Cape Cod is beautiful… Mr TTR and I go there usually once per summer for a long weekend getaway.
Key things to know is it is a Peninsula (actually more like an island, due to the Cape Cod Canal) so there are limited ways to get onto the Cape… there are 2 Bridges… one at the end of Hwy 25 (Bourne Bridge) that leads onto Cape Cod Hwy 28… and the other at the end of Hwy 3 (Sagamore Bridge) that leads onto Cape Cod Hwy 6.
In the summertime, traffic can be HORRENDOUS getting onto the Cape on Fridays, and then again getting off on Sundays (backed up for Miles & Hours)… especially so leading into a Long Weekend… which is WHY when we go to CC we plan to get on BEFORE Noon on a Friday, and leave on a Monday (Tuesday if it is a long weekend in the USA)
Cape Cod looks like a bent Arm… reaching from the Shoulder to the Elbow, and then up to the Hand and Fingers. The area around the Shoulder is known as the Upper Cape, the area by the Hand as Lower Cape… and the bits in between down by the Elbow and Flexed Muscle as Mid-Cape.
Cape Cod only looks small on a map, but it is much bigger than it appears. It is aprox 64 Miles from Sagamore Bridge to the point at the end of Provincetown. And although a Mapping Program will tell you it takes aprox 1 Hour to drive that distance via Hwy 6, it inevitably always seem to take much longer (we always plan for 2 Hours as a minimum… more if it is BUSY time on the Cape… like a Long Weekend).
Hwy 6 is the main road on Cape Cod… it is a divided highway for a good part of the journey (the most populated portion of theCape)…Sagamore Bridge to Orleans. Beyond Orleans it is a 2 lane highway with one-on-one traffic. Hwy 6 can literally come to a standstill with traffic (including the more “expressway” bits) when things are BUSY on theCape.
Unlike other Coastal Destinations, Cape Cod has a bit of a different set up than you might expect. Because Massachusetts was the first settled State in the USA, you’ll find that the majority of ocean front property is privately owned… so there is NOT a continuous hotel strip that fronts onto ocean front with a main road that runs behind. On Cape Cod as I’ve said Hwy 6 is the primary way to get around (inland), and Hwy 6A and Hwy 28 are the two main routes that provides access to the various connecting towns and villages. They are both more “city street” like than they are “highway” like, and are lined by Homes and Businesses.
Hotels, Inns, B&Bs that say they are ocean front mean you typically find yourself turning down a city street, and winding your way along until you find the Hotel property. This is also true for locating the Beaches in the Upper and Mid-Cape area. Hwy 28 is for certain theMAIN COMMERCIAL Routeon the Cape (you’ll see a lot of Hotels etc along Hwy 28).
Every town and village in Cape Codhas a different vibe to it. Barnstable (Hyannis) is the largest city centre… and a real hub of activity. It is also where Cape Cod’s main airport is. And the Port (Hyannis Port) where you can catch the most number of ferries that will take you to “theIslands” (Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket). There are a variety of ferries to “The Islands” including Car Ferries (very expensive), regular ferries, and high-speed ferries.
No visit to Cape Cod IMO is complete without a visit to Provincetown (affectionately known as P-Town). Provincetown is at the northend of the Cape. And is also a bustling locale. It is the 2nd largest settlement on the Cape, and very eclectic. It is also where the Pilgrims from the Mayflower landed BEFORE they came ashore inPlymouth… spending several weeks in P-Town. Be sure and visit the Pilgrim’s Monument when there. There is also Passenger Ferry service out of P-Town connecting to Boston to the Northwest.
Getting around the Capeyou most certainly need a car… because things are spread out… and public transit isn’t that great to get from town to town.
Besides going up to P-Town for the diversity of it all… heading north will allow you to truly see some of the best geography. From the elbow to the hand, are some of the most breathtaking beaches in New England (the Cape Cod National Seashore). And as the arm narrows down thru wrist to hand, this is also where you’ll encounter the magnificent sand dunes. Be sure and check out the National Seashore Visitor’s Centre and Marconi Beach (where the first transatlantic wireless / telegraphy transmission was made from the USA to England).
NOTE – Although gorgeous to look at … the water at the Atlantic Beaches is very very cold. The more temperate beaches can be found wherever the ocean is more shallow… so Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket Sound etc.
Cape Codis truly beautiful, and offers a lot to see and do… something for everyone IMO (and too much to mention / list here). And it is a very “cultural” place as well… with Art Galleries, Music Festivals, Theatre etc. There are also some excellent historic sites, museums and of course lighthouses (we love the one in Chatham… it sits right on the point of the elbow). Being surrounded by water, you’ll find a lot of water based activities in CC … Seal or Whale Watching, Deep Sea Fishing, Sailing etc.
“The Islands” make for a nice Day Trip… but plan ahead as they are very very popular. Mr TTR and I have spent time on both… by far our favourite is Nantucket (mostly because Martha’s Vineyardis OVER-RUN with people). The Ferries to both Islands run regularly and planning a day trip is easy enough… go early in the AM and come back late… that way you can make the most of your visit. The Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard is reality cheap compared to Nantucket (no doubt part of the reason there are soooo many people in “the Vineyard”), BUT it is not uncommon to find that after you make your way to buy a ticket, that the ferries for Martha’s Vineyard are all booked up for the day (after parking your car etc… they have off-site parking for the ferries… it means you can find out you’ve wasted hours for naught). Reservations therefore are RECOMMENDED !! Once there, staying over is also a possibility… but as much as Cape Cod can be pricey for accommodations, The Islands can be down right EXPENSIVE !!
There is public transit on both islands, and you can also rent bikes, mopeds etc. I wouldn’t recommend renting a car as they are expensive, and not that great in traffic. For the most part getting around by bus is much more practical (taxi if you really get stuck).
Nantucket is far more upscale than Martha’s Vineyard. And it is a smaller island (just one community vs six). It is also a flat island so easy to get around on foot or by bike. Nantucket was once a whaling community so it has a fascinating past. And in modern times it is where many of the Super-Rich come “to summer” be that in their HUGE Oceanfront properties, or onboard their MASSIVE Yachts.
Generally speaking, things on The Islands are more expensive than on the mainland, that is because everything has to be brought in by boat or plane. So you will pay more for most items… including food and drink. Know this going in and you won’t find yourself surprised by it
Still though, Mr TTR and I are truly in LOVE withNantucket… it just is so unique with its fabulous seaside homes, cobblestone streets and historic buildings and architecture. Truly picturesque… something you’ve seen in a Movie when it comes to beautiful beaches and beach houses. Lol, if I won the lotto, I think I’d choose “to summer” on Nantucket myself.
This info should get you started on your adventure… as I said, there is TONS to do and see on Cape Cod & The Islands. I suggest you supplement your travel planning in the following ways.
Check out Wikipedia… a great place for a general overview… and you can click around to read more if you like on various features and places named
Wikipedia – Cape Cod= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Cod
Cape Cod Tourism (c/o the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce) = http://www.capecodchamber.org/
If you are going to be in Cape Cod for a week, it might be a good idea to order some publications, or even pick up a Guide Book from a Bookstore (Fodors, Frommers, etc all make them)
Another great source for info is TripAdvisor, the largest Travel Planning company on the Internet… they have TONS of fabulous info… be it an on-line resource for a Travel Guide, or Reviews of Accommodations, Restaurants, Things to Do etc… AND they also have Discussion Boards / Forums where you can chat with Destination Experts and Locals about things that interest you. TA is amazing, I NEVER plan a vacation any more without consulting that website.
TripAdvisor – Cape Cod(Tourism Info) = http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Tourism-g185492-Cape_Cod_Massachusetts-Vacations.html
Hope this helps… if you want to chat some more you can always drop me a PM