Considering a jaunt to Cape Cod? So far, it’s been a gorgeous, sun-kissed summer. A walk along the Cape’s famous beaches is as lovely as ever, and it feels delightfully Before Times, until you realize that beach-goers are wearing face masks with their swimsuits and giving each other lots of leeway on the sand. Meanwhile, the Cape Cod Baseball League canceled the 2020 season, the Wellfleet OysterFest is postponed, and a slew of other events and activities aren’t happening, or have gone virtual.
Things are a little different this summer. But should you still go?
We interviewed Julian Cyr, Massachusetts state senator of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket — and the public information officer for the Cape Cod Reopening Task Force — to get a sense of what visitors should expect on the Cape and islands this season.
How safe is it?
“We are expecting a muted season — fewer people, less capacity, and less spending,” Cyr says. “Things will be open, but the experience may have changed a bit. It may take a little longer to get service at your favorite clam shack, or you might have to walk farther to get space at the beach, or your favorite bar might not be open.”
Most visitors and residents seem to be complying with social distancing measures, says Cyr, a year-‘round Truro resident. “We had a steady population influx from March through June, and there was a real concern about [virus rates surging],” he says. But the Cape did not see an upswing in COVID-19 cases, even after Memorial Day weekend and recent protests that drew crowds.
“That shows me that the community is following health guidelines. As the population peaks in July, we need to remain vigilant — we’ll have more people, in a finite space,” he adds. As we learn about the virus, we learn that the being outdoors and in small groups is less risky, and that face masks are effective, Cyr notes, “So the key for us here is making sure that everyone is following public health recommendations and taking personal responsibility for their actions.” And — even though the Cape’s health care resources are up to par — please stay home if you’re sick.
At the beach
Exploring the great outdoors is a bit easier, assuming the weather gods comply! Beachgoers are still advised to follow the statewide guidelines: wear face coverings, keep your distance, and avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more.
Beach access, controlled by local municipalities or the Cape Cod National Seashore, will operate as usual. Lifeguards and beach services began July 2, although some beaches won’t have lifeguards this year. And yes, public restrooms will be available.
Will restaurants be open?
Count on al fresco dining options aplenty. “Cape Cod restaurants have gotten really creative about how they provide service — what was once a parking lot or a patio is now a dining space,” Cyr says. On Main Street in Hyannis, one lane of the formerly two-lane street is closed to traffic to allow for outdoor dining.
Plan to make reservations at your favorite spot — and to respect their safety protocols. “As businesses reopen, we’re asking customers to be patient and understand that our ability to serve you and welcome you remains, but it may look a little different,” Cyr adds.
A shift to longer stays
A bit of extra patience for lodging may also be required, be it at a hotel, B&B, or short-term rental. Saturday, typically the change-over day for guests’ arrivals and departures, may be more challenging for hosts due to enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures, Cyr notes. Longer stays are trending on the Cape, as people are opting for driveable vacation destinations instead of flying.
The joy of mellow
The tempo of a day at the Cape has changed. Bars and clubs in Massachusetts are slated to open in Phase 4 for now.
“[People are] playing outside all day, doing a leisurely dinner or cooking at home, and it’s definitely an earlier night,” Cyr says. That said, things aren’t too quiet: “On a weekday night in June in Provincetown, with people out and about, it almost feels like a regular summer night,” Cyr adds.
The upside of a more mellow Cape escape: There’s not such a rush-rush, gotta-do-everything mentality.
“We can stay at the beach until 7 p.m. and not be rushing off to do the next thing,” Cyr says. “That’s a real gift.”
Personally, Cyr has been spending time with family during COVID-19, including a 14-month-old nephew, and hanging out with friends on the beach while social distancing, of course. He’s had time to indulge in his favorite treat, a coffee-black raspberry soft-serve twist at PJ’s Family Restaurant in Wellfleet.
“During this stressful time, I expect a lot of people will come to Cape Cod and the islands to relax and recharge,” Cyr says. And happily, some of the best things on the Cape — the sun, the sea, the beach, eating fried clams in your swimsuit — haven’t changed a bit. So — go! Timeless pleasures are what the Cape is all about, no?
For current information on what’s happening with local events and activities, visit capecodchamber.org.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org