Photo Credit: Tom Whitten

As relaxing and inviting as it is, Cape Cod can seem like a jumble of contradictions to the first time visitor. Understanding the geography of the Cape is crucial to knowing where to go, but can be confusing when the northern part of Cape or the Upper Cape doesn’t actually mean it’s North, for example (in reality, it’s more west). Similarly, knowing when to visit is another key component of a great trip. While the summertime is obviously the most popular, you can get a better bang for your buck if you see the Cape off-season in spring or fall.

Here is a quick and dirty guide to the restaurants, hotels, and activities you can find on New England’s favorite shoreline.

Photo Credit: M01229

Where to stay

For a true Cape Cod experience, spending a few nights at one of the picturesque inns and B&Bs is a must. For the quintessential Cape experience, Chatham at the Chatham Bars Inn is perfect, but for a more romantic and secluded stay, splurging on a night at an old sea captain’s house at The Platinum Pebble Boutique Inn will make for a memorable weekend getaway.

Photo Credit: Puzzler4879

What to eat

Fresh seafood isn’t hard to come by on the Cape, but finding a fresh catch of the day and a raw bar to rival Hyannis’s may be a challenge. As for sweets? There’s nothing better than saltwater taffy, the light ocean breeze, and a day spent on the water in Cape Cod. You can find plenty of old-school candy shops in the small towns throughout the Cape, but a stop at Cabot’s on Commercial Street will be the perfectly sticky, sweet treat you’ve been dreaming of. For some adult fun, opt for a tour and tasting at Cape Cod Beer, the only craft brewery in the area.

Photo Credit: JD-Kinchan1

What to do

A day spent on the Cape Cod National Seashore is a given, but biking along the Shining Sea Skyway or visiting the Cape Cod Lavender Farm are two unexpected and less touristy activities that are perfect for off-season visits in the spring and fall. From April through October, visitors are virtually guaranteed to spot dolphins and whales on one of the many whale-watching tours, but for seriously close up views of the giant mammals, Provincetown’s Dolphin Fleet Whale Watching is just what your family needs for the perfect summer day on the shore.