Located at the Cape's imaginary bicep, Brewster lies at the intersection of two glacial outwash plains. Its beaches taper so gently that they extend nearly a mile between the tide lines, while its inland woods sprout from a bumpy glacial moraine, resulting in a wealth of kettle ponds. In the 19th century, when as many as 100 captains of sailing ships made their homes here, Brewster took to calling itself "The Sea Captains' Town." The nickname persists, even if all that remains of the old salts are their Federal and Greek Revival manses. Keep in mind that they were away at sea for years at a time, making Brewster the ultimate bedroom community that it remains -- the quiet antidote to the Outer Cape's dramatic beaches, the bustle of Hyannis or Provincetown, or the frank commercialism of the Nantucket Sound shore.
SpendAt some point in the day, just about everybody who lives in or passes through town stops at The Brewster Store (1935 Main St., 508-896-3744, brewsterstore.com) for coffee, an ice cream cone, a clam knife, or a bag stuffed with "penny" candy. The venerable enterprise also has a gimcrack souvenir for every taste.
For more refined sensibilities, art galleries abound along Route 6A, but one of the most original is Sydenstricker Galleries (490 Main St., 508-385-3272, sydenstricker.com). Founder Bill Sydenstricker has passed on, but his former apprentices still produce elegant and colorful glass art using his innovative techniques.
Antiques shops line Route 6A from one end of town to the other. Try Mark Lawrence Fine Period Antiques (1050 Main St., 508-896-8381, fineperiodantiques.com) for furniture and decorative arts that would have pleased those old-time sea captains' wives.
Don't forget to pick up some bargain-priced beach reading at the Sea Captains Thrift Shop (2198 Main St., 508-896-8180) in Town Hall Annex when you go to buy your beach parking pass.
PlayTake your pick: woods or shore. Parking permits (nonresidents $15 a day or $50 a week at Town Hall, 2198 Main St., 508-896-4511) are required at saltwater and pond beaches. Paine's Creek Beach is best for serious saltwater swimming (a natural jetty wraps around a deep hole), but the other seven Brewster beaches turn into the Brewster Flats around low tide when a mile or more of sand flats, clam beds, and tidal pools are exposed. For a three-hour stretch, you can explore the ocean floor on foot. Inland, locals favor the swimming at Sheep Pond, the deepest of Brewster's many glacial kettle ponds (Fisherman's Landing, off Harwich Road).
The 1,900-acre Nickerson State Park (Route 6A, 508-896-3491, campground reservations 877-422-6762, mass.gov/dcr/parks/south east/nick.htm) has swimming, canoeing, and fishing at its own kettle ponds as well as miles of walking and cycling trails. (Overnight campsites must be booked months ahead.) Rent a canoe, kayak, or pedal boat on Flax Pond from Jack's Boat Rental (508-896-8556, $15-$25 for first hour).
The Cape Cod Rail Trail also cuts through Nickerson. The closest spot to rent a two-wheeler is Barb's Bike Shop (Route 6A, 508-896-7231, $10-$12 for first two hours) next to the Nickerson entrance.
Blink and you'll miss it from the road, but Harbor Lights Adventure Mini-Golf (81 Underpass Road, 508-896-2692, adults $8, under 12 $7, seniors $6) has a compact but challenging 18-hole course where the last shots go under a thundering waterfall.
For other amusements for small fry, check out the singalongs and puppet shows by the Tanglewood Marionettes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings through August at First Parish Brewster (1969 Main St., 508-896-5577, $6).
Brewster Book Store (2648 Main St., 508-896-6543, brewsterbookstore.com) offers storytelling on Tuesday and Friday mornings. On Wednesday mornings, join the year-round storytelling at Brewster Ladies Library (1822 Main St., 508-896-3913, brewsterladies library.org).
DoGolfers adore Brewster. The famed Ocean Edge Golf Club (2907 Main St., 508-896-9000, oceanedge.com, $125 greens fees and cart) has finished renovations on the back nine, and plans to complete work on the front nine in October, at which point the course will be restricted to members and guests at the Ocean Edge Resort.
But there's no shortage of fairways in town, thanks to the pair of championship 18-hole courses at The Captains Golf Course (1000 Freeman's Way, 508-896-1716, captainsgolfcourse .com, $30-$64 greens fee, cart $16), located a short hop off the Mid-Cape Highway.
For those who don't cart clubs, the museum at Stony Brook Grist Mill and Herring Run (Stony Brook and Satucket roads, no phone, free) is open only limited Saturday hours (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), but the site's outdoor plaques tell the story of Brewster's early industry. The mill pond is a favorite spot for teaching children how to fish.
All of Cape Cod is an outdoor lab for the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History (869 Main St., Route 6A, 508-896-3867, ccmnh.org, adults $8, seniors $7, children ages 3-12 $3.50). The three osprey chicks in the nest behind the museum should be around until fall; an osprey-cam on the nest provides fabulous closeups. In addition to two floors of displays on the Cape's indigenous plants and animals, there's a poignant special exhibit of personal artifacts chronicling the life and work of naturalist Rachel Carson in honor of the centennial of her birth.
RestWhen in a sea captains' town, stay in a sea captain's home. The Captain Freeman Inn (15 Breakwater Road, 508-896-7481 or 800-843-4664, captainfreemaninn.com, $165-$235 through October) sits right behind the Brewster Store and just up the street from Breakwater Beach. Guests can borrow beach chairs -- or a bicycle for exploring farther afield.
The Isaiah Clark House (1187 Main St., 508-896-2223 or 800-822-4001, isaiahclark.com, $165-$175) has unusually spacious rooms for a circa-1790 structure, permitting queen and king beds and, in some cases, fireplaces. It's a short walk to Kate's Seafood, and not much farther down the road to Paine's Creek Beach, the best of the saltwater swimming holes.
PartyMaybe it's because the town was named after one of the Pilgrim fathers, but Brewster's idea of summer nightlife is hanging out at the beach to watch the afterglow of sunset. Should you get thirsty, the brews stir at the Woodshed Lounge (1993 Main St., 508-896-7771) at the Brewster Inn & Chowder House. The pub is also sponsoring a 5.2-mile "Brew Run" on Saturday to benefit Brewster Rescue and Safety.
Through Aug. 25, the Cape Cod Repertory Theatre (3379 Route 6A, 508-896-1888, caperep.org) is performing the Atlantic City-based musical "Steel Pier" in the Arts and Crafts-style main theater. Cape Rep also has children's performances on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. through Aug. 22.
FuelDining on Cape Cod doesn't get more haute than the table d'hôte at Chillingsworth (2449 Main St., 508-896-3640, chillingsworth.com, seven-course menu $59.50-$70, bistro entrees $17-$28). In addition to fine dining, Chillingsworth also offers a more casual a la carte menu in the bistro. Reserve far ahead.
On the other hand, seating is first-come, first-serve at the intimate Brewster Fish House (2208 Main St., 508-896-7867, entrees $18-$29). The sophisticated, contemporary menu makes the best of the local catch (hand-lined fluke, dayboat scallops, local oysters). Go early or late to get seats.
For a more casual approach to seafood, Bayside Seafood and Market (2740 Main St., 508-896-5367, baysideseafoodandmarket.com, lobster rolls $18-$22, clambake $34 per person) steams clams and lobsters to eat on the premises or to take to the beach. The shop also serves baked goods at breakfast and deli sandwiches and panini for lunch.