I recently visited Cape Cod for the first time and boy, am I hooked! (Like a fish, if you will…)
With its cedar shingles, an ample number of ice cream shops, blue hydrangeas, and pebbly beaches, Cape Cod is quintessentially New England. It’s a great spot to spend a summer getaway in Massachusetts.
Not too far along the Cape lies Sandwich, Massachusetts (named after Sandwich in Kent, England). Originally Wampanoag land, white colonizers incorporated Sandwich in 1637. Thus it is now recognized as Cape Cod’s oldest town, along with its neighbor, Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
The town motto, “Post tot Naufracia Portus” translates to “after so many shipwrecks, a haven.” It’s easily understandable how Sandwich would be considered a haven!
- By car: The drive to Sandwich, MA, from Boston is about an hour and 45 minutes to two hours, depending on traffic, mostly via MA-3.
- By train: During the summer, take the CapeFLYER train from South Station in Boston to Bourne. From Bourne, you can then take a taxi to Sandwich. This trip would take about two hours.
- By plane: Cape Air operates flights between Boston’s Logan International Airport and Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis, MA. From Hyannis, it is about a half-hour drive to Sandwich.
- By car: The drive to Sandwich from NYC takes about four and a half to five and a half hours, depending on traffic.
Having a car was definitely the best way to get around Sandwich. The car allowed us to reach places that weren’t easily walkable, and most everywhere we went had parking.
However, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority does operate a Sandwich bus line.
Things to do in Sandwich, MA
There are many fun things to do in Sandwich, MA. From exploring its history as a major glassware producer to watching fishing boats head out to sea, I definitely enjoyed a relaxing time in Sandwich!
The Heritage Museum and Gardens
Of all the things to do in Sandwich, visiting the Heritage Museums and Gardens was definitely one of my favorites. The grounds and gardens are absolutely beautiful.
Located on 100 acres, you can spend hours wandering the trails and reading the (sometimes entertaining) names of all the different types of blooms. Some featured collections of plants include rhododendrons, daylilies, and, of course, the hydrangeas that are so common on Cape Cod.
(Fun Fact: At the Heritage Museum and Gardens I learned that hydrangea color depends on the acidity of the soil in which it grows! Acidic soil produces blue blooms while neutral soil produces pinker blooms.)
Make your way through a maze, walk a wooded labyrinth, then take a quiet moment at the flume fountain. Those visiting Sandwich with kids should definitely check out the Hidden Hollow, an area designed for kids to learn and play using the natural elements around them.
Three gallery buildings hold the museum portions of the Heritage Museum and Gardens. Here you can find a classic car exhibit, a vintage carousel, American folk art, and other special exhibitions.
Tree House Brewing Company
For those of legal drinking age (though those who aren’t are also welcome), one of the best things to do in Sandwich is to visit Treehouse Brewing. This Massachusetts-based brewery has several locations in the state, but the Sandwich location has some awesome views of the Cape!
With an extensive draft list, plus non-alcoholic and coffee options, there’s something for everyone at Tree House. If cocktails are more your style, order one from the vintage Airstream parked outside!
Whatever you decide to drink, going in the evening and watching the sunset over the water is awesome. You can bring your own snacks and games. Plus, the outdoor area is kid- and dog-friendly!
Note: You will have to make a reservation for a time slot in advance! You’ll purchase drink tickets ahead of time for your desired slot, and then hand in the tickets when you order your drinks. For more info, check out their site here.
Dexter Grist Mill
One of the most picturesque spots in Sandwich is where the Dexter Grist Mill sits on Lower Shawme Pond. This working grist mill dates back to 1637! I definitely learned more than I thought I would when I paid the $5 entrance fee (such as the origin of the saying, “Keep your nose to the grindstone”).
The grist mill grinds corn into cornmeal (which is available for purchase…and you bet we bought a bag to make corn muffins). The mill has been restored using the original plans from the 1600s, complete with a hydropower wheel.
The senior gentlemen giving the tours within the mill were quite lovely and were clearly passionate about this little piece of Sandwich history.
Sandwich Glass Museum
If you are interested in the history of the town, then one of the best things to do in Sandwich is to visit the Glass Museum. In the 1800s the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company rose to fame as a glass factory, and the museum is dedicated to its evolution throughout the company’s 60-year history.
You’d think Sandwich was chosen as a place to start a glass museum because of its sand. Sand is used in making glass right? Not beach sand, apparently.
It was actually Sandwich’s location as a shallow harbor that was advantageous for shipping the glassware elsewhere. Also, the surrounding timber could be (and was) used to fuel the furnaces.
The Sandwich Glass Museum is laid out in chronological order, from the company’s beginnings blowing glass to molding to pressing glass. Learn about the difference between lacy, patterned, and threaded glass, and how techniques evolved throughout the years.
Every hour, on the hour, there is a glass-blowing demonstration using the old tools!
(Fun Fact: Uranium was used to give glass pieces a canary yellow color. Canary glass can register as radioactive, though not at dangerous levels. It also glows green under UV light!)
Fisherman’s View Seafood Market & Restaurant
If you’re looking for both good seafood and excellent views, head to Fisherman’s View. Located right on the water, you can watch boats going in and out of the marina.
Serving up everything from lobster rolls to sushi with complimentary cornbread, Fisherman’s View is a great spot for lunch or dinner. I can personally confirm the lobster mac and cheese was delicious!
Fisherman’s View can get busy, so if you don’t have a reservation you may have to put your name on a waitlist. While you wait, though, you can grab a drink or appetizer from the outdoor bar.
If you would rather cook your seafood by yourself, you can order from their seafood market! Order Jonah crabs, oysters, steamers, mussels, haddock, cod, halibut, or sole, and pick it up yourself.
Kayak the Marshes
For those looking to get out on the water, one of the best things to do in Sandwich is to go kayaking.
Kayaking through the estuaries that lead to the ocean is a fun, easy activity for the whole family. Float through the marshes and you might glimpse herons or ospreys, as well as terns, seagulls, and other shorebirds.
Even if you’re not the biggest seafood fan (I, myself, am not), you should try some while on Cape Cod. Most of it is fried into deliciousness anyway!
One of the best places to visit in Sandwich is Seafood Sam’s. This no-frills spot has it all when it comes to seafood. Order classics like lobster rolls, clam chowder, fried haddock, and fried clam strips. (Best of all, almost everything comes with a side of fries.)
Seafood Sam’s started with six employees and no seating. Now, almost 50 years later, they have two locations and over 100 items on the menu!
Sandcatcher Recreation Area
After you’ve filled up on fried food from Seafood Sam’s, walk it off! One of my favorite things to do in Sandwich was to walk along the water, looking for stones to skip.
Turn east past the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center and walk along the canal toward the Sandcatcher Recreation Area. You’ll see folks fishing on the small, rocky jetty while boats come and go through between the canal and the ocean.
Hang another right and you’ll come to Town Neck Beach. Dip your toes in the water, hunt for shells, or just enjoy the sunset.
(We walked from here to Tree House Brewing- highly recommend!)
The Shipwreck Ice Cream
What is summer on Cape Cod without getting ice cream? While there are many places in Sandwich at which to get ice cream, I really enjoyed The Shipwreck.
I’ve never seen so many ice cream flavor options in one place, with so many fun names, at that! (If you’re wondering what “Purple Cow” is, it’s a black raspberry ice cream with chocolate chips.)
Kids (and those young at heart) will also enjoy watching the pet turtles and one elusive tortoise.
There were a couple of things to do in Sandwich that I wasn’t able to fit in, but would have liked to!
- The Sandwich Boardwalk: The well-known Sandwich Boardwalk that stretches over marshlands to reach Town Neck Beach has been under renovation. I’d like to visit once it’s finished!
- The Hoxie House: This saltbox house is one of the oldest homes on Cape Cod and has been restored and furnished to the way it would have looked in the 17th century.
Sandwich, MA, is charming; and I’m so glad it was my first Cape Cod experience. I can’t wait to return to watch more beach sunsets and do the things in Sandwich that I missed this round!
What are your favorite places to visit on Cape Cod? Have you been to Sandwich? Have you eaten a sandwich in Sandwich??
Let me know in the comments!
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