I almost feel sad to be writing this post as it’s the final instalment in my series from our big trip to the USA earlier this year. We had such a fantastic time together investigating what Boston had to offer over the course of almost a week (you can read all about what we got up to here and here, and watch a travel vlog of our time in Boston here) and these last four days of adventures on Cape Cod really were the perfect way to end our family holiday.
Adventures On Cape Cod
Last week I shared Part One of our travel diary from the first half of our adventures on Cape Cod. This post covers the second half of our time in this truly beautiful place and I have to say these final two days were my absolute favourite.
It already feels like forever ago that we were there and with no overseas family travel planned (yet) for next year I’m spending a lot of time thinking back over the memories we made during our adventures on Cape Cod and why they’re so special to me. It was the time we spent together exploring a new place, the laughter we shared, the challenges we overcame, the sights we saw. It was letting go of the schedule and staying up late and slowing down and just ‘being’. And of course the location – you can’t help but create memories in a place where beaches and blooms abound.
I think I say this about every place we travel to but I simply can’t help it: I leave a piece of my heart everywhere we go. And in it’s place I bring home a tiny bit of where we were. My heart is a patchwork of destinations around the world. Cape Cod will always have a special meaning for me and I know for sure that we’ll return one day as there is so much there still waiting to be experienced.
Our Travel Diary
DAY THREE: THURSDAY
Having spent the first two days of our adventures on Cape Cod centred round the town we were staying in, I was determined that today would see us venturing further along the Cape to see what else it had to offer. I’d originally wanted to do a few little day trips here and there and quickly realised that everyone just needed a bit of a rest after the intensity of Boston, so resigned myself to just one. Many people had recommended the town of Chatham to me, so that’s where we headed.
Cape Cod often gets described as ‘the arm of Massachusetts’ as it sticks out at a right angle from the mainland of the state like a bodybuilder flexing his or her muscles. I mentioned in my previous post that Cape Cod is roughly divided into four sections: Upper Cape, Mid Cape, Lower Cape and Outer Cape. Chatham can be found in the south-eastern part of the Lower Cape, the ‘elbow’ of the arm.
It took us about 45 minutes to drive to Chatham from Sandwich, all easy, smooth roads. We got a call whilst we were on our way from the very excited teenager back home who wanted to share with us that she had just passed her driving theory test, so it was already a good start to the day. We parked our car and set off to explore the main street of this utterly charming seaside town.
Mooching round the shops in a new-to-us place is something that the girls and I enjoy doing: they always have holiday pennies that they are desperate to spend on something to remember their trip by and I just love seeing the differences between home and wherever we happen to be. Chatham’s main street was full of gorgeous little boutiques and cute cafes. My favourite shop by far was The Fisherman’s Daughter Eco Boutique, which was full of beautiful shells and hand crafted jewellery and plants and incense and crystals from over fifty local designers and artisans. Actual boho heaven.
We walked all the way down Main Street, mentally noted where we wanted to go for lunch, and slowly made our way towards Chatham Lighthouse. I say slowly because we couldn’t help stopping every couple of minutes to admire yet another classically characteristic Cape Cod home, complete with white picket fence. It couldn’t have been more idyllic.
Chatham Lighthouse was visually everything I’d hoped it would be, although I was a little disappointed that you can’t actually get close to it as there was a protective fence around the lawn surrounding it. The views of the beach opposite the lighthouse quickly caught our attention and so we headed down the sandy wooden steps to check it out.
Chatham Lighthouse Beach
Chatham Lighthouse Beach was nothing short of breath-taking: soft white sand; turquoise sea; sandbars crisscrossing the shallower waters and, in the distance, seals lazily basking themselves in the warm sunshine. Being more used to the pebbly beaches of Cornwall in the UK, this felt like paradise.
The girls quickly and haphazardly discarded their shoes and scattered in three different directions, running down to the glittering water’s edge and searching for shells in the sand. I happily people-watched and took photos.
The husband gleefully read the myriad of warning signs all about Great White Sharks, which apparently put in regular appearances in the waters around Chatham. There was even advice on what to do if you got attacked by one which was rather alarming for someone like me who is utterly terrified of the sea and the creatures found in it, sharks in particular.
I remember watching ‘Jaws’ for the first time when I was younger and I’ve been too petrified to go swimming in the sea ever since. Incidentally, Jaws was set in a made-up New England town and filmed in various locations on Martha’s Vineyard, just to the south of Cape Cod. I was equal parts ridiculously relieved and slightly disappointed that we didn’t see an ominous dorsal fin slicing through the waves.
We spent ages at Chatham Lighthouse Beach before reluctantly dragging our three protesting girls back towards Chatham itself so we could get some lunch. We’d spotted Jo Mama’s on the way down to the beach and liked the look of it so that’s where we decided to stop and refuel ourselves for the afternoon’s adventures. It was an excellent choice – delicious bagels, good tea & coffee and the best blueberry muffin in the world. Seriously, no muffin will ever compare to the one I had here. The girls think it’s hysterical that I was in raptures over a muffin but I’ve never tasted anything like it! I’d go back just to have another one of those. We also tried out some Cape Cod potato chips (crisps) which are made in a factory just 21 miles away from where we were sitting, and they got the thumbs up too.
Shore Lane and Chatham Pier Fish Market
After lunch we decided to stroll the length of Shore Lane, a long road parallel to the coastline, to visit Chatham Pier Fish Market. Shore Lane was… impressive. Cape Cod’s answer to Millionaire’s Row, each side of this wide road was flanked with mansions the like of which I’ve never seen before. The ones on our right, which stretched along the seafront, each had a garden with direct access to the beach. We walked along open-mouthed, gazing in awe at the size of the houses and wondering at who could possibly live in each of them.
Eventually we reached Chatham Pier Fish Market, which is famed for the ‘fresh-off-the-boat’ fish you can buy. We were more interested in seeing something else though. Apparently, when the fishermen bring in their catch from the day, rambunctious seals flock in their hundreds to try and claim an accidentally dropped tasty morsel and it’s quite a sight to behold. Sadly we mis-timed it and even though we were there for a while, watching the boats bobbing peacefully in the water and straining our eyes to try and see a little rounded head peeking up in between the ripples, all was disappointingly quiet. Another reason to come and visit again for more adventures on Cape Cod one day!
We headed back to the car and by this point it was mid-afternoon. I’d had grand plans to continue along the coastal road (Route 28) which hugs the shoreline from Chatham in the Lower Cape to the start of the Outer Cape as the views are supposed to be beautiful. I wanted to stop in Orleans to visit the infamous Hot Chocolate Sparrow Café (I don’t drink tea or coffee so hot chocolate is my ‘thing’) and pop into the Christmas Tree Shops because I knew the husband would love them. His birthday is right before Christmas so it’s his favourite time of year – getting the chance to experience it in May would be a fun added bonus for him!
From Orleans I’d mapped out a route eastwards to Nauset Light Beach to see the famous Nauset Light lighthouse that features on the packets of Cape Cod Crisps (see photo further up in this post!). The beach is contained within Cape Cod National Seashore, which in turn is part of the National Parks Service. Our next stop was to be on the west coast at Skaket Beach, which allegedly has some of the most stunning sunsets on Cape Cod, before driving back to Sandwich for the night.
I think all the fun on the beach in the morning and then the long walk along Shore Drive wore the girls out though because they were very much done and didn’t want to do any of the things I’d suggested. In the end, deciding to end the day positively rather than with a fight, we drove back to Sandwich and got takeout pizza from Sweet Tomatoes Pizza instead and everyone was happy.
DAY FOUR: FRIDAY
Our final full day of adventures on Cape Cod and I intended to squeeze in as much fun as possible to make the most of our last bit of time there. We had to have one more visit to Beth’s Bakery of course, so that was our first stop of the day. Bellies satisfied, we moved on to somewhere that I knew would end up being one of our favourite memories from our trip: Sandwich Mini-Golf!
It’s become a family tradition of ours to find a crazy-golf course to play wherever we go on holiday. The girls love it and whilst it can sometimes get a little bit, erm, competitive, we always have fun. Sandwich Mini Golf is a 36-hole course in a pretty little spot just off the highway and adjacent to the Cranberry River, which features regularly in some of the more challenging holes.
We turned up at about 11am and were obviously a little bit keen because we were the only ones there. There was a man using a jetwash to clean some of the holes and a lady in the ticketbooth. We paid her for our clubs and golf balls, the girls all choosing their favourite colours. We opted to do 18 rather than 36 holes, mindful that we couldn’t spend too long there as we had other adventures on Cape Cod and things we wanted to do in the afternoon.
It was a really fun course. Each hole was completely different from the next, all challenging but not impossible, and there was a lot of laughter (especially when the husband plopped his golf ball straight into the river on one hole!) with a little bit of frustration thrown in for good measure. The course was immaculate too, perhaps a tiny lick of paint needed here and there but really it only added to the charm.
Once we’d completed the 18 holes, the lady from the ticketbooth came over to us and said that as we were the only ones there we could do the full 36 hole course if we wanted to. The girls were delighted at this kindness so we took advantage of her generous offer and played a few more. It wasn’t until later when I returned our clubs and had a little chat with her that I found out they didn’t actually open until the afternoon but they hadn’t had the heart to turn us away!
Sandwich Heritage Museum and Gardens
After a bite to eat back at the Airbnb, I had a quick solo wander through Sandwich. It’s such a lovely town and as I walked I realised just how much there is to see and do there – we’d barely scratched the surface in the four days of our stay.
I love flowers and it seemed that everywhere we turned there were beautiful blooms. When I discovered that Sandwich Heritage Museum and Gardens were holding a Rhododendron Festival during the week we happened to be staying, I knew I had to visit. Mimi and the husband declined (hayfever) and the other two weren’t interested so I took the opportunity to have some time to myself.
I didn’t actually pay to go into the museum or gardens themselves. I knew it was a pretty big place and I wouldn’t have the time to really do it justice by exploring it in it’s entirety. So I peeked through fences and caught glimpses of artistic sculptures, water features and stunning floral displays. I’d love to go back one day and spend a whole afternoon there. I also learned that there is a Hydrangea Festival a month or so later too, which I’m sure would be equally as colourful. All the photos below were taken on a quick wander around the edges of the car park!
By the time I got back to the Airbnb after my little excursion it was late afternoon. Another little tradition we have as a family is to always visit the beach on our last afternoon in a place so that we can say goodbye to the sea, so we decided to make the most of our adventures on Cape Cod and walk down to Sandwich Boardwalk and Town Neck Beach.
We’d visited on our first day in Sandwich but the weather was cold and rainy, so we definitely hadn’t seen the beach at it’s best. In contrast, on our final day the skies were clear and we were just beginning to approach golden hour so I knew it would be the perfect time to visit.
On our way we noticed this little collection of kindness rocks next to a boulder. Lola in particular is getting really good at spotting them and is always super excited when she does. This one was particularly touching.
We strolled along the Boardwalk, playing leapfrog over one another on the bridge and keeping a lookout for wildlife. When we reached the beach we were pleased to discover that it was virtually deserted.
We spent absolutely ages at Town Neck Beach. The girls played in the sand, burying each others feet and searching for shells. The husband wandered down to the shore to watch the waves and hunt for clams. And I captured photographs to my hearts content. It was a very happy way to spend an hour or so.
Eventually we reluctantly decided we should probably head back to our Airbnb to get some dinner. We also needed to pack up all our belongings in readiness for the long journey home to the UK the next day, which was going to be a VERY early start. None of us wanted to leave.
Finally we managed to coax the girls off the beach and, after saying a sad goodbye to the sea, we made our way back onto the boardwalk where they promptly invented a new game – running leaps off of the boardwalk onto the soft sand below. I didn’t have the heart to drag them away so we stayed there for a good while as the sun started to slowly sink in the sky, casting it’s magical light in the way that only ever happens when memories are being made.
These final few hours together were, for me, the most special part of our time together and adventures on Cape Cod. I’ll never forget the girls’ squeals of laughter as they leapt into the air; the sight of their abandoned shoes (because barefoot is all you ever need to be at the beach); and the feeling of contentment that I had in those moments where everything seemed right with the world. It was wonderful.
DAY FIVE: SATURDAY
Travel day. A ridiculously early start for us all. “Why are you waking us up in the middle of the night Mummy?”, my middle one sleepily asked as we roused her from her dreams and attempted to get her dressed.
I always have very mixed feelings on the homeward journey. On one hand I feel terribly sad to be leaving a place, especially this place after having such fantastic adventures on Cape Cod – I really wished we could stay forever. And on the other hand a little bit of me starts looking forward to the familiarity of home.
(Confession: I love the first day of being home – pottering around unpacking the suitcases, doing all the holiday washing, popping to the supermarket to get some food and starting to look through all my photos and video clips. But by day 2 of being home I’m already googling travel locations we could go to next!)
We watched a beautiful sunrise at airport, and, after a smooth journey, we also caught the sunset whilst making the long drive back home from the airport once we’d landed in the UK.
Cape Cod really was a wonderful part of our trip and four days was nowhere near enough. I absolutely loved it there. We will be back again for sure one day to explore everything else it has to offer.
Here is a video of our adventures on Cape Cod. I love making these so much because we all get a huge amount of joy from watching them back over and remembering all the things we go up to. They take me forever but they’re worth every minute. I hope you enjoy watching them too – if so, please do click on ‘subscribe’ so you can see more videos as and when we head off on our next adventure, wherever that may be.