The Cape is irresistible in October and November. The cranberry bogs are brilliant red, the beach grass is golden, the inns and hotels are more affordable, and the chill in the air reminds you to savor every bite of your buttery lobster roll. What’s more, traffic is much lighter on the roads and the bike trails. And there’s plenty still to do.
Bundle up and take a moody weather walk along the Cape Cod National Seashore, a 40-mile stretch of sand and sea between Eastham and Provincetown with 11 self-guided trails, most less than a mile long, and two visitors centers.
Salt Pond Visitors Center (year-round), 508-255-3421; Province Lands Visitors Center, 508-487-1256 (through Oct. 31).
Explore the dunes
Art’s Dune Tours in Provincetown will show you the best of the National Seashore, including the popular sunset tour with an optional clambake, sushi dinner, or barbecue (weather permitting). New this season are a couple of tours that will go through October. The Land and Lake Excursion takes you to East Harbor for kayaking followed by a tour of the dunes. The Land and Sea trip features an afternoon fishing adventure on Cape Cod Bay and then a dune sunset tour. Bonus: If you catch a fish, Mac’s Seafood will cook it up for you to enjoy at the restaurant. Artists will want to sign on for the Art with Arts early-morning dune tour to learn about the celebrated artist shacks in the dunes, followed by a painting lesson with a local artist at the popular Red Inn in town. And, photographers will want to set the alarm for the sunrise amateur photographer tour out in the dunes. artsdunetours.com.
Pack your lederhosen
Bear in Boots Gastropub in Falmouth is celebrating Oktoberfest the entire month of October with special deals including a flight of four Oktoberfest-themed brews for $14. The autumn-inspired menu features black-cherry-smoked wings; a house-made pretzel (a big knotted pretzel to share with beer cheese and stone-ground mustard); poutine (hand-cut fries smothered with duck confit, cheddar cheese curds, chicken gravy, and melted cheddar cheese sauce); and Belgian waffles made with compressed beet sugar. bearinboots.com
The business is big on the Cape. Jeremy Gingras, executive director of Harwich Chamber of Commerce, also happens to be a cranberry farmer and owns seven acres of bogs on Oak Street in Harwich Center. His family has been in the business for 150 years. “Harvesting is a tricky subject, as it is extremely weather dependent,” says Gingras. This year’s warm September has delayed things a bit, he says. Nonetheless, the harvesting goes on. Gingras will conduct several bog tours this weekend. The $5 tour includes a visit to the Historical Society Cranberry Room at Brooks Academy Museum, followed by a tour of the Gingras cranberry farm. 508-432-8089, www.harwichhistoricalsociety.org
Next weekend is the 15th annual Wellfleet OysterFest , produced by SPAT, Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting Inc., which is devoted to sustaining the town’s shell fishing and aquaculture industries. You can expect cooking demonstrations, a raw bar, more than 100 artisans, kid’s activities, walking tours, a road race, and the annual oyster shucking competition, which attracts shuckers from all over the Northeast. Proceeds from the festival help to support local college scholarship programs and community grant awards; SPAT has given back more than $340,000 to the community. wellfleetoysterfest.org
Rum’s the word
Truro Vineyards is home to South Hollow Spirits, where you can take the distillery tour through this weekend. Although it is the last weekend for tours, you can still visit to sample the distillery’s Twenty Boat Cape Cod Rum and Truro wines, Friday through Monday, until mid-December. southhollowspirits.com
Where to eat
Brax Landing is a year-round favorite of locals who are lucky enough to have the Harwich Port restaurant in their backyard. Enjoy award-winning lobster rolls while looking out at Saquatucket Harbor. braxlanding.com
The Red Inn in Provincetown celebrates its 100th birthday this year. If water views and fresh fish are why you are on the Cape this fall, take a seat. It’s all about the old, sloping floors, the fireplaces, and fish and seafood. theredinn.com
Fanizzi’s Restaurant has a wall of windows that look out at the sea, and when the tide rolls in and under the restaurant, it doesn’t get any better. fanizzisrestaurant.com
Visit the Chatham Pier Fish Market and order a couple of the freshest lobster rolls you can imagine, fried clams, too, and watch the fishing boats unload the catch of the day, with seals and gulls waiting for scraps. Open until Oct. 28. chathampierfishmarket.com
Fall picnic plans should include Pain D’Avignon Café Boulangerie, a slice of Europe in Hyannis that produces 2.8 million pounds of bread a year. Grab sandwiches, such as an arugula, hummus, and roasted red pepper sandwich or a soppressata and butter sandwich, and get in a late-season picnic. You can also order off a seasonal menu of treats like lobster risotto and French onion soup and dine in if the weather is too chilly.paindavignon.com
The Cape’s Restaurant Week begins Oct. 12-18, with three- and four-course “exhibition menus” offered at prices beginning at $25. Popular restaurants like BlueFins Sushi and Sake Bar in Chatham, Scargo Café in Dennis, and Cape Sea Grill in Harwich Port are included. capecodrestaurantweek.com
Where to sleep
Provincetown has a new off-season spot to check out. Eben House opened early this summer, in a structure built in 1776 as the home of the seafaring Captain Eben Snow. Nearly half of the 14 rooms and suites feature working, wood-burning fireplaces. A gourmet breakfast that’s all about fall’s bounty is included. ebenhouse.com
The Belfry Inn and Bistro is located in a former church, and rooms are named for the days of the week (a nod to Genesis). The bistro serves seasonal-inspired cuisine and is a popular spot for a late night drink and dessert. belfryinn.com
The Captain’s House Inn, a bed-and-breakfast housed in an 1839 sea captain’s house in Chatham, features fireplaces in many of its 16 guestrooms. Also, gourmet breakfast is served each morning, afternoon tea is poured and port and sherry are complimentary in the library. captainshouseinn.com
Renting a house also becomes more affordable in the shoulder season. Laurel Greatrix, TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals spokeswoman, says, “If you rent a vacation home this October or November, you’ll save up to 31 percent compared to what this summer’s peak prices were.” For example, a two-bedroom home in Chatham runs $1,756 for a week in the summer months and $1,427 in October and November, a savings of 19 percent. www.tripadvisor.com/rentals