Updated 01/09/2024: If you’re looking for a dog friendly vacation spot that the whole family will love, Cape Cod, Massachusetts should be on your short list of options.
My family has been traveling to Cape Cod for summer vacations for years. Our first ever vacation with our kids and our English Springer Spaniel, Molly was to Cape Cod.
Cape Cod Bay was the perfect choice for a vacation location with two small children and a dog.
It works equally well for a couple or friends vacation too.
Since we didn’t want to leave the dog alone while we went to the beach, we chose a vacation rental with a private beach. We also decided to go at the end of the spring shoulder season since the kids were not in school yet.
One of the great things about going in the shoulder season is that you can get more for your money. In our case that meant a beachfront property that allowed dogs.
If you want to do the same, I suggest you book your rental early so you will have more places to choose from.
For more dog friendly family vacation ideas check out our post; Dog Friendly Family Vacations in the U.S.A.
The other good thing about going in early June was that there were less crowds, but most places were already open for the season.
If you are not able to go during the shoulder season we have a few more tips on how to bring your dog to the beach with you. Keep reading!
Note: Please confirm with the venue that dogs are still allowed prior to going to any of the places or using any of the services listed here. Information listed here is subject to change without notice. While we strive to insure accuracy on Happyoodles.com accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Also the mentioning of a business on this page should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Dog Friendly Ways to Get to Cape Cod
While most people drive to Cape Cod, Ma, you can also take your dog on a train, ferry or flight from the Boston Area. For most other areas you will need to drive.
- From New York City (NYC) it will take 5 or more hours to get to Cape Cod. But having done this trip many times, I can tell you that the trip will probably take much longer than 5 hours due to traffic and road work in Connecticut.
- From Boston, Ma the drive is about a 90 minute ride without traffic.
- From Providence, RI the drive is just a little over an hour.
Of course these times will greatly depend on where you actually started and how far into the Cape you travel to. One of the main issues with driving to Cape Cod is the bridge traffic during peak times.
The Cape Cod Canal was completed in 1016, thus turning what was once a peninsula into an island that can only be accessed via car by two bridges; the Bourne Bridge and the Sagamore Bridge.
While it greatly reduced shipping times to Boston, it has caused a huge traffic jam for the rush of people who visit Cape Cod in the summer.
When not to travel to Cape Cod
The two busiest times to go to Cape Cod are on Friday starting in the afternoon and Saturdays during the summer. This is when the majority of people who visit the Cape tend to go.
Cape Cod Homeowners tend to head out on Fridays. While most vacation rentals book Saturday to Saturday, with most having an arrival time set in the afternoon.
The busiest times to leave the Cape are Saturday morning and Sunday starting in the afternoon.
8 Tips on how to avoid the traffic to Cape Cod during the summer
But you can get around the traffic with a few tips:
- If you are renting a vacation home, look for a place that rents Sunday to Sunday. There are a few rentals that have started to rent off the normal cycle.
- Leave early in the morning. The bridges do not start to back up on Saturdays until around 10:00am since most people try to time their arrival for when their rental is available. Instead go early and plan to spend some time exploring the Cape during the morning. Most Cape Cod towns have beautiful Town Centers that you can stroll around for a few hours. Our favorite is Woods Hole, Ma.
- Consider staying in a hotel either just before the bridges or on the cape, the night before your rental is available. We have done this and were able to visit a different part of the Cape.
Before booking a pet friendly hotel, check out our post on Hotel Stays with a Dog: 23 Tips, Tricks and Hacks.
- Another option is to visit a nearby location like Boston or Dog Friendly Newport, RI before heading to the Cape. Newport is just over an hour to the Cape Cod Bridges making it easy to beat the Saturday morning traffic.
- If you can, go during the shoulder seasons when less people are visiting the Cape.
- If you plan to stay at a hotel, pick days that are off the normal cycle.
- Stay just off Cape Cod. There are wonderful places that are close to the Cape but you don’t have to cross the bridges to get to.
- Don’t drive. You can also take a train, ferry or flight to the Cape.
Dog Friendly Train to Cape Cod
If you are coming from the Boston area you can take the CapeFlyer. The Capeflyer offers summer weekend only passenger rail service between Boston and Hyannis on Cape Cod.
As of this writing the CapeFlyer offered stops in Braintree, Brockton, Middleborough/Lakeville, Wareham Village, Buzzards Bay and Bourne. Properly leashed dogs are allowed on the CapeFlyer.
Dog Friendly Ferry to Cape Cod
There are Cape Cod bound ferries that leave from Boston, and Plymouth. All ferries will bring you to Provincetown on the outer Cape.
Captain John’s Boats takes you from Plymouth to Provincetown via a fast ferry. The trip takes 1.5 hours. Ferry only runs one trip each way per day.
Dog Policy – “Leashed and well-behaved dogs are allowed and are free of charge.”
Bay State Cruise offers a fast ferry from the World Trade Center on Seaport Blvd in Boston to Provincetown. Trip takes about 95 minutes.
Dog Policy – “Yes, we love dogs and they are allowed aboard at no additional charge. They are required, however, to have a leash.”
CityExperiences by Hornblower – offers a fast ferry from 1 Long Wharf, in Boston to Provincetown. The trip takes about 90 minutes.
Dog Policy – “Dogs are allowed on board as long as they are leashed or in a carrier.”
Dog Friendly Flights to Cape Cod
Cape Air offers a number of flights to either Barnstable Municipal Airport in Hyannis or Provincetown Municipal Airport in Provincetown from regional airports located in Boston, Maine and New Hampshire.
Dog Policy – Dogs are accepted on most flights BUT they only allow one dog per flight, unless they are from the same household and there is space.
Dogs must be in a kennel to board the plane. Please see their pet policy on their website for additional requirements.
Where To Stay In Cape Cod With Your Dog
If you have never been to Cape Cod, it’s important to point out that Cape Cod is BIG. The Cape is about 65 miles from the Sagamore Bridge to Provincetown which is located at the outermost tip of the cape.
It takes about 90 minutes to get from one end of the cap to the other. That’s without traffic.
The width of Cape Cod ranges from 1 mile to 20 miles at its widest point. All that space translates to 400 miles of shoreline.
While much of the coastline is covered by either town beaches or the National Seashore, part of the shoreline is private.
Unlike other states, where the beaches are public property, Massachusetts allows private beach rights.
For people who want the freedom to walk for miles along the shore, private beach property is not that great. But, for people who want to be able to bring their dog to the beach with them, it’s an important feature that many states don’t offer.
It may also influence where you choose to stay while on Cape Cod.
Let’s take a look at the different areas of Cape Cod and what dog friendly offerings each has.
For more pet dog friendly beaches in Massachusetts, visit our post: Dog Friendly Beaches in Massachusetts (MA).
The Best Dog Friendly Cape Cod Towns
Since Cape Cod is so big it’s commonly broken down into 4 sections called the; Upper Cape, Mid Cape, Lower Cape and Outer Cape. Then there is also Just off the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are Islands with their own sets of dog friendly rules and places so we will leave them to another post. Just off cape is also a fairly large area that is worthy of its own post. Therefore we will concentrate only on the sections that are truly on Cape Cod.
Tick warning – Many of the dog friendly activities on Cape Cod involve being outdoors. Before we go too far, it’s important to point out that there are ticks on Cape Cod. Please take the proper precautions to protect you and your pets.
Dog Friendly Upper Cape Cod
The section known as Upper Cape Cod is part of the cape that is closest to the Cape Cod Canal and the bridges that bring people from the mainland.
The primary towns in this area are Sandwich to the north, Bourne which runs along the canal and Falmouth to the South. Inside of Falmouth you will find Woods Hole. A favorite spot of mine.
For people that are looking for a dog friendly atmosphere, but don’t want to drive that far into the cape the Upper Cape has a lot to offer. First it is close to the bridges so it takes less time to get there.
Second, you can find canine friendly vacation rentals in Sandwich and East Sandwich that are located on the Cape Cod Bay with private beaches right outside their doors.
If you are looking for calmer waves then the bay beaches are sure to deliver. While some of the beaches will have soft sand, others will have more pebbles than sand.
When we stayed in East Sandwich, the beach outside our vacation rental had rough sand, but just a few houses down the beach was smooth.
If a soft sandy beach is important to you make sure to ask the homeowners about the conditions of their beach.
If you choose to stay at a home with a private beach, please keep in mind that the beach will be small. Just the width of the property. So you will still need to keep your dog on a leash to ensure they don’t trespass onto someone else’s private property.
You may also encounter dogs on the adjacent properties.
Another option is to look for a dog friendly waterfront home on one of the many ponds in the area.
For even more beach vacation ideas, check out our post on Dog Friendly Beach Vacations.
Dog Friendly Things to Do In The Upper Cape by Location
In addition to staying at a waterfront dog friendly rental here are other dog friendly activities located in the Upper Cape.
- Visit the Historic Town of Sandwich – Founded in 1637, Sandwich is the oldest town on the Cape. It was named after a town in England with the same name. It offers a beautiful setting to spend some time looking at classic New England homes.
- Shawme-Crowell State Forest is located just down the road at 42 Main Street Sandwich, Ma. The park offers 15 miles of trails through a pitch pine and scrub oak forest, making it a perfect spot to get outside and go for a hike. Leashed dogs are allowed. If you have a small dog like us here are a few tips on hiking with a small dog
- Walk along the trails at the Green Briar Nature Center located at 6 Discovery Hill Road in East Sandwich, Massachusetts. The Center is located on the shores of Smiling Pool and adjacent to the famous Briar Patch of Thornton Burgess’s stories featuring Peter Rabbit. The Old Briar Patch Trail is a 2.1 loop that offers peeks of the Smiling Pool Pond along the way.
- Bourne Farm is located at 6 North Falmouth Highway in North Falmouth, Ma. This historic farm offers 49 acres of fields, trails and woodlands that overlook Crocker Pond. It is a favorite among dog walkers looking for a peaceful but beautiful trail. Leashed dogs are allowed only when there is not a private event going on.
- If your pup has not had enough off leash time you can take them to the Falmouth Dog Park located at 257 Brick Kiln Road in East Falmouth, Ma. This park offers “All dogs” and “Small Dogs” sections. One of the things I love about this park is that it has an emergency horn. A quick blow of the horn will hopefully stun fighting dogs to separate them. Never had to use one so I don’t know how well it works, but it is nice that they have something. They also have a water bubbler located in each section.
- Visit The Knob in Falmouth, Ma near the Quissett harbor. The Knob is a small jut out that shelters the Quissett Harbor from fierce winter storms. The land was donated to the Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries. There are trails and a few small beaches. A few parking spots are available on Quissett Harbor Rd near the Quissett Yacht Club. Dogs are welcome on leash but only you must clean up after them. Keep them off the fragile banks and vegetation.
Woods Hole, Ma
- Visit Woods Hole – A trip to the cape would not be the same if we didn’t visit Woods Hole at least once. The town is an easy walk from end to end but offers lots of places to watch the boats or pick up a bite to eat.
- Shining Sea Bikeway -The Bikeway not just for bikes, you will also find dog walkers and joggers on the path. This mainly paved path runs through forests and open areas with views of the Ocean as you near the end. The almost 11 mile path starts in North Falmouth and leads into Woods Hole. But there are free parking spots along the trail if you don’t want to do the whole trail. If you would prefer to bike, you can also use a pet trailer and take your pup for a ride. Here is a video of parts of the trail.
- Take your dog on a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard. The Steamship Authority offers daily round trips to Martha’s Vineyard. Leashed dogs (or dogs in a carrier) are allowed to ride with their owners for free. No pets are allowed in the food service area or on passenger seats or tables.
Going on a dog friendly vacation shouldn’t have to cost a small fortune, you are looking for ways to keep the costs down, read our post on: Cheap Vacations With a Pet: Budget Friendly Ideas
Dog Friendly Mid Cape Cod
The Mid Cape runs down the middle of Cape Cod and stretches from the Cape Cod Bay to Nantucket Sound. The main towns are Barnstable, and Yarmouth to the North and Mashpee, Hyannis and Dennis to the South.
If you are looking for a public dog friendly beach during the summer, without a long drive, the mid cape has one in Barnstable. The outer cape also has a public beach that dogs are allowed during the summer, but we will get to that one later in the post.
Dog Friendly Activities in the Mid Cape by Location
- The Sandy Neck Beach Park located in Barnstable on Cape Cod Bay in the Mid Cape, allows dogs year round on their Off Road Vehicle Beach (ORV). However there are some stipulations to taking your dog to this beach.
- First dogs must remain on a leash at all times.
- You can only drive to the beach if you have an ORV permit from Sandy Neck Beach Park.
- If you don’t qualify for a ORV permit you can walk your dog along the Great Marsh Hiking Trail to get to the beach. It’s about a mile walk in heavy sand.
- Keep in mind that sand and any pavement you encounter might be hot when you need to walk the trail. You will also need to carry in everything you need including water.
- Barnstable Dog Park – located next to Hathaway’s Pond at 1431 Phinney’s Lane, Barnstable, Ma, Offers three off leash areas; the training area, the small dog area and the mix use area. Water bubbles available in the spring, summer and fall.
For more information on dog parks and other areas that dogs can be off-leash on Cape Cod, check out our post; Cape Cod Off-leash Dog Parks, Trials, and Beaches.
- Lowell Holly – located at South Sandwich Road in Mashpee/Sandwich, MA 02649. Lowell Holly offers 4 miles of carriage roads and paths that follow along the shores of two freshwater ponds.
- Walk around The Mashpee Commons – The Mashpee Commons is a cross between a downtown village and an outside mall. It’s a lovely place to stroll around after a day at the beach. There are a few dog friendly stores there like LL Bean, plus there are a few restaurants with outdoor dining.
Near Hyannis, Ma
- If chilling with a cold brew is your idea of a good time, Barnstable Brewing offers an outside patio for you and your pup to enjoy the ocean breezes together. You can find Barnstable Brewing Co. at 485 West Main Street in Hyannis.
- Cape Cod Beer is another pup friendly brewery in Hyannis, Their outdoor Beer Garden is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. They also offer other types of drinks for people who don’t drink beer.
- Cape Cod Beer’s Dog policy “Dogs must be on-leash and are not allowed in the warehouse when JP’s Twisted BBQ is serving food out of the pop-up kitchen. They are always welcome in the retail store, beer garden and under the tent. Dogs must be well behaved.”
- You can find them at 1336 Phinney’s Lane Hyannis, MA.
- Walk around the town of Hyannis. Hyannis is the cape’s shopping, and transportation hub. The Capeflyer’s final stop is here. It is also where you will find high speed ferries to the Islands and dog friendly lighthouses cruises. Walk along its mile long historic Main Street for some window shopping and people watching. Or walk down to Bismore Park at the Harbor to check out local artists and watch the boats.
- Bay Spirit Tours -Offers a few different cruises around the Hyannis Harbor and beyond. Dogs are allowed on the Bay Spirit on the outside deck. While they do allow dogs you need to notify them before making reservations.
- Visit Nantucket for the day. Hy-Line Cruises will take you and your dog to Nantucket so you can experience this very dog friendly Island. The high speed ferry takes about 1 hours to get you there. Dogs ride for free, but they must be properly leashed/crated and are not allowed on the furniture.
- Martha’s Vineyard is another great day trip you can take thanks to the Hy-Line Cruises, high speed ferries. This ride also takes about one hour. Again dogs must be leashed or crated.
If you are looking for dog friendly vacation ideas check out our post Dog Friendly Island Vacation Ideas in the USA
- Fresh Pond Conservation Land – has a small dog park located at 155 MA-134 in South Dennis, Ma. There are also trails down to Fresh Pond. This is a very popular area for locals to take their dogs for a swim.
- Go Kayaking or Paddle boarding on Bass River. Bass River Kayaks and Paddle Boards allows well-behaved dogs to join you on one of their Kayaks or Paddle Boards. They will even provide you with a dog pad to make the trip more comfortable for your pup. They do not have doggy life jackets so you will need to bring your own if you want one. I highly recommend that you have a life jacket for your dog.
Dog Friendly Lower Cape Cod
The Lower Cape is often referred to as the elbow of the cape. The main towns are; Brewster, this town sits on the Cape Cod Bay, Harwich which runs along the Nantucket Sound, Chatham is located on the elbow part of the cape and Orleans which is located to the north of Chatham.
This area does not have access to dog friendly public beaches in the summer, but you can still find waterfront dog friendly rental homes in the area. If you are willing to drive a bit, the dog friendly (with restrictions) National Seashore is located one town up from Orleans in Eastham.
If does however offer lots of dog friendly trails and quaint towns to walk around.
Looking for a unique vacation stay. How about the Windmill Cottage in Chatham (not waterfront). This unique historic rental home comes complete with the sail frames, and allows well behaved dogs.
Dog Friendly Activities in the Lower Cape by Location
- Cape Cod Rail Trail – Walk or ride the Cape Cod Rail trail that runs through 6 towns. You can start your journey at the South Dennis trailhead and take an extension into Chatham. Or you can ride the whole 22 mile trail and end in WellFleet in the Outer Cape. Cape Cod Rail Trail Map.
- Check out the many short nature trails in Chatham, Ma. They are part of the Chatham Conservation Foundation dedicated to preserving the natural landscapes for future generations. Dogs are allowed on the trails unless specified at the site. Dogs must be kept on a leash and you must pick up after them. You can find the trails by using the Chatham Conservation Foundation Trail Locator Map
- Take a walk along the Chatham Fish Pier and watch the fishing boats come and go. You can also watch them unload their catch of the day from the outside visitor’s balcony. You may even see one of the resident seals come in to beg for fish.
Near Brewster, Ma
- Nickerson State Park located in Brewster, Ma is a 1,900-acre state park with miles of wooded trails and some ponds to explore. However dogs are only allowed on the trails. They are not allowed to swim in the ponds or at the beaches. Dogs are allowed at the Campsites.
- Thompson’s Park located off of Route 39 in Harwich is another great place for your dog to let out some energy. This spacious park is a 57 acre preserve open to dogs and their people.
- In the town of Orleans you will find the Kent’s Point Conservation Area. This dog friendly spot offers 1.5 miles of hiking trails. This site was once the home of Miss Charlotte Kent but is now part of the land conservation efforts in Orleans. The main trail to the former Kent house site goes up the center of the property leading to a handicapped-accessible boardwalk overlooking the river and the northern portion of Pleasant Bay.
Dog Friendly Outer Cape Cod
If you are driving the Outer Cape is the farthest area from the bridges to get to. But if you are coming from Boston it’s only a 90 minute ferry ride into Provincetown. While Provincetown is the largest of the outer cape towns, you will also find the towns of Truro, Wellfleet, and Eastham there.
The Cape Cod National Seashore takes up most of the land on this part of the cape so it is much less populated than the rest.
Outer Cape Cod Dog Friendly Activities by Location
- One of the reasons the outer cap is considered to be a great place to bring a dog is the Cape Cod National Seashore Dogs are allowed on the Cape Cod National Seashore, except where there are lifeguards or when areas are closed for shorebird nesting or other wildlife related issues. It is best to visit the Pets at Cape Cod National Seashore page to see exactly where pets are allowed at the time you plan to visit since it changes with the seasons.
- The National Seashore also offers bike trails. If you need a bike during your trip there are a couple bike rental places that offer dog trailers you can attach to their bikes.
- The Bike Shack is one of them. Located at 3 Shank Painter Road in Provincetown, Ma.
- Gale Force Bikes is the other and is the closest to the bike trails at the Cape Cod SeaShore. Gale Force Bikes is located at 144 Bradford Street Extension in Provincetown.
- Both places offer free parking with hourly bike rentals.
- Cape Cod Rail Trail – You can walk or ride with your pup on the Cape Cod Rail trail. You can pick up the trail in Wellfleet and follow it down into the upper cap. Cape Cod Rail Trail Map.
- Enjoy a movie under the stars with your pup at the WellFleet Drive-In in Wellfleet, Ma. This classic Drive-In theater will have you thinking about simpler times. The Wellfleet Drive-In was built in 1957. It’s the last one on Cape Cod and one of only about 300 left in the country.
- If you are looking for something to do in Wellfleet over the weekend check out the WellFleet Flea Market located on the grounds of the WellFleet Drive-in. Please check the WellFleet Flea Market website for their hours since it changes throughout the year.
- If you are looking to get out on the water with your dog and a few of your best friends by your side. Dog Gone Sailing Charters offers dog friendly sailing trips. Of course they have to be dog friendly with a name like that. You can find them at MacMillan Pier in Provincetown, MA or call (508) 566-0410.
- Hindu Sailing Charters offers a 1.5 hour day sail around Cape Cod Bay that is family and dog friendly. You can find them at MacMillan Pier in Provincetown, MA or by calling 508-542-2996.
- Take a historical walking tour with Provincetown Ghosts Tours. They are both family and dog friendly. 90 minutes tours depart daily at nine o’clock from The Coffee Pot at 315 Commercial Street, Lopes Square. Reservations are highly recommended. Pets are free but need to be added to your reservations at the time of booking.
- If your pup is needing a little off leash time take them over to the Pilgrim Bark Park in Provincetown. The Bark Park is located at the intersection of Route 6 and Shank Painter Road. The park sits on an acre of land and has a general dog section and a section exclusively for small dogs under 25 pounds. There are also many beautiful sculptures and structures donated by local artists.
- Dog Beach located at 55 Commercial Street, Provincetown, MA is a small beach on the bay with some parking and bike racks nearby. Locals come with their dogs to play in the surf.
- Take a stroll through Provincetown with your pup. Most shops, galleries, restaurants (with outdoor areas) will welcome well behaved dogs on leashes at the business owners discretion. Please ask before stepping in. You will also find that some businesses will offer treats and most offer water for hot pups.
For more information on things to do with your dog in Provincetown, visit our post on Dog Friendly Guide to Provincetown, MA.
We hope you found this article Helpful.
Keep a lookout for our other dog friendly travel posts like Lake George NY: 14 Dog Friendly Things to Do, Block Island – Dog Friendly Things To Do and Places to Eat, Newport, RI: Dog Friendly Things to Do and Places to Stay, 11 Dog Friendly Spring Vacation Destinations and Saratoga Springs – Dog Friendly Things to Do
If you are looking to travel with your dog, check out our post on Traveling With A Dog: Tips For An Easy Trip