Cape Cod Day Trip: Harwich
As the old catchphrase states, “Harwich has it all.” Located smack in the middle of Olde Cape Cod on the “warm” side of Nantucket Sound, Harwich boasts more freshwater and saltwater beaches than any other town on the Cape. Make sure to buy a beach pass at the Harwich Community Center or Harwich Chamber of Commerce for summer seasonal parking. Harwich is home to seven villages as well as abundant scenic vistas including cranberry bogs, a lavender farm, and three distinct harbors: Allen’s, Wychmere, and Saquatucket.
Whether walking, pedaling, or driving around town to partake in the beauty of Harwich, the first order of the day is some morning fuel. For the grab-and-go crowd, there’s Buckies Biscotti in Harwich Port, where selections include homemade granola, bagels, pastries, and a variety of breakfast panini and wraps, or head across the street for a famous meltaway sweet bread at Bonatt’s Bakery. A popular townie spot for some sit-down hearty breakfast fare is Ruggie’s in Harwich Center (on Route 139, not to be confused with Harwich Port Center which is Route 28). Indulge in one of their “melting pots”, a breakfast casserole inspired by the distinctive cuisine of six countries. If you are feeling especially ravenous, take on the challenge of “the Duke”: two waffles, two pancakes, six eggs, ¼ pound each of American and cheddar cheese, hash browns, Ruggie’s homemade sausage gravy, six slices of bacon, three sausage patties, two pieces of boneless fried chicken, and one 8-ounce glass of juice. Finish everything in 30 minutes and you will be immortalized on their wall, your breakfast will be comped, and you will receive a free t-shirt.
After breakfast, get ready to select from a variety of activities to help burn off those calories. If you prefer cycling, you can rent a bike and pedal around town or hop on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, miles of which meander past bogs and ponds on its route through Harwich. Make a pit stop at Local Flavor for knapsack provisions before jumping on the trail. There is a huge selection of fresh made breakfast and deli sandwiches, hot dogs, lobster rolls, salads, cold drinks, and a burrito bar. Coming off trail or just in the mood for at hassle-free dinner at home, mosey in for a scrumptious take-and-bake pie or two: chicken, beef or turkey with cranberry corn stuffing depending on your cravings.
For some water sight seeing, you can launch a kayak or canoe at Red River Beach, the Herring River, or Long Pond. Feeling less energetic? Take a Monomoy Island Excursion out of Saquatucket Harbor to get an up close and personal look at the seals as well as soak in the beauty of the Cape coastline. The harbor also has boats that will take you out for a whale watch or fishing. After working up an appetite on the open sea, make sure you hit up the Salt Block Food Truck across from the harbor for some ever popular Salt Block fries and a fresh fish taco. Not ready to give up the water view? Snag a table on the outside deck at Brax Landing for a bucket of fresh steamers and a signature cocktail.
If you are more of the shopping and strolling kind, there is plenty to fill your day in Harwich. After an arduous morning of beachcombing and reading on one of the many spectacular beaches, Main Street (Route 28), Harwich Port offers a variety of shops to while away an afternoon. This quaint downtown harbors many local businesses that have been in existence for decades, as well as some fabulous new additions. Jewelry, art, clothing, nautical decor and local crafts can be found in multiple stores lining this picturesque stretch. Make sure to grab a kite for some evening beach flying at Dr. Gravity’s and a fistful of penny candy at Dr. Cavity’s Candy Shack.
As shopping and eating always go hand in hand, The Mason Jar provides a midday pick me up with an array of sandwiches assembled with Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. I’m a huge fan of the Orchard (turkey, apple, Vermont cheddar, and honey mustard) on wheat, while my hubs obsesses over the B&B (roast beef, bleu cheese, lettuce, tomato, and red onion) on marble. Pair your sandwich with one of their delicious homemade sides, like the farfalle pasta or snow pea salad, accompanied by an old time lemonade squeezed to order.
Picky eaters can always find something on the menu at George’s Pizza. Owned and operated since 1970 by the same family, they continually win accolades from the local community for their Greek-style pizza, subs, and pastas.
Massachusetts may have abolished the type of “happy hours” that allowed reduced pricing on alcoholic beverages, but from 3-5:30 there’s still plenty to celebrate at The Port. Their raw bar offers Chatham Oysters for a “buck a shuck.” Pair with one of the Port’s cold brews and you have the perfect afternoon snack.
Beat the crowd and head to Bud’s Go-Karts for some classic Cape Cod fun. Kids and adults alike will enjoy a spin on the track that has been delighting for decades. Be aware children have to be at least eight years old and 54 inches tall to drive solo, and we are not talking F1-style racing here. Later, unwind for a bit by casting a line from the jetty at Red River Beach or off the bridge at the Herring River in West Harwich.
If fishing doesn’t result in fresh catch for dinner, don’t despair. You don't have to leave town. Harwich has an abundance of fantastic dining options from casual to upscale. My favorite low-key spot is Hot Stove Saloon. The pub food is good and affordable, and the drinks are generous (upgrade to a “tall” cocktail… it’s worth it!). Blackboard specials often feature local seafood. My husband is a huge fan of their native sea scallops accompanied by their zucchini fries, and my whole family swears by the superiority of their nachos topped with house-made chili. No matter where we dine, we often pop in here for cocktails, as there’s usually a lively mix of locals and tourists. With decor that is heavy on vintage baseball memorabilia and multiple flat screen TVs, it’s a great place to watch a game.
In the mood to “dine,” (sans kids or with older ones with more adventurous palates), Harwich will not disappoint. Opened in 2014 by Harwich natives Ben and Angela Porter, Viera has been earning kudos since inception for their scratch kitchen, or plan ahead with reservations to Twenty-Eight Atlantic at the Wequassett Resort and enjoy a magnificent view of Pleasant Bay while dining on the award-winning cuisine of Chef James Hackney.
Cape Sea Grille on Sea Street off Route 28 is always a surefire hit. Chef/owner Douglas Ramler, wife Jennifer, and their culinary crew are committed to showcasing the freshest of the Cape’s bounty in the warm ambiance of an old sea captain’s home. Local seafood is the star and is utilized in many of the appetizers and entrees. The lobster, shrimp, and scallops tossed in fresh pasta with peas and asparagus in a sweet chili cream sauce is the stuff of which dreams are made. Meat lovers and vegans will also find rave-worthy options. Make sure to save room for one of their sublime desserts: from a shortcake enhanced by fresh strawberries in a mint simple syrup topped off with a vanilla bean mascarpone cream to the lemon cheesecake complemented by blueberry compote in a walnut crust.
Not ready to pull the plug on your day? Swing by Firebar at Ember and snuggle up by the giant fire pit while you enjoy a nightcap under the stars. This outdoor venue has been pulling in the late crowd since its debut this season. Heading home at the end of a day in Harwich, I’m sure you’ll agree...Harwich is perfection!
Bonatt’s Bakery & Restaurant, 537 Route 28, Harwich Port
Brax Landing, 705 Route 28, Harwich Port
Buckies Biscotti & Bakerey, 554 Route 28, Harwich Port
Bud’s Go-Karts, 9 Sisson Road, Harwich
Cape Sea Grille, 31 Sea Street, Harwich Port
Dr. Cavity’s Candy Shack, 560 Main Street, Harwich Port
Dr. Gravity’s Kite Shop, 560 Main Street, Harwich Port
Ember, 600 Route 28, Harwich Port
George’s Pizza, 564 Route 28, Harwich Port
Hot Stove Saloon, 551 Route 28, Harwich Port
Local Flavor, 403 Route 124/Pleasant Lake Avenue, Harwich
The Mason Jar, 544 Route 28, Harwich Port
Monomoy Island Excursions, 702 Route 28, Harwich Port
The Port, 541 Route 28, Harwich Port
Ruggie’s Breakfast and Lunch, 707 Main Street, Harwich
Salt Block Food Truck, 710 Route 28, Harwich Port
Twenty-Eight Atlantic, 2173 Route 28, Wequassett Resort & Golf Club, Harwich
Viera, 11 Route 28, Harwich