A Historic Day Trip Along the Old King’s Highway
The “Old King’s Highway” is the stretch of road that winds from Bourne to Provincetown along the bay and through some of the nation’s oldest communities. Originally a trail used by the Wampanoag, European settlers widened the path to accommodate their carts and established town centers along the route. Today, the road is Route 6A, with a few different names along the way – Sandwich Road, Cranberry Highway, even Main Street. With no stops, it’s a 67-mile, 2-hour scenic drive one way. With stops, it’s a splendid day trip.
The route begins (or ends) in historic Old Bourne Village at the west end of Sandwich Road, where you can see houses built as early as 1690. Stop in at the Aptucxet Museum to learn about the area, take a tour, and shop at the artisan gift shop. When you’re done, head east on Sandwich Road and take a left just after the Bourne Bridge to get to the Bourne Recreation Area. Here you can park and access the paved pathway along the Cape Cod Canal, do a little birdwatching, watch the boats go by, and even try your luck at fishing.
Next, take Sandwich Road east for a scenic drive along the canal. Once you pass Sagamore Bridge, look for Pairpoint Glass Company on the left. Stop in to tour one of the country’s oldest glassmaker’s workshops and see the glassblowers in action. Then make your way through town and stop in at the Sandwich Antiques Center for an antiquing experience that can’t be beat.
As you leave Sandwich, the historic neighborhoods give way to pastoral scenes. Visit Crow Farm for seasonal pick-your-own fresh produce or stop by the Green Briar Nature Center to see the pond and briar patch that inspired author Thornton Burgess’ stories. After you wander through the wildflower garden, check out the Jam Kitchen to see jam being made the old-fashioned way.
Route 6A becomes Main Street as you enter Barnstable, known for its dedication to the arts community. Visit Barnstable Pottery for functional and decorative stoneware and jewelry, Harden Studios for nautical themed photography, or the Cape Cod Art Center for exhibits showcasing local artists’ creations. Then, at Yarmouth Port, the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth offers self-guided walking tours of the historic neighborhoods plus nature trails to explore at your leisure. Further up the road in Dennis, Scargo Pottery next to beautiful Scargo Lake has local artists’ creations throughout the garden gallery, pottery makers at work onsite, and candles, chimes, art, and jewelry for sale.
Next along the route, the Brewster Store offers a quintessential Cape Cod shopping experience in an historic building that has been a Cape Cod landmark for over 150 years. And just up the road, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is an educational treasure chest that includes an aquarium and exhibits dedicated to archeology, geology, birds, bees, and more.
As you continue along Route 6A into Orleans, you’re greeted by a plethora of eateries, shopping and entertainment options. For a unique experience, Hog Island Brewery offers a refined selection of beers, tasty chowder, wings, lobster rolls and more, plus a $10 brewery tour which includes beer samples.
Once you leave Orleans, Route 6A and Highway 6 merge to take you up the Outer Cape. In Eastham, stop in at the Salt Pond Visitors Center for everything you need to know to get the most out of a visit to the National Seashore. Then continue north through Wellfleet and Truro where a short detour to the east or west will bring you to a beach, a lighthouse, or a nature trail. Highlights are Nauset and Highland Light, Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail, and Great Island Trail.
As you approach Provincetown, historic Route 6A splits off again and becomes Commercial Street, taking you through the town’s famous shopping, dining, and nightlife district. Visit Pilgrim Monument and join a scheduled tour to climb the stairs of the 252-foot stone tower and see the incredible view of Provincetown Harbor. Other nearby attractions include Macmillan Pier, Herring Cove Beach, Race Point Light, and Pilgrims’ First Landing Park, Province Lands Visitor Center, to mention only a few. Exploring Provincetown is a whole new day trip in itself.