The Splendors of Yarmouth
Cape Cod’s heart and soul
Residing nearly smack-dab in the middle of Cape Cod, and stretching from Cape Cod Bay to the north down to Nantucket Sound to the south, the village of Yarmouth prides itself on its rich history and heritage. Established in 1639, it is comprised of the smaller villages of South Yarmouth, West Yarmouth, and Yarmouth Port. One of the most historic stretches of one of America’s most historic roads passes through Yarmouth, and though there is so much that makes up this town, its history is where its journey begins.
The Old King’s Highway, better known to many as Route 6A, runs for roughly 32 miles from Sandwich east through Orleans, before picking up again for a 9-mile run in Truro and Provincetown. The tree-shaded road hugs the northern coast of the Cape and contains numerous historic homes, quaint shops, and celebrated restaurants. Three and a half of those scenic miles lie within the borders of Yarmouth.
The Yarmouth Port section of the Old King’s Highway contains several beloved Cape Cod landmarks. Heading west to east, we start with one of the finest lodging locations the Cape over, Liberty Hill Inn. The nine-room bed and breakfast, located inside a shipwright’s home built in 1825, is not only a four-time Traveler’s Choice winner through TripAdvisor, it is also regarded as one of the quintessential bed and breakfast spots in the entire country. It is a worthy home base for any visitor to Yarmouth.
Less than half a mile east is the iconic Hallet’s Store. It is a true throwback to the 19th-century glory days of the General Store. Originally built in 1889 by Thacher Taylor Hallet as an apothecary, it has remained in the Hallet family for more than a century, with Charles Clark as the fourth-generation owner. Serving homemade ice cream, sandwiches and old-fashioned sodas, the store has many fixtures inside, which remain from the original opening.
Simply step a few doors down for fresh sushi and more at Inaho. Though it began in Hyannis in 1989, Inaho, owned by Yuji and Alda Watanabe, soon after moved to its home on Route 6A. Their decades of delectable offerings have rightfully earned them loyal customers both near and far. Those who are not sushi eaters can venture only a quarter-mile down the road to dine at a spot nearly as old as Yarmouth itself. The Old Yarmouth Inn began its life as a stagecoach stop in 1696. It was christened Old Yarmouth Inn in 1948 after being known previously as Yarmouth Tavern. Though it has been a restaurant specializing in traditional American cuisine for more than half a century, it was in fact an inn in its former life. The building retains much of its charm from its early days, which makes dining there unique.
Just before Route 6A crosses into the town of Dennis, you’ll find another well-patronized eating and drinking establishment, Oliver’s and Planck’s Tavern. Since 1983, the Ormon family has been serving lunch and dinner, slinging tasty drinks, and supplying varied entertainment all under one relaxed roof.
How about gifts? For the reader there is the delightfully unique Parnassus Book Service. Once known as Knowles General Store, the family-run bookstore has carried the traditional titles while also delving deep into rarities and antiques, many pertaining to Cape Cod history and genealogy, since 1959. The traditional gift-giver will find anything and everything they need at Just Picked Gifts. Located where Willow Street meets Route 6A, it is a newer gift shop in the original Christmas Tree Shop building. Since 2011, Just Picked has been selling copious amounts of local ware from talented artisans, and it has become a destination in and of itself.
The one common thread as you drive along Route 6A through Yarmouth is that the landscape is dotted by sea captains’ homes. Known as Captain’s Mile, this collection of more than 50 homes formerly owned by sea captains is perhaps the most endearing and genuine connection Route 6A maintains to Cape Cod’s past. Each home is designated by an oval, black and gold schooner plaque, awarded by the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth. Some of the legendary captain’s homes in the stretch include those of Ansel Hallet, Bangs Hallet, Asa Eldridge, James Bacon Crocker, and dozens more.
The beauty of nature along the north side of Yarmouth cannot be understated. The unobstructed views of Cape Cod Bay are plentiful. Perhaps most frequented of these areas is the spot known as Bass Hole, officially known as Gray’s Beach. In addition to the boardwalk, which includes inscribed planks, there is a picnic area, playground, and numerous walking trails. Although you will see an abundance of wildlife hiking through the trails at Bass Hole, an even better spot for animal lovers is nearby Taylor-Bray Farm. The 22-acre farm, located on Bray Farm Road, is home to sheep, cattle, goats, donkeys and chickens. Richard and Ruth Taylor established the farm in 1639, and it remained in the Taylor family until 1896, when George and Willie Bray purchased it for $400. The grounds are open to the public and are free to visit, though donations are greatly appreciated.
On the south side of Yarmouth, there is a trio of excellent restaurants that have stood the test of time. First is The Riverway Lobster House, located at the intersection of Route 28 and North Main Street. One of the oldest restaurants on the Cape, it has been serving seafood, steaks and more classic fare in a comfy atmosphere since 1944. Captain Parker’s Pub, sitting two and a half miles from The Riverway, has been serving great food in a family-friendly environment for more than 30 years. Gerry Manning opened his beloved establishment in 1981, and it has remained open nearly every day since. The pub’s greatest claim to fame, though, has to be their clam chowder, which has won numerous awards, including Cape Cod Chowder Fest’s top honor eight times. Then there’s the Skipper Chowder House, overlooking Parker’s River Beach. In operation since 1936, it has been serving classic Cape Cod seafood and its own award-winning chowder for generations of locals and visitors alike.
The recreational opportunities are numerous in Yarmouth. They include calm south-side beaches like Seagull Beach, which abuts the luxurious Great Island. There is also Bass River Beach, more commonly known as Smuggler’s Beach, at the mouth of Bass River. It combines sun and sand with a slice of history. It is on these shores during Prohibition that alcohol smuggling known as “rum running” took place, with some of the illegal booze making its way to the Casa Madrid speakeasy located only a quarter-mile away. That building still exists today on Run Pond Road.
For more exciting slices of history the entire family can enjoy, there is the Whydah Pirate Museum. Located on Route 28 in the former site of the ZooQuarium, Cape Cod’s newest museum is a celebration of Sam Bellamy and the Whydah pirate ship, which wrecked off the coast of Wellfleet in 1717. Considered the worst shipwreck along the Cape’s shores, the Whydah is remembered with stories and actual artifacts from the ship, including the world’s only authentic pirate treasure.
Yarmouth’s newest recreation option is one that connects the village to most of the remaining stretch of Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Rail Trail, which for decades ended at Route 134 in Dennis, was extended 3.7 miles west into Yarmouth. Construction began on the project in October 2015. The new leg of the Rail Trail, which includes bridges over Route 134 and Station Avenue in Yarmouth, was opened to the public officially in December 2018. There is a large parking area on Station Ave., and the Rail Trail now ends at Higgins Crowell Road—it is now possible for riders to park in Yarmouth and take the trail all the way out to Wellfleet. There are plans to extend it further into Hyannis near Mary Dunn Road, with a potential parking area on Independence Drive, already in the developmental stages.
Occupying the center of Cape Cod and stretching from bay to sound, Yarmouth keeps its rich history front and center. Picturesque Route 6A provides an escape from the bustle of Route 28, giving drivers, riders and walkers a slower scenic trip into Cape Cod’s heart and soul. Filled with tried and true restaurants, entertaining attractions, quaint shops, and bordered by pristine beaches, the town of Yarmouth has something for everyone. It is at once a lively hub and a quiet throwback to simpler bygone days. It is a place to stay up late and a place for a peaceful afternoon stroll. Yarmouth’s village life is everything good about Cape Cod rolled into 24 square miles of land.
Visiting the Village
Barfield’s of Cape Cod, now in its 49th year, offers a vast array of high-quality silk, linen and parchment shades. Barfield’s also makes, on-site, a variety of custom shades and light fixtures, and will repair and restore fixtures, lamps and shades, whether to maintain the historic character of your piece, or update its appearance. Bring your creativity and come be inspired!
175 Main Street, Yarmouth Port. 508-362-4867
Voted “Best Shop for the Home,” Design Works is a lifestyle boutique that celebrates both style and sensibility. With a carefully curated selection of original art, vintage goods, home accessories, clothing, jewelry, and kids’ merchandise, they have created a space that echoes the laid-back coastal lifestyle that Cape Cod is known for.
159 Main Street, Yarmouth Port. 508-362-9698. designworkscapecod.com
Harvest of Barnstable is celebrating its 38th year in business, with 19 of those years in their historic location at 89 Willow Street. Known for their seasonal, in-house design creations in floral and shell-themed décor, they also sell unique gifts for the home, jewelry, and more! Custom designs are available for your home or workplace in the Yarmouth Port design center or their Main Street, Falmouth store.
The choice is yours! Award-winning Thirwood Place, Cape Cod’s premier senior living community in South Yarmouth, has multiple programs for apartment rentals. Resort-like amenities abound as well as fine dining, housekeeping, maintenance service and a full slate of activities and excursions. Stop by anytime for a casual tour of this beautiful community.
237 North Main Street, South Yarmouth. 508-398-8006. thirwoodplace.com
For almost 27 years, Wild Birds Unlimited of South Yarmouth has been bringing people and nature together, helping customers from all over enjoy the hobby of backyard bird feeding. Simply put, Wild Birds has the products, knowledge and experience to help you get the best out of your backyard.
1198 Main Street, South Yarmouth. 508-760-1996. southyarmouth.wbu.com
Family owned and operated for over 20 years, Yarmouth Pizza by Evan offers a delicious menu of pizza, sandwiches and more. Conveniently located at 559 Route 6A in Yarmouth Port, Yarmouth Pizza by Evan has everything you need for a lunch, dinner or snack that the whole family will love. Save the fish and eat a pizza at Yarmouth Pizza by Evan!