Three Standout Cape Cod Towns

With an impetus of visiting a friend doing research this summer at the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution, my family chose Falmouth as a base to explore the lower part of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

FALMOUTH

Falmouth has much to recommend it – a charming and very walkable downtown, good restaurants, a small beach, great centrally located playground, and marine-life encounters at the aforementioned oceanographic research center and the free aquarium.

Food first. A good diner is key. All ages are satisfied at the affordable Betsy’s Diner, which encourages patrons to “Eat Heavy” and often has a line out the door (off hours work best). Another hit was 41-70 Restaurant (refers to its coordinates), which we found when wandering hungry and stymied by the raising of the drawbridge. Luckily for us, we were stopped in front of this restaurant and walked back to the small outdoor patio with a view of the harbor. The clam chowder/lobster salad sandwich combo was successful and my kids felt very grown up sitting at their own table (there’s a children’s menu; patio is narrow so tables seat two).

“The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is dedicated to research and education to advance understanding of the ocean and its interaction with the Earth system, and to communicating this understanding for the benefit of society”

It’s amazing that the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution is so open and welcoming to the public, providing free summer tours of their research facilities, a museum (suggested admission $3 for those over 10), and free aquarium.

POPPONESSET

Close your eyes and picture a quaint family-friendly New England beach town. You have envisioned Popponesset, population 220. Stroll on clamshells under a lattice-covered walkway and discover shops selling beach gear, toys, summer fashions; cafes, bars, and ice cream shops; a gazebo and playhouse. Don’t miss playing the nautical-themed miniature golf course! I wanted to eat lunch with a view of the ocean so we drove across the parking lots to the lovely but pricey Popponesset Inn, where the biggest hit was my husband’s sandwich: roast beef on crusty French bread. The kids were happy with chicken fingers and a burger; I had a lobster salad that was extremely fresh but was overpowered by the flavor of butter (menu stated mayonnaise but it tasted like butter). I later found out that the lobster roll at the raw bar in the Popponesset Marketplace is award winning. Oh well. Next year.

There are plenty of nice beaches around this area. Heads up that they charge a fee and do not have facilities like a concession stand.

CHATHAM

Ah, Chatham.  Windswept dunes, lighthouse, seals frolicking (and enticing sharks). A quintessential main shopping street so perfect it seems created for Hollywood. Fudge and penny candy? Check. Galleries filled with local art, handcrafted jewelry, and nautical-themed home items? Check. A tiny visitor center staffed by a local? Check.  A church tag sale? Check.

Stop into the Chatham Squire to quench your thirst or grab a bite. The stuffed clam was as big as my husband’s outstretched hand (pretty big) and seasoned masterfully with linguica. My lobster bisque-lobster roll combo was aptly named Lobster O.D.  There’s a children’s menu here as well, and our server was very in tune to kids’ needs, bringing coloring sheets and crayons, extra oyster crackers for them when she served my bisque, and offering to fill their water bottles when we were leaving.

stuffed clam at the Chatham Squire, Chatham, MA.
A dish to seek out: the stuffed clam at the Chatham Squire, Chatham, MA. It’s an app but a meal in itself. Enormous and very tasty — I’m guessing the flavor I loved was linguica

 

ACCOMMODATIONS

We rented through Airbnb because the price ($200/night) of our East Falmouth lodging was the same as many local hotels but here we got two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, backyard. We popped into the Chatham Bars Inn and were bowled over by the grandeur of this impressive old school seaside resort. It is about a 15-minute walk to Chatham’s main shopping street but employees will gladly shuttle guests locally for free.

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