Of course there are the beaches - 10 in all and 68 miles of coastline in this 54-square-mile town. But if there is any question whether Falmouth has become a year-round destination, consider this: On a cold mid-January weekend, the upscale bed-and-breakfast we stayed at was nearly full; we waited a half-hour to be seated for lunch at a downtown restaurant; and on Saturday night we couldn't find a parking spot on Main Street. But at the same time, the town seems determined to preserve its remaining open space and treasures. The 2,000-acre Frances Crane Wildlife Reservation has trails for walking and horseback riding. The Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary, owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society, offers workshops and bird walks year round. In 2001 a group of citizens saved historic Highfield Hall from demolition and has turned the Queen Anne Stick Style mansion into a community cultural center offering art exhibits, performances, lectures, and classes throughout the year. So, who needs the beach?
Falmouth lodgings run the gamut from upscale hotels to family-style motels to elegant bed-and-breakfasts. The Sea Crest Resort
in North Falmouth (350 Quaker Road, 508-540-9400, seacrest-resort.com
, doubles $80-$315) sits on Old Silver Beach, one of the town's loveliest strands. Inn on the Square
(40 North Main St., 508-457-0606, innonthesquare.com
, doubles $69-$339) is a full-service hotel in the town center. Pet-friendly Green Harbor
(134 Acapesket Road, 508-548-4747, gogreenharbor.com
, doubles $88-$238) with waterfront rooms, efficiency units, and an outdoor pool is a good choice for families. There are several lovely bed-and-breakfasts in the historic downtown, including the Palmer House Inn
(81 Palmer Ave., 508-548-1230, palmerhouseinn.com
, $109-$299), the Captain Tom Lawrence House
(75 Locust St., 508-548-9178, captain tomlawrence.com
, $105-$180), and Mostly Hall
(27 Main St., 508-548-3786, mostlyhall .com, $125-$199), said to be the only plantation-style home on the Cape. Nautilus Motor Inn
(539 Woods Hole Road, 508-548-1525, nautilusinn.com
, $82-$225) overlooks Woods Hole Harbor and offers easy access to ferries to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Sippewissett Campground
in West Falmouth (836 Palmer Ave., 508-548-2542, sippewissett.com
, campsites $30-$58, cabins $275-$815 weekly) provides complimentary shuttle service to the beach in summer.
Locals favor the Quarterdeck
(164 Main St., 508-548-9900, lunch and dinner $5-$22) in a subterranean space reminiscent of a ship's hold. We found the seared scallop salad a perfect combination of sweet seafood and earthy greens. Firefly Woodfire Grille and Bar
(271 Main St., 508-543-7953, firefly woodfiregrill.com
, $14-$34) is part bar, part dining room, with lots of options for vegetarians. Italian cuisine holds its own downtown at Villagio Italian Ristorante and Martini Bar
(188 Main St., 508-540-6400, villagiocapecod.com
, $7-$32) and La Cucina sul Mare
(237 Main St., 508-548-5600, lacucinasul mare.com
, $5-$20). Laureen's
(170 Main St., 508-540-9104, laureensrestaurant.com
, $7.25-$25) offers Mediterranean cuisine; try a sandwich or pizza made on its signature feta bread. The Silver Lounge Restaurant
in North Falmouth (412 Route 28A, 508-563-2410, $8-$25) is known for steak and the opportunity to dine in a real caboose. In Woods Hole, you can watch the boats from Fishmonger's Café
(56 Water St., 540-5376, $14-$25) or indulge in homemade soups, sandwiches, salads, and pastries at Pie in the Sky
(10 Water St., 508-540-5475, woodshole.com/pie
, $3-$6.75). Moonakis Café
in the village of Waquoit (460 Waquoit Highway, 508-457-9630, breakfast and lunch, $6-$11) makes delicious quahog chowder.
Colonial-era gardens and two 18th-century houses make up the Museums on the Green
(55 Palmer Ave., 508-548-4857, falmouthhistoricalsociety.org
), which are operated by the local historical society. Adjacent to the green where Falmouth militia trained for the American Revolution, the complex also includes exhibits on whaling and maritime history and information about Katharine Lee Bates, the Falmouth native who wrote "America the Beautiful." Try to catch the Falmouth Commodores
) at home in the Cape Cod Baseball League, one of the country's premier amateur leagues. (Red Sox phenom Jacoby Ellsbury was a Commodore in 2004.) Opening day is June 15. The Shining Sea Bikeway
) extends 4 miles from Skating Lane in Falmouth Village to the Steamship Authority's site in Woods Hole.
Children can visit with alpacas, Nigerian dwarf goats, sheep, miniature donkeys, and other friendly creatures at Coonamessett Farm
(277 Hatchville Road, 508-563-2560, coonamessett farm.com
). The farm also rents canoes and offers pick-your-own fruits and vegetables in season. The Woods Hole Science Aquarium
(Albatross Street, 508-495-2001, aquarium.nefsc .noaa.gov
) is the country's oldest continuously operating research aquarium. Exhibits feature 140 species of fish and invertebrates from local and mid-Atlantic waters; in summer visitors can watch seals feeding in outdoor tanks. OceanQuest Hands-on Discovery Cruises
(Waterfront Park, 800-376-2326, oceanquestonline.org
, adults and teens $22, ages 4-12 $17, under 4 $5, infants free) turn youngsters into scientists as they collect and test samples of seawater, use research equipment, observe sea life, and record data in a two-hour cruise. Parking is extremely limited in Woods Hole. The WHOOSH Trolley
, operated by Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (800-352-7155) shuttles visitors from municipal lots elsewhere in Falmouth.
We loved the brightly colored Italian ceramic platters at Bean and Cod
(140 Main St., 508-548-8840), which also sells gourmet foods. The sound of water trickling over fountains fills Twigs (178 Main St., 508-540-0767), which specializes in home and garden decor. Get in touch with your inner Elvis at Blast from the Past
(267 Main St., 508-548-1918), where besides Elvis memorabilia you'll find drugstore counter stools, metal lunch boxes, bottle cap belts, fuzzy dice, and movie posters. If you've forgotten any beach toys, you'll find them and more at Kaleidoscope Toys
(208 Main St., 508-548-5635). A bit off the beaten path, Westies Shoe Outlet
(486 Waquoit Highway, 508-548-6163) stocks "sensible" shoes, along with strappy sandals, water shoes, and slippers, all at deep discounts.
There's a good chance your visit to Liam Maguire's Irish Pub and Restaurant
(273 Main St., 508-548-0285, liammaguire.com
) will end up in a singalong of Irish ditties or "Puff, the Magic Dragon." Oysters Too Restaurant
(876 East Falmouth Highway, 508-548-9191, oysterstoo.com
) turns into a piano bar on Friday and Saturday evenings. Entertainment at the Nimrod Restaurant and Jazz Lounge
(100 Dillingham Ave., 508-540-4132, thenimrod.com
) runs the gamut from folk to jazz to big band sounds. The British Beer Company
(263 Grand Ave., 508-540-9600, britishbeer.com
) draws a younger crowd. Catch dinner and a movie - together - at the new Falmouth Cinema Pub
(137 Teaticket Highway, 508-540-5343, falmouthcinemapub.com
, tickets before 5 p.m. $5.50, evenings $7.50, menu items $7-$11). Falmouth has three resident theater companies. The Falmouth Theatre Guild
), celebrating its 50th season, performs September through May. It shares space at Highfield Hall with the College Light Opera Company
(508-548-0668, collegelightopera .com), which offers summer stock. The Woods Hole Theater Company
) performs year round in the 1878 Woods Hole Community Hall. The Cape Cod Theatre Project
) brings together playwrights of new American plays with professional directors and actors for staged readings in July.
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.