For a vacation destination that is close to home while offering a wide range of activities, Cape Cod is the place to be. As you travel through this interesting part of Massachusetts you will find sandy beaches, incredible cultural attractions in the area, and a wide diversity of lodging options.
Cape Cod has long been a vacation hot spot for people all around the world. The town is rich in history and offers plenty for guests to do. You can enjoy boating, fishing, and surfing along with many other activities, or you can simply enjoy time on the sand at one of its beautiful beaches.
Cape Cod isn’t just a popular summer destination for families from all over New England looking for some downtime. It’s also a hit with travellers who are interested in the area’s rich history, extraordinary wildlife and charming villages. These are just some of the experiences that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime; memories of hiking, tasting wine and exploring the Cape’s vast shoreline, just to name a few.
Planning your family vacation can be daunting. Where are you going to go? When are you going to go? There’s a lot to think about, and it isn’t just one person making the decision. It requires the opinions of a wide range of people in order for everybody to agree on the perfect family vacation spot.
Vacation In Cape Cod Ma
Southeast of Boston, the Cape Cod peninsula reaches out into the Atlantic, curving northward to partially enclose Cape Cod Bay. The gently undulating landscape has long been an area of small farms, and today, many of these still specialize in growing cranberries. With its beautiful sandy beaches and laid-back atmosphere, Cape Cod is a popular summer vacation destination for nearby Boston and New York.
Although its beaches and tourist attractions may be crowded in July and August, even then you’ll find uncrowded, peaceful corners, especially on the quieter north shore along Route 6-A and the long beaches of Cape Cod Bay. Reached by ferries from the southern shore of Cape Cod are the idyllic islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
Come here to relax in the sun, and bring your camera to join the photographers and artists who’ve immortalized the region’s lighthouses, windmills, white-sand beaches, sea captains’ homes, dunes, surf, and weathered shingle cottages.
Come in June to see the Cape decorated in pink roses, or in the spring to find roadsides–especially on Nantucket–splashed with daffodils. In the fall, whole landscapes turn bright crimson with cranberries. At any season, you’ll find plenty of places to visit and things to do. For ideas, see our list of the top tourist attractions in Cape Cod and the islands.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Cape Cod National Seashore
Almost the whole East coast of Cape Cod, a stretch of about 40 miles, is protected as Cape Cod National Seashore, a wild area that has remained almost unchanged since Henry David Thoreau walked its sands. Its marvelous beaches, beautiful woodlands of Atlantic white cedar and other conifers, bird nesting grounds, and miles of attractive hiking trails draw thousands of visitors year-round, but especially in the summer.
One of the most unusual environments in the park is the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp in Wellfleet, which you can explore via a boardwalk. Information about the area can be obtained at the Salt Pond and Provincetown visitor centers, where you can also sign up for one of the park ranger programs; these include hiking, canoeing, snorkeling, and visiting the park’s historic buildings. For an up-close look at the massive dunes in the park and a glimpse into their history and nature, Art’s Dune Tours from Provincetown are a highlight of any trip to the Cape.
Address: 99 Marconi Station Site Road, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Official site: http://www.nps.gov/caco/index.htm
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cape Cod: Best Areas & Hotels
Founded by colonists in 1659, the town of Nantucket is the main settlement of Nantucket, a 15-mile-long island 30 miles south of Cape Cod. Quaker missionaries settled here in the 18th century, and from 1740 to 1830, Nantucket was the center of the world’s whaling industry, with more than 125 whaling ships.
Today, the island has a well-established and well-heeled summer population and is popular with tourists for its beaches and miles of cycling paths, as well as its sea captains’ mansions and other historic attractions. In April, the roadsides are bright with daffodils, which local residents have been planting for several decades and celebrate with a colorful festival.
Don’t bother to bring a car here; hotels will meet the ferry, and you can rent a bicycle or walk to attractions. Among these are sites relating to America’s first female professional astronomer, Maria Mitchell, including her home, an observatory, and an aquarium of local marine life. The Nantucket Life Saving Museum houses a collection of marine artifacts, and Hinchman House Natural History Museum concentrates on Nantucket’s flora and fauna with bird, wildflower, and marine ecology walks.
Nantucket Whaling Museum
The Nantucket Whaling Museum features ship models, scrimshaw, whaling equipment, portraits, logbooks, and the skeleton of a 43-foot sperm whale, all housed in a restored 1847 candle factory with a rooftop observation deck.
Nantucket Historical Association
Along with offering guided walking tours late May through October, the Nantucket Historical Association maintains a number of attractions that are open to visitors, including a 19th-century firehouse; the 1845 Hadwen House; the 1745 Macy Christian House; the Old Gaol from 1806; the oldest working windmill in the country; and the 1686 saltbox, Jethro Coffin House, the island’s oldest residence and only surviving structure from the original English settlement.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Nantucket: Best Areas & Hotels
At the very tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is known for its thriving art and music scene. In 1620, the Pilgrims landed here in the Mayflower, before moving on to found Plymouth. With plenty of beaches, miles of walking and cycling paths, kayaking, and boat excursions, Provincetown is a lively and popular resort.
Towering above the town’s narrow streets and lanes is the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument–-the tallest all-granite structure in the US, completed in 1910. You climb to the top for spectacular views. A museum at its base explores the town’s rich history with informative displays, ship models, whaling equipment, arrowheads, and tools of the local Wampanoag people, and maritime artifacts.
To see the works of artists who have lived and worked in the area, visit the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, first established to support the many artists who were refugees from Europe after World War I. The arts are still an important part of Provincetown life, as you can tell from the number of galleries that line the busy shopping area along Commercial Street.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Provincetown
4. Martha’s Vineyard
The island of Martha’s Vineyard lies only five miles south of Cape Cod, and you can get here by car and passenger ferries from Woods Hole on Cape Cod or from New Bedford. A bit more laid-back than Nantucket, “The Vineyard” has six small towns, each with its own distinct character and miles of beaches, some of which lie beneath high bluffs.
More varied and rolling in its landscapes than either Nantucket or Cape Cod, the island has a relaxed, casual air despite its high-end antiques and art galleries and its trendy boutiques.
Originally a Methodist church camp meeting place, Oak Bluffs is an unabashed beach holiday town, but still retains the rows of cute “gingerbread” cottages built by the 19th-century campers to replace the former tents. This is one of the rare places where you can see such a collection of Carpenter Gothic-style buildings, and their candy colors seem a good fit for the ice-cream parlors and saltwater taffy shops. Be sure to stop for a ride on the Flying Horses Carousel, one of the country’s oldest. You can visit one of the cottages, which is furnished from the late 1800s.
An important whaling center, this is the site of the oldest European settlement on Martha’s Vineyard. It is now a pretty town of tree-shaded streets lined by white clapboard homes, among them Vincent House, the oldest and now a museum. Vincent House was built in 1672, and has been restored and furnished in period style to offer a glimpse of life in Martha’s Vineyard over the past 400 years.
5. Cape Cod Whale Watching
It would be a shame to leave Cape Cod without taking a boat trip to spot whales and other sea life–or just to get a view from the sea. Various boat tours depart from different harbors. Boats leave frequently from the MacMillan Wharf in Provincetown for whale watching excursions to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, from mid-April through October.
Trained naturalists are on board to help passengers observe finback, humpback, and minke whales on tours lasting two-and-a-half to four hours. Similar whale watching cruises leave from Hyannis and Barnstable harbors.
Cruises from Chatham can take you to watch seals in their natural habitat, as well as get a sea view of Chatham’s famed beaches and picturesque harbor. From Harwich Port, you can board a high-speed catamaran for a narrated seal cruise around the island of Monomoy.