Wellfleet and Provincetown, Massachusetts
Cape Cod has everything you want in a beach vacation: miles of sandy shoreline, cute little towns, and, of course, lobster rolls. It’s why so many people flock here despite the horrendous summer traffic, and why rentals book out a year in advance. This 77-mile stretch of land has about a dozen towns, and few are more adorable than Wellfleet, on the Outer Cape, where things are quieter and the pace is slower. Marconi Beach, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, has wide beaches dotted with massive, sand dunes. The water is a bit cooler here, and the waves harsher as they roll on from the Atlantic. Bayside, at Duck Harbor Beach, the water is warmer and it feels like you’re at the end of the world.
Just a short drive from Wellfleet on Route 6 is Provincetown, at the tip of the cape. P-town is known for its LGBTQ community -- in August, P-town turns into one big Pride celebration during Carnival Week -- but walk down crowded Commercial street and you’ll see a delightful mix of drag queens, families with kiddos, locals, and a young artsy crowd from all over. Visit one of the many art galleries downtown, duck into the shops, and then hit the Lobster Pot (a favorite of Anthony Bourdain) for some chowdah, or Pepe’s Wharf for a lobster roll.
Must eat/drink: Fried clams at Mac’s Seafood. Take Commercial street through town until you reach the pier overlooking Wellfleet Bay. Order clams and fries at the shack’s take-out window and sit at one of the communal picnic tables in the sand overlooking the harbor and Mayo Beach. This low-key, grassy, bayside beach is perfect for swimming and a great spot to catch a sunset.
Don't leave without: Biking the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The 27-mile bike trail runs from South Wellfleet down to Yarmouth through salt marshes, cranberry bogs, evergreens and pine forests. It’s completely paved and mostly flat. -- Jennifer Mattson