For families with teens and tweens that want to combine a beach vacation with lots of active outdoor fun, Cape Cod in Massachusetts is hard to beat. With more than 550 miles of coastline, including dozens of ocean and bayside beaches, active families will find unlimited opportunities to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, fish and explore – and don’t forget the beautiful beaches too!
For starters, the Cape Cod National Seashore spans 40 miles along the Outer Cape from Eastham to Provincetown including six swimming beaches with lifeguards. The Salt Pond Visitor Center near Eastham has exhibits and films on the Cape’s geology, history, and landscape and is a good place to pick up maps and information about hiking, biking and other activities.
Hiking is one of our favorite things to do on a Cape Cod family vacation with teens and tweens. The National Seashore includes some amazing hiking trails that go well off the beaten path. They range from easy half mile strolls on boardwalks such as the Red Maple Swamp Trail to strenuous beach hikes such as the 6-mile roundtrip Great Island Trail in Wellfleet, where it is important to keep track of the tides to avoid being stranded on sandbars!
The 1900 acre Nickerson State Park in Brewster also has many miles of hiking and bike trails and connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail which runs 22 miles through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. It is mostly flat, paved and well marked, and is a fun way for all members of the family to get some exercise. Barbara’s Bike shop has bike rentals in Brewster and Dennis.
More interested in getting out on the water? Families can rent canoes at Jack’s Boat Rental at Flax Pond in Nickerson State Park. Cape Cod Waterways has canoe, kayak and electric paddle boat rentals at Swan Pond in Dennis Port. Great Marsh Kayak Tours offers escorted kayak trips on the Parker River in West Yarmouth and in the Nauset Marsh at the Salt Pond Visitors Center in the Cape Cod National Seashore.
For less strenuous voyages, HyLine Cruises offers daily departures from Hyannis to Martha’s Vineyard as well as tours of the Cape Cod Canal and deep sea fishing trips. Whale watches depart from Barnstable with Hyannis Whale Watch Cruises. The Dolphin Fleet sails whale watches from Provincetown. The Monomy Island Ferry offers a number of cruises and naturalist tours to see the seals at the Monomy National Wildlife Refuge, located on a small island off the coast of Chatham. It is a pretty amazing sight.
If teens and tweens are involved in your Cape Cod family vacation plans, be sure to get off the beach and explore the Cape by land and by sea.
Photo courtesy the Cape Cod National Seashore