The Town of Yarmouth is bounded on two sides by water: Cape Cod Bay on the north, and Nantucket Sound on the south. In between, Yarmouth is filled with history, arts, culture, and nature. Travel to Yarmouth for a day trip or a vacation, and you’ll have no shortage of fun places to visit and things to do.
Start your day with breakfast at Jack’s Outback II on Route 6A in Yarmouth Port. It’s a hidden gem — turn in at the North Side Nursery School sign which directs you to the parking area and café. Jack’s is almost across the street from the Optimist Café which was originally the Captain Howes House, a beautiful home built in 1849 that is listed on the National Historic Register.
Historic Homes Amidst Nature Trails
Access the extensive Historical Society of Old Yarmouth (HSOY) Nature Preserve Trails directly behind the Yarmouth Port Post Office. The trails meander through more than 50 acres of woodland splendor for all who enjoy the outdoors. Trail maps are available in the mailbox next to the front door of the Gatehouse or at the HSOY website (you can also download PDFs for self-guided historic walks throughout Yarmouth). Among the historic buildings found along the trails, the Kelley Chapel’s unique location, across a small bridge and nestled in its own secluded meadow, makes it the ideal setting for memorable weddings and celebrations of all kinds.
In the meadow opposite the Kelley Chapel is the Native American Turtle Wetu, a collaborative project between HSOY and members of the Wampanoag nation to recreate a traditional dwelling used by the Native Americans who have lived on these lands for thousands of years. It is the only one of its kind on Cape Cod and now functions as an education center where descendants of those First Peoples hold ceremonial events and share stories of their spoken history and culture with others.
Just a few hundred feet past the Yarmouth Port Post Office on Route 6A, Historic New England operates the c.1780 Winslow Crocker House, relocated and remodeled in the mid-twentieth century by Mary Thacher, a descendant of Anthony Thacher, one of the three original founders of Yarmouth. The result of her efforts is a colonial Cape Cod house with a twentieth-century flavor. The impressive collection of furniture is a thorough survey of early American styles (Jacobean, William and Mary, Queen Anne, and Chippendale).
Steeped in History and Spiced with Modern Art
Further east on Route 6A, you’ll come to a very interesting neighborhood, Yarmouth Port Common. On your left is the Yarmouth New Church. The Yarmouth New Church Preservation Foundation is a non-religious, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the historically-registered former church as a vibrant cultural center. The Foundation presents concerts by New England Conservatory musicians, and local musicians also take advantage of a performance space that is one of the best on the Cape for live music. The Great Room Gallery showcases local artists working in all media.
Opposite the Yarmouth New Church on Strawberry Lane is the Edward Gorey House, the longtime residence of Edward Gorey, an acclaimed American author, illustrator, playwright, and set and costume designer. Today the Edward Gorey House is a museum that celebrates and preserves his life and works. The House, an antique sea captain’s home, displays Gorey’s diverse and extraordinary talents and reflects his distinct personality. The 2021 exhibit, “Hapless Children: Drawings from Mr. Gorey’s Neighborhood,” features a surreal universe assembled from Gorey’s 116 books and miscellaneous illustrations published from 1953 until his death in 2000.
Across the Common from the Edward Gorey House is the Captain Bangs Hallet House Museum, a stately, fully-furnished sea captain’s home, circa 1840. This house, also operated by HSOY, provides an intimate glimpse into how sea captains’ families lived and entertained in the Victorian era. Set up as if Captain Hallet was just returning from one of his many voyages to China, the museum features period furnishings, silk, porcelain, and other antique pieces, plus an extensive maritime exhibit.
From Sheep and Goats to Live Music and Art Exhibits
Three miles east on Route 6A, turn left onto Bray Farm Road, and in a half mile you’ll come to Taylor-Bray Farm. A farmhouse has been at the site of Taylor-Bray Farm since about 1640, and recent archaeological work revealed that the property has been seasonally inhabited for as much as 10,000 years. The farm is open daily, dawn to dusk, and you can visit the animals — sheep, donkeys, goats, chickens, and a Scottish Highland cow — walk out on the boardwalk into the Black Flats Marsh, and learn about the history of the farm. The 20th Annual Sheep Festival takes place on June 20th and includes sheep shearing, sheep herding, hay wagon rides, refreshments, and tours of the restored c.1783 Taylor Farm House.
Five miles south of Taylor-Bray Farm, the Cultural Center of Cape Cod serves the entire Cape community and visitors to the area with classes, entertainment, and exhibitions in the visual, literary, and performing arts. The Cultural Center features five galleries, five resident artist studios, a performance hall, a gift shop, and an Education Wing that features a culinary arts center, recording studio, pottery studio, makerspace, and digital arts studio. Summer events include multiple concerts and open houses for new visual arts exhibitions.
Windmill by the Water and the Wreck of a Pirate Ship
Continue on Old Main Street from the Cultural Center, take a left on River Street and follow it to the end. The Judah Baker Windmill is a completely restored 18th-century structure on Bass River with a park and a small beach. The Windmill makes a perfect photo opportunity!
Follow Willow Street out to Route 28, and visit the Whydah Pirate Museum, home to thousands of items from the wreck of the Whydah and the largest collection of pirate artifacts recovered from a single shipwreck anywhere in the world. Shipwrecked in a nor’easter in 1717, the Whydah sank deep into Cape Cod waters, only to be discovered by intrepid diver Barry Clifford and his team, who dedicated years of their lives to recovering the artifacts of the Whydah, from cannon and pistols to buttons and buckles — and, of course, pirate treasure: gold, silver, and pieces of eight.
Historic ships and historic homes, contemporary art and music, sheep and nature walks: Yarmouth has something for everyone, no matter what your vacation goals!
For places to stay on the Mid-Cape, click here. For dining options on the Mid-Cape, click this link. And for additional things to do during your visit to the Mid-Cape, click here.