Two days in Dennis—a Cape Cod photo essay
As mentioned, recreational opportunities can be found all over town. Visitors to Cape Cod Waterways, a water craft rental company adjacent to Swan River in Dennis Port, have two pleasant directions to choose from: they can set out northward on the river for a mile to get to Swan Pond, or head south for 1.5 miles to reach the beach. “This is a beautiful spot for paddling on the tidal estuary,” says Dan Pogorelc, the company’s owner. The river has gentle currents, Pogorelc adds, and there are no boats with large engines and wakes to worry about. Also, paddlers often see herons, egrets and sometimes even river otters along the way. “We cater to entry-level customers,” says Pogorelc. “It’s a nice, easy paddle. Just about anybody should be able to get in the boat and go.” The company rents kayaks, paddleboards, canoes and pedal boats, and is open May through Columbus Day.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail begins in Dennis, off Route 134, and it’s a hugely popular draw for both walkers and cyclists. Departing from the trailhead, one could cycle or walk all the way to Wellfleet—some 24-1/2 miles of mostly flat and scenic terrain. Along the trail we met cycling enthusiast Michael Strobl of Brewster. “I’m on [the rail trail] every day it doesn’t rain,” Strobl says. “In July and August, there are literally thousands of people riding on the trail every day.” Another fun activity is a climb to the top of Scargo Tower, and those who make the 30-foot ascent are rewarded with pleasant views of Scargo Lake—which some say bears resemblance to a Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.
We also swung by The Dennis Highlands Golf Course, which together with Dennis Pines comprises the town’s public golf courses. “The conditions of the [Highlands] course are top notch,” office manager Maryellen Fabiano-Stowe says. “Even though it’s a municipal golf course, you really get a private course feel here.” A resident of Dennis, Fabiano-Stowe worked for the town previously, and she’s enthusiastic about the community. “You’ve got everything you need here,” she says. “You’ve got your beaches, you’ve got your golf, great food, et cetera.”
To cool off, we dipped into the Ice Cream Smuggler on Route 6A. Manager Tara Brooke says Dennis is simply a small, friendly town. “Everybody knows everybody,” Brooke says. “You go out for ice cream and you meet your friends.” She adds that many of the shop’s patrons are regulars and most know each other. What are the most popular flavors? “Vanilla,” she says, “chocolate peanut butter . . . coffee heath bar . . . and mocha chip.” Brooke adds that a few years back a couple got engaged while visiting the shop. The would-be groom proposed by way of a sweet message on one of the shop’s ice cream cakes. “And then,” Brooke says, “a group of customers spontaneously broke into ‘Going to the chapel and we’re gonna get married.’” The couple exchanged vows in 2016—and served an Ice Cream Smuggler ice cream cake at the reception.
To get a better sense of Dennis Port, we spent a few afternoon hours in the village visiting businesses, chatting with locals and exploring. Labelle’s General Store is a fun stop for colorful Dennis Port sweatshirts and hats, and there’s a hearty section devoted to culinary instruments like lobster-shaped cookie cutouts and lobster claw oven mitts. Another great shop for gifts is Sodium, an art studio featuring colorful wooden sculptures of sharks, fish, dolphins and other sea creatures. Across the street, we savored the sweets and coffee at Buckies Biscotti and meditated on the massive murals that local artist Hans de Castellane has painted on buildings in the village. The artwork includes an attractive sailing scene and a Hopper-esque arrangement of Boston sports legends.
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