Sandwich is Cape Cod’s Oldest Town
Sandwich is Cape Cod’s oldest town, settled by members of the Plymouth Colony as early as 1637. Known for its Quaker heritage, conflicts between Patriots and Tories through the Revolutionary War, and contributions to the glassmaking industry, Sandwich is now considered by many to be the gateway to the Cape. For a day trip, here is a taste of what Sandwich has to offer.
A great way to start is with a visit to the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center, operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Here, you’ll not only learn about the history of the canal but you can also explore a patrol boat and discover the wildlife to be found along the canal. They also have maps of the nearby recreation areas and the canal service roads that double as walking and biking paths and provide access to numerous fishing spots along the canal.
Next, head to Sandwich’s historic district on Main Street. Stop in at the Sandwich Glass Museum to learn about the industry that thrived in Sandwich through the 19th century and is still a big part of the local arts scene. Watch glassblowers in action creating beautiful sculptures and vases, hear all about the history of glassmaking in Sandwich, and shop for treasures in the museum store. On the other side of Main Street, look for Dexter’s Grist Mill. This historic landmark played an important role in the history of Cape Cod and has been restored to its early nineteenth-century glory. See the wooden water wheel and nineteenth century grinding stones produce freshly ground cornmeal the same way it was done before the Industrial Revolution. Outside the mill, be sure to take a moment to enjoy the view and take a few pictures of the tranquil scenery.
After a few hours in town, continue east to find the Sandwich Boardwalk. You can get there through the neighborhood off Cranberry Highway, or via Town Neck Road by way of Town Neck Beach. Either way, the 1,350 foot long wood plank walkway crosses over Mill Pond and the salt marsh through an enchanting Cape Cod setting surrounded by wildflowers, marsh grasses, pools of water, and an abundance of wildlife. At the east end of the boardwalk, Town Neck Beach offers views of ships coming and going on the Cape Cod Canal. On a clear day, you can see as far as Wellfleet, Provincetown, and the white cliffs near Sagamore.
After visiting the beach, follow Cranberry Highway toward East Sandwich to get to the Green Briar Nature Center, a tribute to author Thornton Burgess. See the pond and briar patch that inspired his stories, wander through the beautiful wildflower garden, and visit with the resident animals. Before you leave, stop in at the Jam Kitchen to see how jam is made in the old-fashioned kitchen, a Sandwich tradition since it first opened in 1903.
Finally, head back through town to explore Heritage Museum and Gardens. Museum exhibits feature antique cars, carousels and outdoor art installments. In the gardens, Hidden Hollow has play areas and activities for kids while the Adventure Park offers a maze of ladders, ropes, platforms, and ziplines high up in the forest of oak and pine trees. Next door, the Shawme-Crowell State Forest has another 15 miles of trails, plus picnic areas and campsites.
A visit to Sandwich will definitely keep you busy for a day, and then some. Along the way, you’ll also find dozens of local restaurants serving classic Cape Cod cuisine and everything else you can imagine with a Cape Cod twist. And that’s good, because exploring Sandwich will certainly work up an appetite!