Cape Cod has long been a summer playground for New Englanders. But if you didn't make during the peak season, fall is an ideal time for cranberry bog tours, cycling and long walks by the dunes -- all without the crowds. Base yourself in Chatham, which dates back to the 17th century and has a bustling main street full of shops and restaurants.
Main Street sights
Browse the shops along Main Street in Chatham, which include art galleries, ice cream stores and The Mayflower (475 Main St., 508-945-0065) for homewares. Pick up wine for a picnic at the stylish Chatham Wine + Provisions (467 Main St., 508-945-5570).
For a proper sit-down meal, Bluefins Sushi & Sake Bar (513 Main St., 508-348-1573) is one of the newest restaurants to open in Chatham. The design is sleek and beyond sushi, the menu also features items like Chatham lobster pad Thai. For something more old school, try the Chatham Squire (487 Main St., 508-945-0945). It's dark and atmospheric, and a perfect spot to try a local Cape Cod beer and Wellfleet oysters.
The Cape Farm & Cranberry Company ($15 adults, $10 children under 18; see website for directions, 508-432-0790) in Harwich is the largest organic cranberry farm in the Northeast. Co-owner Andrea Cakounes whisks visitors around her bog in a red-painted "Bog Bus" for daily tours.
From Harwich, it's a short drive to Yarmouth to see the Edward Gorey House (8 Strawberry Lane, 508 362-3909), the former home of the illustrator and author best known for his macabre black-and-white drawings. His personal collections, ranging from cheese graters to Mexican Day of the Dead dolls, are on display, and the current exhibit, "From Aesop to Updike: Edward Gorey's Book Cover Art & Design" (through Dec. 15), showcases almost five decades of Gorey's work designing book covers.
Walk across the street to the Captain Bangs Hallet House (11 Strawberry Lane, 508-362-3021), a historic sea captain's home. Don't miss the enormous beech tree in the backyard; it's so large you can stand under its branches, fully enclosed.
Warm up with a bowl of clam chowder at the Old Yarmouth Inn (223 Route 6A, 508-362-9962), which is walking distance from the Gorey and Hallet houses. Dating back to the 17th century, it's full of antique charm, thanks to its wide plank floors and low ceilings.
For a head-clearing walk, head to Gray's Beach, also known as Bass Hole, on the north side of Yarmouth, which has a boardwalk that stretches over a salt marsh. Or rent a bike and cycle along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which stretches for 22 miles through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. Before hitting the Cape Cod Rail Trail, carbo load with bagels at Jo Mama's Bagels (multiple locations), which also serves up hearty breakfast burritos.
Where to stay
The Chatham Bars Inn (rates start at $199; 297 Shore Road, 800-527-4884) is the only luxury resort that stays open year-round in the Cape. Formerly a semi-private hunting club, the vibe is classic New England but thoroughly unfussy. There's a spa and several dining options, from the upscale Stars to the more casual Sacred Cod. The resort's location can't be beat, too: The main lodge faces the ocean and a private beach, and it's a short stroll to Chatham's Main Street or bike ride to the Cape Cod Rail Trail (guests can take advantage of free rentals).