Massachusetts Historic Route 6A
(Old King’s Highway)
Massachusetts Historic Route 6A or Old King’s Highway winds its way along the northern coast of Cape Cod, passing through many of the peninsula’s oldest and most historic towns. From America’s first wooden jail to stately eighteenth-century saltbox homes, there are plenty of fascinating historic sites to explore on the road between Sagamore and Provincetown. For more than four centuries, Route 6A has been the Cape’s main transportation artery.
Before the Pilgrims arrived in the seventeenth century, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe maintained a series of paths along the northern coast of the peninsula. After the Pilgrims settled in Plymouth, they expanded these paths into a major roadway that linked the harbors of Cape Cod Bay.
Route 6A passes through Sandwich, the oldest town on Cape Cod. In 1637, almost two decades after the Mayflower landed in New England, Pilgrims from Plymouth Colony began to settle in Sandwich.
The town, which has a strong Quaker past, contains many historic churches and homes, including the Benjamin Nye Homestead and the Benjamin Holway House. Because Route 6A connects the Cape’s oldest settlements, the roadway is steeped in local history. In Sandwich, stop to explore the town’s religious and industrial history in the Sandwich Glass Museum.
In Dennis, tour the carefully preserved home of the town’s namesake, Reverend Josiah Dennis. In Barnstable, check out the spooky Old Jail.
Route 6A also connects some of the Cape’s best nature areas. In the early seventeenth century, the deep harbors of Cape Cod Bay brought settlers from Plymouth Colony to the Cape. Today, Route 6A is still the best way to visit the unspoiled beaches, from Boardwalk Beach in Sandwich to the Cape Cod National Seashore, that line the northern coast of the Cape.
First Encounter Beach, off Route 6A in Eastham, played a particularly important role in the early Pilgrim history of Cape Cod. According to Governor William Bradford, a group of Native Americans ambushed his exploration team on this beach in the early morning of December 7, 1620. The Pilgrims named the beach after this first encounter with the Cape Cod natives.