Finding family-friendly adventures in Cape Cod

By: Erin Quinn-Kong
October, 2022

Growing up in the Midwest, my family vacationed a handful of times with East Coast-based relatives in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I have fond memories of the gorgeous beaches, candy-colored houses and local eats like clam chowder and saltwater taffy. I’ve always wanted to return to Cape Cod with my husband and children, and I was delighted when the opportunity arose this summer to visit for my cousin’s wedding in Falmouth, the second-largest town on the peninsula.

Cape Cod is an easy travel from Austin. After a seamless direct flight from Austin to Boston, we rented a car and drove the hour-and-a-half to Falmouth, where we’d booked a delightful house for the week, along with my parents, called Falmouth Heights Cottage. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage with a large dining room table and fenced backyard was the perfect space for the six of us. (We booked almost a year out, which is a must, especially during the busy summer months of July and August.)

July and August are the most popular and packed times to visit Cape Cod, but the early summer and late fall months are lovely and less crowded. Photo by Erin Quinn-Kong

We dropped our bags at the house and immediately headed to Main Street, where we had a tasty dinner of clam chowder and fried fish sandwiches at Quarterdeck. Since it was a chilly early June night (at least for these Texans who are used to 100-degree temps), we bought Cape Cod sweatshirts from a souvenir shop on the way to get ice cream at the popular Ghelfi’s, though Ben & Bills across the street also has plenty of loyal fans. We strolled while eating our cones, and window-shopping the clothing at Lilly Pulitzer, pottery and artwork at Twigs Falmouth, and jewelry at The Gilded Oyster (which, full disclosure, is owned by my aunt and uncle).

Window-shop along Main Street at boutiques and shops like Twigs Falmouth and The Gilded Oyster. Photo by Erin Quinn-Kong

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The next morning in Cape Cod dawned chilly again, but we headed to Wood Neck Beach anyway. Under overcast skies, we searched for crabs—fiddler and hermit—the kids squealing as they chased the crabs into their holes in the sand. We also explored the marsh nearby, seeing shrimp and fish, and the rocky terrain, as waves crashed on the beach. At lunchtime, we headed to nearby Woods Hole for coffee and sandwiches at Pie in the Sky Bakery & Café and then tried to go to Woods Hole Science Aquarium. Established in 1857, it’s the oldest public aquarium in the United States and has free admission. Unfortunately, it was closed due to COVID the day we were there, but definitely stop by if you can. The aquarium is known for its hands-on displays and twice-a-day seal feeding shows.

Children will love hunting for crabs on the beaches of Cape Cod. Photo by Erin Quinn-Kong

That afternoon, the temperature hit 70 and the sun came out, and from then on, we had amazing weather for the rest of our stay. We went back to Wood Neck Beach two more times because the kids could not get enough crab-hunting, and another day we headed to Bristol Beach for smooth white sand and kite-flying. It was also fun driving Menauhant Road along the water to see the yachts floating in the marinas and the freakishly large hydrangea bushes that grow in locals’ yards. (In July, flower lovers flock to the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival, an annual ten-day celebration of the area’s signature flowers.)

There are 10 public beaches to explore around Falmouth, where vacationers can sunbathe, fish, clam, bodysurf and fly kites. Photo by Erin Quinn-Kong

The great thing about Falmouth is there is so much to do beyond the beaches. My husband and I took our kids to Cape Cod Children’s Museum, an interactive museum that our kiddos didn’t want to leave, while my dad and his siblings went clamming on the inlet side of Menauhant Beach. And one late afternoon before a family dinner, my mom and I took the kiddos to The Carousel of Light, which features hand-carved horses and was located at the Mullen-Hall School, home to a fantastic playground. My husband and father, uncles and cousins also hired Hairball Charters in Falmouth Harbor to go deep-sea fishing. They had to be up at 4 a.m., but every fisherman on the boat caught a few hefty stripers and a bevy of black sea bass. They each came home with big smiles and puffed-up chests. 

RELATED: Summer in South Haven, Michigan 

Catch an easy direct flight from Austin to Boston and rent a car to drive the hour-and-a-half to Falmouth. Photo by Erin Quinn-Kong

And you certainly won’t go hungry in Falmouth. We had more than our fair share of seafood, as one should on the coast. One of our favorite meals was a takeout lunch of clam platters—bellies and strips—from Falmouth Fish Market, and the lobster rolls we picked up on the side of the road at The Barking Claw food stand were also delicious. For non-seafood meals, the Plowman’s Selection at Pickle Jar Kitchen, featuring assorted house-roasted meats, cheeses and pickles served with greens and toasted bread, was a hit.

My cousin’s wedding, which was held at Popponesset Inn, could not have been more beautiful. The classic Cape Cod beachfront setting was the perfect background for celebrating a new marriage, dancing and, of course, eating more lobster rolls. 

If You Go

Getting there:

There are quite a few direct flights from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Boston Logan International Airport each day on multiple airlines. From there, rent a car and drive the 90 minutes to Cape Cod.

Stay:

Rental homes are prevalent in Falmouth, but book early. July and August are the most popular and packed months in Cape Cod, though May, June, September and October are also lovely and not as crowded.

Do:

There are 10 public beaches to explore around Falmouth, where vacationers can sunbathe, fish, clam, bodysurf and more. Our favorite was Wood Neck, where the kids spent hours hunting crabs. 

Insider tip:

Be prepared to pay for beach parking during high season, which begins when Falmouth Public Schools get out (usually the fourth week of June) and goes until Labor Day. Daily parking fees are $20-$30, while weekly fees are $80 for non-residents. Go to www.falmouthma.gov/152/Beach-Parking-Stickers or www.capecodbeachstickers.com for more information.

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