Leisure trips to Massachusetts become most fulfilling if these include a stay or a visit to the charming town of Harwich in Barnstable County.
The tourism industry is a major driver of the town’s economy, and so, visitors can expect superb accommodations and points of interest in Harwich.
This town occupies one of the most sought-after locations in Cape Cod—the southern lower portion of this hook-shaped peninsula.
The waters of Nantucket Sound off the beaches of Harwich are temperate and gentle, and thus, tourists adore them.
Additionally, Harwich is just 20 miles away from the pristine 43,607 acres of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Banner to the natural attractions in and around Harwich, this Cape Cod preserve offers 40 miles of pristine coastline, ponds, marshes, and uplands.
Check why you’re likely to follow the footsteps of those Cape Cod tourists in the following list of 15 best things to do in Harwich.
Explore the Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail is a paved trail on former railroad tracks running 25.5 miles across seven Barnstable towns in Cape Cod peninsula, including Harwich.
The most convenient way to take this trail from Harwich is at its parking area on Headwaters Drive, just half a kilometer west of the Cape Cod Technical High School.
This trail is ideal for walking, running, bird watching, and biking, and one of its flanks has a wide unpaved shoulder suited for horse riding.
Throughout the trail, there are many opportunities for side trips to the beach, as well as scenic views of several ponds you can enjoy along the way.
Dogs on a leash are allowed in this trail, and food, water, and restrooms are accessible in your exploration of the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
Chill Out at Hawksnest State Park
To get away from the beach crowds in Harwich in the coastal south of this town, head north to the 236-acre Hawksnest State Park.
This park, which is accessible via either Round Cove Road or Spruce Road, was established in the early 1970s.
There are three large ponds in this park that are maintained largely as a nature preserve, and hence, its ponds are the least developed in the town.
In one of these ponds, Hawksnest Pond, you can access informal ramps for small boats, like canoes, kayaks, and motorized water vessels.
Besides boating, the leisure activities you can enjoy at Hawksnest State Park include swimming, fishing, hiking, horse riding, and hunting.
To fully enjoy the natural setting of this park, take any of the trails around its ponds.
Visit the Past in Harwich Historic District
Get fascinated by the history of Harwich dating back to the 1600s, with a tour of the town’s Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The must-visit here is the distinctive New England-style building at 80 Parallel Street, home of the Harwich Historical Society and Brooks Academy Museum.
This building was the former schoolhouse of Brooks Academy, founded around the mid-1800s, which became a museum and historical society headquarters in 1988.
The museum displays thousands of the society’s collected artifacts that include textiles and clothing, artworks, and tools.
Cranberry Culture is the centerpiece exhibit of the museum, underscoring Harwich’s reputation as the birthplace of the US cranberry industry.
Take the Cranberry Bog Tours
Learn about Harwich’s commercial cranberry farming that traces back to the 1860s as one of the town’s early industries.
For amazing Cranberry Bog Tours, proceed to 1601 Factory Rd., where the Harwich couple Leo and Andrea Cakounes operate what they claim as Cape Cod’s largest organic cranberry bog.
These one-and-a-half-hour tours are held in spring and summer, with a run in fall well-timed for the September Harwich Cranberry Festival.
During the kid-friendly tour, you will learn about the 12-month operation of a cranberry bog, its equipment, and the farm animals involved.
You can also visit the Cranberry Bog Tours’ farm stand and gift shop for buying options on fresh eggs and cranberry-related items.
Enjoy Beach-Hopping Picks: Saltwater or Freshwater
Spending leisure time in water-based activities in Harwich first entails choosing from any of its 17 saltwater beaches along the Atlantic Coast and six freshwater beaches inland.
The town’s saltwater beaches are all off Nantucket Sound, with several of them with parking areas.
The Red River Beach of Harwich is easily the most frequented by visitors, as it provides nearly 200 parking spaces.
This beach, unlike the other saltwater Harwich beaches, also has a designated area for kayaks, sailboats, windsurfers, and surfboards.
Two freshwater Harwich beach destinations—Bucks Pond and Cahoons Road Beach—also feature a canoe and kayak launch.
For waterskiing, another freshwater beach—Long Pond—provides a boat ramp open for vessels of not more than 10 HP.
Mobile food concessions, lifeguards, bike racks, and restrooms are provided on many of the beaches of Harwich.
Feel the Town Vibe at Brooks Park
You can capture the New England town ambiance of Harwich in its recreation hub.
Brooks Park wedged on the east corner of Oak Street and Main Street.
Community activities in this park can be enjoyed in its sports facilities, including those for baseball, basketball, tennis, and pickleball.
Brooks Park also boasts a well-equipped children’s playground, with a small field and picnic tables on its flanks conducive for the chaperones of the kids at play.
During the summer months of July and August, the park hosts every Tuesday concerts of the Harwich Town Band.
Shows and special events organized by the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod are also held at the park every Monday each summer.
Go for Taste Tests at First Crush Winery
At Harwich, you’d be more than 3,000 miles away from the vineyards of California’s Napa Valley.
But just the same, you can enjoy the splendid taste of wine from this region via the First Crush Winery at Harwich’s 527 Main St., easily accessible from the Cape Cod Rail Trail.
This winery has vineyards in the Napa region, and its Harwich facility handles the wine production end.
You can experience indoor wine-tasting at First Crush Winery for a chance to see numerous historic wine-making equipment.
After viewing some classic wine-making paraphernalia like stainless steel tanks and wine barrels, you also have the option for an outdoor wine tasting.
At very affordable rates, First Crush Winery offers two choices on taste samplings: standard with five wines and premier with six wines.
Rev Things Up at Bud's Go-Karts
Take the whole family for a spin on the racetrack of Bud’s Go-Karts at 9 Sisson Rd. corner Main Street in Harwich Port village at the southeastern part of Harwich town.
Bud’s Go-Karts is already an institution in Harwich, as it has been operating daily during the summer since the 1960s.
The racetrack in Bud’s is friendly to go-kart beginners, as it only runs in a large circle, unlike many other tracks with sharp twists and turns.
Moreover, Bud’s go-karts run at a speed manageable for kids such that they will have fun and be safe controlling their vehicles.
Children at least eight years old and 54 inches tall can drive solo at Bud’s, while those below will have to be accompanied by a qualified driver.
Play Mini-Golf: Bud’s or Holiday Hill?
There are two options for playing mini-golf in a visit to Harwich: the new course adjacent to Bud’s Go-Karts or Holiday Miniature Golf at 350 Main St., Dennis Port, just 4 miles west of Harwich town.
Bud’s Mini Golf opened on Sisson Rd. in July 2021, and its 18-hole course features waterfalls, ponds, and a cave to play through.
Nautical elements, such as a lighthouse, skeins of rope, anchor, lobster traps, and fishing boat, also adorn the Bud’s Mini Golf course.
Playing at the Holiday Hill Miniature Golf, which has been operating since 1958, is also inviting with its Cape Cod theme.
It also provides an 18-hole course, with 18-foot waterfalls and exquisite landscaping full of flowers as its backdrop.
Watch Baseball at the Whitehouse Field
Summer visits to Harwich open the opportunity to watch exciting baseball games at the Whitehouse Field at 75 Oak Street.
Each summer, this ballpark hosts the home games of the Harwich Mariners team, which has held multiple titles in the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL).
The Whitehouse Field has a seating capacity of 4,000 spectators and is located adjacent to the campus of the Monomoy Regional School.
Several major CCBL events have been held in this ballpark, including the league’s all-star games.
The ballpark also enjoys proximity to Brooks Park, the Cranberry Golf Course, and the Harwich Community Center, where you can check other interesting events happening in the town.
Hunt for Antiques at Harwich Antiques Center
Steer toward Route 28 (Main Street) for a trip to Harwich for hunting all sorts of collectible antiques.
The hot target of antique collectors along this stretch is the Harwich Antique Center at No. 10 Route 28.
Readers of Cape Cod Magazine have voted this store in West Harwich village as one of Cape Cod’s best antique shops.
Consignors and local dealers ply their wares at Harwich Antique Center, where your vintage finds can include jewelry, toys, vinyl records, and military memorabilia items.
More items from various eras are also on sale at the Dennisport Main Street Antiques Center, just some 200 meters west of the Harwich Antique Center.
Play Golf at the Cranberry Valley Links
The town of Harwich owns and operates a top-rated golf facility—the Cranberry Valley Golf Course at 183 Oak Street.
This 18-Hole championship golf course impresses visiting golfers with its superb design from the drawing boards of ace course architects Cornish and Robinson.
This course has hosted many state and national golf championships and tournament qualifiers.
A well-maintained course, the Cranberry Valley links play at par 72 over 6,746 yards from the longest tee.
Besides its greens and fairways, the course offers as practice grounds two chipping/pitching greens, a putting green, and practice bunkers.
The Cranberry Valley Golf Course offers private lessons and clinics, plus a full-service restaurant.
Enjoy Italian Cuisine at Buca’s Tuscan Roadhouse
Reserve a table at Buca’s Tuscan Roadhouse at 4 Depot Road corner Main Street for an unforgettable dining experience.
The building that the restaurant occupies at once delights with its New England architecture and prominent brick chimney.
Among the restaurant’s items earning five-star ratings from patrons include Buca’s arugula salad, scallops, bruschetta, and of course, pasta.
The restaurant, moreover, offers an extensive wine list, and its friendly staff will guide you on the right food pairings.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Explore Cape Cod National Seashore
The Cape Cod National Seashore(CCNS), created by President Kennedy in 1961, is 20 miles north of Harwich.
A CCNS side trip from Harwich unlocks several fine beaches along the coast of this 43,607-recreational preserve.
These coastal gems include Coast Guard Beach in Eastham and Race Point Beach in Provincetown, both included in listings of top US beaches.
Avid cyclists frequent CCNS for its paved bike trails like the Nauset Bike Trail in Eastham, the Province Lands Trails in Provincetown, and the Head of the Meadow Trail in Truro.
Other CCNS visitor hotspots include the Marconi Station, Highlands Center of the Arts, and the Dune Shacks of Peaked Hill Bars Historic District.
Have a Fun Day at Monomoy Island
Monomoy Island is a spit of sand 8 miles long and about 6 miles southeast of the Harwich coastline.
From Harwich, you can easily arrange a trip to this island through the Monomoy Island Excursions based at 731 Massachusetts Route 28 in Harwich Port village.
Your fun day begins at once in the boat crossing of Nantucket Sound from Harwich Port’s Wychmere Harbor.
The Monomoy Island Excursions will also take you to stops in other scenic harbors like Stage Harbor, offering awesome close-up views of its iconic lighthouse.
At Monomoy Island, you’ll have a great day touring its national wildlife refuge with resident seals among its attractions.
A visit to Harwich presents the kaleidoscope of attractions that have made Cape Cod a leading US tourist destination.
The town’s beaches along the waters of Nantucket Sound are among the most-visited coastal areas of Cape Cod.
Inland, the points of interest in Harwich are as enchanting, given the town’s rich history, prime recreational facilities, and proximity to other tourist magnets in Cape Cod.