Dennis has more than a dozen saltwater and two freshwater beaches open to nonresidents. The lots charge $15 to $20 per day; for a weeklong permit ($60), visit Town Hall at 485 Main St. in South Dennis (tel. 508/394-8300).
The bay beaches are charming and a big hit with families, who prize the easygoing surf, so soft it won’t bring toddlers to their knees. These include, going from west to east, Chapin Beach, a nice long bay beach pocked with occasional boulders and surrounded by dunes; 1,200-foot-long Mayflower Beach, which has an wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and tide pools kids love to dabble in; and Corporation Beach, which has a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk and a children’s play area. (Before it filled in with sand, this was once a packet landing for a shipbuilding corporation owned by area residents.) All three have restrooms; Mayflower and Corporation have lifeguards (Chapin doesn’t); Corporation also has a snack bar.
The beaches on Nantucket sound tend to attract wall-to-wall families, but the parking lots are usually not too crowded, as so many beachgoers stay within walking distance. A favorite is half-mile-long West Dennis Beach, which has lifeguards, a playground, a snack bar, restrooms, and a special kite-flying area (note that the eastern end is reserved for residents).
Inland, you’ll find Scargo Lake, a large kettle-hole pond (formed by a melting fragment of a glacier) with two pleasant beaches: Scargo Beach, accessible right off Route 6A, and Princess Beach, off Scargo Hill Road, where there are restrooms and a picnic area.
The 25-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail (tel. 508/896-3491) starts -- or, depending on your perspective, ends -- here, on Route 134, a half-mile south of Route 6's exit 9. Once a Penn Central track, this 8-foot-wide paved bikeway extends all the way to Wellfleet (with a few on-road lapses), passing through woods, marshes, and dunes. Sustenance is never too far off-trail, and plenty of bike shops dot the course. At the trail head is Barb's Bike Shop, 430 Rte. 134, South Dennis (tel. 508/760-4723), which rents bikes and does repairs. Rates are $12 for 2 hours, and up to $24 for the full day. Another paved bike path runs along Old Bass Road, 3 1/2 miles north to Route 6A.
Located on the small and placid Swan River, Cape Cod Waterways, 16 Rte. 28, Dennisport (tel. 508/398-0080; www.capecodwaterways.com), rents canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats, for exploring 200-acre Swan Pond (less than a mile north) or Nantucket Sound (2 miles south). A 1 1/2-hour kayak rental costs $20 for a single, $32 for a tandem; a full-day rental costs $58 for a single, $74 for a tandem.
Bass River Cruises, located at Bass River Bridge (at Rte. 28), in West Dennis (tel. 508/362-5555), explores the Bass and Weir rivers the way Leif Eriksson might have -- by boat. This one, a poky but stable custom minibarge, the MV Starfish, is motorized, so the whole circuit takes only 1 1/2 hours. If some of the tales strike you as rather tall, there's still plenty of wildlife and prime real estate to ogle. Trips are offered four times a day mid-May through mid-October; tickets are $18 for adults and $7 for children ages 1 to 11. Call for the schedule. They also rent kayaks at $20 for a single and $35 for a tandem for 1 1/2 hours.
Fishing is allowed in Fresh Pond and Scargo Lake, where the catch includes trout and smallmouth bass; for a license (shellfishing is also permitted), visit Town Hall, at 485 Main St., in South Dennis (tel. 508/394-8300); or Riverview Bait and Tackle, at 1273 Rte. 28, in South Yarmouth (tel. 508/394-1036). Plenty of people drop a line off the Bass River Bridge along Route 28, in West Dennis. Several charter boats operate out of the Northside Marina, in East Dennis's Sesuit Harbor, including the Albatross (tel. 508/385-3244), which charges $35 for adults, $30 for seniors and children 11 and under. It makes two 4-hour trips per day.
For joggers, and fitness freaks in general, the 1.5-mile Lifecourse trail, located at Old Bass River and Access roads in South Dennis, features 20 exercise stations along its tree-shaded path.
The public is welcome to use two 18-hole championship courses: the hilly, par-71 Dennis Highlands, on Old Bass River Road, in Dennis, and the even more challenging par-72 Dennis Pines, on Golf Course Road, in East Dennis. For information on either course, call tel. 508/385-8347 or visit www.dennisgolf.com. Both charge $64 for a round in the morning, $25 to $39 in the afternoon.
Nature & Wildlife Areas
Behind the town hall parking lot on Main Street in South Dennis, a half-mile walk along the Indian Lands Conservation Trail leads to the Bass River, where blue herons and kingfishers often take shelter. Dirt roads off South Street, in East Dennis, beyond the Quivet Cemetery, lead to Crow's Pasture, a patchwork of marshes and dunes bordering the bay; this circular trail is about 2.5 miles round-trip.
Public courts are located at the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, in South Yarmouth, and at Wixon Middle School, on Route 134, in South Dennis; for details contact the Dennis Recreation Department (tel. 508/760-6162). Or you may be able to book time at the Mashantum Tennis Club, at 11 Forehand Dr., off Nobscusset Road, in Dennis Village (tel. 508/385-7043), which has four clay courts and one hard court for $15 per person.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.