Dexter Grist Mill is one of the most photographed sites in Sandwich
Just over the Sagamore Bridge on Cape Cod lies the town of Sandwich, known for its beaches along the shore of Cape Cod Bay, quaint town center that features a historic grist mill, and lazy drives along route 6A. Sandwich has always been one of my favorite Cape towns, with a great mix of raw, natural beauty alongside some great man-made luxuries. Whether you are embarking on a day-trip from the metro Boston area, or planning a week long vacation on Cape Cod, Sandwich may be just the town you are seeking.
Sandwich has always been one of my favorite Cape towns. As a Cape Cod local, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine like anybody else and simply forget how to slow down and appreciate the salty air. Sandwich is where I go when I want to feel like I live on Cape Cod again. For me, it’s only one town away and it’s always a quick win.
Graced with some incredible coastline along Cape Cod Bay as well as some great freshwater ponds, Sandwich has plenty of options for those that want a little sand between the toes.
Located at the eastern entrance of the Cape Cod Canal, this saltwater beach is great for those that want to lounge around a bit, then walk over to the Drunken Seal for a beverage on the patio. It is also popular with SCUBA and free divers that pluck lobsters from the rocky bottom. Swimmers close to shore should have no issues, but beware if paddleboarding or kayaking near the canal entrance. It is an active shipping channel that does see heavy traffic at times, and also produces a very strong current at mid-tide that could be difficult to negotiate. Divers have been sucked into the canal in the past.
Town Neck Beach
Just a bit east of First Beach, this beach shares the same stretch of sand, but with more parking. It is also commonly called “Boardwalk Beach” in honor of its predominant feature, a 1350-foot boardwalk that crosses Mill Creek and the surrounding marshlands. Everyone should visit the boardwalk. It’s quintessential Cape Cod and great for family photo opportunities. Just remember to bring bug spray if visiting near dusk or dawn. It can get brutal.
Scusset Beach State Reservation
When the Cape Cod Canal was completed in 1914, it chipped off a small piece of Sandwich at it’s northeastern entrance. Although it sits on the mainland side of the canal, this little bit of beach remains part of Sandwich and contains a spectacular beach - Scusset Beach State Reservation. In addition to a deep, sandy beach, the area has a campground that fits 98 RV sites and 5 tent-only sites. Is also contains access to the north Cape Cod Canal access road (bike path) for a long walk or bike ride, and a jetty at the canal entrance that is very popular with fishermen.
Once some visitors cross over either the Bourne or Sagamore Bridges to start their Cape Cod vacation, they are simply not going to cross back over to the mainland for any reason until it’s time to go home. If you are in that camp, then Scusset Beach may not be for you. However, on a Tuesday-Thursday when the traffic is bearable, it just might be a great option. Pack a fishing pole or the family bicycles and enjoy a full day outdoors. You can even shower on site and head out to dinner afterward.
Parking: $14 MA Residents / $20 Non-Residents
Sandy Neck Beach/Bodfish Beach
Sandy Neck is mostly known for being a beach that allows access to off-road vehicles. This requires a special permit and for the day or week-long visitor, it simply is not worth the cost at $170. However, there is a public beach with a 200 vehicle parking lot, changing facilities, and a concession area. Although Sandy Neck is officially in Barnstable, it is just a smidge over the town line and thus accepts the Sandwich beach permit. So if you have purchased a day or week long pass, you are welcome to visit here. If not, the cost is $10
This small, freshwater option is great if you prefer the calmer, shark-free water of a small pond. The beach sand is a bit rough, the parking lot a bit small, but overall the pond is clean and well maintained. Lifeguards are present in the summer and small children will have a great time splashing in the warm, shallow water.
Another freshwater beach that is popular with young families, Wakeby Pond is a similar experience to Snake Pond. The beach is a bit larger, as is the pond itself. The beach is part of the Ryder Conservation Land, accessible via South Sandwich Road.
Cape Cod is about enjoying the warm weather and recreating outdoors. In Sandwich, you can enjoy the beaches along Cape Cod Bay, walk or bike along the canal, or take a guided paddling tour through the tidal creeks. There are plenty of opportunities to incorporate some classic Cape Cod activities into your vacation without driving very far.
Stand-Up Paddleboards Tours
Stand-up paddle boarding has become one of the most popular ways to get out on the water and be active at the same time. Sandwich has several ponds and tidal creeks that make for excellent paddling, and a guided tour at one of these locations is a great way to entertain the family for a day, especially for difficult to please teenagers.
Peace Love SUP is a local outfitter that regularly runs paddle tours in the area and can get you set up with a great day on the water. Disclaimer: Peace Love SUP is owned and operated by my wife, Amy. Of course, I am biased here, but the five star reviews on Google and Trip Advisor speak for themselves.
Walk and Bike Along the Cape Cod Canal
Visitors and locals alike will use this seven mile access road along the southern bank of the Cape Cod Canal for leisurely bike riding, walking, jogging, fishing, and dog walking. Access the canal road, commonly called the Canal Bike Path, at the Sandwich Marina on Freezer Road. Before or after your activity, get a lobster roll at the Pilot House, or a frozen dessert at Shipwreck Ice Cream.
Hiking/Nature Walking and Off Road Biking at the East Sandwich Game Farm
Of course, there are no mountains on Cape Cod, but there are still a few places where you can go and play in the woods. The Old East Sandwich Game Farm was once a working farm, but is now a 133 acre conservation site that, when combined with the adjacent Talbot’s Point Conservation Area, offers 245 acres of outdoor space that includes trails, a freshwater pond for swimming, and paddling on Scorton Creek.
Mostly, you will find locals on walks with their families or dogs. It is not frequented by vacationers, making it a great place to escape the crowds. There are views of tidal creeks and salt marsh along some of the trails, making for an enjoyable walk. Be sure to keep your bearings, however, as the trails are not well marked.
Below are two suggested trails. For both, park at the dirt lot on Route 6A (map):
- Scorton Creek & Hoxie Pond Loop: A 1-mile easy jaunt from Scorton Creek to Hoxie Pond and back.
- Sandwich Game Farm Loop: 4.3 miles of trail with mild inclines and views of Hoxie Pond and salt marsh.
Forgot your bike? No problem. Take a guided fat bike tour with Peace Love SUP. Jump on a mountain bike with 4-inch wide tires built to float on top of sand and enjoy coastal trails and beachfront on your two hour excursion.
All that activity makes a person hungry. Luckily, some of my favorite places to eat and drink are in Sandwich, and I think that you will enjoy them as well. From fine dining to casual bars and pizza, you should be able to find what you’re craving.
This old church has been converted into an inn and restaurant, and over the years it has remained my favorite place to have a nice meal out. It is where my wife and I go when we are looking for a romantic date night. Details from the church remain, like the stained glass and peaked ceiling, but the menu is purely sinful. Dayboat scallops, filet mignon with shrimp, and the mushroom ravioli are all delicious. Afterwards, you may want to head to the altar and ask forgiveness for your indulgence. However, the altar has been replaced with a bar serving very un-sacramental wine, so just enjoy.
Located in the center of town, the Daniel Webster has operated as an inn since colonial times. There are multiple dining areas including candle-lit tables, fireside dining, and a glass conservatory overlooking the inn’s beautifully kept grounds. If all of this sound’s a bit too fancy for your taste, not to worry. There is usually a mash-up of casual and well dressed folks enjoying the menu here, and it’s all good no matter what you are wearing.
The lunch and dinner menus feature a variety of American Continental favorites, but as you might have guessed, it’s the seafood that is the star of the show. The Daniel Webster also serves breakfast daily and a Sunday Brunch.
Father’s Kitchen and Taphouse
There’s nothing like a good gastropub, especially when they serve their own freshly brewed beers. Father’s is everything that a great brewpub should be. They have 42 craft beers on tap including their own 6A Brewing Company selections. My favorite method of drinking at Father’s is to get a flight of beers. This sampling of craft brews allows you to choose six of your favorites including cider and mead selections.
On the menu are the usual suspects: burgers, wraps, and delicious, thin crust pizza that when combined with beer tastes like the most delicious substance on earth. This is a great spot to land after a bike ride on Sandy Neck, or the East Sandwich Game Farm.
If you are looking for a nice cafe and sandwich shop in East Sandwich, Cafe Riverview is a special place. It takes it’s name from the Riverview School, located one mile east of the cafe on Route 6A. The school provides residential and day schooling for adolescents and young adults with a variety of developmental challenges. Many students here are living with autism, Down’s Syndrome, or other cognitive and physical delays. The cafe provides students the opportunity to gain real-world work experience that includes interacting with customers.
As the parent of an autistic child, I am certainly biased. However, I think that the coffee and food here are excellent. Specialty coffees such as cappuccino and espresso are served, as are breakfast burritos and lunch sandwiches. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. I often stop at the cafe whenever I’m driving through the area, even if I’m only mildly hungry. Spending money here actually makes me feel good, and it will make you feel good, too.
Sweet Tomatoes Pizza
For thin-crust, Neapolitan style pizza on Cape Cod, this is the place. Here, you can get counter service pies served in a casual setting. The pizza is delicious, but there is a rub. Because the crust is very thin, it does not box well. By the time you get it home, it will have turned into a bit of a mess. To get the best mileage, eat in at the venue. I often stop by here for lunch when working in the area for a couple of slices.
Who doesn’t like to get ice cream while on summer vacation? Sandwich has several great scoopers to choose from, but here are two of my favorites.
A great ice cream venue is not complete without a comfortable place to sit and enjoy your dessert. With a beautiful stone patio and arbor, hanging plants, and plenty of picnic tables, Sweet Caroline’s checks the box. They serve all the flavors one might expect and use hormone-free milk in their products.
Dairy free options include raspberry and lemon sorbet.
Shipwreck Ice Cream
This popular ice cream venue used to be a SCUBA dive shop, hence the name. In fact, I purchased a mask, snorkel, and fins from here when it was. These days, you can buy ice cream served in homemade waffle cones, cookie sandwiches and brownie sundaes. The grounds are spacious with plenty of covered outdoor seating so you can enjoy your treats on a hot day. Children will enjoy visiting the pet turtles and rabbits.
Shipwreck is conveniently located adjacent to the parking area of the Cape Cod Canal bike path, so you could enjoy a brisk walk or jog along the canal prior to enjoying dessert.
Looking for a way to pass the time? Try these stress-free activities that anyone can enjoy.
The auto gallery at Heritage Museums & Gardens is an impressive collection of antiques from the early years of motoring.
Perhaps one of the greatest spaces to spend a few hours in Sandwich is here. This attraction is comprised of 100 acres of outdoor gardens that feature a large collection of rhododendron that blooms from Memorial Day through mid-June, hydrangea bushes, day lilies, and quite a bit of other botanical endowments that create a remarkably peaceful environment. My family and I have been members here most every year for the past two decades, and it has been a place that we enjoy whenever we want to get outside and just walk. I recommend coming here for a relaxing afternoon.
However, there is quite a bit more to this place than the gardens. The property also includes many other features that are sure to hold your interest, including:
- Automobile Museum: An impressive collection of antique cars dating back to the early 1900’s. Visitor can view some of the early buggies and roadsters from some of the long forgotten manufacturers that shaped the culture of the 20th century.
- Hidden Hollow: A two acre discovery and play area for younger children that includes an accessible treehouse, a water exploration area, balance beams, art programs, and staff-led events where kids can learn and have fun simultaneously.
- Art Museums: There are two buildings that house rotating exhibits of visual art.
- Carousel: Built in 1908, the carousel is popular with adults and children alike.
- Magnolia Cafe: Enjoy lunch at Heritage Museums and Gardens with outdoor seating on the covered patio or picnic tables. Sandwiches, salads, and ice cream are served daily.
- Special Events: Visit the calendar for upcoming events including music events on the lawn, behind the scenes tours, gardening workshops and more.
Heritage operates a tram that visits all areas of the grounds for those that desire to ride instead of walk.
In the early 19th century, the Boston & Sandwich Glass Factory began manufacturing crystal tableware. The company became a regional leader in glass production, especially in its use of decorative colors in the pieces. The glassworks lasted for six decades until 1888, closing due to competition from factories further south.
The glass museum is open daily during the summer and visitors can see original glass pieces produced from the factory as well as glassblowing demonstrations.
Green Briar Nature Center & Jam Kitchen
Operated by the Thornton W. Burgess Society, the property is home to several walking trails, a small museum and gift shop featuring the works of children’s author Thornton Burgess, who created a series of stories revolving around Peter Rabbit in the briar patch. Although Burgess admitted to using the now-famous character from British author Beatrix Potter as inspiration, the stories themselves are remarkably different. Burgess was a conservationist at heart and used his writing to inspire younger generations to appreciate and care for the natural world. Amidst the heavy summer traffic and crowds of Cape Cod, the nature center offers a bit of sanctuary for those that want to slow down for an afternoon and recharge.
The center also houses the jam kitchen, where guests can take a class in old-fashioned jam making.
The Hoxie House is one of the oldest surviving homes in Massachusetts
Hoxie House & Dexter Grist Mill
Being the oldest town on Cape Cod, Sandwich has several historic homes and buildings. Visitors with even a casual interest in history will enjoy stopping by these windows to the past to see what life was like in the 17th century.
Dexter Grist Mill was originally built in 1637. For two and a half centuries it functioned as a local resource for grinding grains into flour. Although the current mill building is not original, it is a replica built in 1961, you would never know it. Tours are available throughout the day in summer and fall, and guests can even buy cornmeal from organic corn ground on site. The mill is located next to the town hall on Shawmee Pond, in the town’s historic district.
Hoxie House was built in 1675 and actually is the original construction. It is one of the oldest surviving homes in Massachusetts. The house is staffed by volunteers that bring the history to life and can answer questions about how the early colonists lived. Like Dexter Grist Mill, the house is located on Shawmee Pond and enjoying the grounds outside is part of the enjoyment of visiting, so be sure to stop by when the weather is nice and do not save it for a rainy day activity.