by Lisa Cavanaugh
illustrations by Scott Buoncristiano
It is a well-understood truth that no Cape Cod summer is complete without ice cream. There is just something so undeniably perfect about a cold, creamy treat at the end of a beach day, during an exciting Cape League baseball game, or after a spectacular fireworks display. Somehow the mixture of warm salt water, ocean breezes, and frozen delicacies defines the essence of the Cape and Islands.
Here is a roundup of our favorite ice cream shops, just in time for the 2022 season. Stop by any of these spots for the finest dairy (and dairy-free) delights. If you have the verve—and the calories—to spare, why not do a full tour and visit each one?
Photo: The enormous “Fruity Pebbles Sando” at the Ice Cream Sandwich in Sandwich.
Candy Go Nuts If you like candy and ice cream, this is your place. Located in Woods Hole, Candy Go Nuts has been proudly serving up smiles since 1992 with Gifford’s ice cream and candy galore. 9 Luscombe Ave., Woods Hole; candygonuts.com
Cape Cod Creamery When Cape Cod Creamery opened in 2005, its goal was not to make good ice cream but the best ice cream possible. The company attributes its product’s superior taste to less air, which translates to more flavor, plus a commitment to using only the finest ingredients. Try some of its “Cape Cod” flavors like Provincetown Pistachio or Sandy Neck Snickers at either of its two seasonal locations in Yarmouth and Dennis or the year-round shop in Hyannis. Many local grocery stores sell its ice cream by the quart. 645 Iyannough Rd., Hyannis; 716 Main St., Dennis; 5 Theater Colony Rd., South Yarmouth; capecodcreamery.com
Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream Boasting an international chain of premium ice cream stores, Emack & Bolio’s first started in Boston in 1975 as a post-gig musician hangout. Today, the Cape Cod locations in Orleans, Chatham, and Wellfleet offer the same rocking and outrageous flavors that launched the brand back in the day. 82 Cranberry Hwy., Orleans; 37 Kent Place, Chatham; 326 W. Main St., Wellfleet; emackandbolioscapecod.com
Four Seas Ice Cream Serving homemade ice cream since 1934, this venerable store consistently lands on local and national “best of” lists. Generations of families have enjoyed old-fashioned cones, sundaes, sodas, and frappes inside the former blacksmith shop. Four Seas specializes in flavorful favorites like fresh peach, black raspberry, and peanut butter chocolate chip. Or branch out and try pecan penuche, an old-fashioned brown sugar flavor based on a special New England recipe. 360 S. Main St., Centerville; fourseasicecream.com
Ice Cream Sandwich Tired of the same old ice cream shop? Try many unique ice cream creations like the Fruity Pebbles Sando, Coco Pebbles Ice Cream Sandwiches, and Cape Cod Donuts Ice Cream Sandwich. 66 Route 6A, Sandwich; icecreamsandwichcc.com
Ice Cream Smuggler The interior of this shop—designed by Taniya Nayik of Food Network and HGTV fame—resembles a deconstructed ice cream cone. And that’s just the décor! Ice Cream Smuggler recently won the Taste of Massachusetts blog’s “Game of Cones” contest in 2021. Among its incredible offerings are the Smuggler’s Treasure, an enormous eight-scoop ice cream bowl fit for a hungry crew, and a world-famous hot fudge sundae that was featured on Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. All ice cream is made inhouse. 1555 Route 6A, East Dennis; icecreamsmuggler.com
The Juice Bar Nantucket Island Nestled in the heart of historic downtown, The Juice Bar first opened its doors in the late 1970s and has remained a seasonal favorite for residents and visitors. Its ice cream offerings include Crantucket (dark chocolate-covered cranberries folded in vanilla ice cream), Dirty Grasshopper (crushed Oreos in chocolate mint ice cream), and Triple Chocolate Mountain (brownies and chocolate chips in chocolate cake batter ice cream). Every flavor and all baked goods are made with care onsite. Tasty smoothies, frappes, and freshly squeezed juices are also available. 12 Broad St., Nantucket; ackjuicebar.com
Mad Martha’s Established in 1971, this ice cream shop is based on the legend of Martha, a little girl who lived on an island farm. As the story goes, her fresh cream froze one night and, after some recipe tinkering, she introduced ice cream to the islanders. Mad Martha’s has more than 25 flavors of ice cream and low-fat yogurt, including Chilmark Coffee, MV Sea Salt Caramel, and Vineyard Vanilla. Mad Martha’s is also the official ice cream of the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, a collegiate summer baseball team. 7 N Water St., Edgartown; 12 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs; 24 Union Street, Vineyard Haven; madmarthas.com
Penguin’s Ice Cream Factory Here, Disney movies play for kids in the sitting area while they enjoy their treats. A whopping 40 flavor choices include Campfire S’mores, Salted Caramel Pretzel, and Lemon Lime Summertime, just to name a few. But that’s not all: Penguin’s is known for its decadent ice cream pies lathered in candy, whip cream, chocolate fudge, or fruit depending on your craving. 289 Cotuit Rd., Sandwich; facebook.com/penguinsicecreamfactory
Short ‘n’ Sweet Ice Cream Located right off the Old Colony Rail Trail in Chatham, this shop serves up ice cream cones and sundaes in a vintage schoolhouse complete with school desks, maps, and books. Visit on game nights and you can enjoy your ice cream while watching the Chatham Anglers play on the big screen. 2334 Main St., South Chatham; facebook.com/shortnsweetchatham
Sundae School Ice Cream Named one of the country’s best ice cream spots by Food & Wine magazine, Sundae School has been making rich and creamy handcrafted ice cream on Cape Cod since 1976. Its two locations are open seasonally, but Sundae School makes ice cream all year round. It’s sold by the quart at both Dennis Public Market and Ring Brothers Market (also in Dennis). 381 Lower County Rd., Dennis Port; 606 Route 28, Harwich Port; sundaeschool.com
What’s The Scoop? Tucked next to a charming little mini golf course and close to Nantucket Sound beaches, this counter-service ice cream shop serves Richardson’s Farm ice cream, Richie’s Italian ice, fruit smoothies, and Cape Cod Coffee cold brew. 193 Shad Hole Rd., Dennis Port; capecone.com
Gelato Joy Cafe
“We named our ice cream shop to inspire families to come, sit down, and have a moment of joy,” says owner Sandy Valli. “We wanted it to be a place where everyone of all generations will stop, slow down, sample some ice cream, and enjoy the present moment.”
Valli, the daughter of an Air Force serviceman, moved to Wellfleet with her family in the 1980s when the Truro Air Force base was still active. Her husband, Leif, is also local and has a family tradition of making ice cream. The couple imagined retiring and opening an ice cream shop one day, but when a golden opportunity in downtown Wellfleet popped up, the Vallis took it. “My brother-in-law owns Sick Day surf shop and the building,” says Valli. “There was another available retail space, so we thought, why not now?”
The Vallis researched gelato and decided that its flavor-forward aspect fit Wellfleet and the Cape really well. “Gelato is made very simply with milk, which is a lighter base,” says the entrepreneur. “We decided to stick with very straightforward flavors versus a lot of candies, inclusions, or additions.”
With space for only 12 flavors, Valli and her husband choose their selections carefully. “We have sweet cream latte, dark chocolate, and sophisticated vanilla, and we try to do a berry rotation with raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry,” she describes. Gelato Joy also features sorbets with fresh fruit and a “nut case” filled with flavors like hazelnut, roasted almond, and much-in-demand pistachio.
“People have really seemed to embrace us,” says Valli. “They stop by to grab a cone before going down to the harbor to look at boats, or they buy a pint for a friend or family gathering. Gelato is a traditional Italian hostess gift,” she says. “Our customers love to relax and enjoy the pure simple happiness of gelato. I think it’s wonderful!” 3 W Main St., Wellfleet; gelatojoycafe.godaddysites.com
Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium of Martha’s Vineyard
For Jeannette Michaud, manager and co-owner of Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium of Martha’s Vineyard, it was a scoop of mud pie that lured her to a life in ice cream. “I was working in Bar Harbor, Maine, after college and a friend’s mom told me to go try the mud pie ice cream over at the original Ben & Bill’s,” says Michaud. “I went in, had my ice cream, and noticed a help wanted sign. They asked me if I could start that night.”
Michaud is now based in Falmouth, where she managed the Ben & Bill’s on Main Street before buying the Martha’s Vineyard location with her business partner, Dona Kruszewski. “Each store is self-sufficient,” says Michaud, “and we make all of our candies and ice cream right in the back.” In fact, she feels lucky to have Kenton Hunter as her ice cream maker. “He’s been there a very long time and is a perfectionist, especially when it comes to consistency from batch to batch. Kenton really knows his ice cream.”
Michaud attributes their product’s amazing flavor to their preferred butterfat content. “Some places use only 12 or 14 percent, but we go with 16 percent butterfat, which makes for a richer and definitely sweeter ice cream,” she says.
With so many visitors flocking to the island in recent years, she’s extended her season and is looking forward to another busy summer serving up more than 50 flavors of ice cream and yogurts. Vegan and lactose-free options round out the menu. But her own love of creamy ice cream, gooey fudge, and Oreos has not changed. “Mud pie is still my favorite,” she says, “even after all these years.” 20a Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs; benandbillsmv.com
The owners of Sweet Izzy couldn’t find the dairy-free ice cream experience they needed, so they decided to open a shop themselves. “My wife, Elizabeth, a holistic health coach, is not able to do dairy, soy, or gluten, so we created a completely plant-based ice cream named after our daughter Izzy,” says Mike Doucette, a Cape native. “Most people have ice cream memory associations, but that’s hard to achieve for families with nutritional sensitivities and food intolerances. Now, we’re able to give everyone that Cape Cod ice cream experience.”
Using a base of oat and coconut milks, Sweet Izzy makes both soft and hard serve in favorite flavors like coffee, cookies and cream, mint chip, and maple walnut. “We also do a soft serve cannoli sundae that’s really popular,” says Doucette.
Operating since July 2020, the store consistently receives positive feedback and gratitude from parents of kids with dairy allergies. “One mom last summer said thank you so much for giving my family the ability to feel normal,” says Doucette. “And that’s what Sweet Izzy is all about.”
296 Route 28, Harwich Port; sweet-izzy.business.site