You can easily spend a week on vacation in Cape Cod. Whether you are the type of person who wants to go the beach every day, prefer exploring local museums, shops and restaurants, or want to ride on the bike paths there’s plenty to do, especially in the summer. However, there are lots of Cape Cod day trips for families as well – both for people who want to stay in one location on the Cape and tour around, and for those who just plan to visit Cape Cod for the day.
Keep in mind that the summer is a very busy time on Cape Cod – it really is a popular summer destination If you are only visiting for the day during the peak season, I’d recommend skipping the weekends so you aren’t spending too much time in traffic. With just two bridges (the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge) leading to the region, traffic regularly backs up, especially on Fridays and Sundays as many families head to the area for a weekend getaway.
Here are some of our favorite Cape Cod day trip options for families.
Cape Cod Day Trips for Families
Woods Hole, a village officially located in Falmouth, MA, is home to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It’s also the location of the Steamship Authority’s Woods Hole terminal, offering ferries to the islands (Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket).
While you are in Falmouth, you can also check out the downtown area. It includes shops and restaurants, and it’s a nice area to walk around. There’s plenty of parking available.
Like to bike? There’s also the Shining Sea Bikeway, a bike path that runs from the Steamship Authority ferry terminal to North Falmouth – a total of 10.7 miles. Many families bring their own bikes, but you can also rent.
Located at the very end of the Cape is this popular lively town. Provincetown offers gift shops, live music, art galleries, ice cream shops, great restaurants, coffee shops, and more, right downtown on Commercial Street. There are plenty of hotels, motels, and inns if you want to stay in town, but it’s also great for a Cape Cod day trip.
Provincetown also offers the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, as well as some beaches that are part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. You can also take whale watching tours as well as dune tours leaving from Provincetown. Book these in advance so you can get the time/tour you want.
Provincetown is also accessible via a ferry ride from Boston’s World Trade Center and Boston’s Long Wharf, a convenient way to travel in the summer months. This boat trip can be a great option for a day trip, and will definitely take less time than driving. The fast ferry runs all summer, and is about 95 minutes travel time one way.
Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket
If you are already staying on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket can be great day trips. From the rest of Massachusetts, however, I’d recommend a longer stay. You’ll waste too much time getting there to enjoy a day trip.
Both of the islands offer so much to see and do, including beaches, restaurants, and shops. There are also Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries where you can explore nature.
Guests can arrive via plane or ferry. Both islands offer both passenger and car ferries. You are more likely to need a car on Martha’s Vineyard – Nantucket is small enough where you can usually do without.
If you do choose to stay overnight, there are plenty of lodging options including motels, inns, hotels, and vacation home rentals. For day trips, you can book a tour, or do the day trip on your own. While the tour may seem like the easiest way, both islands are very easy to tour on your own.
Nickerson State Park, Brewster
Located near the popular Ocean Edge Resort in the small town of Brewster, is Nickerson State Park. If you love exploring the outdoors, there’s so much to do at Nickerson State Park.
Activities include camping, boating, hiking, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, biking, and fishing. There is a fee to park there, with a discount for Massachusetts residents. If you want to camp, use this website to book in advance.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
Nickerson State Park is also on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 25 mile path where you can walk or bike. The bike trail goes through six Cape Cod towns, including South Yarmouth, South Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Eastham, and South Wellfleet.
While you will have to pay for the parking lot at Nickerson State Park, there are other free parking areas along the trail. If you aren’t bringing a bike with you, bike rentals are available from local shops in the various towns on the trail. Once you know where you’ll be parking, do a web search for a shop in that area, and you will find several options.
Plymouth, MA isn’t technically on Cape Cod – but is located nearby, on the way to Cape Cod. If you are on the Cape for vacation, and would like to venture out for a quick day trip, Plymouth is a great option, thanks to its historic sites.
Plymouth is home to the Plimoth-Patuxet Museums (a living history museum formerly known as Plymouth Plantation), as well as Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II (reproduction of the original Mayflower). While most locals don’t think Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II are worth a special trip, the museums are a must-do for its rich history.
Tickets can be purchased online, and combination tickets are available. These aren’t timed tickets, so you won’t be locked into a specific arrival time for your visit.
Sandwich MA is known as the oldest town on Cape Cod. It’s located in Upper Cape Cod, along the area where the Cape Cod Bay meets the canal. As a result, it’s one of the closer Cape towns to Boston, and is great for a day trip.
Sandwich is known for several museums, including the Heritage Museum and Gardens and the Sandwich Glass Museum. These aren’t necessarily kid-friendly museums, but are very popular with adults. For craft beer lovers, here’s also a new Tree house Brewing Company location right in Sandwich.
Yarmouth is known as one of the more family-friendly areas of the Cape. It’s located mid-Cape, and offers many beaches and other family activities. Because of this it’s one of the best places to visit with kids.
Some of the popular things to do in Yarmouth include mini-golf, the Whydah Pirate Museum, and the Cape Cod Inflatable Park, as well as many beautiful sandy beaches. If you are staying overnight, there are several family resorts in town. Because of its mid-Cape location, it’s a great “home-base” for a Cape Cod vacation.
Looking for more Cape Cod travel tips? Click to see our guide with town recommendations, things to do, restaurants, and more in Cape Cod.