One thing that’s certain along with death and taxes is summer crowds on Cape Cod. Trust me on this: I’ve lived on the Cape year-round for more than 30 years. People often ask how I “deal with all those people in the summer,” so I thought I’d share what I do to stay sane, and how I even continue to love living on the Cape in July and August.
One thing that is certain, and completely unavoidable, is traffic on the Sagamore and Bourne bridges. Unless you’re arriving in style on your private boat or taking the ferry from Boston to Provincetown, you will hit traffic, especially on Friday evenings or when leaving on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes, you just have to deal with reality. Generally speaking, the Bourne Bridge is the less painful of the two at peak times. If you’re leaving by the Sagamore Bridge on a Sunday and traffic is backed up, get off at exit 3 rather than exit 2. It’s generally the lesser of the two evils.
Here are my tried-and-true suggestions:
- Stay off Schedule: My No. 1 way of dodging swarms of people is to avoid what everyone else is doing. Go to the beach at 8:30 a.m. instead of 10:30 or head there at about 2 p.m. There’s still plenty of tanning time, but the crowds have started to thin out, partly because the restaurant employees have headed to work. Speaking of restaurants, go the Seinfeld route and enjoy “lupper” instead of lunch or dinner. We typically dine out at around 4 – late lunch/early dinner – when it’s perfectly acceptable to imbibe, but waitlists are virtually nonexistent. This puts you at the nearest ice cream shop, if you’re so inclined, by 6:30 or so, which means you’ll be walking on the beach by 7:30 – sunset time! – just as the hordes are starting to queue up for cones.
- Get off the Beaten Path: Yes, there are places that are quiet on the Cape in the summer. You just have to find them. Your good friend Google can be a big help. I can be a small help. As an example: Cape Cod National Seashore mentions just a dozen trails online and in brochures, but there are hundreds of old fire roads, such as this one to Hatches Harbor, that are awesome and absolutely desolate. In the town of Harwich, the bike path might be wall-to-wall families, while the adjacent dirt trails are deadsville. In Falmouth, you’ll find “serenity now” at The Knob (a second Seinfeld reference; forgive me, I’m old). Now get Googling and get off the beaten path.
- Beat the Rainy-Day Blues: I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the only way to truly beat the rainy-day blues on Cape Cod in July and August is to just stay put. Hear me out on this one. When the power is out or there’s a blizzard, and you sit down for an hours-long Monopoly marathon with family and friends, don’t you end up loving it? If your Cape vacation includes a rainy day, consider giving yourself permission to just chill. Play Risk or Monopoly, binge-watch trashy TV, read a book, eat junk food without guilt, have an extra cocktail. If you’re staying at a hotel, splurge for room service, an in-room movie marathon or get a massage. Just be. If the idea of “wasting” a day like this seems ridiculous, I get it. You’re spending money to visit Cape Cod, so if that’s how you feel, refer back to suggestion No. 1.
Have a happy (summer) holiday – The Cape Codder