The Commonwealth of Massachusetts offers visitors a diverse landscape of mountains, valleys, uplands, forests, rivers, lakes, bays, and the ocean. It’s an ideal state to view the foliage in the fall and visit the beaches in the summer (especially those located in Cape Cod). As one of the most desirable areas of the state, Cape Cod is an arm-shaped peninsula bordered by several major bodies of water including the Atlantic Ocean, Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod Bay, and the Cape Cod Canal.
Cape Cod provides resplendent maritime scenery of pristine beaches, massive sand dunes, and coastal plains that you just can’t find anywhere else. Throughout the Cape, travelers can encounter charming historic villages with plenty of churches and houses that are on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the best ways to see Cape Cod is not via its main artery, Highway Route 6, but along The Old King’s Highway, otherwise known as Route 6A. Here’s a link to an interactive Google Map that will help you navigate during your journey.
So, load up your vehicle (preferably one that’s a 4×4) with road trip snacks and drinks, a bag with all your beach gear, and your bikes. Then, get ready for a drive through some of the best of what Cape Cod has to offer — ending with a spectacular adventure through coastal sand dunes.
Old King's Highway, also known as Route 6A, is a 62-mile byway that meanders along the bayside of the peninsula through nine of the 15 Cape Cod towns. It was officially designated as a National Scenic Byway in 2021 and is only one of four roads with this distinction in the entire state.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA
The scenic route starts in Bourne before it makes its way through Sandwich then Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster, and Orleans. Once it gets to the Orleans rotary, Route 6A dissolves into Route 6 through Eastham, Wellfleet, and South Truro before reappearing in North Truro at Shore Road. From there, Route 6A follows Commercial Street, Bradford Street, and Province Lands Road, where It finally ends at Herring Cove in Provincetown.
To get to Cape Cod, one must take one of two bridges over the Cape Cod Canal.
Bourne Bridge, Bourne, MA 02532, USA
The Bourne Bridge is used by those coming from Route 28 while the Sagamore Bridge is traveled by those coming via Route 3 from the Boston area. Either bridge will lead you to Cape Cod's scenic byway, Route 6A. Just follow the signs.
The first stop on our journey is a bike ride along the 7-mile length of the picturesque Cape Cod Canal, the waterway that connects Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay. The flat wide path was originally built as a service road for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Cape Cod Canal, Bourne, MA 02532, USA
Now a recreational path, visitors can enjoy walking, fishing, and, of course, biking! It's the perfect introduction to seeing what the Cape has to offer. Plenty of parking can be found at the Scusset Beach State Reservation, Buzzards Bay, and Sandwich Marina Park trailheads.
After getting some exercise along the Cape Cod Canal Bike Path, it's time to get back in your vehicle and head out on scenic Route 6A. Through Bourne, the route is also known as Sandwich Road, which you'll travel along until you reach the town of Sandwich. Keep following signs for Route 6A until you veer off on Tupper Road and make your way to Wood Ave to our next stop - the Sandwich Boardwalk.
103 Wood Ave, Sandwich, MA 02563, USA
is a 1,350-foot boardwalk that crosses Mill Creek and Old Harbor Marsh, before making its way to the beach on Cape Cod Bay. This man-made marvel seems practically endless as you walk along, admiring all the beauty of your surroundings.
Note: there is a day use charge for the
during the summer months.
Continuing along our lovely scenic byway, we next arrive in Barnstable along Main Street. This may be a good spot to stop and grab a bite to eat, perhaps at the Barnstable Market with its good old-fashioned feel. You can order a sandwich from the deli or buy some provisions.
3220 Main St, Barnstable, MA 02630, USA
If you don't stop on Main Street in Barnstable, you'll have plenty of opportunities to do so in the next towns of Yarmouth, Dennis, and Brewster.
The town of Brewster is next on our grand adventure through Cape Cod. Take a detour and head to one of the bayside beaches, like Crosby Beach to explore one of the peninsula's many natural wonders. The Brewster Tidal Flats are a sight to behold.
276 Crosby Ln, Brewster, MA 02631, USA
At low tide, they cover an expanse of over 12,000 acres and run 9.7 miles from Brewster up through Orleans and into North Eastham. They are the largest tidal flats in North America and during low tide, they can even extend up to two miles off of the shoreline. Make sure to time your visit to the tidal flats during low tide so you can experience it in full effect.
While in Brewster, you should also stop at the 1,900-acre
Nickerson State Park. This state-owned park offers plenty of recreational options like hiking, swimming, canoeing and kayaking, camping, and horseback riding.
3488 Main St, Brewster, MA 02631, USA
If you brought your bike and are up for another ride, there are plenty of bike trails as well as easy access to the Cape Cod Rail Trail which follows along the path of the old 19th century Cape Cod Railroad. There is a daily parking fee for Nickerson State Park, but it's worth it!
The next town along this scenic drive is Orleans. If you desire a bite to eat at this point of the trip, you can find some of the best bbq on Cape Cod in the most unassuming of places - a bowling alley!
191 MA-6A, Orleans, MA 02653, USA
Set right along Route 6A in Orleans, there's a mouthwatering bbq joint tucked inside
. Order some pulled pork and stick around for a few games of bowling.
Through Orleans, Route 6A is known as Cranberry Highway which winds its way through its downtown. Eventually, you'll encounter the historic Jonathan Young Windmill which was originally situated in South Orleans after it was built in the 1700s. By 1839, it was moved to a spot overlooking the Town Cove and is a worthwhile scenic stop along this journey.
41 Old King's Hwy, Orleans, MA 02653, USA
Past the windmill is the Orleans Rotary where Route 6A disappears into Route 6 through Eastham, Wellfleet, and South Truro.
When you get to North Truro along Route 6, you'll take a left onto Shore Road where Route 6A picks up again.
Along this stretch, you'll pass by Truro Vineyards if you'd like to stop and stroll its beautiful grounds and, perhaps, stay for a wine tasting. Further down the road are dozens of little beach cottages that are popular rentals during the summer.
From Truro, the scenic byway leads into Provincetown, the town located at the very tip of Cape Cod by way of Commercial Street for one mile, Bradford Street for 2.5 miles, and Province Lands Road for one mile.
Herring Cove Beach, a bay beach that's part of the National Seashore, is considered the endpoint for scenic Route 6A. But just because this is the end of 6A, that doesn't mean it's the end of your journey for there's more adventure to be had here!
Next up is an off-the-paved-path excursion through the dunes of Provincetown. This part of the adventure can only be enjoyed in a 4-wheel drive vehicle like the Nissan Armada pictured here.
An oversand permit must also be obtained and you can do so via mail before you head to Cape Cod or you may pick one up at the
Oversand Permit Office
located at Race Point Beach. All ORVs will be inspected before you're allowed to head out on the sand.
Once you're allowed out on the sands of the National Seashore in Provincetown in your ORV, you'll have an experience unlike any other.
Race Point Lighthouse, Provincetown, MA 02657, USA
It's a secluded and unspoiled paradise with miles of dunes and sandy shoreline. Eventually, as you drive along the dunes, you'll see the historic Race Point Light Station, an iconic landmark at the tip of Cape Cod.
Are you ready for an incredible adventure along Cape Cod’s Route 6A? This unforgettable adventure will get you off the main highway and onto the historic scenic byway to explore parts of Cape Cod you didn’t even know existed. If you want to add some additional stops along this trip, consider the
Cape Cod Rail Trail, the Whydah Pirate Museum, Wellfleet’s Great Island, and Rock Harbor in Orleans.