If you’ve been asking yourself, “Is Cape Cod worth a day trip?” I’m here to help you decide! I’ve put together 7 itinerary options that will allow you to plan the perfect day trip to Cape Cod, and also make the most of your time. So whether you’re looking to spend a day at the beach, go sightseeing, enjoy the beautiful towns, or even take a day trip from Boston without a car, I’ve got you covered.
Is Cape Cod Worth A Day Trip?
Absolutely! Even if you only have one day, with some careful planning, you’ll be able to experience a perfect Cape Cod day trip. The Cape is packed with lots of things to do, and you definitely won’t be able to experience it all in a day, but one of the best things about this region is that it’s very easy to pick just a few things, and still have an amazing and authentic Cape Cod experience in just one day.
One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to prepare for a long day. Chances are, you’ll be coming from someplace close enough to the Cape that you can drive there within 1-3 hours, and even then, it’ll be a long day. But especially on summer days when daylight is at its longest, Cape Cod is worth a day trip.
What Can You Do On Cape Cod In One Day?
The most popular activity on the Cape is without a doubt the beach, and to make Cape Cod worth a day trip, visiting the beach is one of the easiest and best things to do (and the most relaxing!). There are also a few towns that are perfect for an afternoon of shopping and dining, lots of activities out on the water including kayaking and sailing tours, miles of bike paths for a wonderful day of peddling through beautiful scenery, and finally, you could easily spend your entire day visiting the Cape’s breweries and wineries.
Having trouble deciding what the best things to do for a day trip are for you? Be sure to scroll down to take a peek at my perfect itineraries to make Cape Cod worth a day trip for you.
7 Best Cape Cod Day Trip Itineraries
I’ve been traveling to Cape Cod as an adult for well over 10 years now, and spent a lot of time there as a kid as well, so I know how to navigate the area, and how to make the most of a day trip. Depending on what you’re looking to do to make Cape Cod worth a day trip for you, I’ve created 7 itineraries to help you plan the perfect day.
These itineraries consider making the most of your time while on a Cape Cod day trip, meaning a lot of thought went into making sure you’re minimizing driving times when possible, and balancing having a relaxed day, with seeing as much as you can.
These itineraries can be used exactly as suggested, or they can absolutely be used as inspiration, and a general guideline. The most important thing is that you’re planning a day that makes Cape Cod worth a day trip for you based on your own preferences.
Important Things To Know For A Cape Cod Day Trip:
- All these itineraries, except for one, will require a car, as that is the best way to get around Cape Cod, especially for a day trip.
- You should plan to arrive early, as traffic crossing into Cape Cod can get backed up easily in the summer, especially on weekends. I suggest planning to arrive at either the Bourne or Sagamore Bridge (depending on which route you take) before 8-9a to avoid as much traffic as possible.
Cape Cod Day Trip Itinerary For Beaches
This itinerary is perfect for: Those who are taking a day trip to Cape Cod to experience the best beaches, and want to spend most of their day under a beach umbrella, going for long beach walks, and swimming in the waves.
Tip: You’ll want to plan to arrive as early as you can, especially on weekends in July and August, as beach lots fill up fast! Arriving early will also help you to skip as much traffic coming in as possible, so it’s a win-win plan. I suggest you plan to arrive around 9a, and at the very latest, 10a.
Before arrival: Pack your car with everything you need for a day at the beach. You can choose to pack all your food and drinks before leaving, or stop somewhere on the Cape on the way to the beach. If you want specific drinks and snacks, I would pack them before you leave. Grab an on-the-go breakfast during your drive.
Pit stop for beach snacks (if needed): You’ll be at the beach all day with this itinerary, so be sure to pack enough food, snacks and drinks, and make any pit stops before you arrive at the beach. Tons of places have ice for sale as well, so you can refresh your cooler with cold ice before arriving at the beach, too.
Morning-Afternoon: Let’s head to the National Seashore, which will have the absolute best beaches to make a Cape Cod day trip worth it. My suggestions are Coast Guard Beach and Marconi Beach. Once you pay your daily entrance fee, you can visit as many parks and beaches in the Cape Cod National Seashore area as you want during the day, so you can decide to stay put all day, or beach-hop to see a few different beaches.
Coast Guard and Marconi beaches both have shower facilities, if you wanted to freshen up before leaving.
Late Afternoon: Pack up and hit the showers to freshen up for dinner.
Dinner Time: Head to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
Restaurant Suggestions Close To Coast Guard and Marconi Beaches:
- Moby Dick’s – Awesome, casual seafood restaurant.
- Mac’s on the Pier – Great casual seafood place with outdoor seating overlooking the harbor.
- The Wicked Oyster – The perfect option for amazing seafood if you’re looking for something casual, but a bit upscale.
Evening: Depending on the sunset time, you may have some time to head to Race Point Beach in Provincetown to catch a beautiful sunset over the water before you leave for the day.
Alternative Option: If you don’t want to head all the way to the outer Cape/National Seashore, West Dennis Beach in Dennis is a great alternative for a beach day. They also have bathroom and shower facilities, and you then have the option of going out for a fabulous dinner at Ocean House in Dennis Port. You can go for a sunset walk right at the beach at Ocean House, drive to nearby Sea Street Beach, or even head back to West Dennis Beach for an incredible sunset over the water. This is a great option that makes Cape Cod absolutely worth a day trip.
Tip: If you decided to head to the Outer Cape/National Seashore for the day, you can still head back down to Dennis Port and go to Ocean House for dinner, and West Dennis Beach for sunset! Then drive home from there.
Cape Cod Day Trip Itinerary For Sightseeing
This itinerary is perfect for: Those who want to drive around the Cape and see some of the best sights and landmarks, and end their day at the beach (after parking fees no longer apply!).
On The Way: Stop for an on-the-go breakfast & coffee to fuel up.
Morning: Start in Sandwich, and visit the Hoxie House, the oldest house on Cape Cod, and the grist mill in town. If interested, you can also add on a trip to the Sandwich Glass Museum. Then begin your drive to Brewster to visit the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. If you’re up for it, you can also walk the John Wing Trail behind the museum, which is an amazing trail that will take you through salt marshes and tidal pools.
Afternoon: Head to Chatham for lunch, and walk over to the Chatham Windmill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Tip: A great lunch spot for the whole family in Chatham is The Chatham Squire.
After Lunch: Drive to Eastham and visit Nauset Lighthouse. To avoid paying a parking fee, type “Three Sisters Lighthouses” into your GPS. There is a small parking lot there with free parking. You’ll walk a short distance to see the famous lighthouse from the Cape Cod Potato Chips bag!
From there, drive to Wellfleet and visit the Marconi Station Sites for awesome ocean views, and then move on to Truro to visit Highlight Lighthouse.
Dinner Time: Grab dinner in Wellfleet at one of the restaurant suggestions from the Beach Itinerary option, or head into Provincetown where you’ll have endless possibilities for dinner on Commercial Street, including the famous Lobster Pot. If you’ve arrived in Provincetown before 4p, you can also consider visiting the Pilgrim Monument to really make your Cape Cod day trip worth it!
Sunset: Depending on when sunset is, you’ll be able to park at Race Point or Herring Cove beach for free after 4:30p for a wonderful sunset on a clear day. Time your sunset and dinner accordingly if you’d like to do both, which will absolutely make Cape Cod worth a day trip!
Cape Cod Day Trip Itinerary For Falmouth
This itinerary is perfect for: Those who don’t want to drive too far into Cape Cod for the day, and want to stay in Falmouth to explore the beaches, Shining Sea Bike Path and the downtown area for shopping and dining.
On The Way: Stop for an on-the-go breakfast & coffee to fuel up! Or, if you’re up for a little backtracking once you arrive in Falmouth, stop at Cape Cod Bagel Cafe for a homemade bagel to start your adventure. You’ll just need to head back in the opposite direction to get to your first stop.
Morning: Rent bikes from Art’s Bike Shop and peddle along the Shining Sea Bikeway, which has over 10 miles of paved paths, and incredible ocean views.
Afternoon: Head into Falmouth’s downtown for lunch, and to visit some of the shops.
Falmouth Lunch Spot Suggestions:
- Pickle Jar Kitchen for awesome sandwiches and drinks in a cool building.
- Eat Your Heart Out Cafe for great food in a beautifully-decorated setting.
- Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium for ice cream.
Late Afternoon/Early Evening: Head to the public lot for Old Silver Beach, which stops charging for parking after 5p, and enjoy a walk on the beach before dinner.
Evening: Drive to nearby Woods Hole, and plan for dinner and a sunset at The Knob, one of the best places in all of Cape Cod to watch a sunset! Depending on when sunset is during your day trip, decide if you should do dinner before or after visiting The Knob.
Tip: Parking in the summer at The Knob can be tough, and it’s good to go into it with the expectation that you may not be able to find a spot. To get to the closest parking area to the trail head, use 48 Quisset Harbor Rd. in your GPS, and keep in mind that you will pass alternative parking ares on your way. If visiting during July or August, snatch up any spot you see on your way, and then walk to the trail head. It’s worth the effort!
To get to the end of The Knob, you’ll want to take an immediate right once you see the information board at the trail head.
Falmouth Sunset Alternative: Nobska Lighthouse also has nice views of the sunset, and is only a 7-8 minute drive from The Knob. There is limited parking here as well, but I’ve rarely had an issue getting a spot, even in the summer around sunset. This is another great option that makes Cape Cod worth a day trip.
Restaurant Suggestions For Dinner In Woods Hole:
- Quicks Hole Taqueria – Awesome little taco place by the water.
- Water Street Kitchen – Great seafood place by the water with an upscale, tavern atmosphere.
- Osteria La Civetta – Really nice Italian place with homemade pasta.
Cape Cod Day Trip Itinerary For Brewery & Winery Hopping
This itinerary is perfect for: Those who are looking to spend the day sampling some great beer and wine, and enjoying some of the small-town atmosphere along the way. And, of course, amazing food! For the purpose of this itinerary, we’ll be skipping the Falmouth area to save time, which does have a winery and brewery option. You’re always able to add those on if you’re feeling adventurous!
How To Start This Itinerary: Since you likely don’t want to start drinking at 9 or 10a, but I still suggest you arrive on cape Cod relatively early to be able to spend a full day there, I’m going to start your day with a nice breakfast.
Disclaimer: Please designate someone as your Designated Driver for this itinerary to keep everyone in your group, and those around you, safe! And of course, please drink responsibly.
Morning: Have a leisurely breakfast at Cafe Chew in Sandwich for a nice breakfast. While this is an order-at-the-counter type place, they have a beautiful outdoor patio where you can eat, and really awesome breakfast and brunch options.
Note: Tree House Brewing in Sandwich is a great place to consider stopping. I didn’t include it in the official itinerary because it has a pretty strict reservation system, which might be tough for a leisurely day trip. But if you’re up for it, consider stopping here first after breakfast!
Afternoon: Head over to Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis for your first brewery tasting. Nearby, you can also add on Barnstable Brewing. Then head over to Harwich, where you can visit Devil’s Purse Brewing Company and First Crush Winery.
Lunch Time: Your next destination will be the Outer Cape, so grab lunch in either Harwich Port or Chatham.
After Lunch: Make your way up to the Outer Cape to visit Truro Vineyards and Provincetown Brewing Company. Keep in mind that most tasting rooms will close between 4-6p, so it’s best to check hours before making special plans.
After 4:30p: Parking at the National Seashore and town beaches will be free, so now is a great time to take a break from drinking and take a walk on the beach. Head of the Meadow Beach, Race Point Beach, Herring Cove Beach and Great Hollow Beach will all be wonderful options to make Cape Cod worth a day trip for you.
Dinner Time: Grab dinner nearby before making the drive back home.
Cape Cod Day Trip Itinerary For Visiting From Boston Without A Car
This itinerary is perfect for: Those who want to take a day trip from Boston, but don’t want to drive, or don’t have a car. This itinerary will be primarily focused on Provincetown and the beaches in this area. It’s one of the best beach towns in New England to visit without a car!
Transportation To Get To Provincetown: For this itinerary, I suggest you take the ferry from Boston to Provincetown. Scroll down to see your options for ferries from Boston.
Morning: Take the earliest ferry available (likely 8-9a) and arrive in Provincetown at MacMillan Pier by 10a. Once you get off the ferry and walk down the pier, you’ll already be right at Commercial Street, so take some time to explore the shops and unique atmosphere.
Alternative Option: If you’re looking to spend all morning and afternoon at the beach, then as soon as you get off the ferry at MacMillan Pier, don’t go far! Look for the in-season shuttle that goes to Race Point Beach (departs directly from the pier). Be sure to have exact cash ($2 one-way) and board the shuttle to the beach for a perfect afternoon. You’ll want to catch the shuttle back to Provincetown around 4-4:30p so you can grab dinner before your ferry back (and not feel rushed). Click here for the shuttle schedule.
Afternoon: Grab lunch at one of the many restaurants after exploring Commercial Street.
After Lunch: Visit the Pilgrim Monument for sweeping views of Provincetown, or walk down to the most famous house in Provincetown, which is on the West End of town at around 77 Commercial Street. At this point, you could also take the shuttle from MacMillan Pier to Race Point or Herring Cove Beach. Just be sure to come back in time to catch your ferry back to Boston!
Early Evening: You’ll likely have to catch your ferry between 7-8p, so plan accordingly. If you’d like to grab dinner before heading back to Boston, you may want to consider putting your name in at a restaurant, or make reservations ahead of time before leaving for the day.
How Far is Cape Cod From Boston?
By car, Cape Cod is about 1-2.5 hours from Boston, depending on where you go, as well as traffic. It should take you about 1.5 hours to get to Hyannis, and between 2-2.5 hours to get to Provincetown, depending on traffic.
In the summer months during weekends (Friday, Saturdays and Sundays), always expect to add more time for traffic, and crossing the Bourne Bridge. To avoid as much traffic on weekends in the summer as possible, plan to cross the bridge before 8-9a.
Is There a Ferry From Boston to Cape Cod?
Yes! You can take either the Bay State Cruise Company Ferry or the City Experiences Provincetown Ferry from Boston to Provincetown. Both take about 1.5 hours, and will arrive at MacMillan Pier in downtown Provincetown.
Is There A Train From Boston To Cape Cod?
Yes! In the summer season only from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, you can take the Cape Flyer train from Boston’s South Station to Hyannis. If you don’t want to arrive in Provincetown, or you don’t have a car, this is an option to consider.
With the Cape Flyer train, it’s important to note that the journey takes about 2.5 hours, so it may not be best suited for day-trippers, especially because the train arrives in Hyannis. If you don’t have a car, you’ll be limited to staying in Hyannis, which isn’t the best town to visit for a day trip. You’ll also be limited to using the public bus system on Cape Cod, which isn’t the most efficient way to get around, or Uber, which will add up pretty quickly.
Cape Cod Day Trip Itinerary For Outdoor Activities
This itinerary is perfect for: Those who want to spend their day outside kayaking through salt marshes, riding the Cape Cod Rail Trail or maybe even taking a sailing tour. This is also a great option for those who don’t want to drive up to the Outer Cape.
On The Way: Stop for an on-the-go breakfast & coffee to fuel up!
Morning: Start your day in Dennis by either hitting the Cape Cod Rail Trail with your own bikes, or renting them from Barb’s Bike Shop, which is located right off the bike path. I suggest you start in Dennis and head toward Brewster for some really lovely views of ponds during the ride. You can go for as long as you want, as the rail trail continues to Wellfleet, but I suggest for this itinerary, you plan to be back to your car in time for lunch.
Lunch Time: Head to Sesuit Harbor Cafe for lunch overlooking the harbor.
After Lunch: Stay in Dennis and rent either a boat or kayak to navigate through the beautiful salt marshes. You can rent kayaks and stand up paddle boards at Bass River Kayak and Paddle Board or you could even rent an electric paddle boat at Swan River Rentals (which also offers kayak and paddle board rentals).
Alternative Option: If you’re feeling a bit tired from your Rail Trail excursion, you could head to Hyannis or Chatham after lunch to take a boat tour. Bay Spirit Tours offers sailing tours out of Hyannis, and Monomoy Island Excursions offers a really fun seal cruise.
Evening: Time to relax! If you’re in Hyannis, I suggest you drive to either Harwich Port or Chatham for the evening, and if you’re already in Chatham, great! I would stay there for dinner. These towns both have a Main Street with shops and restaurants, with Chatham having more options than Harwich Port. See the next itinerary for Town Hopping for Chatham dinner suggestions.
Harwich Port Dinner Restaurant Options:
- Mad Minnow – An awesome little place with outdoor seating and amazing food.
- The Port for a fun oyster bar.
- Brax Landing for a view of the water and great seafood.
- Sundae School for homemade ice cream before you head back home (on the way home from Chatham, too!).
Cape Cod Day Trip Itinerary For Town Hopping
This itinerary is perfect for: Those who want to experience the best towns on Cape Cod for a day of shopping and dining, and also want the option to make Cape Cod worth a day trip by experiencing some of the local town beaches. This itinerary is also great for those who don’t want to drive up to the Outer Cape during their day trip.
On The Way: Stop for an on-the-go breakfast & coffee to fuel up!
Morning: Start your day in Sandwich, and explore the small, charming town including Hoxie House, The Grist Mill and some of the best shops in the Upper Cape. I love visiting Salt and Stripes, Modern Vintage and The Spotted Cod. Then drive to Harwich Port to walk down the Main Street.
Afternoon/Lunch Time: After exploring Harwich Port’s Main Street, grab lunch nearby.
Great Lunch Spots In Harwich Port:
- Hot Stove Saloon – A casual pub and tavern with awesome comfort food.
- Brax Landing – Casual restaurant with great seafood options, overlooking the water.
After Lunch: Drive to Chatham to spend the rest of your day, and see below for options if you’re up for more driving! Spend the rest of your afternoon walking around Chatham’s extensive Main Street shops, walk over to the windmill, and also walk a walk along Shore Road to see some of the most beautiful houses along the water.
Late Afternoon: If you’re up for the walk (and I do suggest walking versus driving in the summer because of traffic and parking difficulties), head over to Chatham Lighthouse, which is overlooking Chatham Lighthouse Beach. This is a great opportunity to get some beach time in with this itinerary. Parking here is limited to 30 minutes, and is patrolled during the summer season, which is why I suggest walking. And it’s definitely worth the effort!
Dinnertime: Walk back into town for dinner.
Great Restaurants in Chatham For Dinner:
- The Impudent Oyster for a more upscale seafood dining experience.
- Del Mar Bar & Bistro for a lovely seafood dinner with an Italian influence.
- The Wild Goose Tavern for creative American fare.
Alternative Option: After exploring downtown Chatham, drive back to Dennis Port (which you’ll have to drive through to head back home, anyway), and plan an evening at Ocean House Restaurant. This restaurant will require advanced reservations, and it one of the best places to eat on Cape Cod! Plus, it overlooks the ocean. If you arrive early, grab a seat at the Beach Bar next door and enjoy a cocktail while you wait for your table.
Stop for homemade ice cream before heading home: Sundae School Ice Cream has two locations that are convenient to ending your night with this itinerary. If you’ve ended your day in Chatham, stop at the Harwich Port location on your way home. If you’ve ended your night at Ocean House in Dennis Port, stop at the Dennis Port location on your way home. Cape Cod is worth a day trip just to get some amazing homemade ice cream!
Best Time Of Year To Take A Cape Cod Day Trip
To get the full experience, summer (July and August) is the best time of the year for a Cape Cod day trip. The days are long, the weather is warm and all the businesses are open. The downside to this time of the year is that there will be the most crowds and most traffic while driving around. But I personally love visiting in the summer, despite these downsides.
Another great option is mid-September, or right after Labor Day. The crowds will be smaller, and the water will be the warmest. Especially during a weekday, there will be hardly anyone at the beaches (the weekends in September still bring some crowds, but much fewer than in July and August).
If you’re not much of a swimmer and don’t care about water temperatures, June is another great time to make Cape Cod worth a day trip. The summer crowds haven’t quite set in, but most businesses are open, and you can still enjoy long walks and picnics on the beaches without going for a swim.
How To Get to Cape Cod?
The best way to get to Cape Cod is to drive, as the public transit system is not the most efficient way to get around the region. Driving will allow you the most freedom and the most ease when getting around.
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When driving to Cape Cod, you’ll need to cross the Cape Cod Canal via the Bourne Bridge or Sagamore Bridge. In the summer season, you’ll want to plan extra time for traffic, especially on weekends, as traffic crossing the bridges can get backed up very easily.
Why Is Cape Cod So Popular?
Cape Cod is a popular New England summer destination because it has over 500 miles of sandy beaches to explore, and is also home to the Cape Cod National Seashore. With 15 unique towns to visit, beautiful sightseeing, miles of nature and hiking trails and amazing seafood, it’s the perfect place for an amazing New England beach vacation.
What To Pack For A Cape Cod Day Trip
For a day trip, it’s always best to keep it simple because you don’t want to be lugging around a bunch of stuff all day. But depending on what you plan to do for your day trip, it won’t hurt to throw a few extra things in your car. Below is a comprehensive list of things you may want to consider bringing with you for a Cape Cod day trip:
- Reusable water bottle
- Small backpack or tote bag that you can easily have with you for necessities.
- Flip flops for walking on the beach (ones that are can easily be cleaned off with water).
- If you plan to spend a day at the beach, be sure to pack your beach umbrella, towels, beach hat, beach chairs, a book if you want to read, a cooler, and any drinks or snacks you may want for the day.
- If you plan to go swimming in any of the beaches, you may want to consider packing an extra set of clothes (and underwear) to change into. Many beaches have public showers you can use, and then you may want to change into something else for dinner. This is optional – you can always wear the same clothes you came with.
- Don’t forget a camera!
- If you plan to ride any of the bike paths, be sure to bring your bike and helmet if you don’t plan to rent them (but no worries if you forget, since there are several bike rental places all over!).
- A light jacket or sweater for the evenings (or if you plan to head out onto the water). Even on hot summer days, the evening breezes at the beach can be chilly, and it’s very likely you’ll want it if you’re doing a boat tour of any kind.
You may also find these posts helpful:
- Best Towns To Stay In On Cape Cod
- Best Ice Cream On Cape Cod
- Best Lobster Rolls On Cape Cod
- Best Things To Do In Provincetown, MA
- Best Things To Do In Chatham, MA
- Unique Things To Do On Cape Cod
- Best Things To Do On Cape Cod For Adults
- Best New England Gifts To Look For During Your Trip
- Best Things To Do On Cape Cod In The Fall
- Best Waterfront Restaurants On Cape Cod
- Summer In New England: Best Places To Go & Things To Do!
- Best Places To See Seals On Cape Cod
That’s A Wrap On: Is Cape Cod Worth a Day Trip?
Hopefully you can now see that even if you only have a day, Cape Cod is worth a day trip. Spend the day relaxing at one of New England’s most beautiful beaches, ride for miles on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, or visit a few of the picturesque towns for a day of shopping and great food. Whichever you decide, you’re sure to have the perfect Cape Cod day trip!