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New England's favorite summer playground has fine beaches, historic towns, inns, golf, restaurants, lots of lobsters and even vineyards. Here's my Travel Guide to Cape Cod:


by Tom Brosnahan
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Flags and Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Flags & Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, Cape Cod...





















Macmillan Pier, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Macmillan Pier, Provincetown, Cape Cod...












Couple on the beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

 

Once a collection of fishing towns, then a getaway vacation spot for Bostonians, Cape Cod, a 70-mile-long (113-km) arm of sand curled into the Atlantic (map), is now among New England's most popular seaside resort areas.

Cape Cod Beaches

The Cape's splendid beaches, especially in Cape Cod National Seashore, are busy in summer—especially its 10 best beaches—but there are so many, and some are so big, they can easily handle the crowds.

The beaches on the north and west shores of the Cape, facing Cape Cod Bay, tend to be smaller and the water warmer. Beaches on the south and east shores facing Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean tend to be longer, with cool to chilly water. More...

Getting to Cape Cod

Strictly speaking, Cape Cod is an island, separated from the rest of Massachusetts by the Cape Cod Canal, a deep waterway built from north to south across the base of Cape Cod in the 1930s (map).

Two graceful bridges span the canal—one at Bourne to the southwest (MA Route 28), one at Sagamore to the northeast (US Route 6)—and both are very busy— sometimes hopelessly jammed— in the warm months. Alternatives to driving a car include taking a bus, train, ferryboat or flight. More...

Towns of Cape Cod

The Cape's pretty towns are packed with visitors each summer. Each Cape Cod town has its own distinct character, activities and lodging possibilities. Even though some have lots of hotels, motels, inns, B&Bs and weekly rentals, most of these are fully booked in high summer, but lobster dinners are always available. Here they are, with the most popular destinations first.

Hyannis & Barnstable

Hyannis, on the Nantucket Sound (Atlantic shore) of Cape Cod (map), is not a town itself, but rather one of the seven villages of the Town of Barnstable. With fine beaches, a John F Kennedy Museum, excursion train, and lots of lodging and dining options, Hyannis is also Cape Cod's major transportation center for buses, trains, planes and ferryboats to Nantucket. More...

Barnstable Village, on the shore of Cape Cod Bay, is a small, pretty New England town with its County Courthouse and a few lodging and dining choices. More...

Provincetown

"P-Town," 65 miles (105 km) northeast of the Cape Cod Canal at the northern tip of Cape Cod (map), is historic: the Pilgrims landed here in 1620 and drew up the Mayflower Compact as their law before sailing on to Plymouth. Long a resort for artists, it's now also favored by LGBT vacationers and hordes of day-trippers coming by boat from Boston or by car, bus and bicycle from other Cape towns. They sun and swim at Cape Cod National Seashore, bicycle its bike paths, eat lobsters for lunch and dinner, and have fun. More...

Tip of Cape Cod aerial view, Massachusetts
Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod...

Falmouth & Woods Hole

Southernmost towns on the Cape, gracious old Falmouth is genteel, with a loyal summer repeat-visitor population looking for charm, calm, beaches, bike paths, and fine dining. More...

Woods Hole, 4.5 miles (7 km) southwest of Falmouth, is famous for its Oceanographic Institute, its aquarium, and car and passenger ferryboats to Martha's Vineyard. More...

Yarmouth

Extending right across the Cape from Cape Cod Bay to the Nantucket Sound, Yarmouth is many things to many people. Its village of Yarmouth Port on the Bay is calm, with fine old houses; West Yarmouth and South Yarmouth on the Atlantic shore bustle with the greatest concentration of hotels and motels—and traffic—on Cape Cod. Otherwise Yarmouth is forests and freshwater ponds. More...

Dennis

Like neighboring Yarmouth, Dennis extends right across the Cape, boasts fine beaches and lots of hotels and motels. It also has the Cape Playhouse, America's oldest professional summer theater; and Cape Cinema. More...

Orleans

All Cape Cod roads meet at Orleans, halfway from the Cape Cod Canal to Provincetown (map). This is where the first transatlantic telegraph cable (from Brest, France) came ashore in 1879, and where many visitors come for the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore. More...

Sandwich

Just off the Sagamore Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, looking northeast into Cape Cod Bay (map), Sandwich is usually bypassed as visitors speed toward Hyannis and Provincetown. Quiet and pretty, Sandwich has a historic grist mill, fine museums, beaches, gracious old houses, and antique shops. More...

Brewster

Hugging the shore of Cape Cod Bay with only a few small Bay beaches, and no Atlantic shore, Brewster, between Dennis and Orleans, is a quieter town of nature and culture, with its forests, freshwater ponds, nature walks, Nickerson State Park, Old Grist Mill, Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, and Cape Rep theatre. More...

Eastham

North of Orleans on the up-raised arm of the Cape, Eastham has the oldest windmill on Cape Cod, and easy access to several of Cape Cod National Seashore's best beaches. More...

Wellfleet

A quiet summer colony of long-time residents, Wellfleet, north of Eastham, is famous for its oysters, a few restaurants that serve them, a very few hotels and inns, and one of the last remaining drive-in cinemas in the USA. More...

Truro

Truro, north of Wellfleet and south of Provincetown on the up-raised arm of Cape Cod, has lots of rental cottages for week-or-more visitors, very few hotels or motels, Truro Center for the Arts, and Truro Vineyards. More...

Harwich

Harwich's seven villages are populated by long-term residents and summer renters of villas and condominiums. There are few services (hotels, restaurants, amusements) for short-term visitors. Although some of its Atlantic shore beaches are public, most parking is reserved for town property owners or renters. More...

Thoreau on Cape Cod

Cape Cod was formed by glacial action and was given its name by an early (1602) visitor to the New World, Bartholomew Gosnold. For the first three centuries after its naming it was sparsely populated by fishing families.

"The time must come when [Cape Cod] will be a place of resort for those New Englanders who really wish to visit the seaside. At present it is wholly unknown to the fashionable world...." wrote Henry David Thoreau in his book Cape Cod, published in 1865.

Cape Cod didn't stay "unknown to the fashionable world" for long. It now draws six million visitors annually from across the country and around the world.

—by Tom Brosnahan


Highlights of Cape Cod

Cape Cod Hotels, Motels & Inns

Best Cape Cod Beaches

Best Cape Cod Itineraries

Cape Cod Transportation

From New York by Bus

From New York by Train & Bus

Nantucket Island

Martha's Vineyard Island

About Massachusetts

 

Paris Girls Secret Society, the new novel by Tom Brosnahan

 

Beach and sailboat on Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Above, enjoying sun, sand and sea
on a Cape Cod beach.












Saquatucket Harbor, Harwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Saquatucket Harbor, Harwich, Cape Cod.





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Chatham Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Beach in Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts...




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