16 of the Best Things to Do in Barnstable

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Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Barnstable! The months of July and August are peak seasons for Cape Cod, which means that it gets pretty crowded. During summertime, people enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, and water sports, all of which are great things to do in Barnstable!

sand dunes sunset cape cod island

The best time to visit Barnstable is May-June and September-October since you get pleasant summer temperatures (60-70 degrees) for outdoor activities but without the crowds. Barnstable is rich in history, beautiful beaches like the Mayflower, and attractions like the Hyannis Cruises and Coast Guard Museum.

Winter is a quieter time for the Cape, and water isn’t always pleasant to swim in. Indoor activities–like visiting museums and cozying up in restaurants–are preferred. Read on to find out more about activities and things to do in Barnstable.

16 of the Best Things to Do in Barnstable: Must Do’s in Barnstable

Things to do in Barnstable include visiting the many attractions like the Coast Guard Heritage Museum, which displays the Cape’s military history and navigational information.

You could also go for the whale watching cruises from mid-April to October that go through Stellwagen Bank, one of the best places to go whale watching.

1. Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises

photo whales diving hyannis activities cape cod island

The whale watching cruise runs from mid-April to October and sets off in Barnstable Harbor. Tours are provided to Stellwagen Bank, which is one of the top 10 places in the world to go whale watching.
The boat has outside viewing decks where you can relax and comfortably watch these creatures, interior climate-controlled cabins, and a full-service galley.

The cruises have a very high rating on TripAdvisor and Yelp, with people saying that they met their high expectations.

Some tips from reviewers are to dress warm (or bring a jacket) and to arrive early so you can get one of the seats outside near the front of the boat or in the upper deck for a more spectacular view.

2. Coast Guard Heritage Museum

boat water coast guard heritage museum cape cod island

Reviewers say this location is perfect for history buffs.

Located in the historic Customs house at the corner of Main Street and Millway in Barnstable Village, the place boasts remarkable preservation of the United States Coast Guard and its artifacts.

The museum has a low admission price and provides an audio tour that’s highly informative. According to reviews, this place is ideal for those who are into military history and nautical information.

3. Bay Spirit Tours

view lighthouse cottages heritage museum beach cape cod island

A beautiful way to take in the gorgeous Cape Cod beauty, these tours flow through Hyannis’s inner and outer harbor and tell you about the history of the lighthouses in the region.

Tours are 1 hour long at sunset or in the evening and are equipped with a full bar, so you can drink to your pleasure while you enjoy the sights.

The boat accommodates 49 but is also available for private charters.

Reviewers mention how friendly and informative the staff was, and the boat runs smoothly, which means it would be less of an issue for those who get seasick.

4. John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum

jenny f. kennedy statue outside museum entrance cape cod islandIn Hyannis, the original residence of President John F. Kennedy also houses the John F. Kennedy Museum.

The museum enlightens us about the president’s life and other successful Kennedys like Joseph P. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy.

The museum holds exhibits that are dedicated to civic commitment, civil rights, and politics. They are a representation of the connection between the Kennedys and their life on the Cape.

5. Barnstable Comedy Club

photo exterior barnstable comedy bar cape cod island

If you’re looking for laughs on your list of things to do in Barnstable, this is one of the most popular entertainment sites on Cape Cod.

The club is one of the oldest on the Cape and in America, and enthusiastic theatergoers attend it all the time.

According to reviewers, performances are stellar, and performers are very talented. There are tons of parking, an easy reservation system, and they accept cash and check (but not credit cards) for the tickets.

6. Sturgis Library

sturgis library barnstable cozy ambiance relaxing calming view cape cod island

This place is ideal for book lovers. Equipped with classics and contemporary literature, they have everything you’re looking for. The reading room is very comfortable, and the staff is accommodating.

They even have the original copies of some ancient literature. The library is situated in a historic house, representing the ancient architecture of the Cape.

What are the Top Attractions to Visit in Barnstable?

Barnstable has numerous beaches like the Mayflower with its spacious beaches or the Craigville with smaller crowds in the off-season, free parking, and warm waters. Other attractions include freshwater ponds like Hathaway’s Ponds with its trails and a park with a section where your dogs can play around.

7. Mayflower Beach

photo mayflower beach barnstable white sand fences beachline cape cod island

Mayflower Beach, extending from Nobscussett Point in the east to the Chapin Beach shoulder in the west, has one of the most breathtaking shoreline views on the Cape.

A low tide leaves you with lots of space to walk on the sand or play some games with your kiddies.

The beach is well equipped with public bathrooms, picnic areas, and paid parking. Homes of all sizes–from seaside shanties to mansions–are available near the beach too!

8. Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary

photo long pasture wildlife sanctuary barnstable cape cod island

The sanctuary has trails that wind through marshes, woods, and pastures. The place gives access to Sandy Neck Beach waters.

You can grab a boat to spot the old Sandy Neck lighthouse. The Sanctuary is teeming with wildlife, farm animals, and rare birds native to the Cape.

9. Craigville Beach

photo craigville beach barnstable beach line blue ocean cape cod island

This beach–located on Nantucket Sound–when visited in off-season, is less crowded and you don’t even need to pay for parking.

October is the perfect time to visit since the weather is still comfortable, and you can enjoy a swim in the temperate waters.

You can stroll along the surf line in any direction, and there is ample space to walk. You may even find a collection of sparkling, colorful seashells that your kids will love.

10. Sandy Neck Beach

photo sandy neck beach barnstable cape cod island

With clean sands and free parking during the off-season, Sandy Neck Beach is perfect if you’re looking for budget-friendly activities.

The beach is excellent for soaking up the sun, watching the birds, and going for a hike.

Waves are gentle enough to swim, and one can easily pass the time watching the boats drift slowly along the shoreline.

11. Hathaway’s Ponds

With no parking fee, clean freshwater, a dog park section in the local park and numerous paths around the pond, there’s a lot to do here for you and your family! Spending your day at the pond is among one of the best things to do in Barnstable.

12. Englewood Beach

photo boats englewood beach barnstable cape cod island

Because of the nearby shellfish farms, there are many beautiful shells on this beach’s seashores. Your kids will love collecting these little trinkets!

The clear, warm waters are ideal for swimming, and there is cheap public parking (0.75 cents per hour). Clean, white sands and friendly people occupy this gorgeous beach.

What are the Best Outdoor Activities in Barnstable?

Things to do in Barnstable outdoors include fishing charters like the Cape Cod Fishing Charter that’s best suited to your family. Activities also include boat cruises like the Hyannis Harbor or Barnstable Harbor Cruises that offer free commentary and teach you a lot about the history of the Cape and, particularly, Barnstable.

13. Cape Cod Family Fishing Charters

photo of fishing reels cape cod fishing charters branstable

This company offers hourly fishing trips between the months of May-September.

These charters are ideal for families or large groups. They also provide sunset cruises, and you can have fun fishing in Cape Cod waters.

An experienced, licensed captain steers the boat. According to reviewers, fishing trips were very successful and informative. It’s one of the best things to do in Barnstable to get out on the water and into the excitement of fishing!

14. Hyannis Harbor

photo hyannis harbor stone barnstable cape cod island

The bustling village of Hyannis, and it’s harbor can’t be missed when looking for things to do in Barnstable. The harbor is a beautiful spot to watch ships come and leave. It also offers the Hyannis Harbor cruises, which are 1-hour trips that run through the day. If you go on the first two morning trips, kids will ride free.

The trip will teach you about the history of Hyannis and landmarks like Great Island, the Kennedy Memorial, Squaw Island, and other such places.

15. Barnstable Harbor

barnstable harbor dock cape cod island

You could spend your time exploring the waterfront in Barnstable or the gorgeous beaches in this area.

The Barnstable Harbor Ecotours also run through this place.

These 2-hour tours are very informative, with free commentary and the captain answering all your questions about the area’s history.

They flow through the marshes of Barnstable Harbor and Sandy Neck Barrier Beach. An ecotour is one of the best things to do in Barnstable if you are interested in the ecosystems and natural environment of the area.

16. Cape Cod Bay Charters

If you’re looking to get on the water while finding fun things to do in Barnstable, a fishing charter may be the way to go. Cape Cod Bay fishing charters are carried out in 4, 5, 6, and 8-hour sessions, and the type of fish caught include Bass, Bluefish, Tuna, or Shark.

The captain is well-informed on the best areas to fish, and their service is impeccable when cleaning and bagging your catch.

BONUS: Things to do in Barnstable with Kids

Barnstable has lots of fun activities for kids, including indoor water parks with water slides of different lengths to suit kids of all ages, whirlpools, and wave pools.

There are also experiences like the Pirate Adventures Hyannis, where kids get to dress up as pirates and carry out pirate activities like water cannon blasting and flag hoisting.

1. Cape Codder Resort

One of the splashiest of things to do in Barnstable, this indoor water park is equipped with two water slides, a wave pool that emulates 2-foot-high waves, waterfalls, and whirlpools that the family can enjoy.

There is also a sauna and an outdoor heated pool that the adults can relax while they leave the kids to play in the water.

2. Pirate Adventures Hyannis

Kids aged 3-10 who love a fun sea adventure will have a great time here! Kids are taken into Hyannis Harbor on the “Sea Gypsy”–their very own pirate boat.

They’ll have lots of fun activities on board–like flag hoisting, map reading, and even blasting water cannons!

They’ll get to dress up in pirate outfits and wear face paint to get the complete pirate experience!

Conclusion

Barnstable is one of the Cape’s towns that gives you the authentic Cape Cod experience. There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Barnstable, and it’s a great way to spend time on your Cape Cod vacation.

Whether you decide to go to the downtown area to experience the boutiques, restaurants, or museums–or choose to spend time on its beautiful beaches, there are plenty of things to do in Barnstable for everyone!

Enjoy your time with no shortage of things to do in Barnstable Harbor, consider attending a sports event or surveying the breathtaking shoreline or take your kids to the indoor water park where they can get the whole sea experience–but with all the safety.

We hope this guide helps you navigate your way through this quaint little town, and that you enjoy lots of the fun things to do in Barnstable! Happy Travels!

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