The weather is getting cool and crisp, the state fair is happening, and the kids received their teacher assignments in the mail yesterday. That can only mean one thing – summer is ending (insert sad face emoji here). We did a fair bit of traveling this summer after Curacao, primarily in the north east. I always feel some tension about summertime because, living in Syracuse, it is arguably the best season to hang out where we live (maybe tied with Fall). At the same time, the kids and my husband have several months off, so it is a great time for us to travel. We probably spent less time at home this summer than we normally do, but most of that was traveling through the northeast.
Camping trip #1 – Raquette Lake
After we returned from Curacao we camped with our neighbors (yeah, our neighborhood is so awesome we actually vacation together!) on Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks. Getting a primo campsite (e.g. on the water) is actually pretty tough to do in the Adirondacks. You generally have to book it as soon as the window opens, 9 months in advance, at 9am. Also, it seems that many people use bots because I have literally had my finger on the “submit” button and hit it just as 8:59 rolled into 9am and still gotten beat out of a site (it’s not Yosemite people!). So my neighbors and I literally had to have an anxiety-filled strategizing meeting last October when we tried to book the sites. We had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices and used all the email addresses we could scrounge between three families so that we could book and then cancel multiple sites until we got the combination we wanted. We ended up booking 6 sites near each other, using campadk.com to peep some photos (which sort of helps but it’s still tough to see what you are getting). Well, I am happy to say all of our strategizing paid off. We ended up booking our own “spur” off of the main campground, which we had all to ourselves. It was like our own little compound, complete with amazing water views, once again reinforcing my rule that its always best to plan ahead.
After we returned from this trip we had a week or so before we left for Cape Cod. There are some trips that are hard to travel hack. Renting a cottage at the beach is one of them. We drove so there was no using airline miles and as of yet there is no point system for apps like homeaway.com that let you rent houses. The good thing is that since we traveled so many other places for free, we had the money to be able to spend it on a 10 day trip to the Cape.
I grew up going to the Jersey shore (which will always have a special place in my heart), but the first time I went to Cape Cod I fell in love. My husband did too, and for a while we were going every summer or every other summer. We slowed down recently mainly because we were spending money on other big trips (before I discovered travel hacking), and also because the traffic getting on and off the Cape the last few times was truly horrendous. When I realized we hadn’t been since 2013 and my kids didn’t even remember it, we knew we had to go back.
We decided on 10 days because one week was just never enough. Also, as I was searching for a place to rent, I stumbled on a new listing for a cute little cottage that was walking distance from the bay, allowed dogs, and the owner didn’t mind if we rented on non-Saturdays. This was HUGE for us because traditionally Cape rentals go from Saturday to Saturday. Which means Saturday traffic to the Cape or home is HORRIBLE. What should be a 6 hour trip frequently takes 10 hours. It is brutal. We also live far enough away that even if we left at 4 am we would still hit traffic at the bottleneck over the bridges to get onto the Cape. The woman who owned this cottage said we could rent Sunday through the following Wednesday and I was sold! And fortunately my theory was right. We literally hit NO traffic getting on the Cape on Sunday and getting off on Wednesday. I was giddy with excitement as we sped through 195.
We always stay in Eastham, MA when we go to Cape Cod. It has the Cape Cod National Seashore (where you can bike to the beach), the Cape Cod Rail Trail, fabulous bay beaches, and awesome restaurants. We were thrilled with our little cottage when we got there. The owners just bought it and they outfitted it with all new things, including lots of toys and gear for the beach, including two kayaks, floats, and a paddle board.
We brought our own bikes and our canoe but they also had bikes for us to use. We had a fabulous 10 days and I could write way too much about what we did, so instead I will just list our top 10 activities.
Our top 10 activities in Cape Cod 2017
1. Boogie boarding at Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod National Seashore
The kids had a blast even though the water was so cold and we got to see seals swimming in the water! We usually park at the CCNS visitor center and bike to Coast Guard beach with our gear in the bike trailer. It’s a 2 mile ride and the last part is over a boardwalk over the Salt Marsh. It’s so beautiful!
2. Bike riding on the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT)
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a 22 mile paved bike trail over a former railroad track from Dennis to Wellfleet. It goes past some beautiful scenery and great little CC towns. We went on the trail a few times this trip. The last ride the kids and my husband did without me and they went 16 miles! My 9 year old was super proud of himself (his little brother decided to ride in the bike trailer).
3. Hunting for hermit crabs and other sea creatures in the bay
Cape Cod bay has the most dramatic split between high and low tide I have ever seen. At the peak of low tide you can walk out for what feels like a mile and still only be ankle deep in the water. This is when it is perfect to hunt for sea creatures like hermit crabs, periwinkles, and quahogs.
4. Provincetown and whale watch
I love visiting P-town. It is such a vibrant, happy place and I love to see all the color infused with the history. On this trip we climbed the pilgrim monument, which had a nice little museum to learn about Provincetown and the Cape. We also went on a Whale Watch tour aboard the Dolphin Fleet. I have never done this before and it was truly spectacular. We had at least 30 whale sightings. This was probably my personal highlight of the trip.
5. Visiting our ghostly ancestors in Barnstable
I had recently been doing just a little bit of genealogy and it turns out that the line of ancestry on my maternal grandfather’s side goes back to the first settlers in the Cape Cod in the 17th century. The line is the Henry “the elder” Cobb line, meaning Henry was the first one who came over from England and settled in in Barnstable, Massachusetts. In fact, the cemetery in Barnstable is called “Cobb’s Hill Cemetery” after my ancestors. In doing a little pre-trip research I found out that ghost tours are offered nightly here. What’s better than being spooked by your own ancestors! We did do the walking tour which was a fun way to learn about the history of Barnstable and the beginnings of our country. We did not see any ghosts but it was spooky nonetheless. We returned several days later in the light of day to take a few pictures of the town and my ancestors graves.
6. Kite flying at sunset at the bay
Cape Cod bay faces west which means it often has spectacular sunsets. We would frequently go to the bay at night to watch the sunsets and fly our kites.
7. Canoeing and swimming at Nickerson state park
I had heard of this state park since we have been going to the Cape, but never made it out there (somehow when you are at the beach a lake never seems to take precedence). We decided to lug our canoe out there one day for something a little bit different, and I am so glad we did! The water in the large kettle pond was amazingly clear and you could canoe across the lake to a sandy, beachy area and almost feel all alone. There were several places to pull over and swim along the shore and it was wonderful to just paddle around, stop, relax, and swim as we went. This park receives excellent reviews online and now I could see why. The CCRT also goes through there and they have their own bike paths, as well as camping, yurts, and a few other kettle ponds.
8. Watching Shakespeare at the beach in Wellfleet, MA
Wellfleet is the next town over from Eastham (heading toward P-town) and it has more of a small town vibe with a main street with shops and art galleries. On our last day we had fun walking around, shopping, and getting ice cream, and in the evening we were treated to a free outdoors Shakespeare performance. It was called “Shakespeare on Demand” and was basically a husband and wife team (Knighthorse theatre company) who start off the night asking the audience to suggest various works from Shakespeare, and then they do a 2 hour performance incorporating scenes from those works. My husband is the Shakespeare expert in the family and I was a little worried the rest of us would be bored, but it was absolutely captivating! My 6 year old loved it so much he actually asked to move closer. If you are ever in Wellfleet in the summer I highly recommend catching one of their performances.
9. The Whydah pirate museum in Yarmouth
This was a fun thing to do for an hour on an otherwise overcast day. It tells the story of the Wydah pirate ship that was found off the coast of the Cape, and they show the hundreds of artifacts that they have been able to pull from the wreckage, including guns and treasure! They also have a room at the end where they show what the “concretions” (big lumps of rock-like substance) look like when they first pull them out of the water, and then how they use imaging such as x-rays to see what is inside, and eventually how they extract the artifacts. Sadly I don’t have any pictures as photography was not allowed. It’s also close to a great Irish restaurant, the Keltic Kitchen, which I mention below.
One of our favorite things to do in the Cape is of course to eat all of the amazing food! Usually when we go for a week we eat out every night, but since we were there for 10 days we promised ourselves we would only go out every other night. We mostly kept to our promise and here are our top restaurant choices linked to their tripadvisor reviews:
- Karoo. This place was new since the last time we were here. It was hands down our favorite meal here. It is an African restaurant and everything was perfect. I can’t wait to go back again. The Cape Malay stew and snail rangoon appetizer were our favorite dishes.
- Hole in One Donuts. I don’t even like donuts but I dream about this place. Nothing crazy, just your typical donut shop, but there is something about them that makes them out of this world. My favorite are the chocolate coconut and sour cream.
- The Friendly Fisherman. This is the quintessential Cape seafood stand. We went twice – once for the lobster roll and once for the (HUGE) fried seafood platter. You order at a counter and eat outside at picnic tables. They have a playground for the kids and it is BYOB with a great little liquor store conveniently right next door.
- Laura & Tony’s. We have been to this place before. It’s fantastic. It’s a breakfast buffet with great food cooked in small batches. They have all the staples and then they do some creative things with frittatas, grits, french toast, etc. They also do all their own baking on the premise and have homemade bagels, coffee cake, carrot cake and more. Plus they serve a great organic dark roast coffee.
- Russ & Marie’s Marconi Beach Restaurant. This place is famous for their fried chicken and BBQ and they did not disappoint! Best fried chicken I have had in years, maybe ever! They also had amazing chowder and all of your classic seafood dishes.
- The Beachcomber. This is a famous bar on the beach in Wellfleet with a raw bar and all the fried seafood you can stuff in your gullet. Great stuff.
- The Keltic Kitchen. If you are looking for the ultimate comfort food, this is the place. I can’t begin to describe their offerings, so just peep their menu. If you eat here you really shouldn’t eat the rest of the day.
Well now that I am sufficiently hungry I will end this post and move on to the rest of the summer!
Camping trip #2 – Seventh Lake
We took another camping trip with my cousin and her family back in the Adirondacks, but this time at Eighth Lake Campground (which has sites on both 7th and 8th lakes). We have camped together once before and had a great time (our kids are roughly the same ages), so we decided to go again. Our sites were walking distance to a dock so we had fun paddling around in canoes, sitting around the campfire, hanging out in Inlet (my favorite Adk town), getting ice cream at Northern Lights, and visiting Enchanted Forest/Water Safari.