A Scenic Tour on Cape Cod's Route 6A

By Susie Hogan

To experience one of this country’s most rewarding scenic tours, take a drive around Cape Cod’s beautiful coastline and discover at your leisure what Henry David Thoreau called “the bared and bended arm of Massachusetts”. That nineteenth century philosopher would not have foreseen the pleasure of exploring the whole route within a single day, let alone the joy of revisiting a little piece of our own past: doing the trip in a classic mid 20th century automobile along Route 6A starting from the King’s Inne in Yarmouth Port.

The Kings Inne was built in 1832 and offers excellent Bed and Breakfast accommodation. The owners, transplanted Brits, also own what was The Barnstaple Mutual Insurance Company offices, built adjacent to it on the corner of Vesper Lane in 1833. The building has been completely renovated over the last year and is now a stunning three-bedroom house which is available to rent by the week in season.

Since the property also comprises a 5 car carriage house The King's Inne is now offering a classic car package for car enthusiastics to bring their classic car and garage it in the carriage house, while staying in a wonderful B and B and drive several scenic drives on the Cape. (Package is available April and May - late October and November; a minimum 2 night stay is required). The inne's location makes the perfect base to begin your exploration of Cape Cod.

The Route

Route 6A is the main highway onto the peninsular, which takes a route from Sagamore, over the Cape Cod Canal, to Sandwich, Yarmouth Port and Orleans, following the coast around Cape Cod Bay and up to Provincetown at its northernmost point. Cape Cod is only a two hour drive from Boston, making it ideal for a weekend break away from the city, a day trip or even a day’s shore excursion from a cruise ship traveling down the New England coast. Along this route you’ll find historic colonial towns and quiet villages. There are plenty of beautiful sandy beaches, which can be explored by taking a detour off the main highway. Most of the busy resorts are along the southern shore facing Nantucket Sound. Reaching the western Atlantic shore and the Cape’s long Outer Beach, you’ll find the long stretches of desolate dunes and marshes that form the National Park, the Cape Cod National Seashore.

To avoid the crowds in the more populated parts of the peninsular and to enjoy the pleasures of the open road, its best to visit before the Fourth of July. Summers can be busy here and you’ll probably be held up by traffic on Sagamore Bridge. After Labor Day, the crowds disperse and you can see the peninsular at its best under blue skies and with the gentle sea breezes of the turning season before the fall sets in.

Three Towns

Sandwich is the oldest town on the peninsular. Founded by the Puritans in 1637, it became famous during the 19th century for its glass-making. The museum shows off some of the best examples of the many types of glass made here for the table or for decoration. This is essentially a small 17th century fishing village that despite the growth and increasing prosperity seen over the succeeding centuries still manages to maintain its old-world atmosphere. It is best explored on foot. Much of the original downtown area remains intact and several of the old colonial era buildings are open to tourists. Sandwich was the home of Thornton Burgess, the writer of The Adventures of Peter Cottontail and other children’s stories. His home on Walter Street is now a museum and houses many of his manuscripts and book illustrations. A boardwalk and distinctive hump-back wooden bridge crosses the marshes around Mill Creek, leading to Town Neck Beach. Mill Creek is a popular swimming hole for local children, who like to dive from the bridge.

Eighteen miles east of Yarmouth, the peninsular narrows and turns northwards. Orleans is a lively, attractive little town built around the edge of the Salt Pond Bay, a lagoon that cuts into the peninsular from the Atlantic shore and curves around behind the beginning of Nauset Beach, a popular ten-mile stretch of sand that extends as far as Chatham on the southernmost tip of the western peninsular. The Cape Cod National Seashore extends north beyond the Salt Pond inlet, curving around the coast as far as Provincetown. Orleans may be the commercial center of the Lower Cape, but make a detour from the main highway and you’ll find a coastline that is wild and remote, where the great crashing waves of the Atlantic speak of the endless battle between this fragile coast and the forces of nature.

Provincetown might be at the far end of the peninsular, but it’s certainly no depressing end of the road. It manages to combine the liveliness of a good-
sized town with the charm of a small seaside village. It curves around its broad sandy bay, embracing the sea and all it has to offer, the town’s fishing boats and pleasure craft bobbing on the swell. Its pretty white clapboard houses spread out from the shore and into the woods and dunes beyond. In the 1880s Provincetown was one of the largest whaling towns in the country, although the industry was then in decline. The Provincetown Museum includes exhibits from the town’s whaling past. The Pilgrim Memorial Monument, built in 1910, commemorates the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. It towers above the town and gives a magnificent view of the town, the Upper Cape and Cape Cod Bay.

Stopping Along the Way

The towns of Cape Cod offer plenty to see and do along the way, on a classic car tour that takes you on one of the loveliest of scenic tours. If you want to leave your car for a while, this is a wonderful area for walking and exploring the beaches, dunes and woodlands. Wherever you go, you won’t be far from the sea, which dominates the peninsular and gives it its special atmosphere. If you’ve made a leisurely trip, taking all day to explore the towns and countryside, you might end up in Provincetown in the early evening as the sun goes down. The road takes you out of the town, curving northwest towards the open Atlantic at Race Point Beach where the lonely Race Point Lighthouse stands tall against the darkening sky.

Back at Yarmouth Port

Yarmouth Port itself is a quaint little town with one of the most attractive collections of old houses on the Cape Cod peninsular, which straddle the meandering Old King’s Highway along the Captains Mile. This is named after the old sea captains, many of whom who were able to retire here in comfort and luxury. Their homes and are now mostly converted to attractive Bed and Breakfast inns. One of the most popular tourist attractions is the Edward Gorey House, the former home of the writer, artist, illustrator and puppeteer, who died in 2000. Many of his quirky and fantastical works can be seen on show.

Yarmouth was originally a rural community, the home of the Wampanoag nation, who named it Mattacheese. The first European settlers arrived in 1639 to make a living from fishing, farming and sea-salt production. The railway arrived in the mid-nineteenth century, which brought the first tourists to the area, and tourism has provided the town with its main source of income ever since, now tripling its population each summer. The area has managed to embrace its popularity without allowing tourism to destroy what its visitors come to enjoy. The villages of South and West Yarmouth, Bass River and Yarmouth Port, which make up the town of Yarmouth, retain their charming, old-fashion atmosphere. Yarmouth Port’s north coast beach at Bass Hole is ideal for a family holiday, where children can play in the sand and splash about in the calm waters for hours on end. After a long, relaxing day, take a walk along the town’s famous boardwalk and enjoy the sunset over Cape Cod Bay.

Last updated: September 2, 2014

The King's Inne - Where New England history meets Old English hospitality

Cape Cod Chamber, BedAndBreakfast.com
powered by TripAdvisor
Reserve your vacation
Follow us on Facebook
View our mobile site