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. My aunt now owns it, yet for some reason I haven’t been back to visit in years, or the Cape for that matter. I’m not sure why.
But this past weekend my family and I went up for a family reunion, and it was as if no time had passed. I still smelled the same smells emitted from the garden and trees, took my girls down to the river to hunt for snails, went to the beach for some wave jumping, got lobster rolls from the same restaurant (Wimpy’s) that’s been around all these years. On our last day my girls kept saying they didn’t want to leave, and I knew 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.
Where to Stay
This trip we stayed in an Airbnb, which was perfect for our group, but definitely on the pricey side. The location, however, could not be beat. I always think it’s worth checking out Airbnb’s, or comparable services, because you never know what you may find, and if any last minute deals are going on. Osterville itself does not have any hotels, but there are b & b’s and motels nearby, the most popular in Centerville, about 5 minutes away. These are small villages, and all very close-by!
The Ocean View in Centerville (across the street from Craigville beach)
Craigville Beach Inn in Centerville
Long Dell Inn in Centerville
Captain David Kelley House in Centerville
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.
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