Cape Cod Without the Crowds

Summer on the Cape is justifiably famous, but the traffic can be a drag. In autumn, the tourists vanish, but the small-town charms and natural beauty remain.

We try not to reward bad behavior, but after having ice cream daily--we're on vacation, after all--I don't want to break the streak.The Ice Cream Smugglerturns out to be our favorite.

With the sun fading, we head to Scargo Tower, in Dennis. It's a narrow cylinder built of large stones and mortar. The inside reeks, so I pick William up and run up the spiral staircase to the top. It's only 30 feet high, yet it has one of the Cape's best panoramas: an idyllic lake, where a lone fisherman drifts placidly in his rowboat, and, in the distance, Cape Cod Bay and the mainland.

That night, at theKingfisher Lodgingmotel, our bed is the wobbliest I've ever slept on. Still, we're all relieved when the bathroom passes Jessica's inspection.



  • Marshside Restaurant28 Bridge St., E. Dennis, 508/385-4010, burger platter $8.50

When we drove by it days earlier, the parking lot at theRed Cottage was overflowing; something good was clearly happening inside. Today at 7 A.M., the counter is three-quarters occupied. Posters of the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights decorate the back wall, and each coffee mug is different. I'm the WORLD'S GREATEST TEACHER.

The menu is overwhelming, with all sorts of extras added to breakfast standards. We go overboard: Jessica orders an omelet with the specialty home fries, which come with ham, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and hollandaise; while I have the Very Berry waffle, covered in four kinds of berries and whipped cream. Almost immediately, we wish we'd ordered something simpler.

We've been running around too much, and decide to relax at the beach before the drive home. Friends who go to the Cape every summer recommended Mayflower Beach, off Route 6A, in Dennis. When we pull our car into the empty parking lot, it's low tide, and we can walk out more than 500 feet. The sand is in little bumps that look like corduroy. I hike Will's jeans up, and watch the wet line slowly creep up them, before giving up and letting him splash around in just his diaper. There's a warm breeze, and we see maybe five people over the course of 45 minutes.

On the walk back to the car, William stops and stares at us with a furrowed brow. Instead of the tantrum I expect, he smiles. Then he arches into a racing position, sticks out both index fingers, and says, "Two, two, two, goat!"


  • Red Cottage36 Old Bass River Rd., South Dennis, 508/394-2923, waffle $8

Finding YourWay
Most of the towns on Cape Cod publish helpful, digest-size tourist guides with maps and listings, available at hotels, restaurants, and shops. Rte. 6A is the slower, more scenic route that parallels the two-lane Rte. 6. Weekends, traffic is bad on Rte. 6 (and Rte. 28) from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and sometimes in the spring and fall. If you're flying in, consider Providence rather than dealing with Boston.

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