Cape Cod is a four-hour drive from New York City, and just over an hour drive from Boston. Reaching 65 miles into the North Atlantic like a proud seafarer’s arm, life here is lived by the tides.
One of the world’s largest barrier islands, Cape Cod has long shielded the Massachusetts mainland from the Atlantic’s grinding swells. For centuries this 400 square-mile peninsula of beaches, forests, and ponds has been a sanctuary for its Native Peoples, for Pilgrims, mariners, artists, and vacationers.
While many come for the beaches, this is far more than just another seaside summer escape. Once you’ve inhaled the salty spirit of this place, you’ll understand why locals say, “once a Cape Codder, always a Cape Codder.” And you don’t need to travel far to catch that spirit.
The Upper Cape
Leave the mainland behind and journey into the Upper Cape, home to historic villages like Woods Hole. It’s in villages like these where common-sense has stood firm against the fickle winds of architectural whimsy. Marine scientists and restaurateurs may have replaced the whalers and fisher-folk of old, but the shingle homes remain, and, there’s not a chain store to be seen.
Wherever you travel on the Cape, the sea surrounds you, and the Upper Cape is no exception.
Drop your towel on the sands of Old Silver Beach and wade into the calm waters of Buzzards Bay.
The Nobska Light
Or saddle up and explore the beaches of Vineyard Sound, which stretch away to the east under the ever-watchful gaze of Nobska Light.
South Cape Beach State Park
The town of Falmouth is the perfect place to take to the waters, whether it’s for a quiet paddle or the 50-minute ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard.
While right next door is Mashpee, lose yourself amid the pitch pines and endless dunes of South Cape Beach State Park.
Follow the currents further from the mainland, into the Mid Cape region. You’ll find Cape Cod’s rich maritime heritage all over the peninsula, but nowhere more so, than in Hyannis, which in the 1800s was home to over 200 ships masters.
Hyannis was also the summer retreat of one of America’s most revered presidents and naval heroes, John F Kennedy. When JFK urged his countrymen and women to “set sail and not sit in the harbor”, the Cape Cod call to adventure could be felt right across the nation.
The Cape Cod Maritime Museum
The experience that seafaring spirit, in the wood shavings and sawdust of the Cape Cod Maritime Museum, where craftsmen shape boats so beautiful, even landlubbers’ hearts are known to skip a beat.
Ride the sea breezes further eastward to the Cape’s elbow, and drop anchor at Chatham. Head down to the pier and meet the locals who hang out by the fishing boats hoping for a free meal. And follow the lead of the migratory birds who rest in this important habitat, and feel your own feathers…unruffle.
The Outer Cape to Eastham
From Chatham, wind your way north through the Outer Cape to Eastham, the gateway to the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Founded in 1961 by John F Kennedy, this national treasure covers almost the entire east coast of Cape Cod, preserving its historic landmarks and pristine habitats for future generations to enjoy.
Gazing out upon the wild Atlantic from this 40-mile stretch of pristine seashore is the perfect antidote for the rigors of modern life. For this is the place, Henry Thoreau once wrote, “that a man may stand still and put all America behind him.“
As you move further up the Cape, the simple life reveals itself around every bend from the cottages and shacks which have seen the summer crowds come and go for decades… to the farms and gardens that keep this place so very grounded.
Our journey ends at Cape Cod’s northern tip, where the Cape’s modern story began, in Provincetown. For it was here, in 1620, where the Mayflower finally dropped anchor and 102 weary Pilgrims first came ashore.
The Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum
Visit the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, and learn about life in P-Town in days gone by. Then wind your way to the top of the Pilgrim Monument, which rises above this outpost that has long been a haven for adventurers, artists, and freethinkers.
Nature is always close at hand in Provincetown. Head down to Macmillan Pier and cast off on a whale-watching cruise, or cast for bass in the waters off Herring Cove Beach.
The Provincetown Dunes
Fill your water bottles and explore the Provincetown Dunes, a vast expanse of wind-swept tranquility that playwright, Eugine O’Neill once called, “a grand place to be alone and undisturbed”.
Cape Cod has long provided the stage for American dramas, grand and small, from the weary Pilgrims who waded ashore for a better life, to the early beachcombers who sought quiet refuge from the industrial age.
Today, Cape Cod continues to offer those who come the gifts of connectedness and calm. For this is a place that reminds us that a life lived by the tides, is the best kind of life of all.