Summer isn’t over yet! There is still plenty of time to enjoy a beach getaway on Cape Cod.
With a reputation as a celebrity hangout (Taylor Swift reportedly just bought a home here), Cape Cod is not known as a budget destination. However, it is possible to spend an action-packed weekend in the Cape for as little as $30 a day– including lodging.
Don’t think it’s possible? We didn’t either, until we spoke with a seasoned reporter for a travel publication who revealed Cape Cod’s secret: It is home to a state park with inexpensive camping and easy access to free public beaches. You’ll hit the same bike trails, beaches and ice cream shops as the celebrities but your getaway will cost a fraction of the price of their luxury vacation.
Read on for my top 5 picks for budget activities in Cape Cod. You just might put this classic summer destination on your to do list!
>> Do you have a budget tip for Cape Cod? Share your advice by leaving a comment below.
Renting a house or hotel in Cape Cod can be pricey, so they best way to keep costs down during your trip is to camp under the stars. Nickerson State Park offers cheap, wooded campsites and is located in the heart of Cape Cod. There are hiking trails and a lake for fishing; there is even a beautiful, free beach just down the street from the park entrance. If you are planning to camp at Nickerson, it’s best to reserve a spot; they fill up quickly in the summer.
Nickerson State Park Campground
Rte. 6A, Brewster
Cost: A private spot for a tent includes a picnic table and fire-pit, and costs $15.
#4. Pizza & Mini Golf
Once the sun goes down, a great place to grab a cheap bite to eat and play some mini golf is Red Barn. This strange, funny spot on Route 6 is a Cape Cod institution; I still remember eating there as a kid some 25 years ago. In fact, these fond memories were the reason we decided to stop here during a weekend getaway to the Cape last summer. Don’t expect too much in terms of ambiance, but you can get a couple of slices of pizza and play a round of golf for under $10 a person. There’s also an arcade on the premises if mini golf isn’t your thing.
Red Barn Pizza
4180 State Highway, (Route 6), North Eastham
Cost: Pizza pies start at $8, mini-golf is $3 per person.
#3. Enjoy sunset on the beach
One of the best ways to start your evening is to go to watch the sun set over the water. All along the western side of the Cape are perfect spots to relax on the beach while waiting for the sun to fall. It’s the perfect time to surreptitiously enjoy a bottle of wine as you snuggle up to your sweetheart.
Guide to Cape Cod Beaches
#2. Rent bikes
Cape Cod is a great place to bike, particularly along the Rail Trail. This immaculately-maintained biking trail stretches for 22 miles and follows the route of an abandoned train line. The Rail Trail starts in the town of Dennis and runs through Nickerson State Park and the town of Orleans, finally ending in Wellfleet near the northern end of the Cape. Orleans is an ideal place to rent bikes; it offers plenty of bike rental options and the opportunity to bike as far as you please in either direction. We enjoyed biking to the National Seashore, where we snapped photos of the lighthouse and read about the history of the peninsula.
Bike Rental Shop Guide
Cost: A four-hour rental in Orleans costs about $15 per person, and includes a lock and helmet.
#1. Go for a swim at the beach
The beach is one of Cape Cod’s main draws. There are hundreds of miles of coastline, including a 40-mile stretch of National Seashore along the eastern side. One of the great things about Cape Cod is that each side has a distinctly different feel – the eastern shore faces the Atlantic Ocean and often has large waves, while the western side faces a protected bay. In the calm western shore, it is possible to walk hundreds of feet out during the low tide and never leave shallow water. (Which is one of the reasons these beaches are popular with families). The water tends to be warmer on the bay side as well, making for a more comfortable swimming experience on cool days.
Guide to Cape Cod Beaches
Cape Cod is located on a peninsula in southern Massachusetts. The drive to Nickerson State Park, in the heart of the cape, takes about 5 hours from New York City and under 2 hours from Boston (assuming light traffic). You can also get there by a combination of Amtrak, bus and even flights– check out this Cape Cod travel planner for ideas.
What’s your favorite budget activity in Cape Cod?
Share your picks with other readers by leaving a comment below! If you are reading this post via email or RSS feed, make sure to click on DowntownTraveler.com to leave your comment.