- See also: Cape Cod National Seashore
Cape Cod is an arm-shaped peninsula on the easternmost portion of Massachusetts. It is a well-traveled tourist and vacation area, featuring miles and miles of beaches, natural attractions, historic sites, art galleries and many four-star restaurants. The area is also very popular amongst antique enthusiasts and people who enjoy bed and breakfasts. Many opportunities exist here for golf, fishing and other outdoor activities. The town of Provincetown, at the very tip of the peninsula, is the site of the first landing of the Pilgrims.
Cape Cod can be further sub-divided into the following regions:
|Upper Cape |
towns nearest to the bridges that lead to Cape Cod.
|Mid Cape |
the commercial center.
|Lower Cape |
towns near the elbow of the peninsula.
|Outer Cape |
towns at the end of the peninsula and location of most of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
- 1 Gosnold - Gosnold is very sparsely populated and is comprised of the Elizabeth Islands, all of which are privately owned except for Cuttyhunk Island.
- 2 Martha's Vineyard - very popular tourist destination
- 3 Nantucket - the town of Nantucket is co-extensive to the island of the same name and is a very popular tourist destination
Cape Cod is made up of diverse towns and many villages:
- 4 Bourne (includes the villages of Buzzards Bay, Sagamore, Sagamore Beach, Bournedale, Pocasset, Cataumet, and Monument Beach.) Features the Cape Cod Canal.
- 5 Sandwich (includes the villages of East Sandwich and Forestdale.) Many, many antique shops and much else.
- 6 Falmouth (includes the villages of East Falmouth, Hatchville, Teaticket, Waquoit, North Falmouth, Silver Beach, West Falmouth and Woods Hole.) A harbor town with great beaches and great fishing.
- 7 Mashpee (includes the village of New Seabury.)
- 8 Barnstable (includes the villages of Hyannis, Centerville, Osterville, Marstons Mills, Cotuit, Barnstable Village, and West Barnstable) (hamlets (sub-villages) include: Craigville, Cummaquid, HyannisPort, and West Hyannisport). The commercial and transportation center.
- 9 Dennis (includes the villages of Dennisport, East Dennis, South Dennis, and West Dennis.)
- 10 Yarmouth (includes the villages of Bass River, South Yarmouth, West Yarmouth and Yarmouthport.)
- 11 Harwich (includes the villages of Harwichport, South Harwich, and West Harwich.)
- 12 Brewster - historical home of many sea captains.
- 13 Chatham (includes the villages of North Chatham, South Chatham and West Chatham.) A unique setting with harbors, barrier islands, seals, and a walkable center.
- 14 Orleans (includes the villages of East Orleans and South Orleans.) A charming town of shops and beautiful scenery.
- 15 Eastham (includes the village of North Eastham.) Gateway to the Cape Cod National Seashore.
- 16 Wellfleet (includes the villages of South Wellfleet.) A beautiful harbor town with diverse and protected Cape habitats.
- 17 Truro (includes the village of North Truro.) Dramatic cliff dunes and Cape Cod Light.
- 18 Provincetown - a "must-see" destination for its art scene, shopping and beautiful beaches.
- Massachusetts Military Reservation, which includes Otis Air Force Base and Camp Edwards spreads over portions of the towns of Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, and Mashpee.
Cape Cod is truly a unique place. Even the weather seems to have a distinct feel. In the summer, cool mornings of mists tasting of salt turn into warm beach days. The cape extends from the main eastern coast of the United States, where temperatures tend to be warmer compared to other New England regions. This is because it lies closer to the Gulf Stream, a warm ocean current flowing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Maritime Provinces of Canada. The warmer temperatures provide a longer season for tourist activities like golf and fresh water fishing. On the other hand, coastal storms can be brutal, battering the exposed peninsula with high winds, thundering ocean waves and, in winter, two or three feet of snow in a Nor'easter. That is how Cape Cod was, and is, shaped.
Similarly, Cape Cod's people have been shaped by waves of population growth. English colonists, Portuguese fishermen, beatniks and artists and retirees have each constituted a wave that broke over the Cape's population and made it stronger and more diverse. Every year the strongest wave of all washes over Cape Cod for three months and then ebbs out again: tourists. The wave brings nearly a tripling of the population. Seasonal businesses open and fill starting in April. Year round haunts slowly come alive. On July 4 weekend the Cape Cod party is in full swing until Labor Day. Then the tide washes out slowly as the cool air arrives. The locals breathe a sigh of relief. Beautiful Cape Cod is theirs again. Mostly.
If you don't need to swim or lie on the beach, the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall are an excellent time to visit. Both times have their unique charms, lower prices and considerably more peace. The commercial, busy Cape Cod gives way to its simple, relaxed and charming self. If you demand no more than peace, solitude, and quiet (say to paint or write), even a winter on Cape Cod could be just what you need.
The Cape Cod Canal is about an hour and a quarter from both Boston and Providence. Traffic on the two vehicle bridges over the canal is often backed up during peak travel times on summer weekends.
- Use SmarTraveler to see traffic conditions: .
- From Boston take I-93 south to Route 3 south to the Sagamore Bridge (Becomes Rt. 6).
- From Providence or points south take I-95 north to I-195 to Route 25 south to the Bourne Bridge (I-495 also becomes Route 25). At the rotary (traffic circle) on the Cape side there is access to:
- Rt. 28 toward Monument Beach, Mashpee and Falmouth and other south side points.
- or go almost all the way around and travel along the Canal to Route 6.
- Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway, 17 Elm Av, ☎ . Hyannis. Hourly departures from Boston (South Station Bus Terminal, Park Square, and Logan Airport) to Sagamore, Barnstable (Rt. 132) and Hyannis, a few trips also serve the Lower and Outer Cape. $19 one way, $34 round trip for South Station and Park Square, $25 one way, $45 round trip for the Airport. A few things to note about P&B:
- During the early morning and mid afternoon hours some departures run express to or from Logan skipping the downtown stops. Additionally, the first bus of the day also runs directly to Logan as South Station is closed at that time.
- Park Square service is commuter oriented and only operates in the peak direction during rush hour. Outside of these hours, use the MBTA Red Line between Park Street and South Station. Buy tickets at the Beantown Trolley kiosk.
- Plymouth and Brockton's ticket counter at South Station only operates M-F 6:30AM-6:30PM. Outside these hours the Greyhound counter (not the kiosks) sells P&B tickets - if you are taking the very last bus of the evening and the Greyhound window is closed, proceed directly to door 18 and buy a ticket from the driver in cash.
- Departing Logan Airport, the time listed in the schedule is when the bus departs Terminal A (Alaska, Delta, and Southwest). Busses then call at the arrivals levels for Terminal B South (American Airlines and Spirit), Terminal B North (Air Canada, United and Virgin America), Terminal C (JetBlue), and Terminal E (International) in about 3-4 minute intervals. Tickets are sold and collected on board the bus after Terminal E passengers board - cash only!
- Bonanza/Peter Pan Bus Lines, Toll free: +1-800-343-9999 or +1-888-751-8800. Service to Bourne, Falmouth, Barnstable and Hyannis from Providence (both the downtown bus terminal and T.F. Green Airport) and the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.
- The CapeFLYER partnership between the MBTA and Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority offers one direct round trip every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and bank holiday Monday between Boston's South Station and Hyannis over the Cape Cod Canal Rail Bridge from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
- There has been an ongoing discussion of extending the MBTA Middleboro/Lakeville commuter rail line to Hyannis, although due to Canal Rail Bridge capacity issues and the fact the on-Cape portion of the line runs very close to residential areas and beaches, local residents seem to be opposed to anything beyond what CapeFLYER is offering.
- There is no intercity rail service to or from Cape Cod - the closest Amtrak stations are in Boston and Providence on the Northeast Corridor.
Most travelers would fly into Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS IATA), or Warwick, Rhode Island's T.F. Green Airport (PVD IATA), near Providence and reach Cape Cod by bus or rental car, although mainland Cape Cod has two airports with regular commercial service:
- Barnstable Municipal Airport (HYA IATA) has the most flights out of any airport on Cape Cod's, although the vast majority of this are hourly air-taxi flights to Nantucket on Nantucket Airlines (a subsidiary of Cape Air). Other options include:
- Cape Air +1-800-352-0714, flies year-round service to Boston and Martha's Vineyard and seasonally to Providence and White Planes, NY.
- Jet Blue offers seasonal service between New York-JFK and Hyannis.
Private jet charters are popular travel to Cape Cod. Air Charter service is available to Cape Cod through companies such as Aeroshares Charter, LLC +1-800-961-JETS, Florida One Ways +1-800-961-5387, Bermuda Charter +1 603-610-8889 and Charter Auction +1-877-499-5387.
The easiest way to get around is by car. The main East-West routes around Cape Cod are:
- Route 6, sometimes referred to as the Mid-Cape Highway roughly bisects the entire peninsula. Route 6 is a four-lane limited-access highway west of Dennis, drops down to two lanes from Harwich to Orleans, and is a two lane surface road from Eastham to Provincetown.
- Route 6A, is a scenic road along the Cape Cod Bay (north) shore. Loaded with antique and artisan shops.
- Route 28, a busy mostly two-lane road through the southern part of Cape Cod.
These routes are supplemented by several busy North-South surface routes, usually linking an exit on the Mid-Cape Highway to Route 28 and 6A. Some of these that might be useful to travelers include include:
- The Canal Access Road connects the Sagamore Bridge Plaza at Exit 1 and the Bourne Bridge Rotary. This is the most direct route to Falmouth and Woods Hole from Sandwich and the Upper Cape.
- MA Route 130 (Forestdale Road), connects Exit 2 in Sandwich to Route 28 in Mashpee.
- MA Route 132 (Iyannough Road) is a major thoroughfare running from Exit 6 to the Central Business District in Downtown Hyannis. This route is four lanes and divided for a good portion.
- Willow Street connects Exit 7 in Yarmouth with the CBD in Hyannis. This is an easier way to reach Hyannis if you're coming from the lower Cape.
- Station Avenue connects Exit 8 in South Yarmouth with the Bass River and Smuggler's Beach business areas in Yarmouth and Dennis.
- MA Route 137 in Harwich (Exit 11) is the easiest way to reach Chatham from the Mid-Cape.
Taxis are plentiful on Cape Cod, albeit very expensive, fares of $20–30 for trips even within the same town are not uncommon. Also, apart for a handful of locations with taxistands such as the airport and ferry terminals, you will need to call ahead for your cab. While most companies prefer you call a few hours in advance, outside peak times (such as last call in downtown Hyannis), they can usually have a car to your location in 20 minutes or less.
- Town Taxi (Hyannis/Barnstable area) +1 508-771-5555
- Falmouth Taxi +1 508-548-3100
- Upper Cape Taxi (Mashpee, Falmouth, Bourne) +1 508-540-1290
- John's Taxi (Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich, Brewster) +1 508-394-3209
- Black & White Taxi (Provincetown) Provincetown's first late model, always-clean vehicle taxi service +1 508-487-7800 
- Cape Cab (Outer Cape) Uses a flat fare within Provincetown and a time based fare to other towns. +1 508-487-2222 (Provincetown), +1 508-349-TAXI (Wellfleet), +1 508-430-TAXI (Chatham), +1 508-240-1500 (Orleans).
Public transit bus service is offered through the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority (+1-800-352-7155, ) and Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway.
Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority
Over the past few years, the local bus service offered by the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority has changed focus significantly - expanding from a primarily tourist oriented seasonal system into a year round service that for visitors and residents alike. Places of interest to tourists (beaches, downtown Hyannis (Main Street and the Cape Cod Mall), hotel/ motel areas, etc.) are still well served, but the major advantage of the improvements for visitors is the fact it now is possible to get to any town on Cape Cod on the bus - including some of the more off the beaten track locations.
CCRTA's network consists of seven major, year-round lines:
|The Sealine||Falmouth (summer) / Woods Hole (winter)||Hyannis||Route 28|
|The Villager||Barnstable Village||Hyannis||Route 132|
|H2O West||Hyannis||Harwich||Route 28|
|H2O East||Harwich||Orleans||Route 28|
|The Flex||Harwich||North Truro (summer) / Provincetown (winter)||Route 6|
|The Sandwich Line||Sagamore||Hyannis||Great Hill Rd and Race Lane|
|The Bourne Run||Buzzards Bay||Mashpee||Route 28 and 151|
- The Flex allows riders to board or disembark up to a 3/4 mile "off-route" for double the usual fare. Call +1-800-352-7155 two hours in advance to schedule an off route pickup.
CCRTA also has three "trolley" routes that run Memorial Day to Labor Day:
- The HAT (Hyannis Area Trolley) is a free service connecting Main Street, the ferry docks, Veterans Park Beach, the West End and Melody Tent. As parking fees at Barnstable Beaches are $15 a day for non residents, CCRTA advertises that you can combine this with their $6 park and ride at the bus terminal to hit the beach for less. Skip the bus terminal and park for free in the large parking lot on North Street, cut over to Main Street and grab the bus to the beach. It will stop anywhere on Main Street if you flag it down and its safe to do so.
- WOOSH Trolley operates in Woods Hole, connecting the Steamship Authority docks to downtown Falmouth.
- The Shuttle is the local route in Provincetown, primarily serving the beaches and Commercial Street.
During the summer, service is every hour on the main routes and every half hour on the trolleys from 5AM-9PM or later, seven days a week. In the off-season, service used to be very sporadic or non-existent, although this is no longer the case - the trolleys do not run although the Sealine, Villager, H2O and Flex offer hourly runs from 5AM-6PM with less frequent service on the Bourne Run and Sandwich Line there is no bus service on Sunday from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
All routes have a flat fare of $2 per trip except when disembarking or boarding off-route on The Flex, when it is $4 and the HAT, which is free. Fares can be paid with cash or an MBTA Charlie Card with a "pay as you go balance" (MBTA unlimited ride cards cannot be used on CCRTA). Daily ($6) and monthly ($60) passes are also available - daily passes can be purchased on board (tell the driver you want a day pass prior to paying your fare), monthly passes are only available from the CCRTA sales office at the Hyannis Transportation Center.
There are no free transfers (except between the two halves of the H2O) - purchasing a day pass makes sense if you need to take more than one bus to get to your destination. Seniors (65+) and those with disabilities get half off with proof of age, a medicare card or a Commonwealth of Massachusetts Transit Access Pass.
Plymouth and Brockton
In addition to their off-Cape service to Boston and Logan Airport, Plymouth and Brockton also offers four round trips daily from Hyannis to Provincetown and several other lower and outer Cape towns during the summer. Round trip fare from the Hyannis Bus Terminal to P'Town is $18. After Labor Day, this is cut to two trips past Hyannis per day, and the timings of said trips are primarily geared towards down Cape residents heading to Logan Airport.
- Cape Cod Central Railroad offers a 2½-hour scenic tour from Hyannis to the Cape Cod Canal, as well as evening dinner trains and family brunch trains on the weekends. Kids under 12 ride free on the 2:30PM narrated train. Scenic daily trips only operate during the summer and fall, but holiday trips for Thanksgiving and Christmas are available in the winter. +1 888-797-RAIL
- It will be theoretically possible to take the CapeFLYER between Hyannis and Buzzards Bay, although given these trains are weekends only and once per day, this option is tenuous at best.
As a major tourist destination, most every Cape Cod town has many sites of interest which are within the town pages. Some of the attractions of a regional nature are:
- The Bass River is the longest all salt water river on the East Coast and nearly bisects Cape Cod. This Yarmouth and Dennis landmark is beautiful in its own right and has great spots for boating, kayaking, fishing and watersports. You can even take a narrated cruise 
- Cape Cod National Seashore. These 43,608 acres (176.5 km²) includes six excellent swimming beaches, pristine dunes, bike paths, dramatic cliffs, crystal clear freshwater "kettle ponds" and eleven self-guided nature trails. The National Park Service maintains several overlooks and ranger stations. Rangers conduct educational programs for all ages.
- Cape Cod Baseball League. The ten-team Cape Cod Baseball League is one of the premier amateur baseball leagues in the US. It is free for the fans and played throughout the summer in ten different Cape towns. About one of every seven Major League Baseball players has played in the CCBL.
- Cape Cod Central Railroad in Hyannis.
- Cape Cod Melody Tent in Barnstable.
- Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, specializing in Cape Cod artistry.
- Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, Brewster.
- Historic Beech Tree, behind 599/605 Main Street, Hyannis (Almost to the end of the one-way Main Street on the left hand side just beyond the Mass Bay store). The historic English Weeping Beech tree is a must-see for the historically interested or for those that just want to see a huge Weeping Beech. This tree has been featured in Cape Cod Life magazine (July 2010) and its history is amazing! As legend and lore based on historic events have it, the tree was gifted to the town of Barnstable in 1776 by the British Governor of the area "to be planted in the center of commerce" (Hyannis) as a reward for loyalty to the Crown. It seems that the seeds of the Revolution were sown by a Barnstable patriot named James Otis - whose statue is on the grounds of the Barnstable Court House. Within a year, he was attacked by British Revenue Officers and sustained a major head wound. Whether this fear tactic worked or not is unknown, but Barnstable, in 1776, was the only town on Cape Cod that did not vote for independence from the Crown. When coming to see the Weeping Beech, visitors can relax with a cocktail in the Beech Tree Garden Court under the tree's sweeping canopy. With shops and restaurants close at hand, this is a "one-stop" destination.
Cape Cod lighthouses
- Nobska Light, Woods Hole
- Sandy Neck Light, Barnstable
- Lewis Bay Light, Hyannis Harbor
- Hardings & Chatham Light, Chatham
- Nauset Light, Eastham
- Cape Cod Light, Truro
- Race Point, Wood End Light & Long Point Light, Provincetown
- Visit the many art galleries
- Beaches Explore the beautiful beaches of Cape Cod.
- Cape Cod Canal Bikeway a paved bike trail on both sides of the canal. It is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
- Cape Cod Rail Trail in Dennis, Brewster, and Wellfleet
- Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth
- Extensive bike paths on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket
- Nickerson State Park in Brewster
- Provincetown Bike Trail in Provincetown
- Boating and Water Sports - Parasail in Falmouth, Yarmouth, and Provincetown.
- Camping - many towns.
- Critter Cruises - Provincetown.
- Fishing, both freshwater and saltwater.
- Geocaching is a popular activity locally with many caches available.
- Golf. Cape Cod is a golfer's paradise. While Cape Cod is home to several private country clubs (with five-figure annual membership fees and multi-year waiting lists), there are also more than twenty municipal and privately owned courses that are open to the public, ranging from world-class PGA tour stops to Scottish style links on the beach and everything in between. Greens fees are pricey and good tee-times can be a challenge to obtain if you aren't a member, but there are plenty of ways to play some great golf without spending a fortune:
- Play with your Cape Cod friends: At municipal courses, residents of that town usually get a break on greens fees, and in many cases if a resident books a tee-time for their foursome, everybody in the group gets the lower rate. Additionally, if your friend happens to be member of a fully private (i.e. not open to the public) country club such as Oyster Harbors, they can bring you as their guest for free.
- Play mid-week: Fees are usually $10-20 lower Monday-Thursday, it's also easier to get a good tee-time.
- Play in the afternoon: If you're willing to tee-off after 1PM (instead of the more typical 7AM), rates drop about 25%. Some courses discount greens fees even further after 3PM or later.
- Play Par 3: Often overlooked are the Cape's several Par 3 (sometimes called a "Short Course" or "Pitch and Putt"). These courses are maintained to the same high standards of their Par 72 counterparts with many of the same amenities and beautiful scenery. Additionally, they are also quite challenging (your short game will really be put to the test!) Fees at Par 3 courses tend to be much lower, and playing in the afternoon can be ridiculously cheap. Holly Ridge Golf Club in Sandwich was featured as a "Best Place to Play" by Golf Digest and is also home to an excellent free summer clinic series.
- Play nine holes: Many courses will let you play the back nine in the early morning (when most foursomes are just starting on the first tee) at a substantial discount.
- Skip the cart: Almost every golfer on the Cape uses a cart, but usually there's nothing saying that you have to. If you're physically able to walk the course, it's great exercise and will save you $20 or more per golfer. A handful of courses do require carts at certain times (e.g. summer weekends) - check with the pro shop when you book your tee-time.
- Play in the offseason: Some (typically municipal) courses on the Cape are open year-round. During the winter season (November–March), golfers are typically offered substantial discounts, as well as a more peaceful experience and the ability to just "show up and play" (in fact, many courses do not even book tee-times come winter.) Cape Cod winters are not usually that cold, just remember your jacket!
- Hiking: Almost any beach can become a perfect hiking trail, of particular note Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable features miles of walking trails right through the dunes.
- Seal Cruises - Chatham
- Tennis - There are many tennis clubs scattered across Cape Cod. In Dennis, Mashantum Tennis and Sesuit Tennis are two clay court clubs worth visiting. The former, hidden in woods away from crowds, features fabulous red clay courts.
- Theatre, Cape Cod has a large number of theatres—one in nearly every town as well as a number of festivals including the Provincetown Fringe Festival and Eventide Arts Festival.
- Whale watching Excursions from Barnstable and Provincetown.
Colleges and universities
- Cape Cod Community College, ("4C's") in West Barnstable is the Cape's single institution of higher education. Those looking to study on Cape Cod will find the college as a friendly place to embark towards their goals, with associates degrees and certificate programs offered. For visitors, the summer semester offers a wide array of credit and non-credit opportunities excellent for those looking to get ahead in their studies elsewhere (credits are transferable) or for an enriching summer activity. Although financial aid is not available for visiting students, tuition is surprisingly affordable for MA residents, with tuition waivers available for senior citizens, veterans, and high school students who scored well on the state MCAS exam.
- Through agreements between 4C's Office of Advanced Studies and several Boston area colleges and universities, such as UMASS, Suffolk, Boston University, and Bridgewater State College, it's now possible to complete an entire bachelors degree and even some graduate programs without ever leaving the Cape. Programs in Business, Communications, Education, and Nursing are offered evenings during the academic year on the 4C's West Barnstable campus, and the degree awarded is from the partner institution.
- Cape Cod Conservatory, in West Barnstable and Falmouth, offers private and group instruction in music, along with classes in dance, drama, and visual art. Summer programs for children are available.
- Falmouth Artists Guild is a community organization running classes and workshops for children and adults year round in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and more, with a large selection of short summer classes. +1 508-540-3304
- In addition to their full season of productions each year Harwich Junior Theatre also offers classes year-round in acting, musical theater, playwriting, improv, and theater tech for children and teens.
- Golf: Many courses on the Cape hold clinics led by a PGA or LPGA Pro for golfers of all abilities. The reasonably priced (usually $20 per session or less) and informal setting are the preference of most Cape resident golfers looking to lower their score. Most facilities offer a weekly or bi-weekly series during the summer, with each session working on a different skill (such as driving, short game, or putting).
- There are free clinics offered by the Holly Ridge Golf Club two Saturdays a month from May until September. No advanced registration needed, just show up at 8:30AM the day you wish to attend, but you do need to bring your own clubs .
- One-on-one instruction to improve your game: Any course that's open to the public should offer private lessons with a pro. $45-50 for a half hour is standard with discounts usually available if you're a member or purchase a block of several lessons at a time. Call the pro-shop for prices and scheduling.
- Sailing: Several Yacht clubs offer beginning sailing programs, although you may need to be a member or know somebody who is one. Sailing lessons for youth are also available through some town recreation departments, and are usually open to non-residents.
- Town recreation departments also offer a range of outdoor programs and classes including swimming lessons. These are open to non-residents (although resident families have priority in registering).
- The YMCA of Cape Cod and the Islands offers an array of summer camps and programs for all ages through their Camp Lyndon Facility. Visitors who belong to any New England Y have reciprocal access (including free use of the fitness center and pool, as well as paying member rates for classes and programs.) Y members from the rest of the US or Canada get 50% off the day-pass rate.
As is commonplace for a New England area, seafood restaurants are a regular sight. There is no shortage of restaurants in the entire region, both seafood and not. Wellfleet is well known for its shellfish, particularly oysters. At one time oysters were actually shipped there and put in the harbor to get the "distinct flavor."
Cape Cod is home to many different types of places to grab a drink. There are all sorts of bars, pubs, restaurants with bars and so on. Nearly all are open in season (typically June–August), many are open for extended periods (April–October, for example) and fewer are open year-round. In the off-season it would be wise to call ahead or check the Google or Facebook profile of the establishments you are hoping to visit before making the trip.
Like the rest of the country, the drinking age is 21; generally patrons who look under 40 will be asked to show ID. If you have an out of state license, you may encounter some difficulties purchasing adult beverages (state law is very specific that only a Massachusetts drivers license or non-driver ID card constitutes legal proof of age.) In the past, many bars wouldn't serve to out of state patrons at all, or only those from a neighboring state such as Rhode Island or New Hampshire but now it is common for out of state licenses to be accepted when presented with a second form of ID (which doesn't need to have a photograph, a credit or debit card in your name is usually good for this purpose). Individuals using a passport or military ID as proof of age should also be prepared to show backup ID.
Cape Cod has a very large number of accommodations ranging from basic motels to plush spa resorts. Resort areas include Chatham, Hyannis and Provincetown. Many hotels are only open seasonally (April through October) and that prices can increase dramatically during the summer high season and during festivals. Cape Cod is also home to several campgrounds. One of those is the Bourne Scenic Park. The Bourne Scenic Park is a campground under the Bourne Bridge on the canal. It is a popular site that permits both tent camping and trailers. It is also right next to the canal with easy access to the bike trail.
The area along Route 6A in North Truro, just south of the Provincetown line is, for connoisseurs, the real Cape. This is "roughing it indoors" - the accommodations are not fancy - usually just one room, perhaps no kitchen or no drywall wall surfaces, and not very modern. For some, this is the real Cape—all the stuff south of the "elbow" is civilization. You have to go to Wellfleet, Truro or P-town to get beyond it.
Hyannis, is perhaps the Hub of Cape Cod. On the Main Street and the Waterfront you'll find Hyannis Harbor, the Village Green, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, the JFK Memorial Park, the Cape Cod Maritime Museum, waterfront restaurants, ferries to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
- Deer ticks carrying Lyme disease are a real concern, especially in warm weather. Stay out of dune grasses and brushy areas. If you get a ring-shaped rash and/or a flu-like ache, seek medical treatment. Nantucket has the highest incidence of Lyme disease.
- Mosquitoes have become a concern in this area as there have been cases of Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Use insect repellent when appropriate.
- Poison ivy is widespread on Cape Cod and the Islands. The vines of shiny three-leaf clusters run along the ground or climb bushes and trees. Contact can cause intense skin irritations.
- State law requires children under 13 to wear helmets while bicycling.
- Boating Safety
- All children 12 and under are required by law to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device) when on a boat.
- All individuals over the age of 12 are required to have in their possession (aboard the boat) a USCG approved PFD or floating seat cushion. It is recommended that they are worn, but not required by law.
- Anyone water-skiing, wakeboarding, rafting, or in any way being towed behind the boat must be wearing a PFD at all times, regardless of age.
- Check the local weather and file a float plan with a friend before leaving the dock.
- Check the local tides before leaving the dock as many places on the Cape cannot be accessed at specific times during the tidal cycle.
- If you have any questions about local laws and regulations, contact the local Harbormaster:
- Cape & Islands Harbormasters Association [formerly dead link]
- WCAI, 90.1 FM, in Woods Hole, the voice of Public Radio for the Cape & Islands
- WMVY, 92.7 FM, on Martha's Vineyard, one of only a handful of independent radio stations in the country.
Martha's Vineyard can be reached via ferries from several Cape Cod harbors:
- The Island Queen operates from Falmouth Harbor (not Woods Hole) every 90 minutes to Oak Bluffs from May - October. This is by far the quickest and most hassle-free route to the island if you aren't bringing a car - crossing time is 35 minutes dock-to-dock. $18 round trip, bicycles are $6 extra. No reservations required or accepted, although the company does recommend being at the dock 45 minutes prior to departure to ensure you receive a place on the boat. 75 Falmouth Heights Road, Falmouth +1 508-548-4800.
- The Steamship Authority is the only ferry line that carries motor vehicles to the island, and offers hourly departures from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven year round, with additional departures to Oak Bluffs during the summer. Crossing time is about 45 minutes. Reservations are recommended for passengers, and mandatory for vehicles. Fares for vehicles vary depending on the time of year, and do not include the driver or passengers. 1 Cowdry Rd, Woods Hole and 65 South St, Hyannis, Passenger Reservations: +1 508-495-3278; Vehicle Reservations: +1 508-477-8600.
- The Pied Piper also operating from Falmouth Harbor during the summer months, offers the only ferry service to Edgartown on the eastern end of the island. 278 Scranton Ave, Falmouth.
- Hy-Line Cruises operates a high speed, one hour ferry from the Ocean Street Dock in Hyannis to Oak Bluffs, as well as a two and one quarter hour traditional ferry during the summer months. Both options cost significantly more and take longer than departures from Falmouth and Woods Hole, but considering the time, gas and hassle you'll save driving to the departure point, it may be worth the added time expense. +1 508-778-2600.
With one exception, all ferries to Nantucket depart from Hyannis.
- The Steamship Authority carries vehicles and passengers to the island several times each day, year round, crossing time is around three hours. SSA also operates a one hour fast ferry from the Hyannis terminal, although cars are not carried on this route.
- Hy-Line operates a year round high speed service to Nantucket on the M/V Grey Lady III, and a traditional three-hour ferry during the summer.
- Freedom Cruise Lines runs an 80-minute crossing from Harwichport to Nantucket from Memorial Day-Labor Day only. Although departures are somewhat limited and fares are higher than Hyannis, this option may be more convenient for those staying on the lower and outer Cape. Reservations are strongly recommended, as the company states that popular weekend sailings can be sold out several weeks in advance. Harwichport Harbor 720 Main Street (Route 28), Harwichport +1 508-432-8999.
The Elizabeth Islands
The Elizabeth Islands are a chain of smaller islands branching southwest from Woods Hole:
- Cuttyhunk is remote, quaint, car-free island with a year round population of about 50 people. Get there via boat service from New Bedford (year-round, weather permitting), or via air-taxi.
- Penikese Island is owned by the state and the home of a (now closed) school for troubled youth. Today the island serves as a bird sanctuary. Access generally requires special arrangements with the state, although the Massachusetts Audubon Society operates several excursions there each year. If you're a bird enthusiast and become a member of the society, you can request to join one of these trips in exchange for assisting with data collection or maintenance projects.
- The remaining islands are privately owned by the Forbes Family and are not open to the public. That said, some offshore mooring is permitted near Kettle Cove, West Beach, and Tarpaulin Cove for fishing and other water activities, however landing on the beach itself is not allowed. Double check on a chart that you're in the right place before getting too close, since the entire island is private property there is an exclusion zone that extends two nautical miles from the coastline and entering that zone without authorization (even accidentally) is a crime under both state and maritime law. The entire area is patrolled regularly by the Coast Guard and Dukes County Marine Patrol, and violators are subject to fines, arrest, and prosecution (although a stern warning and an order to leave the area immediately is more likely if you're slightly too close).
Monomoy Island is actually two islands. The larger South island was inhabited with a lighthouse until a hurricane wiped the town out in the 1860s. Today, Monomoy is a national wildlife refuge.
- The smaller North Island is open to the public during daylight hours and easily accessible. Hiking, fishing, birding, and enjoying the beauty of some of Cape Cod's most secluded and untouched beaches are all popular activities, although you can't hunt or camp overnight. You can either take your own boat, or sail with Rip Ryder in Chatham (+1 508-237-0420) who offers several daily fishing and birding shuttles from June through September weather permitting ($20 round-trip). There's no mooring or dock on the island, either bring your waders or be prepared to get your feet wet!
- The larger and more remote South Monomoy, while also open to the public, is protected and requires special arrangements to visit.
- Licensed private charters (which under regulations must be accompanied by a USFWS certified guide) are the principle way of visiting the island. As of 2013, one operator (Rip Rider [formerly dead link]) was offering a South Monomoy package for small groups (up to twelve people) which includes your guide, a walking nature tour of the island, and a visit to the Monomoy Lighthouse. Call for pricing and details.
- Other boat lines advertise trips to Monomoy, but none of them actually are licensed to land on the island. They sail very close to the shoreline with some excellent opportunities for seal and bird watching.
- If you have your own boat (not a charter), you do not need a guide. However, you will still need to get prior authorization from the USFWS and file a float plan prior to sailing.
- Alternatively, National Geographic, the NOAA, and some educational institutions (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, for example) run expeditions to South Monomoy. If you have connections to any of these groups, you could see about joining one of their trips.
Traffic is heavy on summer weekends. Try to get over the bridges before noon or after 7PM if leaving on Sunday during the summer. Use SmarTraveler to see traffic conditions.