Weekend: Sandwich, Massachusetts
I’m not a good one to tell you what to do in Sandwich, Massachusetts, especially if you have just a weekend. There’s so much to do and see, and on each of our annual visits, we add more to the list. My advice about Sandwich is “go early and often.”
And by “early” I don’t mean in the season, though that works, too. I mean early, like dawn. There’s no better way to begin your day than by watching the sunrise turning Cape Cod Bay a dusty rose. The beach is best accessed by a 1,000-foot boardwalk across a winding tidal creek.
It’s hard when strolling here to not look down at the names of families, dogs, businesses, and lovers engraved on the boardwalk planks — but save that for the return trip.
Raise your eyes instead to the vast salt marsh that stretches to the sea. This gentle view is punctuated by a single tower that holds a big platform for ospreys. Even with the naked eye you can watch a nesting couple feeding fish to their young.
From the Town Neck end of the beach you’ll catch a rare view of the entrance to Cape Cod Canal. On our last visit, we watched a chubby tugboat tow a big tanker from the North Atlantic into the mouth of the canal. We talked about trying to race the ship to watch it pass under Sagamore Bridge. But sand, lapping waves, pebbles, and shells made us linger at the water’s edge.
Later we returned to our room at The Dan’l Webster Inn to develop a game plan. We always check in on Friday night to guarantee that we’ll be local for the morning beach ritual. Lodging has been offered on this site for more than 300 years; in its Revolutionary days, the tavern served as Patriot headquarters for this area.
A horse-drawn carriage filled with planters of pansies and geraniums sits out front. We enjoy rooms with four-poster beds and gas fireplaces. The modern amenities offered here — spa treatments, Jacuzzi, contemporary cuisine, and an award-winning wine list — do not clash with the inn’s Colonial atmosphere.
The day revolves around history, and with good reason: Sandwich is the oldest town on the Cape. Come here to amble, as in the days when the road was just a cart path traveled by settlers from Plymouth Colony. Visiting Sandwich is like seeing an old friend whose stories are familiar. We do not search for something new; rather, we become attuned to nuance. Now, after several visits, the Hoxie House isn’t just the oldest home on the Cape; to us it’s also the tiny windows, built in the days when glass was scarce, and the way someone might have had to stoop where the severe saltbox roof meets the ground.
At Dexter Grist Mill, we don’t see just a restored 17th-century wooden paddlewheel; we picture farmers bringing precious corn to be ground into meal. Around the corner, the Sandwich Glass Museum chronicles an early American industry in thousands of sparkling, colorful glass pieces. Here we envision a lady dressed in a silk ball gown, holding in her hand a graceful cologne bottle, the one displayed here.
A Sandwich weekend shouldn’t simply be the stuff of guidebooks: three centuries of architecture; a perfect walking village complete with duck pond, museums, and antiques shops; and, of course, dunes and beaches. When you visit, do as we do: suspend time. Float, as if on a gentle wave, in and out of time and the interesting stories of the people who once lived where you now linger.