Cape Cod

See also: Cape Cod National Seashore

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.


The Cape Cod seashore

Cape Cod can be further sub-divided into the following regions:


Cape Cod is made up of diverse towns and many villages:

Upper Cape

Cape Cod Town Locations

Mid Cape

Lower Cape

Outer Cape


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.

Get in

By car

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.

  • 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.

By bus

  • 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 6:30AM-6:30PM, Monday-Friday. 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 and Delta). Busses then call at the arrivals levels for Terminal B South (American Airlines and Spirit), Terminal B North (United and Virgin America), Terminal C (JetBlue), and Terminal E (Southwest and all international arrivals) in about 3-4 minute intervals. Tickets are sold/ collected on board the bus after Terminal E passengers board - cash only, so come prepared!

By train

By plane

Most travelers would fly into Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS), , or Warwick, Rhode Island's T.F. Green Airport (PVD), near Providence and reach Cape Cod by bus or rental car, although mainland Cape Cod has two airports with regular commercial service:

  • Nantucket Airlines and Island Airlines offer hourly service to Nantucket.
  • Cape Air +1 800-352-0714, flies year-round service to Boston and Martha's Vineyard and seasonally to Providence and White Planes, NY. Cape Air codeshares with JetBlue on the HYA-BOS route.

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.

Get around

By car

The easiest way to get around is by car. The main East-West routes around Cape Cod are:

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 tourists include include:

By taxi

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.

By bus

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:

Between... ...and via
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

CCRTA also has three "trolley" routes that run Memorial Day to Labor Day:

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.

By train


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:

  • 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


  • Play with your Cape Cod friend(s): 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!


Colleges and Universities

The Arts

Outdoor Activities

  • 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.


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 go online before making a trip to one of the bars.

The drinking age in Massachusetts is 21 and ID's are rigorously checked on the Cape, especially during the summer tourist season. Bars, clubs and package stores tend to be very wary about serving to patrons with an out of state license or ID, some won't sell to you at all, and others limit non-Massachusetts ID's to certain states (usually New Hampshire and/or Rhode Island), restaurants and taverns are typically more lenient. Most establishments that do accept an out of state license will request a second form of ID, such as a passport or school ID. If you'll be in the area for awhile, one way to get around this problem is to obtain a Liquor ID from the Registry of Motor Vehicles. You do not need to be a resident, although a Massachusetts mailing address is required (could be that of a friend or relative), along with proof of age and signature. The cost is $25 and the card is valid for five years.


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.

Stay safe

  • 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

Go next

The Islands

Martha's Vineyard

Martha's Vineyard can be reached via ferries from several Cape Cod harbors:


With one exception, all ferries to Nantucket depart from Hyannis.

The Elizabeth Islands

The Elizabeth Islands are a chain of smaller islands branching southwest from Woods Hole:


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.

  • 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 ) is 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 - it should be noted that none of them actually are actually licensed to land on the island. That being said, they do 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.

The Mainland

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: .

Plymouth or Boston are good next stops.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, November 16, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.