10 Ideas for a Safe Summer Vacation on Cape Cod & the Islands

Longing to travel? Got your vaccine and you are ready for an adventure? A Cape Cod summer is just what the doctor ordered. The Cape and Islands have your recommended dose of Vitamin Sea at the ready, and a seashore vacation will undoubtedly boost your mood. If you’re looking for an unforgettable summer trip experience, you’ve come to the right place. However, many visitors might be worried about what their visit might look like during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many Americans are still waiting for their vaccinations, and cases continue to be reported, travelers need to minimize their infection risks. That might mean getting a bit more creative when the temperatures rise. Fortunately, Cape Cod and the Islands offer many fun and COVID-safe activities for people to enjoy during the sunny summer months.

Here we’ve compiled a list of 10 summer activities available in the Cape Cod region that are relatively low risk for exposure but provide a high risk of having fun.

1 | Take a Hike

When thinking about the many activities to enjoy on the Cape Cod National Seashore, hiking might not be the first one to come to mind. The truth is that the area boasts over 100 hiking trails for visitors to explore. The perfect social distancing activity, hiking offers travelers outdoor fitness, access to wildlife in their natural habitats, and a way to explore destinations off the beaten path.

As a bonus, travelers will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the dunes and shoreline. Some highlights include Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary, home to countless wildlife, tidal flats, and sandy dunes. There is even a goat encounter program for something out of the ordinary. In Wellfleet, The Great Island is a beautiful destination with 7 miles of hiking trails and beaches. The island is a peninsula in Wellfleet Harbor with gorgeous water views and low foot traffic. Another great destination is Sandy Neck Beach Park. For $15 parking per carload, you can take a day hike, or if you prefer an opportunity to camp overnight on the beach, you can pay $20 for a campsite spot and snag a coveted beach camp out experience. There are plenty of trails to explore, with one loop bringing you to a remote lighthouse and a grouping of beachfront cottages.

Whether you’re looking for family fun, fitness, or a romantic date idea, hiking Cape Cod has the right trail for you. Don’t forget to protect yourself from ticks and tick-borne illnesses. Before headed out, watch the documentary “Tick Days” featuring Barnstable County’s Entomologist Larry Dapsis and co-directed by Marnie Crawford Samuelson & Shane Hofeldt, for an overview of this health concern and how to stay safe.

Hiking Resources





2 | Guided Kayaking Tours

Did you know that the average length of a kayak is 10 feet? Well beyond the recommended 6 feet required to social distance in groups! Take advantage of this natural boat barrier and book a guided kayaking tour. Exploring the ocean and waterways by kayak is a unique and rewarding experience. Kayaking is safe for all fitness levels and can also make a great family activity. There are many vendors offering summer tours and still more offering self-guided rentals for an afternoon escape. Kayaking companies follow strict COVID safety protocols of sanitizing equipment, distancing, and even providing contactless check-in/pick up. For more information, check out the Chamber of Commerce’s website on kayaking resources below.

Kayaking Resources:


3 | Get Ghosted

Are you a fan of history or ghost stories? Are you brave enough to enter a cemetery after dark? Would you like to tour the nation’s oldest wooden jail and even stay the night? A haunted history tour might be right up your alley. Summer nights on Cape Cod can be a scary good time with just the right plans. The area offers many nighttime walking tours based on local history, folklore, and haunted tales to entertain paranormal and history enthusiasts alike.

The Cape Cod & Islands Paranormal Research Society hosts Cape Cod Haunted History Tours for residents and visitors. Put on a mask and comfortable walking shoes for your 2-hour walking tour of the village of Barnstable’s most historic and haunted places. Provincetown Ghost Tours also offer a 90-minute walk back in time to the pirates and pilgrims of Cape Cod history. Both tours have COVID protocols in place, including COVID surveys, masking, and social distancing requirements to keep their guests safe.

Haunted History Links:




4 | Hit the Bike Trails

The pandemic has given way to a resurgence of outdoor activities and cycling is certainly no exception. Bicycles have been coveted throughout the stay-at-home order that sellers could not keep up with purchasing demands creating many shortages during the summer of 2020. Luckily on Cape Cod, bike rentals are plentiful, and so are the trails. Two of the most frequented bicycle trails on Cape Cod are the Shining Seas bike trail and Cape Cod Rail Trail. Shining Seas provides a 10.7-mile trek through Falmouth, passing through the village center, cranberry bogs, salt marsh, and enviable ocean views with plenty of stops along the way.

On the lower Cape, starting in Dennis then passing through 7 towns, you’ll find the Cape Cod Rail Trail, offering an excellent way to tour the area. Plan your trek with plenty of pit stops along the way. For dining, you’ll encounter a cafe, bakery, a raw bar, and even an ice cream shop to reward yourself for all of that pedaling.

Cycling Martha’s Vineyard is not just scenic; it’s also a great way to get around the island. Many trails cross villages, leading travelers to popular tourist destinations. If you’re seeking solitude, there’s also plenty of paths leading to more remote and natural locations along the island.

Bike rentals are following strict sanitization guidelines and masking requirements. For more information and to plan your trip, check out the links below.

Bike Trail Resources:



5 | Clam up

If you’re planning a traditional New England clam bake this summer, consider providing your own freshly dug clams for the vent. Cape Cod and the island is home to some of the freshest, most delicious shellfish in the region. With a bit of education, effort, and elbow grease, you can bring home your very own clam dinner for the family feast. Under normal circumstances, many towns in Cape Cod offer clamming and shellfish classes through the town recreational departments. However, due to COVID, classes have been limited or were canceled. But don’t let that stop you. Learning to clam yourself can be fun and rewarding.

First, ensure to secure the proper permitting within the town you will be digging in. It’s important to note the area and dates that you’re allowed to dig before heading out. Next, you’ll need to visit your local bait and tackle shop for the proper equipment. This includes a clam rake, a bucket, and a clam gauge to measure the clam size (small clams are thrown back into the water). Waders are optional but recommended, especially if you’re not a fan of the mud. Experts recommend to head out before low tide for the best experience and look for large sand mounds with holes on the top which could contain large amounts of clams. There are plenty of resources on the web on the best places to dig, as well as tips, but nothing beats asking one of the locals for pointers. For more information, check out the resources below.

Shellfish and Clamming information:




6 | Paddle Board Tours-with a twist

Whether it be a rental or a group tour, paddle boarding is a fun way to fitness and exploration in the summertime. If you’re looking for a unique spin on the traditional paddleboard ride, Cape Cod has you covered with two exciting experiences. Glow Paddle Board tours are popping up around the Cape as a fun new nighttime experience for visitors to enjoy. With LED lights, the tours set off at sunset in small groups of 8-10. They last for approximately 8 hours and can offer an unforgettable bucket list-worthy experience. The lights under your board shining into the water attract fish to your board which swim near the light for your viewing pleasure. Tours leave at various points around the Cape and Islands and are especially interesting on nights with a full moon.

If nighttime boarding isn’t quite your style, try a paddleboard yoga class. Small class sizes with experienced teachers offer a departure from your typical yoga instruction. Focus is on balance and breathing, all in a peaceful ocean setting atop your paddleboard. Classes range from beginners to experienced practitioners, and proper sanitizing and social distancing measures are properly enforced. To find out more, explore the links below.

Paddleboard tours:



7 | Geocaching

If you’ve ever participated in a scavenger or treasure hunt and enjoyed it, you’ll love Geocaching. This well-organized, internationally recognized activity combines the thrill of clue seeking with the skill of navigation. There are millions of caches hidden all over the world at specified locations. Participants can sign up online and use their mobile devices to play hide and seek with the cache containers. Traditionally, each waterproof cache container will have a logbook, a pencil, a “trade item,” and coordinates for the next cache. Trade items can be any item of small value (a toy, a homemade craft, etc.), and the logbook is used for documenting the experience. There are hundreds of geocaches on Cape Cod alone, hidden in plain sight and more remote and challenging destinations. Just download the app on your mobile device to get started. Geocaching is the perfect activity to turn an ordinary hike or outing into a full-out adventure.

Geocaching Information


8 | Lighthouse Road Trip

If you’re looking for a scenic and relaxing afternoon drive, look no further than the coastal lighthouses of Cape Cod. Like monuments dedicated to solitude, these architectural gems cover the coastline with stunning views and stimulating antiquity. From Nobska Point Light in Falmouth to Provincetown’s Race Point Light, spending a day trip hunting for these iconic structures won’t disappoint. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful coastal views, lots of local history, and multiple Instagram-worthy selfie opportunities.

If you’re planning a trip to the islands, Martha’s Vineyard is home to 5 lighthouses that offer visitors excellent picnic spots. Edgartown Harbor Light and Gay Head Light even provide tours to the top lantern room for a spectacular view of the Atlantic below.

On Nantucket, the remote Great Point Light and Sankaty Light are both lovely and lonesome all at once. Great point is mostly inaccessible without a 7-mile walk on foot through a wildlife preserve. Another option is renting a four-wheel drive (with a beach permit) and trekking to the white-washed stone building. Sankaty is also remote, and although the lighthouse is not open to inside tours, the surrounding property is quite beautiful and isolated. Both are perfect trips for a socially distanced afternoon.

Visiting these beautiful lighthouses pays tribute to the men and women who served the Coast Guard-operated stations over the years until automation came during the 20th century. Throughout history, lighthouses have served sailors as beacons of hope and safety. Perhaps the sight of these towering monoliths will inspire the modern viewer to keep hope for a brighter future in the coming months as we emerge from a tumultuous year of isolation and uncertainty.

Lighthouse Resources:




9 | Be a Cape Crusader!

Check out this scavenger hunt focused on learning about and protecting Cape Cod and the Islands’ natural environment. The Cape Crusader activity is excellent for families and can be played on land or on the water. This scavenger hunt includes missions to complete by checking in at locations, uploading photos/videos, and answering questions. The missions are labeled by location: Lower Cape, Mid Cape, Upper Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Many of the missions will lead you to projects CARE for the Cape and Islands have funded, where you can learn more about them and the organizations responsible for them. For details on how to play, visit https://careforthecapeandislands.org/cape-crusaders/

10 | Check out the Farmer’s Markets on Cape Cod

Connect with local food! Discover the many Famer’s Markets across Cape Cod and support local farms and seafood harvesters. Access the Buy Fresh Buy Local Farmer’s Markets calendar HERE.

The Cape Cod and the Islands is your destination for health, wellness, and safe summer fun. We recommend that you be vaccinated, and when participating in any activities, please protect yourself and others by social distancing by 6 feet, mask when appropriate, keep sanitizing products handy, and stay home if you feel sick. With continued vigilance, your summer 2021 Cape Cod vacation is bound to be a successful and safe stay for all.

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