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Cynthia Sellers' Guide to Cape Cod

  • Submitted by: Cynthia J. Sellers
  • Submission Date: 14th Feb 2005

This guide is not intended to be a complete guide to Cape Cod. I've tried
to fill in information around the postings from myself and the others named
above. If you would like to add information or opinions to this file please
send them to me at and I will incorporate them into
this guide. [CJS]

The local phone books in all towns in Cape Cod have a special guide for
tourists. It is located between the White and Yellow Page sections. It lists
most museums and tourist attractions and provides alot of other good
information as well. [CJS]

'The Cape' is shaped like an arm. The part of the arm closest to the mainland
is called the 'upper cape' and the end farthest from the mainland is referred
to as the 'lower cape'. This is a little counter-intuitive since much of the
'lower cape' is actually north of the 'upper cape'. [CJS]

'Upper' Cape towns include Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, and Sandwich.
'Mid' Cape towns include Barnstable, Brewster, Dennis, Harwich, and Yarmouth.
'Lower' Cape towns include Chatham, Eastham, Orleans, Provincetown, Truro, and
Wellfleet. Also in the area are the Islands of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket,
and the Elizabeth Islands including Cuttyhunk. And not on the Cape but of
interest and on the way from Boston: Plymouth, Mass which is the site of the
first Pilgrim Settlement. [CJS]

Cape Cod is a large sand bar. What people do is go to the beach.
(Nothing wrong with that.) The Cape has been populated by Europeans since
the 1620's so there is a fair amount of historical stuff still left. [JL]

The Cape is hopping in the summer, so a lot depends on your own
preferences. The main reason most people head to the Cape in the summer ...
is to enjoy the sun, sand, and sea. The water is relatively warm
for a place as far north as Massachusetts because the arm of Cape
Cod is struck by the Gulf Stream from the south Atlantic. If you
hit a stretch of bad weather and/or you need a little more action,
Boston is no more than a couple hours away, with its museums, plays,
concerts, colleges etc. Have a great vacation! [JB]

I have been on Cape Cod in July/August on a number of occasions.
Descriptions of the Cape frequently refer to the Inner Cape and the Outer Cape
and the line is theoretically everything on the east-west portion of the cape
(out to but not including Chatham) is the Inner Cape, and the north-south
part (from Chatham to Provincetown) is the Outer Cape.
The North Shore of the island is very 'old money'. THere are some developments
there - but they're usually built around a golf course and/or marina - so
they're very pricey. There are a number of bed&breakfasts in this area and
quite a few nice restaurants.
The only things NOT TO MISS on the Cape are the beaches and the scenery. The
rest of the stuff is interesting but not of DON'T MISS quality. [TG]


Cape Cod National Seashore - Salt Pond Visitor Center - Rt. 6 Eastham
Open late June-Labor Day daily 9-6; Winter hours daily 9-4:30; Jan. &
Feb. weekends only. (508)255-3421
Offers information about guided and self guided walks in the area as
well as a museum, films, and a gift shop. The National Seashore also
maintains some beaches the most popular of which seems to be
Marconi Beach. But note: the water is very cold!!

[ This is a great place to start your exploration of the Lower Cape!
The walking trails are generally easy and fun. There are one or two
at the Center but most are driving ( or biking) distance away. CJS ]

Technophiles might like swimming at Marconi Beach, where there is an exhibit
commemorating one of Marconi's early trans-Atlantic stations. There's nothing
left of the station itself, it fell into the sea due to beach erosion long ago.
Nice beach, though. [JL]
[Actually there are still the remains of some of the antenna anchors and
a nice diarama (sp?) of the station as it was when it was built CJS]

The best beaches are probably those run by the U.S.
Parks Service as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Marconi
beach is one of my favorites. There is a charge for parking for
all of the National Seashore beaches, and a resident sticker is
required for access to some individual town beaches. [JB]

Much of the area is owned by the National Seashore - and there are
some spectacular beaches - particularly on the Atlantic side. The beaches and
nature trails out here are not to be missed. If you only go to one beach I
would suggest Marconi Beach - particularly when the tide is coming in. [TG]

There are a few beaches around that nude bathing is generally acceptable at -
although every once in a while the local police (or the National Park rangers)
crack down and arrest a few people - usually after complaints about
'promiscuous behavior'. [TG]


If it rains, my wife always likes to drag me to one of the many
'Christmas Tree Shops' to look for bargain prices on Chinese porcelain, lamps,
housewares, etc. [JB]
[ 'Christmas Tree Shops' is located in the following towns:
Falmouth, Hyannis, Orleans, Sagamore, West Dennis, W. Yarmouth and
Yarmouth CJS]

Bike Riding

[Between South Dennis & Eastham] is the Rail Trail (an old railroad line
with the tracks removed on which you can ride bikes and horses only. It's
[19.5] miles long). [TG]

[ The Rail Trail has been extended into Wellfleet CJS 4/95]

[Other bike trails exist in Falmouth, Eastham & Provincetown as well as in
Nickerson State Park in Brewster and Scusset Beach State Reservation in
Sandwich. The local Phone book has a special section. CJS]

Walks/Hiking Trails

Walk along the Great Atlantic Cypress Trail which starts off
the access road to Marconi Beach. You can't believe how different the
scenery/vegetation is from the dunes that are a few hundred yards away. [TG]

Also, the Audubon Preserve in Wellfleet and the trail by the [Something?] House
in Orleans are truly spectacular. [TG]

[ The Penniman House is a restored whaling captain's house in Eastham at the
head of the Fort Hill trail. My personal favorite. Go in late June to see an
amazing number of wild roses climbing the trees. CJS]

[ The National Seashore maintains several trails between Eastham and
Provincetown. Info. available at the Visitors Center on Rt 6 in Eastham
CJS 4/95]

Places to stay

The Chamber of Commerce will send you a package to help you find a place to
stay. They will also give your name to realtors if you wish.

Here's some numbers:

Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce (508) 362-3225
Martha's Vineyard C of C (508) 693-0085
Provincetown C of C (508) 487-3424
Canal Region C of C (508) 759-3122


Provincetown at the tip of the cape is quite a peculiar little town, with
a combination of Portugese fisherman, artists, and gay bars, all of which
get along surprisingly well, considering. [JL]

Provincetown [is] at the tip of the cape, shops, galleries, restaurants, etc.
I'd particularly recommend Ciro and Sal's for GREAT italian. [RAY]
[I'll second that. CJS]

Provincetown, at the very tip of the Cape is also worth
a visit with its artist colonies, unusual shops and unusual people.
It also has a large gay contingent. [JB]

Provincetown is very interesting. There are a lot of artisans shops
and restaurants (which tend to the fancy burger, nachos, veggie style), and
there is a very large gay community - with a lot of gay bars and leather
stores, etc. [TG]

There's just so much to see. A favorite place of mine is The Surf Club. at
least I think thats the name. as you walk out on the big pier (also a good
place to park) it's the last building on the left. There's a band there every
nite in the summer called The Jug Band - good folksy rock music. $2 cover!


The dunes around Truro are also a lot of fun. [JB]

Could you mention our company Atlantic Spice in your section about when
it's raining a good place to go is...
It has been a favorite tourist destination on rainy days and has free
parking. Over 400 herbs, spices, teas and potpourri ingredients.
Our web site address is
Their address is Route 6 at Route 6A in North Truro. Thanks alot! [NH]


For a change of pace, you may consider taking the ferry from Wood's Hole (in
Falmouth) to the island of Nantucket. The cobblestone streets, old sea
captain's houses and Whaling Museum are quite interesting. Bikes can be
rented for trips around the island. Allow a full day for this
as the ferry takes about 3 hrs. each way (Nantucket means 'Far
Away Isle' in some Indian language). [JB]
[ You can get to Nantucket from the ferries in Hyannis also. CJS]
[ You can no longer take the ferry from Woods Hole to Nantucket.
Service stopped years ago. Now all boats leave from Hyannis. GT ]


Barnstable is a collection of smaller villages which include:
Hyannis, Hyannis Port( summer home of the Kennedy Family), Centerville,
Osterville, Wianno, Marston's Mills, Barnstable, West Barnstable, and
probably several others [CJS]

Hyannis is the biggest city on the Cape and has malls, fast food, night clubs,
and lots of action. [JB]

Hyannis is the only real 'urban' center on the Cape - with a mall and fast food
places and assorted stuff (on rainy days during the Summer the Cape Cod Mall
is wall-to-wall people)... Hyannis and Dennis/Dennisport) is where most of the
college kids stay during the Summer. There are tons of bars and dance clubs,
cheap seafood restaurants, moccasin shops, seedy miniature gold courses [some
good ones too], etc. [TG]


In Sandwich there are several nice museums (one from the old Sandwich Glass
factory and another which has antique cars an old carrousel, a huge
rhododendron garden, etc.). [TG]

[I beleive the second museum mentioned above is the Heritage Plantation of
Sandwich. Open Mother's Day - end of Oct. daily 10-5 (508)888-3300. The first
one is the Sandwich Glass Museum Open Apr-Oct, daily 9:30-4:30; Nov-Mar, Wed-
Sun 9:30-4:00, Closed Jan (508)888-0251 CJS]


There is ... a very nice Natural History Museum and trails, etc. in Brewster

[ Cape Cod Museum of Natural History; Open Mon-Sat 9:30-4:30, Sun 12:30-4:30,
May-mid Oct. Closed Mon, mid Oct-May (508)896-3867 CJS]

[Other attractions to Brewster include:] Nickerson State Park and its
wonderful camping and fresh water swimming, the Cape Cod Rail Trail, the
finest dining on the Cape (Chillingsworth, High Brewster, the Brewster Fish
House) the best of Cape Cod's Bed & Breakfasts (The Brewster Farmhouse Inn,
the Captain Freeman Inn), the finest of antique shops and art galleries and
potteries, the Punkhorn Parklands, the Bassett Wild Animal Farm, the
Cape Cod Fire and History Museum, the summer band concerts overlooking
Cape Cod Bay, the historic homes of sea captains along the Old King's
Highway, the Brewster General Store (an institution).... [BM]

Falmouth/Woods Hole

Falmouth and Woods Hole are the convenient (to Bostonians and New Yorkers)
places to get the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. There is a very famous
oceanographic institute in Wood's Hole, but I don't think they have much in
terms of tours. [TG]
[National Marine Fisheries Service runs a small aquarium which is open weekdays
in the off season and 7 days in summer; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
runs an exhibit center on School St. in Woods Hole which is open every day but
Monday in summer and weekends in the shoulder season. CJS]

Restaurants in Woods Hole [NOTE: most of these restaurants are seasonal.
The dates they are closed change every year]:

The Black Duck - waterside dining - I've only eaten there once. It was
cafeteria style and a bit over priced for the type of
restaurant(IMHO). NOTE: New owners in '96 - haven't tried
it again
The Fishmonger - Water view - no outside seating. I like the food there.
They have many Vegetarian foods there. (closed Tues.)
The Landfall - I ate there for my birthday last summer and enjoyed it very much
they have tables in front of French Doors that open onto the
water - nice. Very Cape Coddy. The food is ok but it's not my
favorite place for fried seafood.
The Leeside - I've eaten there. It's good. It overlooks the Ferry terminal
and I believe is open all year.

The Captain Kidd - lots of local color here and a glass porch and deck for
in or outside dining w/ a view. Food is good and reasonble.
Looks like hell but I'd say it's the favorite of employees here
(at WHOI) ( open all year except for ~4 wks in late
winter/early spring)
The Dome - outside the village on the left on your way in. VERY nice but
expensive. I'm not sure they're open for lunch. closed in
The Food Buoy - great sandwiches and hot foods to go (open all year) [CJS]

Public Parking in Woods Hole is restricted to street parking at meters and
fills up very fast in the summer [CJS]


From Chatham up to P-Town there is much more focus on open space and
artsy/craftsy stuff. There is a higher kiln and canvas-store ratio to
inhabitant here than almost anywhere on the planet - if you liek to look at
local artisans' work this is the best area - with Wellfleet probably the
center of it all. [TG]

Wellfleet is a wonderful town. I go there myself for a week every June. There
are MANY art galleries. A good restaurant there Is The Bookstore It's just
beyond the Town Pier. Good sea-food and upstairs you can see the harbor. If
there's a wind and the tide is in, the windsurfers abound. There's also a small
live theater across the street that's been making a name for itself over the
last ten years or so. it's called W.H.A.T. ( Wellfleet Harbor Actor's Theater).
There's free parking at the town marina. Also across from the Bookstore is a
beach that has free parking. It's not so good at low tide for anything but
beachcombing but at high tide the water is warm amd calm. Great for small
children. [CJS]


For warmer beaches South Cape Beach in Mashpee is also big and nice. [CJS]


I've had a great time shopping in Chatham Center [CJS]

Martha's Vineyard

My husband and I went to Martha's Vineyard for our honeymoon four years ago,
in May. I really loved it, but I have to warn you - there's NOTHING to do.
Perfect for a honeymoon :). We stayed at an inn, can't remember the name
but I could look it up if you want. It was Captain...Something. We had
a suite, the breakfast was good, and they had a croquet court and served
'tea' each afternoon.

We took the ferry from Wood's Hole and took a car. You could rent scooters
there just as well.

I don't remember much about the restaurants, except that there aren't many
open in the off season. We went to two restaurants that I remember and
bought chips and dip from the A&P for one dinner!

There are beautiful white clay cliffs you can walk around (watch out for the
nude sunbathers, they are really attractive in May - all white and pasty
looking :) ), plus a light house, beaches, some shops, a winery (which was
not open when we were there), and two movie houses. The movie houses
are each open on separate halves of each week and share the movie. You bring
your own drinks and snacks, it's pretty fun. They also have lots of
beautiful old houses if you like architecture.

I really enjoyed MV, I suggest you try it, but you may want to just stay
a few days and go to Nantucket, Cape Cod, or Boston. We went for one night
to a very old inn in Cape Cod then to MV for about 4 days then to Boston for
three days. Boston was great, we walked the historical tour, went to the
art museum, and to a baseball game.

In the off season (not mem day-labor day) things are really quite and lots
of places close down. Expect higher prices than the mainland.

From: [TC]
< about showing up for the ferry with no reservation for a car and getting on>
Sorry, but chance are almost NIL. Zero. Zippo. Zilch. Don't even think
about counting on it. :) You need to reserve months if not weeks in advance.
It's not worth bringing a car to Martha's Vineyard anyway. Too much hassle,
too much money.

Getting around the Vineyard is very easy without a car. There are shuttle
buses that frequently go between Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown.
There's a less frequent bus that goes from each of the three towns above
across the Vineyard to Gay Head. You can also rent bicycles and mopeds.
Putt-putting in a moped sounds like an interesting way to see the island.
If you really need a car, you can still rent one. They may be lemons, but
they run. But gas is kind of pricey on the island. Finding a rental place
is very easy. Just look around once you get off the ferry.

Despite the popularity of the Vineyard, it's still a really nice looking
island. If you look hard enough, you can escape the crowds and have parts of
the island to yourself. There's enough out there to explore.

From: [SC]
< about showing up for the ferry with no reservation for a car and getting on>
I don't know the details, but a friend of mind went last year
without a reservation. He was stuck waiting for 12 hours before
getting on a ferry.

Unless you want to get really really frustrated, I would go
without a car or make reservation way in advance.
From: [SCw]

< about showing up for the ferry with no reservation for a car and getting on>
In my experience you are dead wrong(about having trouble getting on
the ferry w/out a reservation). Everyone always says it is
impossible to get a car on the Vineyard without a reservation, yet why
is there a standby line every day if no one goes... In actuality, if
you show up during the week by 5 am, you are almost 100% guaranteed to
get on the ferry. Of course if you plan to just show up at 10 am on a
saturday morning... forget it.

From: [DM]
< about showing up for the ferry with no reservation for a car and getting on>
I called the ferry terminal on Friday, July 1, and was able to
get 7:15 a.m. reservations for my car for the following Wednesday.
You're generally not going to be this lucky, but once in a while
there will be an open spot. Otherwise, the standby policy is that
you must get your car in line by a certain time (I think it's 2:00)
in order to be guaranteed that you and your vehicle will get to
the Vineyard the same day. (However, the previous poster is
correct - you could wait in line 12 LONG, HOT hours.)
The $78 round trip fare is cheaper than the $90+ per day car
rental, and the car does let you get around on your own schedule,
rather than being tied to a shuttle. (Except in Edgartown, where
the parking is at such a premium that you're better off parking at
the 'triangle' and taking the shuttle trolley to town.
There's no extra charge on the ferry for bikes attached to a car,
so we hauled our four with us. Bike or moped rentals are available
everywhere, but it's a long ride to Menemsha,Chilmark, or Gay Head,
along some narrow winding roads.
If you want to take the car, I'd recommend calling The Steamship
Authority in Falmouth, MA. 508 540-2022 info & reservations

From Karyn [K]:

During the off season do not expect to find transportation on the
island readily available. Only one bike rental shop was open, the
bikes were in poor condition and cost 20.00 per day, plus a 15.00
deposit. The buses and shuttle buses do not run during this time and
mopeds were not to be found, there appeared to be only one car
rental place open. Van taxis were available at the boat dock.

We found that even though this is Easter week, most stores and
eateries at Vineyard Haven were closed. We did get a good lunch at
The Black Dog.

Today (4/4/96) the Steamship Authority announced that they are going
to take cars to MV by reservation only. My advise would be to book
this trip when you book your trip to the Cape.
The off season rate for cars is 24.00 one way, this does not include
the car passengers. Passenger fares are 4.25 per adult and 2.15 per
child (5-12), one way. Bicycles are 3.00, one way. As a side note,
animals are allowed on the boat, we even saw a cat on a leash!

I think that without transportation, MV is not worth the trip during
off season! There are too many beautiful and accessible places on
the Cape to bother. [K]

Much of this info may be outdated. Please check w/
The Steamship Authority in Falmouth, MA. 508 540-2022
for latest info & reservations [CJS]


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