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Spanning a 70-mile-long hooked peninsula on the Atlantic Coast, Cape Cod has been a beloved beach getaway for generations. The Cape is dotted with lighthouses, sandy beaches, and 15 New England beach resort towns. There are saltbox cottages and weathered, shingled bungalows as well as ice cream parlors, candy shops filled with saltwater taffy, and seafood shacks that claim the best lobster rolls around.
The peninsula is divided into four regions. The Upper Cape, which includes Falmouth, Mashpee, and Sandwich, is closest to Boston and historic Plymouth. The Mid-Cape is the densest region and includes Barnstable, Yarmouth, and Hyannis, where you’ll find the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. The former whaling village of Brewster is in the Lower Cape, alone with Chatham and Harwich. Don’t skip the Outer Cape — it might be quite a drive, but the gorgeous Cape Cod National Seashore and the artsy, LGBTQ+ destination of Provincetown are well worth it.
The easiest way to get to Cape Cod is flying into Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) or T.F. Green International Airport (PVD) in Providence, Rhode Island. Both are between 60 and 65 miles from the start of the Cape. The drive is about an hour and a half, but both routes are subject to bad traffic, particularly in the summer, which can increase driving times by an hour. The Barnstable Municipal Airport (HYA) in Hyannis also offers a few flights, many of which are seasonal.
Regional bus lines run through the Northeast and stop in a few towns along Cape Cod, including the Hyannis Transportation Center, which is also a train station.
Within a given town, you can usually walk, rideshare, or pedal your beach cruiser to wherever you need to go. If you plan to travel around the Cape, you’ll want a car, as things are fairly spread out.
Peak season on Cape Cod is between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when the days are long, sunny, and hot, with temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There can be isolated summer thunderstorms, but rain is rare at this time of year. Humidity, on the other hand, is not. But while the crowds flock here for summer vacation, the Cape is a year-round destination. Fall has become increasingly popular, thanks to its sunny, brisk, 60-degree days and brilliant foliage, and spring visitors enjoy warm, 70-degree beach weather before the summer crowds arrive. Even Cape Cod winters, when temperatures drop into the 40s and snow falls, are charming if you like lonely, blustery beaches and curling up by a fire.
While lively, convenient beaches line the peninsula, it’s well worth visiting the pristine beaches within the 27,000-acre Cape Cod National Seashore. But the park is not all about sandy shores: thirteen hiking trails and three bike trails wind through pristine dunes, wetlands, and scrub oak forests.
Between mid-April and late October, hundreds of humpback, finback, and minke whales arrive at their feeding grounds along the Massachusetts coast. Many tour companies will guarantee sightings. Boats leave from various locations including Hyannis, Provincetown, Barnstable, Orleans, and Plymouth.
You could spend an entire vacation rubbing shoulders with famous folks on Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, but passenger ferries from several Cape towns make it possible to visit either on a day trip. On Nantucket, spend an afternoon wandering the historic town and the Whaling Museum; on Martha’s Vineyard, be sure to visit the town of Aquinnah, home of the local Wampanoag people, and its beautiful clay cliffs, as well as the old-fashioned historic carousel in Oak Bluffs.