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Cool at Cape Cod

Cape Cod, like Martha’s Vineyard and other legendary parts of Massachusetts, conjures up images of sophisticated New Yorkers escaping to their quaint interior-magazine-worthy New England homes. Weekends full of Dawson’s Creek views, glistening yachts in chic marinas, Banana Republic khakis and cotton t-shirts worn by picture perfect blonde children…

Driving up from Boston to the Cape, like zillions before us, the plan was to see what the holiday hostpot had to offer off-season. A whirlwind trip to see Cape Cod in just three days.

Our home for a few nights was to be the Beechwood Inn in Barnstable. Highly recommended, the Inn boasts top rating by the AAA, and is Cape Cod Life magazine’s winner for “Best B&B – Mid Cape” as well as Yankee Magazine’s “Editor’s Choice.”  Innkeepers Ken and Debbie Turgot make you feel instantly welcome. Helpful and informative, whatever you need – they have made it their business to know all about the area: from sightseeing expeditions to the best food to be had in the neighbouring restaurants. Always best to trust locals rather than follow your nose…

Ken and Debbie used to belong to the hectic corporate world of Citicorp but decided to jack it all in for a different lifestyle. All they wanted was their own ‘peanut stand’ as opposed to slaving away for a big corporation. The couple are well travelled and have no doubt visited a place near you, which makes for an instant ice-breaker and easy conversation.

Ken, who’s been around the world from Bombay to Rome, from London to Cairo and in no less than 44 states, is full of enthusiasm and bonhomie. As you sit down to enjoy your tea and home-made cookies, he tells tales of guests from all over. He reminisces about visitors from China, Germany, Poland and Brazilian ballerinas…
To add to the homely feeling the Turgots have several fluffy Golden Retrievers. Having met Fortune, Wonder and latest addition, Bravo, while sitting in the front room enjoying the food and the chat, I had to restrain myself from helping with the dishes. I felt so much at home, it seemed right to head into the kitchen and pull on the marigolds. The Beechwood Inn doesn’t cater for kids under 12 and prides itself on its quiet, romantic rustic charm making it an ideal all year destination for honeymooners and couples in search of some quality time.

 In summer you can sit in the rocking chairs on the front porch and sip iced tea while during the cold months, you can cosy up in front of the open fire and relax on the four poster bed. All the rooms are furnished with antiques, which are especially popular in this area. Cape Codders are extremely proud of their heritage, and much of their antiques come straight from the first settlers straight off the Mayflower.

The Beechwood Inn is located on the famous 6A Route, the Old King’s Highway.
The 350-year-old route boasts one of the most scenic and historic stretches of road alongside which nestle some of the oldest buildings on the Cape, beautifully restored sea captain’s homes, cranberry bogs and salt marshes with stunning bay views. The 6A runs all the way up the peninsula to Provincetown. Situated Mid-Cape, Barnstable’s location is ideal. Access to the Lower and Upper Cape couldn’t be easier.

Barnstable is a 60 square mile area and the largest ‘village’ on Cape Cod. The community has retained a lot of its original old-world feel. Originally a small fishing community, the seven villages eventually merged to create a larger town.
 Hyannis is better known as ‘the homeport of Cape Cod’. The town is heaving with shops, restaurants and bars and was famous for being JFK’s home from home. In the waterfront district, on Ocean Street you can find the JFK monument and further along the JFK memorial park and museum which exhibits over 80 photographs spanning from 1934 to 1963. The port town is also where the ferries for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard depart from.

The Cape also has strong foreign influences. West Barnstable has a cosmopolitan feel thanks to a large Finnish contingent, while in Hyannis there is a large Brazilian community.

Activities on the Cape range from bird watching, horse riding and whale watching in season (April through October) for wildlife enthusiasts, to biking or hiking along the trails for the more energetic visitors. Golf is also big in the area with around 80 courses and, along the 115 beaches you will find kayaking, jet-skiing, sailing, fishing and windsurfing.

In and around Barnstable there are 100 miles of public beaches. Towards the Northern end of West Barnstable, beyond the salt marshes you will find the 6-mile stretch of coastline of Sandy Neck Beach with its dunes, beach grasses and marshlands and views on Cape Cod Bay.

The Southern side, the shores of the Nantucket Sound is a tourist haven with beaches galore including Kalmus Beach, Orrin Keyes and Sea Street Beach.
 The sheltered Veterans Beach and busy Craigville Beach come complete with ice cream vans, boutiques and seaside paraphernalia.

The best time to visit the Cape is around April/May and September/October in order to get the best weather and to avoid the crowds.

Heading inland, getting away from the sandy shores, opt for Marston Mills, a place of natural beauty with numerous ponds and lakes.

Driving up to Provincetown will take around an hour. The dunes along the coast line the route as you enter the quaint town, which sits on the tip of the peninsula.
The community here is well known for its bohemian character. With a largely gay population, Provincetown is known as a creative and arty center. The coastline here is said to have inspired many writers and painters including Charles Hawthorne, William von der Heydt, Marguerite and William Zorach and even Jackson Pollock.

Off-season Provincetown is a bit of a ghost town. We stopped off at the Lobster Pot on Commercial Street for a lobster roll and some chowder with a sea view. It’s the done thing on Cape Cod, especially when it’s raining! The restaurant was subdued but pleasantly uncomplicated. Massive water tanks housed lobsters, who were blissfully unaware of their impending fate.

While the wind whistled outside, watching the rough sea come crashing along the picket fenced shoreline and the rain whipped against the windscreen wipers, I could imagine how Provincetown looked in the busy summer months with its beach and food outlets buzzing with life and activity.

If you are looking for an alternative route back to Boston, you can catch a 90mn ferry here.

One of the main attractions in the Cape, is the fantastic local food. Clam chowders, seafood and lobster rolls hold prime position on Massachusetts’s menu. On the Cape alone, there are 750 restaurants dishing up the tastiest local specialities.

Amongst those I particularly recommend The Dolphin, on Main Street in Barnstable. This cosy restaurant has the most incredible crab soup. Although I asked for the recipe I wasn’t given it… a secret, apparently. Although the main course and the service weren’t much to write home about, that crab soup rates as one of the best things I have ever tasted. With undertones of saffron and a thousand other flavours I could never put my finger on, the rich and tasty soup was warm, smooth and a beautiful rust colour. It was everything shellfish soup should be. For something different and more modern, try the Amari. A blend of local and Italian food, the friendly staff dish up some good, honest food in mass quantities. On the menu, pizza or shrimps for $14 washed down with a $4.50 beer.

Back at the Inn, Debbie cooks her own breakfast, gaining rave review from guidebooks and travel magazines alike. Her apple pancake is amazing, as are the blueberry muffins, just right, crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Unfortunately we didn’t stay long enough to sample her Raspberry bread and baked pears. Maybe next time?

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