Thursday, September 01, 2011

Sandwich: Cape Cod's Gateway

Part of our continuing series on Cape Cod Towns
The town of Sandwich, settled in 1637, is the oldest town on Cape Cod.  Sandwich offers so many things to do that you could spend a week just in Sandwich and never run out of things to see, places to go, beaches, biking, food, and fun.  Sandwich has museums that are interesting for all ages (yes - even museums the kids will enjoy); the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal from the Cape Cod Bay starts here; and even the "birth place" and home of Peter Rabbit is in Sandwich.

Heritage Museum and Gardens, is the largest public garden in Southeastern New England sitting on 100 acres of land.  Heritage has something for everyone.  Inside a replica Shaker Barn is a wonderful collection of rare antique and vintage cars including Gary Cooper's Duesenberg and President Taft's car he used for parades.  There is even a 1913 Model T that you can sit in.  Along the grounds are the famous Dexter Rhododendrons (in bloom late May through June) which you can enjoy as you wander to the American History Museum with military miniatures and firearms or stroll to the Art Museum with a real working 100 year old carousel that you can ride once, twice or more times for the price of admission to the grounds.  We have seen times when there were more adults riding it then there were children!  Heritage offers special programs, concerts and events through out the year including a holiday light show November through December.

The Cape Cod Canal, completed in 1916 and purchased by the US government in 1928, is the widest sea level canal in the world.  Under control of the Army Corps of Engineers, its Cape Cod Bay entrance on the Cape side of the canal is in Sandwich.  The canal has service roads running along the length of it which are open to walkers, bikers, skaters and are a great place to walk your dog.  Fishing is a favorite activity along its banks along with ship watching - nothing more exciting for kids than watching a large tanker being escorted by four or more tugs through the canal.  The Cape Cod Canal Visitors Center sits between the Sandwich Recreation Center and the Sand Catcher Recreation Center - all with parking, canal service road access and picnic areas.  The Visitor Center has free public programs from July 1 thought August 31 including guided hikes, beach exploration and a Junior Ranger program.

What does jam, nature trails and Peter Rabbit all have in common?  Why - the Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen run by the Thornton W. Burgess Society off of route 6A in Sandwich and The Thornton W. Burgess Museum on the shores of Shawme Pond.  Burgess was a conservationist and naturalist who used his books like Old Mother West Wind, with his beloved characters of Peter Rabbit, Jimmy Skunk, Grandfather frog and others to teach about the natural world and help children learn the importance of conservation.  Green Briar Nature Center is located on the shores of Smiling Pool and adjacent to the famous Briar Patch of Thornton Burgess’ stories.  The Center offers natural history programs for kids and adults, guided walks and workshops.  The Green Briar Jam Kitchen was begun in 1903 and is now a living museum of the jam making process.  Visitors can purchase jams made on premises or can sign up for jam making workshops.  A sweet way to spend a day, don't you think?

Sandwich Center is filled with so much to do and see.  There is the Dexter Grist Mill, a working 17th century mill, where you can watch them grind corn and then you can buy the freshly ground corn.  The Sandwich Glass Museum has over 6000 pieces of the famous Sandwich glass and covers the history of Sandwich's famous glass making past.  Hoxie House is the  oldest house on Cape Cod and was built in 1675 for Reverend John Smith, his wife Susanna and their 13 children.  On you way down to Jarves Street, you should stop and have lunch at our friends at the Dan'l Webster Inn and Spa where you can eat in their lovely Conservatory or enjoy more casual fare in the tavern.  Of course you could always book a room there so you can stay right in the heart of town and pamper yourself in one of their beautiful guestrooms and treat yourself to some time at their spa.  There are several other great spots to lunch or enjoy afternoon tea in Sandwich Center - check out all your choices here.

Jarves Street is lined with some unique shops selling everything from amazing vintage finds, handcrafted art by local artists, specialty wines and food and unique gifts.  One of the special finds is Collections Gallery, a wonderful Cape Cod artisan cooperative group that offers everything from artistic clothes, jewelry, baby gifts, paintings, pottery and so much more.  There is always at least one of the artisans in the store who can answer questions and offer gift ideas.  Across the street is My Sister's Gallery which showcases more local artists and has something special to find in every nook and corner. 

Just a short drive from Jarves Street is the Sandwich Boardwalk.  Destroyed by Hurricane Bob in 1991, the residents of Sandwich as well as others who loved the boardwalk raised the funds to rebuild it by selling almost 2000 personalized planks.  Take time to read the different messages on the planks while enjoying the beautiful views from the boardwalk.

Besides our friends at the Dan'l Webster Inn and Spa, there are so many great places to stay in Sandwich. Check out's Sandwich lodging listings for great places from camping to B&B's to stay.

Have you missed any of our earlier blogs on Cape Cod towns?  Check out our coverage of Dennis, Falmouth, and Truro.

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