Cape Cod in Winter: Off the Beaten Path. Cape Cod vacations bring memories to many New Englanders. People have thoughts of long summer days, seafood, and family gatherings.
It’s a popular destination, especially for those from the northeast part of the country.
But what about Cape Cod in the winter? Is it worth a visit? Is the weather cold? I visited Cape Cod over President’s Day Weekend and found it fun and worthwhile.
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Winter Weather on Cape Cod
Winter in New England brings thoughts of cold, blustery days with much snow. But Cape Cod is surprisingly milder than expected because the Atlantic Ocean currents warm the peninsula. Temperatures can drop into the twenties but reach the high 30s and low 40s degrees Fahrenheit during January and February, depending on where you stay on the Cape. However, it can get windy, especially near the water, so plan to bundle up if you walk along the beach.
OK, the weather is not the warmest, but it is reasonable and should not stop you from visiting. Moreover, Cape Cod is not crowded in the winter, so lines are almost nonexistent. A bonus is cheaper rentals because of lower demand.
How to Get There?
Cape Cod is a peninsula. If you are coming from the northeast, the easiest way to get there is by driving. Interstates 195 and 495 connect to Route 25, which connects to Routes 6 and 28. From the Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, or other suburbs, Route 3 takes you south into Cape Cod.
Flying into Boston Logan or T.F. Green Providence airports is easy for people outside the northeast. My preference is Providence because it’s smaller and much less crowded. Most major airlines fly there directly from the east coast. I flew Southwest Airlines. Other options include United Airlines and Delta. The number of flights is limited, so plan ahead for the best deals.
Where to Stay in Cape Cod in the Winter?
Cape Cod is a vacation community. It’s crowded in the summer, but winter is another matter. Small cottages for rent are seemingly everywhere for every budget. In addition, you can check VRBO or Airbnb for rentals. Many choices exist for all price points. For instance, a two-bedroom house with basic amenities can rent for as little as ~$150 per night. But places closer to the beach will cost more.
It’s challenging to rent a house near the beach during the summer. But you may get lucky during the winter.
The same rentals will be much more during the summer months. Also, they will rent for a week at a time. But winter is the low season, and you can find cottages for two or three nights, making them ideal for a long weekend with friends.
We stayed at a 2-bedroom cottage owned by the author’s friend, called Hundred Summer Days, available on VRBO.
Cape Cod in the Winter: Things to Do
Walk to the Beach
Cape Cod is typically cold and windy in the winter. But the beaches are still open. Walking to the beach and relaxing is a great way to start the day. Benches exist at most beaches. The mornings are a great time to enjoy the ocean and watch the birds in relative silence because of the lack of crowds.
Cape Cod is home to multiple breweries. Since my trip to Cape Cod this winter was for a guy’s weekend; microbreweries were a part of the itinerary. There are at least 17 microbreweries on Cape Cod, if not more. We picked two to visit and spend time at, Cape Cod Beer and Naukabout Brewery and Taproom.
Cape Cod Beer
The microbrewery proclaims it is the Cape’s original craft beer. Because it dates to 2004, it is probably true. The owners are Todd and Beth Marcus. Todd also serves as the brewmaster. Cape Cod Beer is open year-round and is in Hyannis, making it easily accessible from all directions. In addition, the beer garden is open from May to November. The two exciting aspects of Cape Cod Beer are its dog-friendly atmosphere and the live music from Thursdays to Sundays.
Cape Cod Beer has plenty of beer choices and food. Today, the microbrewery makes about 12,000 barrels in small batches. Also, we loved the extra-large pretzels. Additionally, a renowned food truck, JP’s Twisted BBQ, usually serves food on-site.
Naukabout Brewery and Taproom
A smaller microbrewery off the beaten path is the Naukabout Brewery and Taproom in Mashpee. It’s on a wooded lot next to Mashpee Pond. The taproom is small, but the ample outdoor space provides more seating. The microbrewery has live music, comedy nights, family events, movie nights, games, etc.
According to the website, Naukabout means “doing what you love to do when you’re finished doing what you have to do.”
Naukabout focuses on small batches, and there are plenty of choices. Additionally, brats, nachos, chili, etc., are available.
Another place we visited was the Cape & Islands Distillery in Mashpee, next to Cape Cod Coffee. The distillery was founded in 2013 by four partners. According to the website, they aim to brew spirits from Cape Cod ingredients, raw materials, and style.
They have won awards, including a Silver Medal at the 2016 American Distilling Institute Awards Gala and a 2015 NY International Spirits Competition Bronze Award winner. Besides spirits, they make canned cocktails.
Other Things to Do
During the winter, crowds are sparse on Cape Cod, and some places are closed. But many attractions are still open.
If you like lighthouses, there are plenty on Cape Cod to visit during the winter. According to the Cape Cod Lighthouses website, 14 exist on the Cape. Going from the start of the Cape to Provincetown, the list includes Wings Neck Light, Nobska Point Light, Sandy Neck Light, Lewis Bay Light, Bass River Light, Stage Harbor Light, Monomoy Light, Chatham Light, Three Sisters, Nauset Light, Highland Light, Long Point Light, Wood End Light, and Race Point Light.
Another favorite to add to your itinerary are the museums. Most are open year-round, making them an ideal place to visit during the winter on Cape Cod. Three of the more prominent ones are,
Cape Cod in the Winter: Place to Eat
Many restaurants are seasonal and close during the winter on Cape Cod. But others are still open and have long waits despite the low number of vacationers.
If you want coffee and breakfast, there are two primary choices Dunkin’ and Honey Dew Donuts. Both are Massachusetts quick service restaurants and offer similar items. Interestingly, a few Starbucks are available but are outnumbered by Dunkin’ and Honey Dew.
Dunkin’ was founded in Quincy, Ma., in 1950. The company was previously known as Dunkin’ Donuts but rebranded to focus on coffee.
The other leading choice for coffee is Honey Dew, which started in Mansfield, Ma. in 1973.
Breakfast on the Cape is a tradition. The peninsula contains many inexpensive breakfast and brunch restaurants, and most are open year around. They are great places for coffee, pancakes, omelets, and other comfort food. Eating at these places may bring back memories of summers at the Cape.
We tried two, The Breakfast Room and the Olympia Restaurant. The Breakfast Room in West Dennis has been serving breakfast since 1971. It is open from 7 am to 2 pm. The Olympia Restaurant in South Yarmouth was opened in 1945. It serves breakfast but is also known for lobster. Both are great for blueberry pancakes.
Many dinner restaurants on Cape Cod are closed for the winter. But plenty of choices still exist. We were there briefly but had time to eat at two locations, Capt. Parker’s Pub and Mac’s Chatham Fish & Lobster.
Capt. Parker’s Pub is known for its New England clam chowder. If you eat nothing else, eat the clam chowder. Almost everyone at dinner thought it was the best they had eaten. Over the years, the restaurant has participated in the Cape Cod Chowder Festival, the Newport Chowder Cook-Off, and the Boston Chowder Festival, winning 18 first-place trophies. In addition, the restaurant’s website states it has appeared on Food Network shows and was mentioned on the Jeopardy TV show.
Another unique feature of the Pub is the police, firefighter, EMT, security, and military patch collection—the hundreds, if not thousands, of patches are posted in the bar area. Even in the Cape Cod winter, Capt. Parker’s had a wait. So, get there early and try the clam chowder.
A few miles away in Chatham, Ma., is Mac’s Chatham Fish & Lobster. It’s really two businesses in one, a restaurant and a seafood market. We ate at the restaurant, but you can buy seafood at the market and take it home to cook.
The restaurant has an eclectic menu with a selection of beer and wine. It operates in a fast-casual style, order at the cashier and take your number. The server will bring your food. Mac’s has the usual seafood, but the restaurant is an excellent place to eat lobster. You can order whole steamed lobster, lobster BLT, and lobster roll. Everyone who had the lobster roll liked it.
Cape Cod, in the winter, is off the beaten path. It’s not the usual trip during the winter, like Florida or the Caribbean. But it is a worthwhile trip. Temperatures are cold but not bitterly cold, much of the time. On the other hand, crowds are sparse, and flights and rentals are cheaper. Try spending a weekend there in the winter.
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Prakash Kolli is the founder of the Dividend Power site. He is a self-taught investor, analyst, and writer on dividend growth stocks and financial independence. His writings can be found on Seeking Alpha, InvestorPlace, Business Insider, Nasdaq, TalkMarkets, ValueWalk, The Money Show, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, and leading financial sites. In addition, he is part of the Portfolio Insight and Sure Dividend teams. He was recently in the top 1.0% and 100 (73 out of over 13,450) financial bloggers, as tracked by TipRanks (an independent analyst tracking site) for his articles on Seeking Alpha.