What to Expect on a Trip to Cape Cod

Brush up on what to expect if you haven’t been since 1998 or it’s your first time.

Recently (like we are on our way home right now) my family and I took a trip to the Cape to relive some childhood memories and include our now growing little families on the magic of salty air, chowda, and the colors of P-Town (Provincetown for all you newbs). We stayed in Truro, MA, which is one of the farthest towns out on the tip of the Cape. Each town on Cape Cod has it’s own unique attributes so it’s fun to travel throughout the townships during your stay.

My family and I hadn’t been in 20 years give or take. The things I did remember were childhood images of my first few tastes of fresh, delicious seafood, warm days covered in sand and salt water on the beach, up close encounters with humpbacks, evenings of ice cream, and the fascination of walking along the old historic docks. You could say I had a certain trip envisioned.

Reality bitched-slapped me in the face a few times and really caught me off-guard. I had a lovely vacation and the good definitely outweighed the not-so-great, but there were still a few gut punches along the way.

Triple Check Your Rental Listing

The first hiccup was our Airbnb. It was a disaster. This put an immediate gray cloud over the whole trip. The house was advertised completely inflated. A mile from the ocean so caught a wonderful cape breeze and sleeps 8 (including an law quarters which boasted it was perfect for traveling families or large groups, which our group was).

Upon arrival after traveling for about six hours give or take our Airbnb host proceeded to take us on a tour of the house. Like pointing out the bathrooms and kitchen type tour. (In case you can’t pick up on my sarcasm, it was super annoying.) The house also didn’t have a house key to lock up but not too worry because no one ever breaks in. He then mentioned he’d be back to check in a few days…umm and you wonder why we asked for a key?! I really would’ve loved to be able to relieve my road-fatigued bowels and decompress with a casual shotgunning of a beer but instead we had Father Time pointing out the faucets and casually mentioning he’d be popping in over the next few days like an unbearable overlord. Once he left we realized two of the beds were futons (unless your 19, sleeping on a futon for more than a night is a hard pass), and the in-law quarters (which were below level) stank to high hell because of the fact it was a musty basement. Also, the house though a quick drive to the ocean, was in the middle of the woods so there was so no ocean breeze flowing through unless you were tripping balls and imagined it. Essentially we were staying in a hot box in the middle of the woods. We all decided though to wait until the next day to lodge a complaint.

Our host came over and ended up speaking to my mom and husband. I was showering for the 80th time because as I mentioned, that ocean breeze wasn’t so breezy and the East Coast is going through a friggen heat wave at the moment. Our house was the setting for a perfect breeding ground for black mold and all the mosquitoes in Massachusetts. I digress, I know he wasn’t responsible for the heat BUT prior to booking I inquired about the A/C situation and he assured me it wasn’t an issue because every room was equipped with a fan and the cross breeze was delightful. Clearly he was biased to this place. He was also elderly so perhaps the heat didn’t affect him as it doesn’t seem to most people over the age of 70. (Apologies for the sweeping generalization if you’re 72 reading this over a glass of cab.) Anyway, after he spoke to my mom and husband he messaged me on Airbnb and told me we could leave the premises and contact Airbnb for a refund. Are you fucking kidding me dude? We all just drove 600 miles for this vacation we’ve been planning since January. He also messaged me to say he didn’t smell anything, we should utilize the dehumidifier, and he also went through the garbage and noticed we missed a few of the recycling so to please be more diligent about that….needless to say we were all furious. But again, we didn’t want to keep on it and let it ruin the vacation. We did check Airbnb and other lodging options but nothing was available as it’s peak tourist season out there for the summer.

I’m going to follow up with Airbnb shortly about the whole thing. I feel like they need to re-categorize their listings by ‘Owner Occupied Aka Anal Landlord’ and the ‘For the most part I don’t care what you do here I just want your money’ type of landlord.

So as I said the trip didn’t exactly set off on the right foot with our lodging.

Price Gouging

We shook off the aggravation of our Airbnb and set out for the beach. After a trip to the store to procure libations, food, and ice we then realized we were in the prime location and position for locals to price-gauge almost everything. Like $5 tomatoes type prices. Fifteen bucks for a 12 pack of Bud Light. Shaking my head. I hate paying $9 for a 12 pack back home. But we were here so everyone accepted that and ponied up the funds because what other choices were there? When we arrived at a pristine beach to see a  “Twenty Dollars a Day to Park” sign. Fudge. Or you could get a temporary pass from the Parks Department for $70 for the week but was only good for certain beaches. And obviously it wasn’t good for the beach nearest our Airbnb. Why would that have worked out?

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch out of P-Town

My last con was our whale watch. This really pissed me off because my memories of whale watches as a kid were out-of-this-world encounters with these majestic creatures of the deep. Whales popping up left and right, playing near the boat type stuff. They were practically singing Disney songs. Needless to say I had talked this up to my husband for years. We even made reservations with the tour company we used to go on as kids. Everyone in town also still recommends it as the best on Cape Cod. I’m not sure if we went with a new crew, but it was the pits. We never left sight of the shore. The first whale we saw the crew then chased around for 40 minutes. It swam off and then another whale was spotted in a similar fashion that we ended up chasing the rest of the time. I know it wasn’t just us either. People all around us were complaining at the experience.

These pics are the closest we came towards the whales.

It was so disappointing. Afterwards my husband even said he felt bad for the whales. It was nothing like our previous trips. On past excursions the the captain would take the boat out to Steelwagen Bank which is a marine sanctuary in the middle of the ocean. After reading reviews of the company 1 out of 10 were one-star reviews that were similar to our trip experience. I guess we just ended up with the short straw and stuck with the benchwarmers.

The Good Stuff

Beaches (Pros)

Now for the good times. The beaches, though expensive, were immaculate. They were full of natural beauty and mystique. Thank you, JFK! If you’ve never been, the Cape has tons of seabirds, sand dunes (like the surface of the moon), foliage, and if you’re lucky enough from shore: seal, whale & shark sightings. All very humbling. It reminds you the power of nature.

Cape Cod National Seashore
Pier in Provincetown

White Crest Beach – that path is the walk-way up and down…your calves let you know about it the next day!
View of White Crest Beach (reminded me of a beach in San Diego)
Booze

Thank god the Cape has embraced the craft beer scene. We were able to enjoy a day of brewery hopping. (Thanks to my newly pregnant sister for DDing us all!) We came upon some very cool spots. Two stand outs to me were NaukAbout Brewery and Devil’s Purse Brewing Co.

NaukAbout was basically a playground with a bar and rotating list of food trucks. Perfect for vacationing families! I felt like we were at a kid’s birthday party while there (Take that as a warning for people not wanting to be around kids.) They had an ample beer selection, heavy pours, awesome swag, and some very tasty IPAs. (Apparently New England is almost as big on IPAs as they are Tom Brady. #TB12) My fav at Nauk was Y’all Open IPA. This shit was dank and juicy. Would definitely recommend stopping in here for a pint and let your kids burn off some energy. Bonus: Wolf Pizza was the food truck that day. De. Lish.

Devil’s Purse, aside from a kick-ass logo, had a fruit beer that was TDF (to die for). Shiso Berry Ale. Light but tangy & refreshing, and sweet in a tart way. If you ever come across this or the Y’all Open from Nauk they have the high, momma seal of approval.

We also had some great wines. I picked up a bottle of Juggernaut 2015 Cabernet. It’s a California red but I’ve never saw it before this trip. It was everywhere. For $20 I’d pick it up again. Aside from a bad ass label it was dark, rich and jammed with flavor. Definitely pair it with a steak and potatoes and enjoy over a slow meal.

I also had Jam Cellars’ Candy Rose. If you’re jumping on the rose bandwagon this is a great one to try. It was nice and dry, which is what I love in a rose. Sometimes I feel like a rose can almost taste like a moscato but this one is light, dry, with the slightest bite. Goes great for a dinner cooking drink and the early glass in the meal. (Forgot to take a pic!)

Seafood

If you reference “the ocean called and they’re running out of shrimp” jokes due to your love of seafood, then like me you would be in heaven with the selection on the Cape.  There was a fresh seafood market down the street from our Airbnb (a plus!). We enjoyed their scallops, shrimp, chowder, and clams all week long.

I went for a classic boiled lobster at the Lobster Pot in Provincetown. I looked like Homer Simpson throughout my dinner. Fresh buttery goodness. If you’re in P-Town for the day I’d recommend this spot. The owner was crazy but very enthusiastic and made a shitload of menu recommendations. My sister had their chowder (the broth was divine), my husband tried their Lobster Newburg (he also looked like Homer eating his) and my dad had the Portuguese Fish (amazing flavor & could have fed three people). Those were some stand-outs. There were also seven of us plus a high-chair and they didn’t flinch or show any annoyance to us walking in without reservations.

Lobstah!!!!

I had some Wellfleet Oysters at a different restaurant in P-Town. Wellfleet Oysters are a whole regional thing (read the link). If you’re in the area and enjoy some raw oysters, make sure you get a round on your tab!

For the most part though, we’d grab little bites out here and there, but we mainly cooked dinners at the house. So that seafood market was clutch.

Provincetown

If you’re staying anywhere on the Cape, plan a day trip to P-Town (unless you’re homophobic). It’s vibrant, full of life, love, art, and history. It’s such a cool spot it’s shameful to pass it up. There are so many shops, cafes, diners, galleries, restaurants, lounges, cabarets, and boat tour companies, you have to be Humpty Dumpty to not find this place fun and fascinating. Go early and grab a coffee & pastry and watch the pier activity in the morning, or a day trip to enjoy lunch and meander through the shops & bars, alternating between souveniers and beers, or make reservations at any of their acclaimed restaurants and hit up a jazz club. No matter which you choose, you won’t regret it! Take into account it’s a very old town so streets are tight, buildings are cramped together. If you’re claustrophobic or crowd phobic, find a down-time not in peak season to go. Public parking is ample, you’ll just be hoofin a bit!

Inside a gallery space
They have a great sense of humor in Provincetown
Art installation on a pier in Ptown
High momma
Baby Love & Family Time

Experiencing all of this as an adult with my siblings and parents was a blast. Being able to drink together, making family dinners, beach trips, playing cards, and listening to music (a family fave) was the best.

Another unforgettable memory I’ll have from this trip was watching my daughter experience it all. She LOVED the ocean. She was a little mermaid in the water. It was melted my heart watching her play with her daddy in the tide, take beach walks with my parents, and have a blast waking up each morning to a house full of family. That made my trip 🙂

I also let my daughter be on vacation. It was hard at first to kind of let go of our routine but she was on vacation too. I let her indulge with Cheetos and Pringles (we never have those at home) and even a Capri Sun. Even later bedtimes. She skipped naps a few days, too! I know her routine will be back to normal Monday, same as mine will be.

The baby and the sea

Overall, we had an amazing trip minus the hiccups and spending a bit more than budgeted. The moral of my story is to be sure your vacation rental doesn’t suck and double check the listing. Ask about the beds & A/C situation, and just bring some extra cash. You don’t want to go and cheap out, trust me! If you have any Cape Cod reviews or recommendations, share with me below!

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