Cape Cod beach entrance at sundown

The beaches in Cape Cod are legendary. (Photo: Getty Images)

Weekend Getaways

Escape to Cape Cod, Massachusetts: Lobster Shacks, Beach Naps and Sea Shelling

In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the iconic shingled homes with seashell-covered driveways and seemingly endless stretches of sand conjure up an idyllic version of the New England coastline. This hook-shaped peninsula features the rugged blue waters of the Atlantic on one side and the gentle Cape Cod Bay on the other.

From its shanty-style lobster shacks to its shifting dunes and charming boutiques, the Cape, as it’s called, is the quintessential East Coast escape. Grab your lobster bibs and sunscreen for a three-day weekend by the beach.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Swim in Cold Water, Dine on Fresh Seafood

Wherever you’re starting from, head out early to beat the weekend traffic across the Sagamore and Bourne bridges. As soon as your tires hit the Cape, the sea salt air fills your lungs and your shoulders instantly unclench.

Cape Cod has more than 68 square miles of protected beaches, kettle ponds and woods comprising the National Seashore, established by one of Massachusetts’ most famous former residents, John F. Kennedy.

Pay the one-time entrance fee for the National Seashore at Coast Guard Beach or Nauset Light Beach in Eastham, or drive a bit farther to Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, where the locals go.

The huge stretches of pristine sand and awe-inspiring ocean waves are hard to beat. (Note that there has been shark activity in the area over the past decade.) Enjoy your time taking a chilly dip in the ocean, shelling by the shore and seeking out tidal pools to search for sea urchins and hermit crabs.

After you’ve washed off the sticky mix of salt, sand and sunscreen, drive to the center of Wellfleet and park in the church lot.

Get out and walk winding streets lined with dozens of art galleries like Blue Heron Gallery and Cove Gallery for paintings, sculptures and jewelry crafted by locals.

There’s no better place to get a lobster roll. (Photo: Getty Images)

Grab a cone at A Nice Cream Stop and peruse the quirky gift and souvenir shops. When the hunger pangs start, head to Mac’s Shack for phenomenally fresh sushi, oysters and (of course) a lobster roll.

Reservations are a must at Mac’s, but if you don’t have one, join the line at the decidedly not-fancy Moby Dick’s. This longtime favorite of both locals and visitors sells wicked-good, no-frills seafood — fried, steamed or grilled.

Then, with full bellies, pull up to the Wellfleet Drive-In for a throwback movie under the stars.

Saturday: Visit Popular P-Town

Your destination is one of the Cape’s most beloved — Provincetown or P-Town, as it’s commonly known. The Pilgrims first landed here, on the very tip of Cape Cod, in 1620. Over the next few hundred years, Provincetown became a fishing town popular among Portuguese immigrants and then a summertime hot spot.

Long known for its history of tolerance, P-Town is also one of the country’s most popular destinations for artists, authors and LGBTQ travelers.

Arguably the best breakfast in town, Liz’s Café, Anybody’s Bar, makes fantastic classics like Western omelets and salmon plates to fuel you for a day of exploring. There is no question: It’s packed tighter than a tin of sardines walking down Commercial Street on a Saturday in the summer, but trust us, there’s no better spot to people-watch.

Stop off at the famous Lobster Pot, where Anthony Bourdain once worked, and order his favorite: a bowl of traditional Portuguese soup made with kidney beans, kale, potatoes and linguiça, a pork sausage.

The view of Provincetown from Pilgrim Monument. (Photo: Getty Images)

For a bird’s-eye view of P-Town at its peak, climb the staircase of the tallest all-granite structure in the country, the Pilgrim Monument. Built to commemorate the Pilgrims’ landing in Provincetown, the monument was completed in 1910 along with the Provincetown Museum, located directly underneath it.

When the views of the waves from the top of the monument become too tempting, head to Race Point Beach for a swim in the tide pools or a dip in the always-chilly water. With a four-wheel-drive vehicle and the proper permits, you can drive your car along the dunes toward the Race Point Lighthouse.

As the sun sets, sit on the harbor at the Mews sipping martinis and slurping oysters. End the evening with a nightcap at the Shipwreck Lounge, the self-proclaimed “best of Provincetown gay bars” that serves up handcrafted cocktails and boasts an expansive outdoor patio for alfresco nightcaps

Sunday: Take in Beaches and Two Historic Towns

Chatham is a much-loved place for Cape visitors and locals alike. When you lay eyes on the beautiful beaches, charming Cape Cod-style homes and seafood spots, it’s not hard to see why.

Chatham lighthouse is a must-see. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you aren’t beached out, Lighthouse Beach is the area’s most popular stretch of sand, with an unbeatable view of the famous Chatham Lighthouse.

Grab some bagels, pastries, smoothies or coffee at Chatham Perk to take with you. Or try Harding’s Beach and join the (sometimes dense) Sunday crowds building sand castles, skimboarding and making runs to the food trucks for oceanside treats.

Afterward, walk down Chatham’s Main Street and stop off for some taffy and fudge at the Chatham Candy Manor. Duck into any one of the dozens of small shops for something to commemorate your Cape Cod weekend: a sweatshirt or an iconic Cape Cod bracelet, a simple silver band with an equally simple gold ball at its center.

Make a pit stop in Hyannis, a town close to the mainland and the home of the Kennedy compound and John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. Grab a signature chicken pie, a favorite of Oprah’s, or the local clam pie at the Centerville Pie Company. Be sure to save room for one last dose of summertime with a glass of Cape Cod Summer Hefe-Weizen at Cape Cod Beer.

While this might be your first trip to the Cape, it certainly won’t be your last. You’ll return year after year, making some wicked-good memories for generations to come.