Posts tagged ‘massachusetts’
Cape Cod is one of the most treasured spots on the East Coast for its amazing beaches, secluded bikepaths, and historic lighthouses that dot the shore. Each of the towns of Cape Cod have their own unique flavor. For example, Sandwich is a great town for those looking to experience the quaint, quiet New England backroad feel of the Cape. Just next door, the town of Barnstable contains many villages, most notably Hyannis, home of the Kennedy Compound, and the only designated “city” on Cape Cod. This page will help you plan a trip to Cape Cod, and find some of the best things to do, places to see, provide Cape Cod road trip tips, make suggestions on when and where to stay, and provide links to further information about the Cape.
If you’re looking to plan a trip to Cape Cod, first, you’ll need to find out what season you prefer. Cape Cod can get very warm in the summer (at least to New Englanders), with temperatures reaching the mid to high 80’s, sometimes into the 90’s for a few days stretch. The climate is usually humid on Cape Cod, but a sea breeze keeps most of the Cape slightly cooler than the rest of Massachusetts. If you’re looking for warm weather without the crowds, autumn is very comfortable on Cape Cod. Temperatures still stay in the 60’s and 70’s through most of October, and you’ll have the bonus of fall foliage. The winter is a beautiful experience as well, when snow blankets much of Cape Cod during parts of January and February (though driving can be stressful for those not used to it).
To summarize, those looking for very warm weather and warm beaches, come in the summer (though be warned, Cape Cod traffic can be insane in the summer). For thinner crowds and cooler temperatures, visit in autumn. For a wintery experience that has wreath decorated ligthhouses and Colonial homes lit for the holidays, visit in autumn. Spring, too, is often underestimated for its comfortable temperatures (and less bugs, too).
The next on your Cape Cod vacation planning checklist would be the place to stay. Cape Cod doesn’t have all too many large chain hotels, which is good and bad. It’s great because you don’t have to worry about the cheesy, cookie-cutter atmosphere and robotic concierge of chain hotels. On the other hand, you never know what to expect, that is, unless you read hotel reviews. Check Trip Advisor for honest reviews from people that have stayed there, and to get additional photos of the rooms. You’ll be surprised by some of the comments, sometimes disappointed, sometimes pleasantly surprised. It isn’t always the more expensive hotel that’s the better one! Cape Cod has many bed and breakfasts, inns, and motels. You won’t find many multi-story hotels. The bed and breakfast is a great route for Cape Cod travel, but can be a little expensive sometimes. Motels are often no-frills, and rely more on the surrounding attractions and beaches than they do on the amenities they provide (they can also sometimes be very overpriced). If you’d like to stay at a nice place on Cape Cod, you’re most likely going to spend over $100 night.
Next, you’ll want to plan out what time of week (and what week) you’ll want to stay. Weekends on Cape Cod, even in the early autumn, can be nuts. Traffic can back up the Bourne and Sagamore Bridge for miles heading to Cape Cod, and back. Typically Friday is the worst day for traffic heading over the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges. Sunday night is often the worst coming back, but Saturday morning can be rough both ways. If the weekend is a holiday weekend, expect traffic on the holiday (like 4th of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day). To avoid the traffic, avoid travel on the weekends. If you must travel on the weekends, try to plan your trip over the bridges early on Friday morning, early Saturday morning (before 7am), or Sunday morning (before 7am).
On your trip to Cape Cod, you’ll need the basic beach essentials: sunglasses, suntan lotion, a beach towel, and bathing suit, some changes of clothes – not much else. Like any road trip, you’re best off to pack light. If you run out of clothes, you can always buy a souvenir t-shirt or sweatshirt. Gas is slightly more expensive on Cape Cod than elsewhere in Massachusetts. Gas stations are located heavily along Route 28, and signs are designated for gas stations off of Route 6.
Now, which Cape Cod towns should you visit and stay at? The towns of Cape Cod all offer something different.
Bourne is the westernmost town on Cape Cod. While Bourne isn’t the most popular resort town, it is a beautiful stopping point on your trip for many reasons. The Cape Cod Canal, which runs from Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay, provides miles of bike riding, walking, and skating opportunities along the paved bike path. It also has some of the best fishing on Cape Cod. Bourne’s western beaches provide goregous views of the Elizabeth Islands and the Cape Cod Canal boat traffic. Along the canal, be sure to take a stroll on the bike path to view the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge, a beautiful piece of architecture that looks great during sunsets.
Falmouth is located on the southwestern corner of Cape Cod. Falmouth has been built up over the years, but still has some beautiful, quaint, New England style villages. Route 28 leads directly to the town of Falmouth, and eventually to Woods Hole. Woods Hole is a small village on the southern tip of Falmouth, and the home of the Martha’s Vineyard Ferry (which is a great day trip). It’s also one of the most popular towns on the Cape to stay at because of its many beaches and proximity to the bridges.
Mashpee is a mostly residential town adjacent to Sandwich, Falmouth, and Barnstable. There aren’t too many hotels in the town of Mashpee, but the town does have some memorable coastline between Falmouth and Barnstable near Route 28. Explore the hidden harbors, marshes, and inlets on these scenic backroads and you won’t be disappointed.
Sandwich is the oldest town on Cape Cod. Of all of the towns on the Cape, it probably has the most “old time Cape Cod” feel, especially along Route 6A. The town has a small stretch of shoreline between Barnstable and Bourne, right near the Cape Cod Canal. A drive down Route 6A in Sandwich is not to be missed! Also, check out the Sandwich Glass Factory, where glass makers handblow glass live, and offer works of art for sale in the gift shop.
Barnstable is better known for its “village” of Hyannis and Hyannis Port. These two parts of the city have been made famous by former President John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy as home of the Kennedy Compound. Besides the Kennedy connection, Barnstable has plenty to offer. Major villages like Cotuit, Centerville, Craigville Beach, and the busy town center of Hyannis along Route 28 are some of the most visited spots of Cape Cod. Barnstable is also where you can find Sandy Neck Beach, a long, dune-filled peninsula with unbelievable views of Cape Cod Bay.
Yarmouth, located right next to Hyannis/Barnstable, is a town that is very different from north side to south side. It is one of the few towns that has shores on both Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay. The busy south side is much like Hyannis along Route 28, while the north side has calm waters and rivers at Bass Hole and Yarmouth Port. It also shares Bass River with its neighbor to the east, Dennis. Yarmouth is one of the most popular resort towns, which you can find many of along Route 28.
Dennis shares its school system and the Bass River with the town of Yarmouth. The two towns are interconnected in many ways, but Dennis offers its own beautiful coastline along both Route 28 and Route 6A. Like Yarmouth, many of the resort and motel areas are located along Route 28. Bass River is one of the most popular areas in town for fishing and boating.
Harwich, which is known for containing “seven villages and three harbors,” is further east along Route 28 on Cape Cod. Harwich contains the busy town center (in the summer, anyways) of Harwich Port, and has a ferry that leaves for Nantucket from its shores. Unlike Dennis and Yarmouth, Harwich doesn’t have a northern shore along Cape Cod Bay, but does have great beaches on the southern side on Nantucket Sound.
North of Harwich and east of Dennis is the unofficial most quiet town on Cape Cod, Brewster. This small town has serene, picture-perfect beaches at Paine’s Creek and other Cape Cod Bay beaches. Brewster has many of the best bed and breakfasts Cape Cod has to offer. Along Route 6A, you can find a stretch of antique shops and galleries to browse during your trip. Much of the town preserves its Colonial era charm through its antique homes and buildings.
Chatham is located south of Brewster and Orleans, and east of Harwich. Chatham is one of the wealthiest towns on Cape Cod, and has some of the best views on the entire Cape. With stupendous shoreline along Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, you can find some great beaches in town. Unfortunately, many of them are private, but some aren’t. Try visiting Lighthouse Beach near the town center, and don’t miss a cruise along Pleasant Bay on Route 28. The views there are incredible.
Orleans, like Chatham, has incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean. It has the advantage of having some of the best Cape Cod Bay beaches on the northern side as well, like Rock Harbor. Much of Orleans’ eastern facing beaches are protected by the Cape Cod National Seashore, which stretches from Orleans to Provincetown.
Eastham is one of the most famous towns on Cape Cod, if we’re speaking in terms of iconic images. The famous Nauset Light which you can see on Cape Cod Potato Chips bags everywhere is adorned with the historic lighthouse. Just behind Nauset Light, you can find the historic Three Sisters of Nauset lighthouses. Also, don’t miss the beaches in Eastham. The ones on the Atlantic Ocean provide great surf, and dramatic views because of the high dunes behind you.
Of all of the towns on Cape Cod, Wellfleet could be the most dramatic. It has frequent whales that visit the Cape Cod Bay side, winding river marshes that can easily be seen from Route 6, and is home to the famous Marconi Beach and Marconi Station, both part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. As you head further north (or east, as Route 6 indicates), the hotels/motels because further apart. This makes the Outer Cape region one of the tougher places to find a place to stay, and one of the most expensive. However, the price is well worth the drive and the extra money, as you’ll see once you arrive in Wellfleet.
This is probably the quietest and smallest town on Cape Cod. Located south of Provincetown and north of Wellfleet, Truro has some galleries in the town center, located off of Route 6, along with Highland Light, located on the Atlantic Ocean side of town. There are some homes that are available for rent in town by the week/weekend, but very few places to stay other than these. Right before the Provincetown town line, you’ll find the famous cottages along Route 6A, which offer some of the most desirable views on Cape Cod.
Provincetown has a long history of being an artist colony, and tradition continues today. It has dozens of art galleries on Commercial Street, making it the busiest art community on Cape Cod. Provincetown also is a massive gay and lesbian tourist destination, with many gay friendly restaurants, clubs and inns in town. The coast of Provincetown is not to be missed. There are three lighthouses in town, a mile long jetty that leads the PTown spit, and one of the best Cape Cod beaches at Race Point. The town also has miles of paved bike paths leading from Race Point to Provincelands, to the downtown area. Most of the places to stay are located in downtown, which is only a few minutes from any part of town.
Which town will you choose for your vacation? The quiet appeal of Brewster and Truro, the busy atmosphere of Hyannis and Provincetown, or the easy to find/easily accessible beaches of Dennis and Yarmouth? Whichever town you choose, check the reviews of the hotel you’re booking through prior to committing. Once you’ve booked your hotel, you may want to read this guide on 50 things to do on Cape Cod, for recommended activities, trip planning, beaches, sightseeing, and other fun activities. For trip planning between Boston and Cape Cod, read our guide on the towns of the South Shore.
Do you have a favorite spot on Cape Cod that you recommend, or a travel tip you’d like to share? I’d like to hear from you in the comments section below, and so would our other travelers!
A lot of places in Massachusetts get plenty of attention for what they have to offer in terms of scenic attractions, beaches, mountains, big cities, and historical sites. You’ve probably heard of Cape Cod, and you’ve no doubt heard of Boston. The South Shore of Massachusetts, however, sometimes gets ignored. Beyond the town of Plymouth, what else is there? Plenty. The South Shore of Massachusetts has lighthouses, scenic views of the Boston skyline, some of the best beaches in the state, great restaurants, and one other thing: a lack of crowds. That’s the biggest difference.
We’ll start north and head south on this trip, and begin with the town of Quincy.
Quincy is just south of Boston, so it’s a city, not much of a beach town. Quincy does have its own beaches, particularly Wollaston Beach, but these are no match for the beaches further south. What it does have is a lot of history. The town is the home of former Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as the famous signor of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock. Quincy boasts some of the best restaurants on the South Shore, as well as the beautiful seaside community of Marina Bay.
Normally just a stopping point along Route 3, Weymouth doesn’t seem like it has much to offer in terms of scenic views, however, you may not have visited the Weymouth Back River along Route 3A. This scenic area has its own park, Abigail Adams Park, with plenty of space for dog walking and enjoying the fresh air. Like Quincy, this is a city style town with plenty of businesses and restaurants. You’ll also find Wesagusset Beach along the relatively small Weymouth shoreline.
Hingham is one of the South Shore’s wealthiest communities, and one of the prettiest. Like Weymouth and Quincy, there isn’t all that much shoreline in town, but what is there is memorable. What’s most memorable about Hingham’s coast is the peninsula park called World’s End. This hilly land is made up of several hills overlooking Quincy, Hull, and Hingham. Nestled away on this tip, it’s easy to find yourself as the only visitor in this scenic park, strangely enough.
Located on a peninsula in Boston Harbor, Hull is connected by land to the towns of Cohasset and Hull. There is no land route to Boston, except for a long 1-hour drive back down the peninsula south, and north to Boston. This scenic town of the South Shore boasts its most popular beach, Nantasket Beach. With miles of white sand, Nantasket has little rocks and plenty of stretches of soft sand to walk on. Much of Nantasket also has a giant sea wall, which is another popular place to go walking or running. Further north in Hull, you will reach some of the hills for which the town is famous. To the north, you can view Little Brewster Island and Boston Light. At the very end of Hull, you’ll find Pemberton Point, looking out at Peddocks Island, the Boston Harbor Islands, and the skyline of the city of Boston. Get here early if you’re heading here in the summer, because the beach parking fills up fast.
Cohasset, like Hingham, is a beautiful community that has many spectacular, high priced homes on the water. Cohasset’s Jerusalem Road is a must drive for the South Shore. When you’re done with that, drive through the center of Cohasset, and to the tribute to the former lighthouse in Cohasset at Government Island. Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse can clearly be seen from the park, which stands alone in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, protecting ships from the rocky shoal to this day.
Scituate is located south of Cohasset. Scituate has its own lighthouse and harbor. Scituate Light can be seen as the introductory photo for this post. From the coast of northern Minot, you can spot the Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse, along with a small beach (and sometimes tidal pools). In Scituate Center, you’ll find plenty of shops, art galleries, and local restaurants featuring seafood, Irish food, and ice cream. South of the center, you’ll find the cliffs area of Scituate. These four cliffs have spectacular views of the ocean. The Fourth Cliff of Scituate is located in Humarock. This coastal village is only accessibly by first traveling through Marshfield. Scituate and Humarock were once connected, but a storm moved the mouth of the North River between Third and Fourth Cliff to its present entrance.
At the coastal center of the South Shore is the town of Marshfield. Like many coastal towns in Massachusetts and Cape Cod, Marshfield contains several “villages” that make up the town. Fieldston, Ocean Bluff, Brant Rock, Rexhame, and Marshfield Hills are some of those villages. The busiest of those villages in the summer is Brant Rock, which has extensive parking for summer strolls along the waterfront and for a day trip to the beach. You can find the Marshfield Hills section of town near Route 3A. Marshfield Hills has many historic homes and scenic backroads that are worth the drive.
Duxbury has some of the South Shore’s most impressive scenery. Much of the town is located on the ocean, and the town has one of the busiest beaches in Massachusetts, Duxbury Beach. If you have the time, spend a couple of hours exploring the main roads of town like Washington Street, Powder Point Avenue, and King Caesar Road. These all have incredible views of Manoment and Plymouth, along with tidal creeks, small sailboats, and waterfront homes. Near Duxbury Beach, you’ll find the Powder Point Bridge. This bridge leads to the peninsula of Gurnet, which leads to the village of Saquish. This is four wheel drive access only, and you’ll need a beach permit sticker to get here. Once you reach Saquish, you’ll need to turn around. It’s residents only. The ride to Saquish, however, is unforgettable. On one side, there’s the open Atlantic Ocean. On the other side, you’ll see dunes, shorebirds, and Plymouth Harbor. Bring your camera so you can remember this beautiful spot forever. If you’d rather not spend the extra money on a permit, you can park at the other side of the Powder Point Bridge and walk over. The walk is long, but the views are grand.
The town of Kingston is located just south of Duxbury. Much of the shoreline of Kingston is dominated by the Jones River. Kingston has the small beach that overlooks Kingston Bay called Gray’s Beach, along with beautiful historic homes located on Main Street (Route 27). Much of Kingston’s shoreline can be seen by traveling first via Washington Street in Duxbury, to Bay Road. This will lead eventually to the Jones River and Bay Farm, a large open pasture that leads to the ocean.
Plymouth is the South Shore’s most well known town, and also the largest town in the state of Massachusetts by land area. There’s no question that you should definitely make Plymouth part of your journey across the South Shore. Plymouth has some great seafood restaurants and shopping in Plymouth Center, but also has stunning beaches and deep history (which you probably already knew). There are many historic buildings and parks in Plymouth, but make Plymouth Rock, the Plymouth waterfront, the Mayflower II, and Plimoth Plantation “must-sees” on your trip. There are some beautiful beaches in Plymouth, many of which are private. For a better view of some of them, take the Captain John Boats, which offer great whale watches. A trip on one of these boats will give you great views of Kingston, Duxbury, Saquish, and sometimes Provincetown (not to mention the whales themselves).
A trip across the South Shore will take all day, if you start early. Otherwise, it could take two days. Popular towns to stay in include Rockland, Hull, and Plymouth. Be sure to plan your trip around bridge traffic on Cape Cod as well. Bridge traffic is heavy on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as Saturday and Sunday mornings.
If you’re looking for variety in your road trip, New England might be the place to find it. The cold Atlantic waters have carved beautiful beaches along Cape Cod, while Maine’s coast has miles upon miles of steep ocean cliffs. Further inland, Vermont’s Green Mountains and New Hampshire’s White Mountains change every season to provide us with a different view of their forested slopes.
Lensmaster Kiwisoutback has written an entire guide to taking a road trip to New England, which delves into the more popular destinations like Franconia Notch in Vermont, the Connecticut wine trail, the shore of Cape Cod, and the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. You’ll also find a list of recommended things to do in each state, where the major cities are in New England, where the lighthouses are located along the coast (also rivers and lakes), and the interesting regional food.
Have you ever visited New England? You can also add a Twitter update to the lens tweeting out your favorite destination in these six states, whether it’s a roadside diner, ski resort, bed and breakfast, or just a secluded beach that’s worth seeing.
Related Road Trip Posts:
* Take a Road Trip Across the United States
Also visit the road trip blog to see more U.S. travel destinations you can visit by car.