What Hyannis may lack in “quaint,” it makes up for in convenience. This mid-Cape town — one of seven villages of the town of Barnstable — is the heart and the hub of Cape Cod. This summer, it’s easier to access, thanks to thereturn of the CapeFlyer train (www.CapeFlyer.com), an extension of the commuter rail service, running between Boston’s South Station and Hyannis on weekends.
From Hyannis, you can catch a ferry to the islands, or venture forth to more far-flung Cape towns, but what if you just stayed put? Hyannis has its charms, and a lively seaside allure that drew President Ulysses S. Grant in 1874, and years later, the Kennedy clan. From pirate ships to potato chips (the Cape Cod brand is made here), Hyannis offers amusements aplenty. If your bunch likes action, this is the place.
Is it blasphemy to suggest that visitors stay at an inn run by Vermonters? Maybe, but we like the Green Mountain Inn (328 Sea St., 508-778-4378, www.capecodgreenmountaininn.com, from $120) a lot, thanks to its location (within walking distance to Main Street and beaches), wallet-friendly rates, and friendly innkeepers Mike and Heidi Godin and Nick Hemingway. The renovated 1853 Victorian is homey, not fancy, but congenial hosts and a tasty hot breakfast beat high-thread-count sheets every time. If your wallet allows a bit more wiggle room, consider the Anchor In (1 South St., 508-775-0357, www.anchorin.com, summer rates $269-$459), a sprawling 42-room hotel built on a bluff that overlooks the harbor. The place has a seaside resort feel, with amenities like a harborside swimming pool and complimentary deluxe (lots of good choices) continental breakfast. If nothing says “Cape Cod” to you like a cottage, settle in at one of the cute shingled abodes at Captain Gosnold Village (230 Gosnold St., 508-775-9111, www.captaingosnold.com, $150-$400; three-night minimum applies for cottages until Aug. 30). Motel rooms, efficiency units, and one- to three-bedroom cottages are set up like a small neighborhood, centered around a pool and playground. This family-friendly ’hood is located about a mile north of Main Sreet. For bargain digs, check out the hostel on the harbor, operated by Hostelling International Cape Cod (111 Ocean St., 508-775-7990, www.hiusa.org, $29-$390.
We had our best meal in Hyannis at Pan D’Avignon Café-Boulangerie (15 Hinckley Road, 508-778-8888, www.paindavignon.com, entrees from $25). Don’t be put off by the unpromising location (behind Uno’s, near the new airport) — the French cafe-style interior and inspired cuisine, from foie gras to steak frites, add up to a memorable evening. On the waterfront, the Black Cat Tavern (165 Ocean St., 508-778-1233, www.blackcattavern.com, entrees from $18.95) offers everything from burgers to native seafood, with seating indoors or outside on a heated deck. To toast the end of summer in style, consider the Naked Oyster Bistro & Raw Bar (410 Main St., 508-778-6500, www.nakedoyster.com, entrees $16-$36), where the raw bar features bivalves from their own oyster farm on Barnstable Harbor.
DURING THE DAY
Of course, you’ll want to hit the beach, given that our golden summer days are winding down. Kalmus Beach, at the junction of Ocean and Gosnold streets, is close to town and has a split personality: This shell-strewn beach is super-calm on the harbor side and windy and wild on the Nantucket Sound side, where windsurfers and kite surfers congregate. Plan to pay $20 to park on weekends and holidays ($15 Mon.-Fri.). A stroll along Main Street is part of every visitor’s experience. This mile-long stretch offers a slew of restaurants and shops, plus a farmer’s market (Wednesdays) and the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum (297 Main St., 508-790-3077, www.jfkhyannismuseum.org, $8), highlighting the former president’s leisure time on the Cape. To add a little culture to your escape, check out the HyArts Shanties (weekends, May and Sept.; daily June-Labor Day, Bismore Park, 508-862-4678, www.hyartsdistrict.com), a series of brightly painted sheds where artists work on a rotating basis. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons through August, kids are invited to paint too. Speaking of small fry, Hyannis is home port to one of those pirate ship cruises, Pirate Adventures (138 Ocean St., 508-394-9100, www.capecodpirateadventures.com, $22.50) that kids under age 10 adore — with pirate garb, water cannons, the works. The nearest whale watch excursion, Hyannis Whale Watch Cruises (Barnstable Harbor, 508-362-6088, www.whales.net, $49 adults) departs from Barnstable Harbor.Continued...