Cape Cod Area Information
Cape Cod is far more than a world-class vacation destination – it is a real place, offering top-notch health care, quality public and private education, vibrant communities, and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Massachusetts recently ranked #2 on a list of Best States to Raise a Family.
Cape Cod has long been known for stunning natural beauty, hundreds of miles of sandy coastline, magnificent whales migrating just off-shore and world-class creative and recreational opportunities. But now we present Cape Cod to you as the best place to live, work, play and create a new way of life. Here are some stats for you to consider while choosing a place for your “second act” or to reinvent your business and yourself!
Information Provided by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce
Located in the southwest corner of Cape Cod, Falmouth presents travelers with eight unique historic villages filled with character and charm. A picturesque New England town, Falmouth offers activities to suit every taste. The town is well known for its beautiful beaches, boasting the crystal waters of Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound warmed by Gulf Stream. You will find dozens of inlets awaiting your exploration by both foot and by boat.
Once you brush the sand from your toes, Falmouth has a host of activities to enjoy public golf courses, quaint retail shops, restaurants and cafés, the 10.7-mile Shining Sea Bikeway, galleries & museums, theaters and walking trails. Annual Falmouth events include the Falmouth Road Race in August, Fourth of July Fireworks in July, and Falmouth Christmas Parade in December.
As you take the scenic route from historic downtown Falmouth along the shore to Woods Hole, you will pass Nobska Lighthouse, where you can stop for the perfect photo-op with magnificent views of Martha’s Vineyard and Vineyard Sound. Woods Hole is a salty, strolling village bustling with life in the summer. This traditional fishing village is also the hub of oceanic scientific research in the globe. Woods Hole is home to a world-renowned scientific community, including the Marine Biological Laboratory, NOAA National Marine Fisheries, Sea Education Association, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as well as the oldest aquarium in the nation.
Mashpee was originally established as a reserve for the last remaining descendants of the Mashpee Tribe of Wampanoag – the Native Americans who became the first Cape Codders many centuries before the Pilgrims’ arrival. Wampanoag culture still defines much of the town’s character through an active Tribal Council and an annual Pow-Wow celebration each July.
Despite rapid development, Mashpee has put aside thousands of acres of conservation land and offers exceptional freshwater fishing and recreation on four of the largest ponds of Cape Cod.
Mashpee Commons, an open-air shopping center, serves as the downtown hub of the town, with a mix of specialty restaurants, national & local retailers, a movie theater, public library, and bowling alley. Free events are held at the Commons year-round for visitors and the local community, including outdoor movie screenings, a Farmer’s Market, and seasonal festivals.
Mashpee has been named one of the best places to live on the coast by Coastal Living.
While the rest of the world may know Sandwich, Massachusetts for its distinctive glassware that was produced in the 1800s, its most enduring legacy is as the oldest town on Cape Cod. Founded in 1637 and recognized as a town in 1639, the location was appealing for its broad marshes boarding the sea and its resemblance to its namesake – Sandwich, England.
History abounds in Sandwich, from Town Hall Square with its National Historic designation encompassing over 200 buildings (including the restored Town Hall) to the soaring steeple (attributed to Christopher Wren) of the nationally famous 1847 First Church. The town’s rich heritage can also be seen in the 17th century Hoxie House, the 1654 mill that still grinds corn at the edge of tranquil Shawme Pond, and attractions like the Sandwich Glass Museum, which celebrates the vital role the town played in American glass production.
Sandwich today comprises 42 square miles and the villages of Sandwich, East Sandwich, South Sandwich, Scorton Neck, Wakeby and Forestdale. Contemporary Sandwich is punctuated by rows of prim weathered clapboard homes, Greek Revival houses and a town common encircled by ancient shade trees. Sandwich Boardwalk crosses scenic marshlands to lead to Town Neck Beach, and beachgoers will enjoy the dune-laced shoreline along Cape Cod Bay. Historic 6A winds its way through Sandwich, featuring great stores, restaurants, antique shops, and galleries along its way.
The town of Bourne—gateway to the Cape—was once part of Sandwich, which was established in 1637, but later splintered off from the Cape’s oldest town in 1864, naming itself after a New Bedford whaling magnate and philanthropist. It was incorporated in 1884, the last Cape town to do so. With this action, the town has the distinction of being both oldest and newest Cape town.
In 1637, Plymouth settlers established Aptucxet Trading Post along the Manomet River to spur trade with the Dutch from New Amsterdam (now New York). The town was physically divided into Cape and mainland portions in 1914 when the Cape Cod Canal was completed. Both the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges, the Cape’s only links to the mainland other than a railroad bridge, are situated in Bourne. Bourne is bordered by the 7.8-mile, 160-yard wide Cape Cod Canal and the warm waters of Buzzards Bay; Falmouth lies to the south, Sandwich to the east, Wareham to the west, and Plymouth and Cape Cod Bay to the north.
Bourne contains the villages of Bournedale, Buzzards Bay, Cataumet, Monument Beach, Pocasset, Sagamore and Sagamore Beach. The town is more rural than commercial, and its magnificent shoreline has long attracted fishermen and sportsmen. Several small ponds and rivers dot the landscape, along with inlets and sheltered harbors. Many summer homes have descended through multiple generations, their owners proud of the fact that some of these large treasures were not metamorphosed into guest lodging establishments. President Grover Cleveland purchased a summer home here called Gray Gables, where he came to relax and escape the pressures and turmoil of the nation’s capital.
Barnstable is the Cape’s largest town and second oldest. It is the seat of Barnstable County, which encompasses the entire Cape. Hyannis is Barnstable’s largest village, and the commercial and transportation hub of Cape Cod, welcoming planes, trains, buses, and island ferries. Hyannis is alive with a thriving downtown area lined with shops, galleries, fine restaurants, nightspots, and entertainment centers. From the inspiring JFK Memorial to the lively waterfront on Lewis Bay, Hyannis is the unofficial “heart” of the Cape. Along Routes 132 and 28, retail shops abound – from clothing and furniture outlets to Cape Cod Mall, which houses many name-brand stores.
Hyannisport is renowned as the summer home of the Kennedy clan. Along Barnstable’s southerly coast are the villages of Cotuit, Osterville, and Centerville – with handsome homes and beautiful Nantucket Sound beaches. To the north are Marston’s Mills, West Barnstable and Barnstable Village, bucolic spots that are reminiscent of horse-and-buggy days. Vast marshes, stone walls and glimpses of Cape Cod Bay provide reminders of the Cape’s distinctive geography.
The town borders of Yarmouth, Massachusetts stretch the full width of Cape Cod, with shoreline on both Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Sound. To the north is the village of Yarmouthport, an attractive unspoiled area that is completely New England in feeling and runs along historic Route 6A. Sea captain’s homes (many of which are now B&Bs), antique shops, an 1889 pharmacy, the Cape’s oldest inn, an antiquarian bookstore and a sprawling village green line its main thoroughfare. West and South Yarmouth, along Route 28, are more commercially settled, with a surfeit of hotels, motels, souvenir shops, miniature golf courses, ice cream shops, and attractions (including an inflatable water park and pirate museum). Bass River, the longest tidal river on the eastern seaboard, is rimmed with antique homes and elegant waterfront estates. Yarmouth is both old and new—and both contribute mightily to its appeal, making it the study in contrasts which it is. It would be difficult to visit Yarmouth Port for any period of time without venturing into West and South Yarmouth’s commercial centers for shopping, dining, or entertainment. Likewise, visitors whose lodging is situated on the southern shore will naturally gravitate to the bayside out of curiosity.
Lucky Josiah Dennis, the 17th-century Congregational minister who preached to his flock for nearly four decades. He was honored by having five Cape villages bear his name: East, West and South Dennis, Dennisport and Dennis. His former homestead, the Josiah Dennis Manse just off Route 6A, is now itself a museum. Dennis was home to many sea captains and manufactured some of the 19th century’s finest packet boats, clippers and schooners. The Shiverick Shipyard was known throughout the country and built at least eight magnificent clipper ships, all of which were recognized in the Golden Age of Sail. When visitors cross into Dennis, a more peaceful Cape emerges. Life, noticeably slower, seems a bit more subdued. Stately sea captains’ houses, rambling summer houses, artists’ studios and the renowned Cape Playhouse – where Bette Davis was once an usherette – all comprise part of Dennis’ charm .The quiet residential villages of Dennis and East Dennis run along Route 6A and Cape Cod Bay. West Dennis and Dennis Port lie to the south along Nantucket Sound; both are havens for beach-lovers and provide myriad motels, souvenir shops and family-friendly restaurants.
Originally known as Setucket, Harwich, Massachusetts was named after the English seaport and was called “Happy-go-lucky Harwich” by Queen Elizabeth during the late 16th century. That seems to ring true even today; Harwich Port was once ranked the 2nd happiest seaside town in America by Coastal Living magazine. Harwich comprises seven villages: Harwich, East Harwich, Harwich Port, North Harwich, Pleasant Lake and South and West Harwich. The villages lie along the waters of Nantucket Sound and reach all the way east to Pleasant Bay. Harwich Port is the town’s most charming spot; its picture-perfect Wychmere Harbor is a favorite for photographers. Harwich Center, which lies inland, is a quiet and almost isolated village. Only a few stores, including an old-fashioned hardware store and friendly coffee shop, are among the pristine structures of this historic district. Though no longer host to a thriving fishing industry, Harwich is today one of the most productive cranberry areas on the Cape with many well-maintained bogs scattered throughout the town. The town’s annual Cranberry Festival in autumn celebrates the prosperity of that tart little berry. Harwich includes almost 11 miles of shoreline and five harbors. Aside from town’s fine beaches, visitors can shop along its “major” thoroughfares, Routes 28 and 39, visit the town historical society museum or take in town band concerts in season.
Often cloaked in morning fog, Chatham, Massachusetts forms the ragged elbow of Cape Cod. Encompassing a mere 16 square miles of dry ground, Chatham is a decidedly maritime place of pristine beaches, wild barrier islands, tidal shoals, fleeting sandbars, circular coves, and miles of saltwater inlets. Incorporated in 1712, Chatham remains remarkably old-fashioned, despite a well-deserved reputation for shopping. Chic boutiques reside in quaint storefronts along its winding Main Street lined with historic inns, white-steepled churches, varied eateries, and art galleries. A visit to the busy commercial fishing pier reveals the thriving fishing village that exists beneath Chatham’s stylish façade. Chatham has a beauty that is unsurpassed. Surrounded on three sides by water, it has expansive and magnificent beaches, abundant marine wildlife, and a community committed to preserving these natural resources for future generations.
In the mid-1800s, there were said to be more masters and mates of vessels roaming the globe belonging to Brewster, Massachusetts than any other town in the country. Though those glory days of seafaring have long past, many of the 100 sea captains’ mansions and estates along Brewster’s Route 6A now serve as quaint bed & breakfasts, art galleries, craft studios and antique shops. There is no real village center to this rural town, but the Brewster General Store is an old-fashioned gathering place at one of the town’s main crossroads. Just off the main drag, the herring still run upstream in spring to the 1660 Stony Brook Mill. In Brewster, you will find 300 acres of beaches and tidal pools along Cape Cod Bay, and the 400 acres of trails, camping areas and freshwater ponds of Nickerson State Park. Brewster’s eight calm bay beaches are like as many gems. Low tide, when the bay recedes nearly two miles, reveals sparkling, garnet-tinted flats for exploration and delight. The 800-acre Punkhorn Parklands is a favorite of mountain bikers.
As the year-round commercial and retail hub for most Outer Cape communities, Orleans, Massachusetts is the past outpost of bustling activity as the journey to the end of this peninsula begins. It is here in Orleans that Cape Cod’s main roadways—Routes 6, 6A and 28—merge at a rotary directing drivers in as many directions. Nestled between spectacular Nauset Beach on the Atlantic and tranquil Skaket Beach on Cape Cod Bay, Orleans offers something for everyone. In the quaint town center, enjoy shopping and gallery hopping, and dine on fresh local seafood. In the town’s historic district, explore museums and take in live theater performances. And in the natural beauty of its shores and forests, discover the perfect spot for a wide range of outdoor sports including fishing, boating, swimming, biking and just plain relaxing in the clean, fresh air.
One of the four original settlements on Cape Cod, Eastham, Massachusetts remains relatively undiscovered. At First Encounter Beach in Eastham in 1620, a Pilgrim troupe led by Myles Standish met Nauset Native Americans for the first time. Today’s visitors take Samoset Road to the same spot, imagining what may have transpired during this legendary first meeting between Pilgrims and Native Americans; go during the early evening hours to be rewarded with a truly dazzling sunset over Cape Cod Bay. The windmill which graces town—the Cape’s oldest—was built in Plymouth in 1688, re-built in Truro and ultimately moved to its present location in 1808. Each fall, it serves as the centerpiece to the town’s Eastham Windmill Weekend tradition. Today’s Eastham—a compact town three miles wide from bay to ocean and six miles long—comprises Eastham and North Eastham. Along the Atlantic coast, Nauset Light and Coast Guard Beaches dominate Eastham’s shoreline. Cape Cod National Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitors’ Center, just off Route 6 at Salt Pond, welcomes nearly 4 million visitors annually, preparing them for what they will experience once inside the Seashore—superb beaches, great dunes, swamps and marshes, wetlands, grasslands and a tremendous diversity of flora and fauna.
More than 70 percent of Wellfleet’s terrain is clothed in forests of oak and pine, and the drive along Route 6 into town offers fleeting clues of the natural splendor awaiting the visitor, due to the one- to two-mile girth of the peninsula at this point. Wellfleet, Massachusetts is an old whaling port, a contemporary fishing village and a cultural haven. Its walkable streets are lined with art galleries representing artists and crafters of both local and national acclaim, bookstores, and boutiques dwell within its historic residences. It has sweeping views off high dunes as well as a calm, protected harbor. A town known for its shell fishermen; the town’s clock still strikes ship’s time. The town has long been recognized for its plentiful supply of shellfish, including the famous “Wellfleet Oyster,” which is feted each fall during the annual Wellfleet Oyster Fest. This obsession with the oyster has led to Wellfleet being a destination for foodies. Many well-established and recently founded restaurants featuring fresh local food make this a great town for lunch or dinner. Nature-lovers and families will enjoy hiking the trails of the 1,000-acre Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary and visiting the dune-top site where Marconi dispatched the first transatlantic wireless message in 1903 – and Wellfleet’s reputation as a surf-destination is well deserved!
Truro has fewer residents now than it did in 1840, when Pamet Harbor was a whaling and shipbuilding port, which is possibly one of the best reasons to go there. Beyond a post office, a seasonal gourmet food market and a single blinking light, there is hardly a town to Truro, Massachusetts. And beyond beautiful homes built into the hills and a narrow strip of tiny cottages and motels, there is little real commercial development here – it is more a sleepy and rural world of moors, hills, valleys, and rivers with homes hidden amongst the trees. Back roads wind through fascinating scenery dominated by long rolling hills called “hogsbacks. “This bucolic village qualifies as the Cape’s ‘sleepiest’ community. Writers, artists, politicos and mental health types are wont to vacation and live here and American art icon Edward Hopper—who found the Cape’s light ideal for his brand of austere realism— summered in South Truro for nearly 40 years in near-total contentment. And while many visitors are drawn by this relative isolation, they can be comforted by the fact that lively Provincetown is but a short drive away.
Provincetown, Massachusetts is as far out as you can get – in more ways than one. This last stop on the continent, at the tip of this great sandy curve, has been home to Native Americans, explorers, Pilgrims, fishermen, whalers, artists, beach-lovers, and pleasure seekers. It was at the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown that author Henry Thoreau wrote, “…a man can stand here and put all of America behind him. “Provincetown embraces you, and then will not let you go. Perhaps this is the reason artists and people of every lifestyle are so drawn to this stunning place surrounded by sea, sand, and sky. All lifestyles are welcome and co-exist peacefully. This is the spot where the Pilgrims first landed in the New World in 1620; the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument, the tallest granite structure in the nation, commemorates that landing. Here, too, the Mayflower Compact was signed. Provincetown’s sheltered harbor contributes to its long economic success as a fishing port, and many of the town’s fishermen are descendants of Portuguese sailors who arrived here during the whaling days of the 1800s.Provincetown is America’s oldest continuous art colony. Ever since 1899 when artist Charles Hawthorne first opened his painting school, the Cape Cod School of Art, in Provincetown, the town has “welcomed, nurtured and inspired artists from all over the world.” Among these include such luminaries as Edward Hopper and Jackson Pollock. The vibrant Commercial Street boasts eclectic shops, boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Whale watching excursions depart out of Provincetown Harbor, and guided tours will take you out over the town’s majestic dunes. Provincetown, at the very tip of the peninsula, is surrounded on three sides by water and 90% of it is contained within Cape Cod National Seashore.