Cape Cod Travel

5 things to do when visiting Barnstable

From beaches to seafood.

Sandy Neck Lighthouse in Barnstable. Donna Bragg

Barnstable, the largest town on the Cape, is full of history and things to do, according to Ann Quirk, Barnstable town clerk since 2013 and a resident for more than 40 years.

“Barnstable is quite different in that we have seven villages that make up the town,” Quirk said. “You can stay in one location and just venture out to a different village. You will find art, you will find history, you will find food, you’ll find it all here.”

The villages are: Barnstable, Centerville, Cotuit, Hyannis, Osterville, Marstons Mills, and West Barnstable.

Quirk shared her picks for what to see and do in Barnstable.

Sandy Neck Beach. Donna Bragg

Hit the beach

Quirk loves spending time at Sandy Neck Beach, also known as Bodfish Beach, located at Sandy Neck Beach Park in West Barnstable.


Beach goers can soak in the sun and play in the surf, or take a scenic drive in the sand, she said. The park also allows camping.

“It’s a beautiful area with dunes,” Quirk said. “If you have an off-road vehicle, you can actually drive out there on the beach. It’s a beautiful, beautiful location.”

There is a $25 per car daily charge for beach parking from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Driving the beach requires an ORV permit.

Sandy Neck Lighthouse, located at the tip of Sandy Neck, is privately owned and not available for tours.

Eat a meal on the harbor

Spanky’s Clam Shack in Hyannis is a beautiful place for a meal, Quirk said.

“Spanky’s is right in the heart of Hyannis, in the harbor area,” she said. “So you can sit outside and watch the boats come in and out. It’s just a great location.”

Spanky’s has inside and outside dining, is open daily for lunch and dinner, and its menu features a raw bar, salads, chowder, and plenty of seafood.

Quirk loves sitting outside with friends and often orders the lobster salad.

“It’s a lot of lobster and a little mayonnaise, just the right combination,” she said.

The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum in Hyannis. – David Lyon for The Boston Globe

Brush up on your JFK knowledge

Quirk likes spending time at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum in Hyannis, which is full of information about the 35th president of the United States and his connection to Cape Cod. The Hyannis Kennedy Compound was purchased by the Kennedys in 1928.


A current exhibit called “Cape Cod Remembers: November 22, 1963,” commemorates the 60th anniversary of the death of President Kennedy. Visitors can read local newspapers from November of 1963 to see how his death affected Cape Cod and sign a memory book and share their own thoughts and experiences about the event.

“It is constantly evolving, and I think that’s why I like it so much,” Quirk said.

Hyannis visitors can also walk the Hyannis Kennedy Legacy Trail in Hyannis, a self-guided 1.6-mile walking tour of 10 sites significant to the Kennedy family.

The artist shanties in Hyannis. Marie Grady Palcic

Shop the creations of local artists

Ocean Street in Hyannis is always a favorite shopping spot for her family, Quirk said, because it features the HyArts Artist Shanties.

Cape Cod artists and artisans display their wares at the shanties in the summer and rotate throughout the season so there’s always something new to see, Quirk said.

“It’s paintings, it’s posters, it’s jewelry, it’s clothing, you name it,” she said.

Guests can find the shanties at Bismore Park Welcome Center at 180 Ocean St. and Harbor Overlook at 51 Ocean St. The shanties are open from at 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in May and June, as well as from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in July and August.

Reader Recommendations:

“Everything,” wrote @juliaanderson1963


For food and beverage:

Barnstable Brewing @jusie7

Four Seas Ice Cream@emac921

For activities:

1856 Country Store@emac921

Barnstable County Fair@gotopaigefive

Barnstable Village@skissane7

Craigville Beach @emac921

Millway Beach@skissane7

Sandy Neck Beach @skissane7, @debahl


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