- Highway to heaven. The journey is a key part of the trip — there’s gold in those paths you ride to the Cape, leaving everyday life farther and farther behind in your rearview mirror. Look for cranberry bogs on Route 6 East, the big canal glittering under the Bourne Bridge, Cape Cod spelled out in trimmed shrubbery when you land on the other side. Behold the rotaries (traffic circles). Point your car east for Provincetown, the very tip of the Cape, where the land meets the sea.
- Old magic. My parents took a honeymoon road trip to the Cape from New York City in June 1951. Much of the sandy spot remains unchanged. Lighthouses that guided sea captains still dot the coast, though the beacons are now automated, and many have been moved back (very carefully) from perches on eroding dunes. Storybook windmills stand on village greens — one in Eastham dates to 1680. Are you into buried treasure? John F. Kennedy Jr. did a 1985 dive into the old Whydah shipwreck, a pirate vessel captained by badass Sam Bellamy. It went down in 1717, with all hands on deck (nearly 150 people), and a lot of silver and gold. Visit West Yarmouth or Ptown to see some of the loot.
- Seaside history. Your car might hold five people holding modern devices, but you will pass historic highway signs (Entering Eastham, inc. 1651) and houses where oceangoing whalers once lived. My husband, Dan, even stumbled upon an ancient tree bearing rare snow-white apples behind the Captain Penniman House, built by a famous whaler in 1868. We hoisted our girl, age 12, up in our arms to search for the elusive fruit.
- Nature walks. About 150 years back, the land at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary was farmed for turnips, asparagus and salt hay — now walk its quiet, pine needle-padded trails, looking for turtles and frogs in the ponds. Marconi Beach, with a sweeping view of the Outer Cape, has a trail that feels prehistoric, slicing through a stunted oak and pine forest and the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp.
- Timely and timeless conveniences. Remote as it is, the Cape’s WiFi is now up to speed. But you can still order “slow” food — old-fashioned cranberry walnut kettle fudge, for example — on your fast smartphone and pick it up at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans. Or, as Patti Page sang in “Old Cape Cod,” her 1957 golden hit, “If you like the taste of a lobster stew, served by a window with an ocean view,” sit down at a restaurant (or a seafood shack, for a warm lobster roll).
*I wish I knew the talented mapmaker’s name, so I could credit her or him here. If you do, please LMK.
Alice Garbarini Hurley first went with her family to Cape Cod at age 4, sitting between her parents in a white Ford Falcon while her three older siblings were squished in the back seat. Her writing has appeared in Coastal Living, InStyle and Good Housekeeping. She has blogged daily for more than 10 years at Truth and Beauty.