When it comes to Cape Cod destinations, Mashpee is often overlooked. It’s not as large as some of the other Cape Cod towns, and only a fraction of the already limited waterfront is for public access. But I have a partiality for the place. After all, it is my adopted home town. While it may be smaller in scale, the amenities that lay within its borders alone can keep vacationers busy for several days of summer vacation. In this article, we talk about the outdoor activities that are available, as well as places to eat and drink, swim and catch some rays, and activities that will be fun for the entire family.
South Cape Beach
If you are looking for a traditional beach experience with plenty of parking, bathrooms, and room to stroll up and down the sand, then this is your place. The state managed beach is co-located with the Mashpee Town Beach and are generally considered one and the same. The only real difference is that the town beach parking lot requires a Mashpee resident beach sticker, while the state beach parking lot is open to all for a fee. Lifeguards are on duty from 9:00am to 5:00pm from July 1st through Labor Day. South Cape is also handicapped accessible, with beach wheelchairs available for those who otherwise would not be able to enjoy a day on the sand.
South Cape Beach also offers walking trails for when you want to get some relief from the sun.
- The Great Flat Pond Trail is a 1-mile loop that meanders past salt marsh and through pine forest. Wooden planks and boardwalks keep hikers from trudging through a few swampy areas.
- The Dead Neck Trail starts from the Mashpee Town Beach parking lot and continues straight for 1-mile to the jetty at Waquoit Bay where fishermen spend hours catching scup and Striped Bass. The trail is exposed to the sun and can be hot at the peak of summer, but for those that don’t mind the walk, the reward is great. Hike past barrier dunes, and at 3/4-mile, you will be able to access a protected beach on the interior of Waquoit Bay with significantly warmer water and a vast expanse of knee-deep, sandy-bottom shallows to wade through and cool off.
Wills Work Beach
Also known as “Secret Beach,” it’s fair to say that the secret is out. This small beach within Waquoit Bay is located at the end of a very bumpy dirt road. You can get there in almost any car, but it might get muddy if it has rained within the past few days. Parking is free for all. This is a great beach for the kids because the water is warm and shallow, and the bottom is sandy and soft on the feet. There are no lifeguards as this is not an official town beach. Wills Work beach is popular with kiteboarders, windsurfers, and clammers.
There’s more to Cape Cod than just sitting around a beach all day. Sure, that works for a day or two, but then what? Fortunately, Mashpee has a few outdoor activities that should help you tap into your adventurous side and make your Cape Cod vacation a bit more memorable.
Peace Love SUP is Cape Cod’s best provider of paddleboard tours. (Full disclosure: My wife, Amy, owns and runs this outfitter, so I am a bit biased here. Nonetheless, it’s true. She is the best.) Amy will put together a tour based on your location, experience, and current weather conditions. The great part about touring with Peace Love SUP is that she is not fixed to any particular location. If the wind is strong in one location, she can usually find another one that has better conditions. Paddling is done in calm, protected water so most people with decent balance and strength should be able to enjoy this activity.
Fat Tire Biking
Want to feel like a kid again? Jump on a fat tire bike and grind your way over tree stumps, rocks, beach, and anything else that gets in your way. (Again, full disclosure: You can also book this adventure experience through Peace Love SUP. You might get me as your guide for this one). Whether you’d like to keep it easy or feel the burn in your legs, we can put together an experience that will give you a view of Cape Cod that you won’t get on your own and have you recalling epic stories at the bar later in the night.
Eat & Drink
For a special dinner out with your significant other, or maybe with a group of friends, try Bleu in Mashpee Commons. This French cuisine restaurant is conveniently located in Mashpee’s de facto town center. The atmosphere at Bleu is upscale but cozy and relaxed. This isn’t the big city, so as long as you don’t show up in your swimwear from earlier in the day, you should be just fine. If you have not yet gotten your fill of seafood, then try the Plateau de Fruits de Mer, a seafood combo that includes some unique preparations such as the scallops ceviche (raw seafood cured in citrus juices). For those that want to stick to meat and potatoes, the ribeye and the filet mignon are both excellent. I have tried them both and you will not be disappointed with either one.
Also located in Mashpee Commons, Bobby’s specializes in pub fare, comfort food, and cold beer. It’s a great combination. The menu is reasonably priced and filled with traditional favorites like burgers, entree salads, fish and chips, and a kids menu so everyone in your party should be able to find something to their liking. What’s recommended? Well, it just depends on your mood. I’m usually in a burger mood when I go to Bobby’s, and the Mushroom & Swiss Burger is my fave. But the Shenanigan’s Chef Salad with steak tips also hits the spot.
The Marketplace at Popponesset has a few spots to drink and eat, and one of the more popular places is the Raw Bar, home to Mashpee’s favorite lobster roll. The Raw Bar primarily has outdoor picnic table seating, so it’s not a place to go when the weather is uncertain. The menu is small. Really, it’s a place that people come to drink, eat lobster rolls, and maybe throw back a few raw oysters on the half shell. Honestly, it can get a bit loud in here, and after 5:00pm, it’s probably not a great place to take kids.
You certainly did not decide to take a vacation to Cape Cod in order to go shopping, but sometimes you have an overcast day and need something to do, or maybe just someplace to leisurely walk around after dinner. From a visitor’s standpoint, there are two places that could be of interest.
In addition to having plenty of restaurants, you could spend quite a bit of time and money just walking around and making impulse buys. Cape Cod themed souvenirs, gift items, preppy clothing stores that showcase Nantucket Red pants and shorts (don’t buy any – they look ridiculous) and colorful sundresses, and my favorite store: L.L. Bean. Be sure to stop in at Cupcake Charlie’s for a Cupcake Whirlie – your favorite cupcake blended into a cup of soft-serve ice cream. Delicious.
With clamshell walkways and only a stone’s throw from the ocean, the Poppy Marketplace oozes with summertime vibe. Bands play at the central courtyard Thursday through Sunday in July and August and families gather for pizza and drinks at the outdoor picnic tables and parents play mini-golf with their kiddos. I have great memories of dancing with my daughter here and watching my son smear his face with chocolate ice cream. It’s as close to Americana as you will get on Cape Cod and I always thought that it could be used as the movie set for one of those idyllic summertime movies that were popular at one time.
As you might gather, this place is not just for picking up a few items on your way back to the cottage. It’s a place for hanging out. But you might find a few things to purchase as you take in summer. Shopping consists of gift shops, art, souvenir clothing, beach toys and the like. You won’t come here looking for anything in particular, but you may leave with a few great mementos.
Mashpee Commons has a range of anchor stores, small boutiques, restaurants, a bowling alley, and an escape room.
Summer vacation and ice cream go hand in hand. When it comes to everyone’s favorite dessert, Mashpee has three notable scooperies that will coat your palate with the creamy goodness.
Technically, it is just over the town line in Barnstable, but only by about 50 feet and everyone in town loves coming here. Owner Mark Lawrence has been a staple in the community for the past two decades and has even earned the Mashpee Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the year award for his commitment to the town. Polar Cave features a long list of homemade flavors, but the specialty here is the made-to-order waffle cone. Mark and his crew are feverishly making cones non-stop so you get the freshest product possible.
Richard “Smitty” Smith’s flagship ice cream shop is down the road in East Falmouth, but this outpost located at the Mashpee Rotary has all the same flavors and treats in a super convenient location. All roads in Mashpee eventually lead to the rotary, or “traffic circle” for our out of state guests, so you should eventually come upon Smitty’s during your stay if even by accident.
Emack & Bolio’s
This chain of Boston based ice cream shops has a franchise located at Popponesset Marketplace in the New Seabury neighborhood. If you are not already in the area, then it’s not as convenient to get to as the other recommendations, but the scenery and atmosphere are much better (see above section on Poppy Marketplace). Whereas the other two shops have great ice cream, they also are located on main roads. At Emack & Bolio’s, you can get your scoops and let the kids run free for a bit while you enjoy the evening. They also have a few unique novelties like the ice cream pizza and micro-brewed, non-alcoholic root beer.
It happens. During your vacation, you might get a day or two that is a washout. Besides playing board games on the porch, or zoning out on your phone, what do you do? To be honest, your options are limited. Cape Cod simply was not designed for crappy weather. But there are a few options available to help pass the time until the sun re-emerges.
This shopping center is basically an outdoor mall, but there are a few options within to wait out the rain. Regal Cinema has six screens that play first-run movies There is also The Lanes Bown & Bistro, a popular bowling alley that also features a full menu and bar. Lastly, Riddle is an escape room facility that offers six different games from which to choose. It’s a bit pricey at $30/person, but when it’s an all-day soaker and you just can’t play cards any longer, it might be a good option. And it makes for a great family activity with plenty of interaction.