Old King’s Highway
|Mileage||65 miles (105 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||1 hour, 39 minutes|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||All Seasons|
|Roadways||Massachusetts Highway 6A, and US Highway 6|
|PassesSome of the adventures on this scenic drive require an admission fee that these passes cover. Please read the drive description for more information.||America the Beautiful Annual National Parks Pass|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Barnstable, MA▼, Mashpee, MA▼, North Falmouth, MA▼, Onset, MA▼, Pocasset, MA▼, Sagamore, MA▼, Sandwich, MA▼, Wareham, MA▼, more...Centerville, MA▼, Osterville, MA▼, Hyannis, MA▼, Yarmouth Port, MA▼, Bass River, MA▼, Dennis, MA▼, Harwich, MA▼, Brewster, MA▼, Chatham, MA▼, Bourne, MA▼, Newtown, MA▼, and Truro, MA▼|
3.1 average from 48 votes
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Natural areas along this route require an entrance fee used to protect and maintain our most scenic treasures. Save time by purchasing your forest passes before you go.
Old King’s Highway explores a fascinating array of historic small towns, each with its own unique charm. Unspoiled beaches line the coast on all sides of this peninsula, some freshwater, some saltwater, and all perfect for swimming boating, fishing or just searching for rocks, wildlife and watching the crashing waves. Breathtaking views, friendly people, local seafood, and an endless array of antique stores, art galleries and recreation make this a fabulous drive.
The scenic drive begins in the town of Sagamore, just over the Sagamore Bridge which can be reached by heading south on MA-3 or by taking exit I-495 to the end, where it becomes MA-25. Then use either US-6 or MA-6A to get to Sagamore. Before crossing the bridge to begin the drive, consider a stop at Scusset Beach State Reservation (W8). Picnic amid beautiful views and a colorful parade of passing boats and ships, or enjoy salt-water angling and a sandy beach perfect for searching for hermit crabs, clams and sand dollars. The state park is very popular for trailer and RV camping. Bikers, rollerbladers, walkers and joggers will enjoy the 7-mile path along both sides of the Cape Cod Canal.
Heading east on MA-6A, you soon arrive in Sandwich, the oldest town in Cape Cod. Settled in 1637, the town was once home to the largest glass factory in the United States. The Sandwich Glass Museum (M1) explores the history of Sandwich through glass, both past and present through multi-media exhibits, glass blowing demonstrations and more. Discover seaside charm, artists, local shops and a rich history.
At the Thornton W. Burgess Museum (M2), you can see original manuscripts by Thornton W. Burgess, author of Peter Cottontail and illustrations by Harrison Cady, which bring to literature many of the animals found in Briar Patch and the forests of Sandwich. The museum carries on the conservation work of Burgess, the renowned Sandwich resident, author and naturalist. Don’t miss a stroll through the Tussie Mussie herb garden and beautiful views of historic Shawme Pond. The museum is open from late-May to mid-October and is part of the Thornton W. Burgess Society which also maintains the Green Briar Nature Center featuring interpretive trails, wildflower gardens and natural history programs for all ages. The Green Briar Jam Kitchen built in 1903, is a living museum where you can take part in jam-making workshops, or purchase goodies from the gift shop. Adjacent to the Center is the 57-acre Briar Patch Conservation Area. Walking trails are open to the public and if you’re lucky, you might even see Peter Rabbit.
Cape Cod is about beaches and there are many. Town Neck Beach (W1) is accessed by a long boardwalk spanning the saltwater marsh and creek from which are spectacular views and fishing.
In a few miles east on MA-6A, Sandy Neck Beach (W2) is the perfect spot to walk along the Cape Cod Bay, enjoying seabirds, wildlife, dunes, and the calming sound of the waves. The beach is a bit of a misnomer as it is more rocky than sandy, but a visit during low tide offers large sandy flats. The full service beach features life-guarded swimming, fishing, snack bar, showers and a wheelchair accessible ramp and special beach chairs. Explore the walking trails along the salt marsh in hopes of catching a glimpse of endangered toads, turtles and other wildlife.
Continuing east, you soon arrive in the picturesque town of Yarmouth Port. Enjoy serene vistas and sun-drenched beaches, take a whale-watching tour, or stroll the historic town, art galleries, antique and book shops. Relive the past on Captain’s Mile, a street lined with 47 stately homes of former sea captains. Captain Bangs Hallet House (A3) is open as a museum offering a glimpse into 19th-century life through furniture, porcelain, toys and costumes as well as ship models and antique navigational equipment. There is a small fee to enter. No trip to Sandwich is complete without a stop at Hallet’s Store (A4). Built in 1889, it was a community hub and still is, offering old-fashioned sodas, breakfast and lunch. Upstairs, the Hallet Museum displays photos and memorabilia of this still family-owned establishment. Located near Tufts Gatehouse, the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth Trail (H1) is an easy 1.2-mile self-guided trail, particularly dazzling in spring with blossoming rhododendrons and vibrant in fall autumn color. In the Gatehouse, you can see a late 18th-century working loom. There are demonstrations and classes in summer.
To the south of here, consider a side trip to Great Island (H2). Once an actual island, hundreds of years of sweeping current and eroding coast have created sandbars which gradually grew to connect the island to the mainland. This sandy peninsula is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and is home to pristine sandy beaches, marshes, ponds and uplands. Rich in history, it was inhabited by local natives known as Punonakanits and then settled by Europeans in the 1600s who altered the land which was largely deforested by 1800. This area has several miles of trails, including a challenging 8-mile loop around the island. Bring drinking water on your hike as there is no fresh water available on the trail. If you want to access Jeremy Point, the furthest spot on the island, make sure you hike at the lowest tides as it is submerged otherwise. There is a fee to access any of the beaches managed by the National Park Service which is covered by the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. Town managed beaches charge a parking fee which varies depending on the town. There is no charge if you’re walking or biking in.
Back on MA-6A, the road curves closer to Cape Cod Bay and you soon arrive in the town of Dennis. Turn left onto Old Bass River Road and then turn onto Scargo Hill Road to Scargo Hill (H3). The 160-foot hill is the highest point in Cape Cod and offers a majestic 40-mile panoramic view. Cottage shops, historic districts, fresh seafood, and sixteen beaches on the warmer Nantucket Sound and the cooler Cape Cod Bay offer much to explore. Corporation Beach (W9) is great for young children as the small cove makes for calmer, warm water. Cyclists will love the Cape Cod Rail Trail, 22-miles of paved surface that passes through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet.
Continuing east, you will past more towns where the legacy of Maritime Captains stand proud, many of their former homes are now inns, B&B’s and restaurants.
Soon you arrive at the Nickerson State Park (H4) where warm, freshwater ponds are perfect for swimming and fishing. Enjoy the forested surroundings, interpretive programs, non-motorized boating, hiking or biking, as part of the Cape Cod Rail Trail passes through here. The park is popular for camping and yurt rentals.
In the town of Orleans, MA-6A joins US-6 on which this scenic drive continues northwards. To the west, is First Encounter Beach (W3), site of the first battle between the Wampanoag Native Americans and the Pilgrims in 1620.
Stop at the Salt Pond Visitor Center (I1) in Eastham for information and maps. Learn more via short films and museum exhibits exploring the geology, animals and plant life in the area. Many trails leave from here with breathtaking views of Nauset Marsh and the Atlantic Ocean including the Buttonbush Trail, a quarter-mile trail designed with the blind or sight-impaired in mind, featuring a guide rope and braille interpretive panels. Or take the 3-mile round trip Nauset Marsh Trail through forest and history discovering a land once inhabited by the Nauset Indian Tribe and early settlers. Culminating at Coast Guard Beach, revel in unparalleled sprawling views. Located on a spit, Coast Guard Beach (W10) is a swimmers paradise and one of the best spots for surfing. A ramp from the parking lot makes this beach handicapped accessible. All along this area are high dunes and sandy beaches, great place for watching birds and spotting harbor seals. Take the long wooden stairway from the parking lot down to Nauset Light Beach (W4). A popular spot for families, this breathtakingly beautiful beach is life-guarded. Have your camera ready for outstanding views of Nauset Light. This historic lighthouse was moved inland in 1996 due to erosion of the cliff.
Back on US-6. The woodlands, salt marshes and barrier beach of the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (H5) create a diverse habitat for rare plants and birds among them, American kestrels, Northern harriers, osprey and a variety of waterfowl. Managed by Mass Audubon, walk one of the many trails and Butterfly Garden. The Visitors Center is an example of green architecture and houses a variety of exhibits and two 700-gallon aquariums highlighting the underwater world of salt marshes and tidal flats.
Surrounded by a steep forty-foot sand cliff, Marconi Beach (W5) offers a sense of solitude. Take in expansive views from the observation platform at the Marconi Station site. It is from this elevated table land that Italian inventor, Guglielmo Marconi, successfully completed the first transatlantic wireless communication to England in 1903. Walk the 1.5-mile Atlantic White cedar Swamp Trail which explores the diverse ecosystem here.
Continuing north, you can imagine what Cape Cod was like before civilization. Glacial cliffs and sand dunes reach their highest point here and the long sandy coast remains largely undeveloped. The secluded, Head of the Meadow Beach (W6), is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Cod. In the town of North Truro, venture east to see Highland Light (A1) also known as Cape Cod Light. Directing ships around the sand dunes since 1857, the 66-foot lighthouse grounds are open year round and guided tours are available from May-October.
Just after North Truro, turn left at the fork for MA-6A, hugging the bay’s coastline on your way to Provincetown. The Pilgrim Memorial Monument and Provincetown Museum (A2) commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims who landed here in 1620. Exhibits, artifacts and art, examine the rich maritime history, the Native American Wampanoag, the construction of the monument and the early days of modern American theater in Provincetown. Be sure to climb to the top of the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument, the tallest granite structure in the United States for incredible views of Cape Cod Harbor. There is an entrance fee valid for both attractions, free on April 1 which is the season’s opening day.
Need more information? The Province Lands Visitor Center (I2) is open seasonally from May-October, and hosts talks and presentations, and of course can assist with planning activities.
Provincetown is extraordinarily beautiful, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay. An eclectic town where you can enjoy beaches, boating, whale watching hiking and biking and a diverse nightlife featuring great dining, bars, theaters and cabarets. Offering something for everyone, Provincetown is also known as one of the top gay-friendly resort towns. As you loop back, visit Race Point Beach (W7). This great family beach is life-guarded and due to its unique location, is one of the rare places where you can watch the sunset dip into the Ocean. In the distance you’ll see the Race Point Lighthouse which is open to the public a few days each summer month. If you’re up to a long strenuous hike across a breakwater, visit Long Point Beach and the grounds of Long Point Light. The 38-foot lighthouse is not open to the public. In summer, for a fee, a boat shuttle gets you here the easy way.
On your trip back, consider driving along the southern portion of the arm by taking MA-28 from Orleans.