Cape Cod is so much more than just sand dunes and breathtaking views. History is alive and well on this lovely peninsula surrounded by the deep, blue sea and we’d like to share our favorite historic sites on Cape Cod.
Discovered by the Wampanoag Tribe long before the Pilgrims landed here in 1620, the Cape‘s fascinating past is revealed in all manner of museums and historic sites. And, due to the central location of our historic inn on Cape Cod, you’ll be well-positioned to visit any of those that hold interest for you when you stay with us at the Captain Farris House.
Whaling captains, pirates, authors, and at least one former president listened to the siren’s call of Cape Cod. Our favorites run the gamut from the home of a quirky children’s book author to the spot where the pilgrims first landed in the New World. A visit to any of those on our list of favorites will leave you with a better understanding of what shaped this lovely place we call home.
But let’s start with a little orientation.
Sandwich, the Oldest Town on Cape Cod
When you come over the Sagamore Bridge, you’ll enter the town of Sandwich, the oldest settlement on the island. Founded in 1637, Sandwich is a good place to start exploring the early history of the Cape, including its significant role in glass production and the many historic homes. But take time to explore the exquisite gardens and museums located within the Heritage Museum and Gardens compound for a better understanding of art and history.
Sandwich Glass Museum
The town of Sandwich has a long history with American glass production. Housed in a brick building in the heart of this picturesque village, the Sandwich Glass Museum’s collection includes a lighting gallery, glass blowing demonstration, and contemporary glass art objects. Open daily in season, April through December, and Wednesday through Sunday, February through March. Closed in January.
Heritage Museum and Gardens
A trip to the Heritage Museum and Gardens is a feast for the senses. Walk among flowering hydrangeas and rhododendrons, when in season. Admire the world-class collection of antique automobiles in the Shaker Round Barn, And take a ride on the authentic carousel. Check their calendar for special events and upcoming exhibits.
Hoxie House, Sandwich
Claiming to be one of the oldest homes on Cape Cod, the Hoxie House shines a light on the early settlement of Sandwich, the oldest town on the Cape. Carefully restored and outfitted with period pieces, the Hoxie House reflects the lifestyle of the late 17th century. Be sure to check out the gunstock posts and pumpkin pine beams of the saltbox construction. Open daily, Mid-June to Mid-October.
Pirates and the Sea
The Cape Cod Canal opened more than 100 years ago. Prior to its construction, more than 1,000 ships wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod in the treacherous waters between Chatham and Provincetown. Known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” the relics that lie beneath the sea attracted treasure hunters from all over. The Whydah Museum in West Yarmouth is the best place to learn about the swashbuckling life of pirates. But, spend some time at the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis to truly understand the rich maritime history of the Cape.
Whydah Pirate Museum, West Yarmouth
Whydah Gally was a fully rigged galley ship originally built as a passenger, cargo, and slave ship. On the return leg of her maiden voyage of the triangle trade, the Whydah was captured by the pirate Captain Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, beginning a new role in the Golden age of Piracy.
Sunk in the waters off Cape Cod in a nor’easter in 1717, the Whydah pirate ship remained in its watery grave undiscovered for centuries. However, a team of dedicated divers determined to uncover its treasure were hugely rewarded for their efforts. Much of their finds are on display at the museum, including gold and silver, canons and pistols, and buttons and buckles. Learn about the exciting and dangerous life of pirates. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Cape Cod Maritime Museum
Dedicated to preserving the rich history of Cape Cod’s long connection to the sea, the Cape Cod Maritime Museum is a “must-see” for mariners and history buffs. Perched at the head of Hyannis Harbor, the vast collections and exhibits paint the unique picture of the life seafarers and those who worked closely with them. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
The Kennedy Legacy
The Kennedy family spent many summers at their compound in Hyannisport. There, along the shore, they gathered for family celebrations, sailing competitions, and tag football games on the lawn. John F. Kennedy, in particular, loved the natural beauty of Cape Cod so much that, as president, he created the Cape Cod National Seashore to preserve miles of coastline and nature trails through the marsh and dunes of the outer Cape for generations to come. His personal and professional legacy is preserved at his eponymous museum in downtown Hyannis.
John F. Kennedy Museum, Hyannis
Located on Main Street in Hyannis, MA, the John F. Kennedy Museum is a tribute to JFK’s deep connection to Cape Cod. On exhibit are photographs of the Kennedy family enjoying summers at their compound, historic artifacts, and inspirational quotes from his years in politics. Open Monday through Friday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Authors, artists, whaling captains, and wealthy businessmen flocked to Cape Cod for its incredible natural beauty and proximity to the sea, building homes that bespoke of their wealth and important contributions to the culture and economy. A few of these historically significant homes are open to the public to enjoy. Each reflects the vision of the owners and pays tribute to the period in which they lived and worked.
Edward Gorey House, Yarmouth Port
Edward Gorey, a uniquely talented author and illustrator, lived on Cape Cod in a 200-year-old former sea captain’s home for more than 20 years. His legacy is well-preserved in this humble museum in the charming village of Yarmouth Port. His artwork, illustrations, children’s books, and more form the heart of this fun and funky museum. Open April through December.
Crosby Mansion, Brewster
This magnificent mansion overlooking Cape Cod Bay was built by Albert Crosby in 1888. A tribute to the opulent style fancied by wealthy residents of the Gold Coast, the Crosby Mansion features a 60-foot viewing tower, hand-carved mahogany walls, and marble bathrooms. Open in season beginning in May.
Highfield Hall, Falmouth
This historically significant home, surrounded by gorgeous gardens and 400 acres of conservation land, is as much a hub for cultural activities as it is a magnificent estate. In addition to offering group tours of the estate and gardens in season, June through October, Highfield Hall hosts lectures, workshops, and concerts throughout the year. Check their calendar for hours and admission.
These are but a few of our favorite historic sites on Cape Cod, and often the ones we recommend our guests visit. Start your exploration of Cape Cod’s fascinating history with a stay at our beautifully restored bed and breakfast in historic Bass River Village.