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5 Reasons to Visit Cape Cod Off-Season

Indagare’s Diana Li recounts her off-season trip to Cape Cod, and why she’s already planning her return.

Desperately FaceTimed out, I invited my mom to join me for a weekend getaway earlier this fall. Our destination: Cape Cod. Even though I was born and raised in southeastern Massachusetts, I confess it had only been there outside of summer on very rare occasions.  And while Chatham Bars Inn, on the Cape’s elbow, had long been on our wish list, further-flung destinations always seemed to get in the way of exploring in our own backyard. 

So we drove down Route 6 to Chatham, just as the leaves showed their first signs of yellow, detouring for an obligatory lobster roll at Sesuit Harbor Café before checking in to the hotel’s Mooncusser Cottage. We didn’t realize at the time but our car would remain parked at the cottage all the way until check out.  

After three days in Chatham, here are my top five reasons why I’m hooked on Cape Cod in the off season.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning your next visit to Cape Cod and beyond for this year and the future. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide information on coronavirus travel safetydestinations that are open to travelCovid-19 hotel policies, transportation options, private villas and charters and more. 

The Inn Itself

We soon discovered why the Chatham Bars Inn is such a beloved Cape Cod establishment, first opened in 1914 as a luxury hunting lodge. The Inn is located on a quarter-mile private beach, under a 10-minute walk from Chatham’s Main Street. The classic Cape Cod shingle-style cottages along the oceanfront offer breathtaking views of the sunrise and sunbathing seals in the Atlantic. The Inn also owns three private homes perfect for families.

One of our highlights was having our first spa treatments post-COVID in a private, outdoor cabana, equipped with heaters keeping us warm and cozy while we felt the fresh sea salt air on our skin. With nature surrounding us in the zen garden and the enhanced safety measures, my mom and I felt more secure and relaxed than we had been all year. 

Our favorite of the hotel’s four, award-winning restaurants was The Beach House Grill. Lifelong seafood lovers from New England, we couldn’t get enough of the lobster, calamari, and fresh locally-sourced, seasonal vegetables—plus salted watermelon margaritas. 

Nature

We enjoyed slowing down on long walks and bike rides along the scenic shoreline down to Chatham Keegan Lighthouse and Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, with more than 7,600 acres of protected dunes and salt and freshwater marshes. Monomoy attracts hundreds of birds, so carve out some hours here, especially if you love birding. Be sure to check the tide calendar before you explore, as some of the walking trails are not accessible during high tide. And since it was the off-season, Cape Cod’s summer crowds were nowhere to be seen.

Our top nature discovery of the weekend was Wellfleet’s White Cedar Swamp on our last day. Head to the Marconi Wireless Station parking lot—a 30-minute drive north from Chatham—and take the short but stunning 1.25-mile trail through oak and pine forest. It ends with a 2,500-foot wooden boardwalk winding through majestic, moss-covered cedars. While the wind was howling on the nearby Marconi Beach, the forest sheltered us. We chose a picturesque spot to meditate for 15 minutes in complete silence, and I inhaled as much of the fresh air as I possibly could, knowing my day would end back in New York City. 

Food

A perfect reprieve to the takeaway, delivery and home cooking I have grown tired of in 2020, Chatham offers so much to eat and drink year-round. A visit to Chatham is incomplete without a meal at the Impudent Oyster, right off Main Street. This charming restaurant, converted from a former church, still houses colorful stained-glass windows and pews for seating. It goes without saying to try the raw oysters, but don’t miss the moules na cataplana (and make a reservation in advance). 

Every Saturday from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the historic Chatham Candy Manor holds candy cane-making demonstrations, and is the perfect spot to load up on homemade fudge and stocking stuffer treats. Another must-do activity is exploring the eight-acre Chatham Bars Inn Farm. It’s great for locals and guests alike to stop by the farm stand for fresh fruits, veggies, pastries and more.

If you prefer private options to keep social distance, Chatham Bars Inn’s beautiful Veuve Clicquot Library just opened for five-course dinners perfectly paired with Veuve Clicquot champagnes. Or join a class by master mixologist Adam Cuoto to learn how to make festive hot cocktails. 

Culture

Learn about the history and culture of Cape Cod and support local museums that have reopened, like the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster or Atwood House in Chatham. Both aim to preserve records of earlier generations by exhibiting and interpreting art, artifacts, and archives. For literary lovers, read your way through the Cape & Islands Bookstore Trail featuring more than 21 independent bookstores.

Remote Office

This holiday season, I’m planning on heading back home to Massachusetts and back to Chatham to make the most of remote work. I’m excited to return and continue rediscovering places I mistakenly thought I had “crossed off” in my childhood and adolescence.

In 2019, the Cape saw only two snowfalls. But I’m dreaming of winter white and cozying up to work, read and write by the fireplace at the Inn, my new home away from home.

Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer to start planning your next visit to Cape Cod and beyond for this year and the future. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide information on coronavirus travel safetydestinations that are open to travelCovid-19 hotel policies, transportation options, private villas and charters and more. 

– Diana Li on November 5, 2020

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