Updated July 9, 2020
Cape Cod: lazy summer days on the beach, sand grass blowing in the dunes, the Nantucket Sound illuminating under the sun, a bike ride into town for a lobster roll or ice cream at some old-fashioned New England outpost. That’s what people think of when they think of the Cape.
There is a slowness to this Massachusetts summer haven, and a low-key vibe that makes it so popular to visit. Especially with city dwellers in Boston and New York, it’s the ultimate seaside retreat – it’s the very definition of rest and relaxation amidst beauty and tranquility.
My grandparents used to have a house on the Cape, in a little village called Osterville. I loved visiting this house. Located on the Eel River, we used to sail my grandfather’s sailboat (called the “Cory”), collect shells, dig for snails, and swing on the hammock at the end of the day. I remember it like it was yesterday. I loved this house.
In recent years I’ve visited the house – my aunt owned it until this year (unfortunately she passed) – and every time I’ve visited I still smell the same smells emitted from the garden and trees, take my girls down to the river to hunt for snails, go to the beach for some wave jumping, get lobster rolls from the same restaurant (Wimpy’s) that’s been around all these years. Every time we leave, my girls say they don’t want to go, and I know the feeling all too well, for that’s how I felt every time we had to leave when I was a child.
Osterville is a treasure of a town, and below I’ve listed things to see and do, including beaches, restaurants, water sports, and outdoor and indoor activities. Of course my experience is different from a regular tourist, as I have family there, and activities naturally readily available, but should you be looking for a town to visit on the Cape, or passing through Osterville, here are my tips and recommendations.
First of all, Osterville is located in the township of Barnstable, in a section called the “Mid-Cape”, as people refer to it. Barnstable is comprised of 7 villages, the most well-known being Hyannis, which is about 20 minutes away (this is where of course the Kennedy compound is, and the biggest hub in the area).
Osterville is one of the prettiest villages on the Cape, with a charming downtown filled with fashion boutiques, gourmet food stores, gift shops and book stores. There are beautiful ocean views, beaches, ponds, lakes and marshes. There is the Eel River too, though public access is limited. Osterville is tiny, so some of my recommendations are not necessarily within the village, but rather in some of the other nearby villages of Barnstable.
It’s no secret Cape Cod has beautiful beaches. That is, after all, why it is such a popular summer destination. Osterville is near some especially scenic beaches, and family-friendly ones as well. Dowses Beach is its most well-known beach, however, you need a residential pass to enter. Below I’ve listed some nearby accessible beaches to the public, all within a 20 minute drive from Osterville.
Craigville Beach is the closest public beach and very popular with families; it is a full-service beach with life guard, food and rest rooms.
Long Beach, near Craigville, is public as well, though most people think it is private. There is very limited parking so you typically have to park at Craigville and walk the half mile, but locals say once you’re there, it’s one of the best spots in the area.
Kalmus Beach in Hyannis is another popular one for families, with restrooms and concessions. A big wind-surfing beach as well.
Sandy Neck Beach in West Barnstable is long with miles of sand.
Where to Eat
Wimpy’s Seafood Café and Market in Osterville is an institution. A family owned restaurant since 1938, it also has a market for take-out. It’s known for its seafood, particularly its clam chowder and lobster rolls.
Crisp Flatbread People swear by this Italian restaurant in Osterville, especially their pizzas.
Earthly Delights The name sums it up. For good, healthy eating, head here. Located in Osterville.
Four Seas A trip to the Cape is not complete without a stop at Four Seas. Home made ice cream since 1934, Four Seas has a huge following, and rightfully so. Their ice cream is incredible! Peppermint stick is my favorite. Located in nearby Centerville.
Kids (and Adults) Activities
Though beach time can dominate a Cape Cod visit, there’s of course plenty of other things to do in this seaside retreat, including boating, kayaking, biking, museums, and other kids-oriented activities.
For a break from the beach, try:
Bike riding is a past time here and a great way to explore the village. Corner Cycle rents bikes right in Osterville.
For boat rentals, All Cape Boat Rentals has a good variety – located in Hyannis.
For Kayaking, check out out Ride Away Kayak in Sandwich.
Putters Paradise, for some mini golf, is in Hyannis.
Cape Cod Maritime Museum, home to Cape Cod’s oldest shipwreck, is located in Hyannis. Great for a rainy day.
Cape Cod Duckmobiles is super fun for the kids; they provide land and sea tours through downtown Hyannis (see where the Kennedy’s frequented) and the harbor on these unique, authentic military amphibious vehicles.
Cape Cod is a magical summer haven and New England at its best. If you are interested in staying at a hotel and want some help and or recommendations, please contact me.
Enjoy this post? You may also be interested in:
Newport, RI: Top Things to See and Do with Kids
Nantucket Island: Best Family Friendly Beaches
Bar Harbor, Maine: Sea, Mountains and Lobstah
Love the ice cream picture!! I went to Cape Cod with some girlfriends before I was married (seems like forever ago) and we loved it so much, I can’t understand why I haven’t been back since. Gorgeous post, Osterville sounds wonderful, we didn’t go there on our trip but I think it would be perfect for our family!!
Thanks Joy – yes, the Cape is great both for families and a girls weekend – getting me thinking I may have to plan a ladies only weekend there soon!
Perfect timing! Just arrived on Cape an hour ago 😄!
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Fun! Where on the Cape are you guys? Enjoy!
You make it sound idyllic but i know what you mean about tapping into childhood memories, the smells, the family, the sun.
Yup – brought it all back. Always wonderful to see your children experience the same places you did as a child too.
Lovely being able to share your childhood memories with the girls as well as getting family together. Lovely Corey
Thanks so much – is this Jean?!
It looks like child heaven! I love seeing your lot scampering across the grass. 🙂 🙂 Your childhood sounds idyllic, Corey. Sad when those carefree days are gone. A lovely share!
Thanks Jo! I know, trying to live the carefreeness through my kids..:).
You always make things look so idyllic. I have a hard time taking ‘slow’ vacations but this does look tempting.
Looks like the perfect summer holiday. You have made me nostalgic for our summer beach holidays in Australia but I would gladly swap the fish and chips for a lobster roll!
Ha – it’s funny bc I’m actually not a big lobster person, or shellfish in general (except shrimp) but in certain places it’s a must. And this is one of them. And they’re amazing. Thanks for reading!
This looks and sounds like the sort of family beach holiday I love so much – laid-back, old-fashioned fun. You’ve made me desperate to visit, Corey! It’s really special taking your children back to the places you loved as a child.
Thanks Clare! I know, I really do love taking my girls to the places I loved so much as a kid. It’s one of my favorite things about being a parent:).