This Cape Cod town is best known for two attributes — one rooted in history and one of more recent vintage. Mashpee is the home of the Mashpee Wampanoag. The tribe, known as the People of the First Light, has inhabited present-day Massachusetts for more than 11,000 years, and today there are approximately 2,600 members. Visitors can glimpse tribal history at the Indian Museum and Meeting House. The town’s other claim to fame is Mashpee Commons, a high-end outdoor shopping center that boasts some 80 stores, restaurants, a movie theater, bowling alley, Post Office, and the town library.
The Alexander Hamilton House — named after the owner’s previous inn in New York — (9 Horseshoe Bend Way, 914-906-1379, www.alexanderhamiltonhousecapecod.com, $225-$300), sits on a lake with a private beach. It offers two large suites, one with two bedrooms suitable for a family. The recently renovated Santuit Inn (6 Falmouth Road, 508-428-6433, www.thesantuitinn.com, $69-$169) bills itself as a boutique hotel, with designer linens, flat-screen televisions, and free wireless Internet. A two-bedroom cottage has a private entrance, patio, living room, and kitchen. There are several timeshare resorts in town that also rent; summer availability is very limited, and there’s typically a two-night minimum on weekends in the fall. Among those resorts are these three: Cape Cod Holiday Estates on the road to South Cape State Park (97 Four Seasons Drive, 508-477-3377, 800-228-2968, www.capecodholidayestates.net, $105-$160) rents two- and three-bedroom villas. Sea Mist Resort (141 Great Neck Road South, 508-477-0549, 866-469-8222, www.vrivacations.com, $100-$285) offers units that sleep as many as six with full kitchens. South Cape Resort (950 Falmouth Road, 508-477-4700, www.southcaperesort.com, $99-$215) has condominium units that sleep six to eight. All three resorts have indoor pools.
The lobster rolls are legendary at The Raw Bar in the Popponesset Marketplace (252 Shore Drive, 508-539-4858, www.therawbar.com), open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October. The $26 price may cause initial sticker shock, but one massive, overloaded sandwich is plenty for two. For more elegant dining with an ocean view, the Popponesset Inn (20 Red Brook Inn, 508-477-1100, www.newseabury.com, dinner $20-$36) in the same complex offers a selection of seafood, as well as prime rib and dinner-worthy salads. There are several restaurants in Mashpee Commons. We like Siena (17 Steeple St., 508-477-5929, www.siena.us, lunch $8-$22, dinner $10-$30), a noisy, friendly Italian-themed restaurant with thin-crust, brick-oven pizza, and Bleu (10 Market St., 508-539-7907, www.bleurestaurant.com, lunch $10-$18, dinner $19-$35), with authentic French fare such as escargots, croque-monsieurs, and sea-salt crusted roast chicken. New to the Commons is Sweet Waves (10 Steeple St., 508-477-1400, www.sweetwaves.com, 49 cents/ounce), a self-serve, frozen yogurt bar with exotic flavors such as white-chocolate bread pudding and cinnamon bun and more than 50 toppings.
With an ocean shoreline and several ponds, the town offers many walking trails and bird-watching spots. Some 40 percent of the land here is protected open space, according to town planner Tom Fudala. The Great Flat Pond Trail at South Cape Beach State Park off Great Neck Road South (www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-south/south-cape-beach-state-park.html) traverses woods and saltwater marshes in an easy 1.3-mile walk. Nearly the entire length of the Mashpee River is open space. From the parking area on Quinaquisset Avenue, you can access trails through some 400 acres of the Mashpee River Woodlands (www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/cape-cod-islands/mashpee-river.html). American holly abounds at the Lowell Holly Reservation off Route 151 (www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/cape-cod-islands/lowell-holly.html) with its two peninsular knolls that jut into Mashpee Pond and Wakeby Pond. Climb aboard a wooden train or take the controls of a submarine at the Cape Cod Children’s Museum (577 Great Neck Road South, 508-539-8788, www.capecodchildrensmuseum.org, $7, $6 seniors), designed for children ages 1-8. Historical sites with limited hours — call for the latest information — include the Mashpee One-Room Schoolhouse (13 Great Neck Road North, 508-539-3378, www.mospc.org, open Thursdays 10 a.m.-2 p.m. through October, free), where you can see photos and ledgers of classes from the late 1800s; the recently restored Wampanoag Indian Meeting House (410 Meetinghouse Road, 508-477-6160, www.mashpeewampanoagtribe.com/meetinghouse); and the Wampanoag Indian Museum (414 Main St., 508-477-6160, www.mashpeewampanoagtribe.com/museum, free), which will present an exhibit on Mashpee Indian whalers Sept.14-Nov. 1. And there’s plenty of retail therapy at Mashpee Commons, at the intersection of Routes 28 and 151.
Any preconceptions you may have had about bowling and cuisine will be dashed with a visit to The Lanes Bowl & Bistro (9 Greene St., 774-228-2291, www.lanesbowlandbistro.com, bowling $5-$6 per game, food $9-$17). Self-described as a “boutique bowling venue,” it combines dining, tenpin bowling, bocce, and entertainment. At Dino’s Pizza & Sports Bar (401 Route 151, 508-477-7030, www.dinospizzasportsbarmashpee.com), there’s live entertainment several nights a week. And you can catch a movie at Regal Cinema (15 Steeple St., 508-477-1799, www.regmovies.com) at Mashpee Commons.