Dennis has a storied history of sea captains, Indians, maritime industry. The town stretches from Cape Cod Bay in the north to the ocean in the south and has excellent beaches on both sides. In addition, Dennis is bordered by the Bass River, which exits onto the ocean, and has numerous small kettle ponds (lakes formed by glacial activity).
The town is confusingly divided into subsections: East Dennis is in the north and is relatively upscale, with bay beaches, fine restaurants and shops along Route 6A, and a traditional village green. South Dennis is south of "east" Dennis and is where many of the year-round residents live. West Dennis is south and west of South Dennis and straddles the area between the Bass River and the ocean. Dennisport is east of south Dennis and stretches along Route 28 and the ocean.
The area south of route 28 to the ocean (West Dennis and Dennisport) is a holiday rental area, with numerous seasonal cottages.
July and August are extremely busy, with crowded roads and humid, unreliable weather. If your schedule allows it, September is the best month. The weather is usually crisp and warm, the crowds are gone, and you can take your dog to the beaches.
From Route 6, get off at exit 9A (south toward Dennisport, the bay, and Route 28) or 9B (north toward East Dennis and the ocean). See the "Get out" section, below, for important tips about traffic on summer weekends!
A car is the best way to get around Dennis, but there are a few public transportation options. The Dennis Chamber of Commerce maintains a website with information on getting to Dennis and getting around by bus:
[Chamber of Commerce website http://www.dennischamber.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=19&page=1]
Most people come to Dennis for its excellent beaches. West Dennis beach in the south is a mile-long stretch of sand and surf, with a rudimentary bath house and concession stand. A wind surfing station is available about halfway down the beach. The beach is lined with parking and you can park there on all but the busiest days.
Corporation and Mayflower beaches on the bay side are the most popular. They are great for kids, because the water is warmer and calmer than the ocean side. The tide on the bay goes out a very long way, so you can walk on the tidal flats for miles. Be careful of the rising tide, which comes in very quickly.
The Town of Dennis provides a list of their conservation areas, which are good places to walk with dogs in the woods. One of the most scenic is the Indian Lands (formerly an Indian reserve), which has two loops along the Bass River and its marshes. The entrance is from Dennis Town Hall parking lot on Main Street in South Dennis, along the power line track.
The Dennis Historical Society maintains several historic properties, mostly sea captains' houses. See their website for details of locations and events.
You can rent kayaks from businesses along 28 in West Dennis near the Bass River (for zipping in and out between motor-powered boats) or on 28 near the Swan River (peaceful and shallow).
If you prefer someone else to do the work, you can arrange an amusing boat tour of the Bass River from the Windmill Plaza in West Dennis on 28. The Sesuit Harbor Cafe in East Dennis does breakfast/lunch/dinner cruises on the bay side.
The famous Cape Cod Rail Trail, popular with bicyclists, begins in Dennis and runs to Wellfleet. It passes through a lot of pleasant Cape Cod scenery. Start at a parking lot off Route 134, just north of 28.
Most tourists overlook the ponds, but they are a terrific alternative to the ocean when you have children. The town has several with little sandy beaches where you can swim. Flax Pond off Setucket Road in South Dennis is a particularly nice place to swim with little children.
When your kids are tired of wind and sand, the town has several well-equipped playgrounds. The Ezra Baker school on 28 in South Dennis has two, one for very small children. Another good playground is behind the historic Graded School on School Street, off 28, in West Dennis.
A somewhat tacky flea market is held on summer weekends on Theophilis Smith Road, next to the Patriot Square shopping Center. If you like bargain hunting, check the Cape Cod Times for weekend yard sales. Because of the large number of elderly residents, estate sales and moving sales are a cottage industry.
An infinite number of eclectic shops line route 28 in the south and a smattering of more upscale shops are along Route 6 in East Dennis. There are plenty of interesting one-person artisan shops, themed shops, consignments shops, and souvenir shops, as well as the larger Cape-themed places, like Cuffy's of Cape Cod (sweatshirts, and t-shirts with Cape Cod logos, etc., on 28 in West Dennis).
Dennisport has a small but good health food store, a self-service dog wash, and several antique stores.
Seafood, seafood, seafood--fried with french fries. You can find numerous traditional fried seafood places along 28, all with long lines in the summer. A local favorite is the Marathon in West Dennis, run by a charming Greek couple. It has 50s small-town ambiance and a traditional fried seafood menu.
For fried seafood with a view, the Sesuit Harbor Cafe on Sesuit Neck Road in East Dennis does a brisk business for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The seafood is excellent and you eat it at rustic picnic tables overlooking the harbor.
For American food, the Dog Leg Grill on Old Bass River Road is popular, as is the All-American Bar and Grill on 134 near 28.
For a more upscale experience, the Scargo Cafe on 6A in East Dennis has reasonably priced, excellent food and is popular with local year-round. The Marshside on Bridge Street in East Dennis has good food and view of the marshes. For outstanding Italian, don't miss Norabella on 28 in West Dennis, not far from Cuffy's store. The building looks like a shack, but inside this small restaurant is very elegant.
More upscale still is Fin in East Dennis, considered one of the finest restaurants on the Cape.
For breakfast, you can't beat the Red Cottage on Old Bass River Road, South Dennis! They have great food, a huge innovative menu and the places has great unstudied old-time charm, but the wait can be long at peak times. If you don't want to wait, try to local hideaway, The Good Friends Cafe on School Street in West Dennis. The food is good and the welcome is always warm.
Ethnic food is thin over the ground and much of it is pretty awful. But the Bangkok Cuisine in Patriot Square Plaza on 134 has good if unexceptional Thai.
O'Shea's Olde Inn on 28 in West Dennis is the place to go for a pint and a meal. They have live music every night, Irish sessions, and the best pub atmosphere this side of Dublin. The service from overstretched wait staff can be spotty, but listen to another tune and the waiter will eventually get there.
Luke's Liquors on 28 in Dennisport is the best place to pick up a six-pack or a bottle of wine. Good prices and a vast selection.
Your reviewer lives here and doesn't have much experience of accommodation. In general, stay in East Dennis if you want quiet and scenic; stay south if you want more action.
Traffic on Route 6 coming on and off the Cape in the summer can be a real challenge. The weekends around July 4th are the worst. If possible, try to avoid coming on or off the Cape between 8 AM and 2 PM on Saturdays. (Rental cottages change over on Saturdays, so traffic is very heavy in both directions.) If you're leaving on a Sunday, go before 9 AM to avoid the jams. Or aim to leave around 6 PM, when there's usually a dinner-time lull. Traffic coming onto the Cape is heavy both Thursday and Friday nights.