All Articles Weekend in Falmouth: The Cape Cod town that has it all

Weekend in Falmouth: The Cape Cod town that has it all

Laura Begley Bloom
By Laura Begley Bloom4 Jun 2024 11 minutes read
Loungers and orange umbrellas doting the beach
Sea Crest Beach Hotel
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Summer’s here, which means I’ve got my compass pointed east—toward Cape Cod. I’ve been going to this beachy Massachusetts getaway since I was a little girl. In past issues of The WeekEnder, I’ve shared my favorite spots from Chatham to Provincetown. This time around, we’re going to Falmouth, a charming town in the southwest corner of Cape Cod overlooking Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.

Left: Park wearing white hat on sailboat; Right: Close-up of Humphrey smiling
Jiyoung Park (L), Linda Humphrey (R)

A friend of mine—the artist Jiyoung Park—recently moved here from New York City with her husband and their 10-year-old. And she makes a good case for Falmouth. “We have the best of both worlds—the land and the ocean. It’s a gift to live in a place like this,” she says. Park’s husband, Jeremy Wagner, is also an artist and a passionate sailor; his family has been in this area for generations. For a pair of artists, you can’t ask for a more inspiring setting. “I am (re)learning about nature since living in Cape Cod,” says Park. “The sky is not so much blue, but pink, lavender, and orange.”

Someone else who felt Falmouth’s pull is Linda Humphrey, coauthor of the book, Secret Cape Cod and the Islands: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. She and her husband bought a house here in 2005. “I was just so taken with the area, with the historic architecture and the seaside shacks. I also love to swim and Falmouth beaches have the warmest water on the Cape, especially Chapoquoit, which we call Chappy,” says Humphrey, whose book is filled with secret finds and pro-tips for vacationing on Cape Cod.

Left: Terzi smiling in blue button-up shirt; Right: Higgins-Baltzley wearing black shirt next to window
Bryan Terzi (L), Laura Higgins-Baltzley (R)

As our chat with Humphrey confirms, Falmouth has a lot going on, which is why AutoCamp opened a stylish glamping retreat here with converted Airstreams and modernist cabins. Bryan Terzi, the chief marketing officer, says this location was a no-brainer for the trendsetting hospitality company. “Falmouth has amazing history, restaurants, and of course, beautiful beaches,” he says. “It’s a great getaway from both Boston and New York City and has a nice calming sensibility. It’s also very family friendly, with tons of cute little shops and ice cream stands.”

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And there’s nothing like meeting the people who give the town its character—locals like Laura Higgins-Baltzley, who was born and raised here. “Falmouth has a solid group of hard-working year-round folks that really put in the energy to give the town its je ne sais quoi,” she says. “It’s that underlying hum in the hive that makes this town buzz with electricity. From the beautifully maintained beaches to the small hotels, restaurants, and farms, we are all in the push together.” Higgins-Baltzley got her first job at Moonakis Cafe, a crowd-favorite breakfast spot, and hasn’t left the kitchen since. These days, she is the chef/owner at Coonamessett Farm’s Buffalo Jump Café, which serves up farm-inspired lunches that change daily, plus a Jamaican buffet spread with jerk meats, fried plantains, and fresh ginger beer—all set to the beat of steel drums, of course.

One other thing to know about Falmouth: It’s huge. It encompasses eight distinct villages, from Falmouth itself to Woods Hole, which is not only a major marine biology center, it’s where you can catch the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, just seven miles away. We’ll be back in a future WeekEnder to explore the Vineyard. But for now, let’s dive into Falmouth and get this summer started.

-Laura Begley Bloom, New York's Senior WeekEnder Writer

Where to stay

What’s your idea of a perfect summer hideout? A charming captain’s manor? A seaside resort? A converted Airstream near the beach? Falmouth has it all.

Airstream next to fire pit and outdoor table at night
AutoCamp Cape Cod

For Instagrammers: AutoCamp Cape Cod in Falmouth

It doesn’t get cooler than AutoCamp, which is part boutique hotel part glamping getaway, with tricked-out Airstreams, cabins, and luxury tents walking distance to the beach. At the center of the property is the Clubhouse, which has a kitchen (don’t miss the free morning granola and coffee), lounge (complete with craft cocktails), and indoor fire pit. Grab a house bike and hit the Shining Sea Bikeway (the hotel has direct access) or check out the lineup of activities, from foraging to kayaking.

For families: Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth

This 100-year-old waterfront resort went through many past lives: It used to host summer theater, then was used as navy housing, and later became a private beach club. Now, it’s a hotel and a dependable family favorite. “It’s right next to Old Silver Beach. They have swimming pools, and even if you’re not staying here, you can still go for a drink or a snack at one of the restaurants,” says Humphrey.

For sweethearts: Captain’s Manor Inn in Falmouth

“If you’re not traveling with a family, I really recommend the Captain’s Manor,” says Humphrey. The Southern plantation architecture here, complete with high ceilings and pocket windows, is as romantic as it gets. And its backstory only adds to the charm, according to Humphrey. “It was built in 1849 as a wedding gift for a captain’s bride,” she says.

For history buffs: Woods Hole Inn in Woods Hole

With vintage hardwood floors, cast-iron tubs, and pedestal sinks, this 1887 bed-and-breakfast feels like time-traveling to another era—with all the comforts of our current one. The staff is a big part of that comfort factor. “Beth and crew run a beautiful establishment and do so much for the community and beyond. Great people,” says Higgins-Baltzley.

Where to eat

From seafood shacks to global bites, Falmouth has a thriving—and popular—food scene. Fair warning that the lines can get long during the height of summer. If you’re here on a Monday between July 8 and August 5, you’re in luck: Check out Lobster on the Lawn, held on the grounds of the castle-like St. Barnabas Church from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.—it’s a local institution.

Bakery's outdoor patio with green umbrella next to parked bicycles
Pie in the Sky Bakery

Best breakfasts

Moonakis Cafe in East Falmouth - The house-made corn beef hash and pancakes (blueberry, chocolate chip) are legendary at this roadside cafe. “I’ve been going to Moonakis ever since I can remember with my grandparents. It’s a lot of nostalgia and fast service,” says Higgins-Baltzley, who used to work here.

Pie in the Sky Bakery in Woods Hole - Grab a seat in the garden and try the cult sticky buns, handmade croissants, popovers, and bread baked from scratch, along with a cup of freshly roasted coffee (which is also sold by the pound). “People love their bacon, egg, and cheese on a croissant,” says Park.

Plate of mussels and bread
Quarterdeck Restaurant

Lunchtime

Quicks Hole Taqueria in Falmouth - It’s Baja-meets-New England at this little lunch spot. Beside Humphrey’s pick—grilled cod tacos—you’ll find twists on classics, like a coconut shrimp roll and lobster nachos. “I’m obsessed with this place,” says Humphrey. “For me, the opening day marks the official start of summer, because it’s quintessential Cape Cod.”

Devour in Falmouth - An artisan eatery with smoothies, rice bowls, salads, and more. Order at the counter and grab a seat at one of the tables outside. “They make the best sandwiches,” says Park.

Seafood shacks

Quarterdeck Restaurant in Falmouth - You’ll feel like you’re below deck at this first-rate restaurant built with salvaged wood from an old boatyard. The order that puts the wind in Terzi’s sails? Oysters.

Crabapples in Falmouth - According to Higgins-Baltzley, it’s all about the fried clams at this simple family-run seafood spot.

Landfall in Woods Hole - Tripadvisor reviewers rave about this waterfront restaurant’s seafaring decor, the view of the sailboats gliding by, and the seafood hits (lobster rolls, Cajun swordfish, broiled scrod with cranberry chutney).

Restaurant exterior with patio featuring orange-red umbrellas
Añejo Mexican Bistro & Tequila Bar

Global flavors

Añejo Mexican Bistro & Tequila Bar in Falmouth - This wildly popular Main Street Mexican spot has a New England spin—lobster enchiladas and taquitos, chorizo-stuffed clams with habanero butter. But be prepared to wait: “They don’t take reservations. You can join a waiting list online, but sometimes you’ll get a message saying that there are 120 families ahead of you—which can take three hours,” says Humphrey.

Taco Blanco in Falmouth - Don’t want to wait at Añejo? Check out the restaurant’s new, relaxed offshoot. “It’s very casual. They have a few booths, a few tables, and a bar,” says Humphrey.

Tiger Ramen in Falmouth - Molly and John Wilson, the chef/owners behind Woods Hole’s highly regarded Water Street Kitchen recently opened this Japanese noodle shop. “For the price, the food is phenomenal,” says Humphrey.

Sweet Rice in Falmouth - “It’s a really good restaurant with Southeast Asian cuisine,” says Park. “I recently went and had the duck and a couple of vegetarian dishes.”

Golden Swan in Falmouth - In the mood for Indian? This restaurant is the next best thing to a trip to Bombay. “Try the Malai Kofta,” says Higgins-Baltzley.

Casual eats

The Village Cafe in West Falmouth - Families love this easygoing local spot with smoothies by day and pizza on weekend nights. The restaurant reopens for the season on June 28.

Buffalo Jump at Coonamessett Farm in Falmouth - At this farm restaurant, Higgins-Baltzley serves up a mean chicken biscuit that’s split, griddled, and mounded with rosemary smoked and pulled chicken thigh, honey-mustard aioli, and homemade sour dill pickles. Grab some sweets at Peck O’Dirt Bakery, run by Higgins-Baltzley’s mom. During the summer, there’s also a popular Jamaican night.

Halved eggplant plated with greens and flowers
Water Street Kitchen

Date night

Glass Onion in Falmouth - It’s elegant—but not too fancy—in this candlelit space from 1926 with floor-to-ceiling windows. There are wine-pairing dinners and a New American menu with dishes like lobster strudel with mascarpone. Terzi recommends the seared scallops with cheddar polenta.

Osteria La Civetta in Falmouth - A husband-and-wife team from Northern Italy prepare classics from their motherland with a New England twist like seafood carbonara. “It’s got a cute ambiance. I feel like I’m in a portside restaurant in Italy—and the food is excellent,” says Park.

Water Street Kitchen in Woods Hole - Molly and John Wilson put tiny Woods Hole on the food map when they opened Water Street Kitchen in 2016. “Their food is phenomenal—it has elevated the whole local dining scene,” says Humphrey. The dishes feature locally sourced ingredients and change based on what’s in season (think: black sea bass with fennel sausage or scallops au poivre).

Sweet treats

Maison Villatte in Falmouth - “It was ranked among the hundred best bakeries in America by Food & Wine magazine. There’s always a line, even in the winter, so you can’t avoid waiting—but it’s incredible. It’s so worth it,” says Humphrey. “I just love their sourdough bread, and they have every type of pastry.”

Bourbon and Butter Sugar Shed in Falmouth - At this adorable little grab-and-go stand, the treats (cinnamon buns with churro frosting, banana pudding blondies) are made fresh and sell out fast. “If you can get her goodies, consider yourself lucky,” says Higgins-Baltzley.

Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Falmouth - There are several ice cream options in town, including Eulinda’s (an atmospheric spot with outdoor seating) and Smitty’s (located in East Falmouth). Humphrey recommends Ben & Bill’s for an old-fashioned experience. “They have a tin ceiling and Tiffany lamps, and they make all kinds of chocolate—including peanut butter cups and chocolate-covered cranberries—in addition to ice cream,” says Humphrey.

Bird's-eye view of outdoor covered seating areas and tables made of wine barrels
Cape Cod Winery

Drinks

Cape Cod Winery in East Falmouth - “I love this winery just for the atmosphere. People bring dogs and kids, and there are fire pits and live music,” says Humphrey. Sample the Mermaid Water, a cool Sauvignon Blanc.

Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery in Falmouth - Here, the craft beers are brewed with grape leaves. You can also snack on pizzas, pretzels, and charcuterie.

Aquatic Brewing in Falmouth - “A family-friendly local spot that serves great beer,” says Park. “Check their event page on the website for their rotating food truck updates, comedy shows, movie/trivia nights, and 5K races. You can also buy canned local beer to go, which is a great gift for beer-loving friends and family."

What to do

Beaches

Summer in Cape Cod means beaches—and Falmouth has tons of options. Here are a few of the best. And a tip from Humphrey: “Bring water shoes to most Falmouth beaches, since they can be rocky."

Beach with piles of rocks on the sand, and lighthouse in the distance
Stoney Beach

Chapoquoit Beach in West Falmouth - Chappy is one of Falmouth’s better known beaches—which can mean crowds. Tripadvisor reviewers love it for the shallow water and sand bar at low tide.

Wood Neck Beach in Falmouth - “This is my favorite beach,” says Humphrey. “As the tide goes in and out, it creates a natural lazy river.”

Goodwill Park in Falmouth - This 86-acre park is home to Falmouth’s only freshwater beach—a hit with families. “I am really digging the beach at Goodwill Park,” says Park, who loves to bring her 10-year-old. “It’s absolutely beautiful. You can swim in the fresh pond, and there’s a great playground for kids.”

Stoney Beach in Woods Hole - Right between downtown Woods Hole and a marine lab is this secret local spot. “It’s really shallow, so it’s great for kids,” says Park.

White fence on green lawn dividing white lighthouse and home with red-tiled roof
Nobska Point Lighthouse

Nature beyond the beach

There’s more to Falmouth than the beaches. From a stunning lighthouse to an excellent hike, here are some spots to take in the great outdoors.

Nobska Point Lighthouse in Falmouth - At the end of a peninsula, this 1829 lighthouse has panoramic views of Vineyard Sound and the Elizabeth Islands.

Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth - This 10.7-mile paved path follows an old railroad line from Falmouth to Woods Hole, passing by ponds and the ocean. “It’s great for walkers, runners, and bicyclists. It runs from Woods Hole—where the Steamship Authority ferry terminal is—all the way to North Falmouth,” says Park. “You get to experience Falmouth on a different level.”

Coonamessett Farm in Falmouth - At this 20-acre farm, you can meet various animals including llamas, go berry picking, and grab a bite. “Be sure to visit Peanut, our African spurred tortoise,” says Higgins-Baltzley.

Salt Pond in Falmouth - All kinds of birds flock to Falmouth, and the place to see them is at Salt Pond. A frequent sighting here: swans.

The Knob Walking Trail in Woods Hole - This walking trail is a favorite with all our experts. “It offers a short trail by the beach, and a beautiful view of Buzzards Bay will be waiting for you at the end,” says Park. A bonus, according to Terzi: “In addition to the walking trail you can view the beautiful homes along the seaside.”

Two people walking around manicured green gardens
Highfield Hall & Gardens

Arts and science

Historic spaces, summer theater, a serious marine museum—Falmouth has got it all.

Highfield Hall & Gardens in Falmouth - There’s a ton going on at this 1878 estate that used to be the summer home of a wealthy Boston family. “You can tour the building, which is also a cultural center now. They have yoga, cooking classes, and concerts,” says Humphrey. “And right next to Highfield Hall there are woods with a pond, so you can wander through the trails.”

The College Light Opera Company in Falmouth - In the old stable and carriage house at Highfield Hall, you can catch shows by this top-notch musical theater company. “This is one of my favorite places because my kids grew up going to the performances, and when my son was in college, he was accepted into the company and performed there,” says Humphrey. “It’s Broadway quality.”

Falmouth Museums on the Green in Falmouth - Learn about the history of this area at this two-acre space with 18th century homes, an early 20th century barn, Colonial gardens, historic cannons, and even an outhouse. “The Historical Society offers tours of all the historic buildings and homes along the Village Green, which I love,” says Humphrey.

Falmouth Theater Guild in Falmouth - “We are huge fans of the FTG,” says Park. “My family saw It’s a Wonderful Life in December and Willy Wonka this spring.”

Woods Hole Science Aquarium in Woods Hole - Want to see marine life up close? This is the spot. “Woods Hole Science Aquarium is a great place to go for anyone—but especially with small children,” says Park. “You can’t bring a stroller, but it is probably not needed. It is totally doable to visit individual tanks with little ones on foot. There is a lot to learn—for children and parents, too.”

Brick store set along the water
Woods Hole Handiworks

Shopping

Most of the shopping action is along Falmouth’s Main Street, which is lined with charming boutiques—but there are also some other worthy spots scattered around town.

Eight Cousins Bookshop in Falmouth - This bookstore started off just for kids, but now there are titles for adults, too—and yes, it will be carrying Humphrey’s book, Secret Cape Cod and the Islands. “It’s a really cute bookstore,” says Humphrey.

Eugene Henry’s Gastronomical Delights in Falmouth - Whether you’re looking for bourbon marshmallows or sparkling maple syrup, you’ll find all kinds of artisanal food items here. “It’s really well-curated and quirky,” says Park.

Falmouth Farmers Market in Falmouth - This market operates in Marine Park from 12 to 5 p.m. every Thursday starting in May and into the fall. “It’s a great place for vegetables, flowers, seafood, and locally made food,” says Park. “Try the hot arepas and empanadas at Donde Thiago. Delicious.”

Woods Hole Handiworks in Woods Hole - Local artists take turns minding the shop at this cooperative art gallery that features area painters, sculptors, and more.

Laura Begley Bloom
Laura Begley Bloom is a travel expert and content strategist who writes for a wide range of magazines and websites and appears regularly on television outlets ranging from the Weather Channel to CNN. Journalism is part of Laura's heritage. Her great great grandfather was a Civil War correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. You can learn more about Laura on laurabegleybloom.com.