It’s the beginning of February and I’m just now getting around to my first blog post of 2013. And … I’m actually posting about a trip we took at the end of December. I know … for shame. It’s been over a year since I stopped freelancing (I filed my last story in October 2011 as my web producer job at the Boston Globe was getting busier) and I haven’t gotten back in the habit of regular writing again.
So, it’s a month later and I am finally recapping our weekend on Cape Cod in the dead of winter. Similar to our jaunt to Mystic Seaport, most people think of the Cape as a summer destination. Their loss, as there is plenty to see and do in the off-season too.
The first, and most important, step is finding the right place to stay. Many of the tourist hotels and B&Bs will shut down over the winter. We had the added stress of finding a pet-friendly place so that we could bring our basset hound. We found the Lamb and Lion Inn in Barnstable (mid-Cape area) to be a great home base. In the summer, the horrendous traffic can keep you pretty locked into your geographical area, but the open roads in winter mean that a stay in mid-Cape doesn’t limit you to just that area.
We set out on a driving tour for our first full day on the Cape, with the goal to head east until we hit Chatham at “the elbow” of the Cape. Tom, one of the owners of Lamb and Lion, gave us some great advice to stick to Route 6A (local road) instead of Route 6 (highway). He also provided us with his two-page driving tour that includes many local gems that you won’t find in any guide book.
In deference to Tom’s hard work, I won’t disclose what’s on his driving tour except to highlight four great stops that are (1) easy to find out about online, and (2) open during the winter. If you want to know about the other gems on his list, book a room at the inn.
Favorite stop #1: The Brewster General Store in Brewster, MA
The Brewster General Store is one of those places that is becoming increasingly rare – a genuinely old-timey store where the locals get their newspapers delivered, where tourists can pick up trinkets, and where amazing pieces of history are stored. You can find lots of retail items downstairs, but go upstairs to see original posters from the World War II era as well as other oddities like a belfrey cover for sale for $300.
The folks who work at the Brewster Store are super nice and will tell you about the store’s history, starting in 1852 when the building was built as a two-story church. Walk around the store and there is no shortage of things to see and photograph.
Favorite stop #2: The Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port, MA
The Edward Gorey House is the actual former home of the artist Edward Gorey that has now been converted to a museum. Gorey, who passed away in 2000, was known for his animated credits for the Mystery TV series on PBS, as well as hundreds of offbeat books and illustrations. The museum features different exhibits of his work alongside some of his sketches, personal possessions, and even a few small but funny surprises. Gorey’s influence extended to the back yard, where his “stone serpent” can still be seen through the grass.
With the $8 admission, you get to wander through the house or take a docent-led tour.
Favorite stop #3: Gray’s Beach board walk in Yarmouth Port, MA
The board walk at tiny Gray’s Beach is tough to find. There are no posted signs at Route 6A and Center Street (which leads to the beach) so I would guess there aren’t many tourists who flock here unless they’re told about it. In short, the view from the board walk is amazing, as you can see from the photo below.
Favorite stop #4: Chatham beach in Chatham, MA
We originally drove to Chatham to see the seals at the fish pier, but our timing was terrible. It was Noon-ish and only a few boats were docked. We were told that the seals will follow the boats in since the fishermen would toss things overboard to them. No such luck, so we were to see the Chatham Lighthouse instead.
The lighthouse is behind a chain-link fence and set back from the road, but the better view was 180-degrees towards the ocean. Chatham Beach is huge, with lots of dunes. It was really windy and cold when we were out, yet there were families on the beach flying kites and other people who were walking their dogs or just going for a stroll.