry from Boston to skip the traffic while taking in the pleasant sea breeze.
Things to Do
John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum: Step into history with a museum exploring the life of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated during a parade. Explore interactive exhibits, boost your family’s civic engagement, examine history-shaping photographs, and get personal with the first family in their home away from home at Cape Cod.
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History: Visit the top attraction in Cape Cod, according to TripAdvisor. Stroll through a butterfly house, check out the aquatic life native to the area, and explore the area’s archaeology and natural history. Sick of indoor exhibits? Get closer to nature on the museum’s 400-acre preserve crisscrossed by interpretive paths.
Chatham Lighthouse: Discover a picturesque lighthouse that still operates 24 hours a day overlooking the scenic Chatham Bar. Since the Coast Guard still operates this lighthouse, make sure to time your visit to Wednesday tours in the spring, summer, and fall to get the whole experience.
Nauset Beach: Watch the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean at a 10-mile-long beach with free parking before 7:30 a.m. Enjoy barefooting the soft sand and wading or swimming in the cool water with waves nice enough to attract surfers and boogie boarders.
Whydah Pirate Museum: Billed as the collection exhibiting the world’s only pirate treasure, the Whydah Pirate Museum allows Cape Cod visitors to explore artifacts from a 1717 pirate shipwreck that had plundered 50 ships. Take a walkthrough of the real pirate history of infamous buccaneer Sam Bellamy and the doubloons, pistols and more that an epic storm sunk, taking all but two of a crew of 146 with it.
Cape Cod National Seashore: Described by Henry David Thoreau as a place where you can put all America behind you, the Cape Cod National Seashore is a recreational treasure run by the National Park Service. Historic lighthouses, six pristine sandy beaches, wild cranberry bogs, cultural history, and walking or biking trails combine to make a place everyone should experience.
Pilgrim Monument: See an impressive 252-foot tower dedicated in 1910 by President Taft to commemorate the place of the mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing. Explore pilgrim history in the adjacent Provincetown Museum to discover what pilgrims did on Cape Cod for five weeks before moving on to Plymouth.
Provincetown: Explore the landing site for the Mayflower 400 years after its arrival on American shores. Feel the weight of American history in the place where the underpinnings of the U.S. Constitution was born with the Mayflower Compact as you spend time in Cape Cod’s favorite vacation destination.
Highland Light: Climb the circular steps of Cape Cod’s first lighthouse at a historic site commissioned in 1797 by George Washington himself. Owned by the National Park Service, the scenic lighthouse stands near a 125-foot cliffside overlooking the Atlantic.
Nickerson State Park: Explore wooded trails, 8 beautiful freshwater ponds, and more at a 1,900-acre state park with more than 400 campsites. Bike the 8-mile connector path right from your campsite that connects you to all the beauty and history of a 22-mile rail trail that pipes bikers through 6 towns of Cape Cod.