Some visitors are drawn to Dennis for fine summer theater; others come for family-style attractions along Route 28. Indeed, to outsiders, Dennis suffers from a split personality.
On the north side of town, Route 6A continues along its scenic way, governed by a historical commission. Skirting Dennis and East Dennis, Route 6A is lined with a smattering of antiques shops, crafters, and sea captains’ gracious homes. Colonial side roads off Route 6A lead to beach communities — and Sesuit Harbor and marsh, where the fishing industry once flourished and fishing charters now depart. Note the streets in this area, named for methods of preserving fish: Cold Storage Road and Salt Works Road.
The Cape’s oldest cranberry bog is also off Route 6A; Dennis resident Henry Hall cultivated the first cranberries in 1816. He discovered that the berries grow much better when covered with a light layer of sand. His brother, Isaiah, a cooper, patented the barrels used to transport the harvest. It wasn’t until the 1840s, when sugar became more readily available, that anyone could do much with these tart berries, though.
The center of Dennis has a quintessential white steeple church, town green, and bandstand.
On the southern side of town, the 6-mile-long Bass River is the largest tidal river on the eastern seaboard. It offers lots of exploration, fishing, and birding. Although it has never been proved, it’s widely believed that Viking explorer Leif Eriksson sailed up the Bass River about 1,000 years ago, built a camp, and stayed awhile.
Follow Cove Road off Route 28 and Main Street for nice views of the Bass River and sheltered Grand Cove. In Dennis Port, kids will enjoy the smaller Swan River in a paddleboat.
If you’ve fallen in love with the Cape and want to take a deeper dive with exploring, my Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket: An Explorer’s Guide has been the region’s travel bible since it was first published in 1995.
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