Cape Cod is an arm-shaped peninsula located 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 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 Atlantic Provinces. 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 4th 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.
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.
The Islands -- Gosnold, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket.
Massachusetts Military Reservation, which includes Otis Air Force Base and Camp Edwards spreads over portions of the towns of Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, and Mashpee.
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.
From Boston take I-93 south to Route 3 south to the Sagamore Bridge (Becomes Rt. 6). In 2006 a large construction project removed the rotary ahead of the Sagamore Bridge and made other changes to improve traffic throughout. Former visitors should carefully observe the new signs.
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.
Most travelers would fly into Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS), , or Warwick, Rhode Island's T.F. Greene Airport (PVD), near Providence.
Cape Air, +1 800-352-0714, . Regional airline serving Hyannis, Provincetown, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket with service also to the off Cape cities of Boston, Providence (seasonal), and New Bedford.
Private jet charters are popular travel to Cape Cod. Air Charter service is available to Cape Cod through companies such as Aeroshares Charter, LLC 800-961-JETS, Florida One Ways 800-961-5387, Bermuda Charter 603-610-8889 and Charter Auction 877-499-5387.
The easiest way to get around is by car or by bus. The main routes around Cape Cod are:
Route 6, the major (mostly) four lane highway.
Route 6A, the most scenic road (and slowest), it is along the Cape Cod Bay coast. Loaded with antique and artisan shops.
Route 28, a busy mostly two lane road through the southern part of Cape Cod.
Ferry cruises to the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard leave daily from Hyannis and Falmouth Harbors, including:
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:
Cape Cod National Seashore. These 43,608 acres (176.5 km²) includes six excellent swimming beaches, pristine dunes, 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 totally free of charge for the fans and played throughout the summer in ten different Cape towns. About one out 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.
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.
Seal Cruises - Chatham
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.
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 go online before making a trip to one of the bars.
Cape Cod has a very large number of accommodations ranging from basic motels to plush spa resorts. Resort areas include Chatham, Hyannis and Provincetown. Note that 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 located directly 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.
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.
Cape Cod is made up of diverse towns and many villages:
Bourne (Includes the villages of Buzzards Bay, Sagamore, Sagamore Beach, Bournedale, Pocasset, Cataumet, and Monument Beach.) Features the Cape Cod Canal.
Sandwich (Includes the villages of East Sandwich and Forestdale.) Many, many antique shops and much else.
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.
Mashpee (Includes the village of New Seabury.)
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.
Dennis (Includes the villages of Dennisport, East Dennis, South Dennis, and West Dennis.)
Yarmouth (Includes the villages of Bass River, South Yarmouth, West Yarmouth and Yarmouthport.)
Harwich (Includes the villages of Harwichport, South Harwich, and West Harwich.)
Brewster - Historical home of many sea captains.
Chatham (Includes the villages of North Chatham, South Chatham and West Chatham.) A unique setting with harbors, barrier islands, seals, and a walkable center.
Orleans (Includes the villages of East Orleans and South Orleans.) A charming town of shops and beautiful scenery.
Eastham (Includes the village of North Eastham.) Gateway to the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Wellfleet (Includes the villages of South Wellfleet.) A beautiful harbor town with diverse and protected Cape habitats.
Truro (Includes the village of North Truro.) Dramatic cliff dunes and Cape Cod Light.
Provincetown - A "must see" destination for its art scene, shopping and beautiful beaches.
Plymouth or Boston are good next stops.
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