Cape Cod is a beautiful, historic hook-shaped peninsula off the coast of southeastern Massachusetts. Known as a popular summertime destination, Cape Cod is also known for its seafood, beaches, and the Kennedy Compound. Over two hundred thousand people call the seventy-seven-mile stretch of land “home” year-round. Still the number of inhabitants can triple during the summertime, keeping the fifteen cape towns hopping.
The Cape Cod peninsula is divided into four major sections:
- Upper Cape
- Lower Cape
- Outer Cape
Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are also considered to be their own counties as well as islands separated from the mainland of the cape. From Falmouth, one of the most popular summer vacation destinations on the cape, you can take a tranquil ferry ride to either of these islands. The waters surrounding these islands are rich and complex, beautifully depicted in the bathymetry of a quality wood map.
1. When is the Best Time to Visit Cape Cod
Cape Cod winters are notoriously mild, offering temperatures close to fifty degrees and the rare snowstorm. As a result, the winter off-season offers visitors lower rates and smaller crowds, while presenting the same beautiful trails, beaches, state parks, and museums.
The best time to visit Cape Cod is in May, June, September, and October to enjoy optimal weather and all the area has to offer. Perfect temperatures invite day trips to the dunes and area beaches while avoiding the super-charged crowds of July and August. The waters remain at comfortable temperatures for swimming well into September, and outdoor activities are still comfortable pursuits.
Whatever your preference – crowds or empty beaches – Cape Cod is the perfect host. The waters surrounding the peninsula are teeming with life, activity, and adventure throughout the year. The best views of the waterways are clearly seen in a wood map, capturing your memories and experiences from your time on the Cape and making the perfect travel souvenir.
2. Best Time for Whale Watching
The waters of Cape Cod are popular for several different types of whales. Having wintered further south, these mammals come to feed on the Stellwagen Bank, getting their fill of the plankton plentiful in the protected waters of this marine sanctuary. Commonly seen in April through October, the best time for whale watching is in June, July, August, and September. During these months, you are likely to see:
Whales Seen in Cape Cod Waters
- Atlantic White-sided Dolphin
Best seen in the morning hours when waters are calm, these whales are known to frolic in any weather, so do not let the threat of rain deter you. Instead, pack your rain slicker and join a day cruise for the most satisfying whale-watching experience.
The Stellwagon Bank is just a few miles from Provincetown at the tip of the Outer Cape. If you bring your binoculars, you can see humpbacks, fin whales, and sometimes even right whales circling the waters off Race Point and Herring Cove. Look for their snout, or “blow,” when they come up for air, and if you are lucky, you will see surface activity like kick-feeding or even the open mouth of a humpback as it lunges up from the water. From land or sea, your opportunities for whale-watching will be plentiful!
3. Best Place to Spot Celebrities
Martha’s Vineyard, often called The Vineyard, is an outdoor lovers paradise. A small island off the coast of Cape Cod, The Vineyard offers sun-soaked beaches, miles of nature trails, and opportunities to spot famous notables such as artists, celebrities, and politicians. Nothing short of stunning, you will quickly see why Martha’s Vineyard and the waters that surround her are pulsing with beauty, wealth, and opportunity.
Martha’s Vineyard is the second most expensive summer destination in the United States. With its pristine beaches and nature preserves, it is easy to see this destination is worth every penny and a favorite of celebrities such as:
Celebrities on Martha’s Vineyard
- Martin Shee
- Michael J. Fox
- Diane Sawyer
- Ted Dansen
- James Taylor
Cape Cod is also home to one of America’s most beloved dynasties – Camelot. The era of the Kennedy family in politics was self-described as the time of Camelot, compared to King Arthur’s mythical world where goodness reigned supreme. Purchased initially as one home on the bank of Nantucket Bay in Hyannis Port, the Kennedy Compound has grown to three houses, a four-car garage, and two guest houses on six acres of land.
The days of lavish parties and private escapes for a president and his family have long since passed. Still, the home’s grandeur and what the family represented in American politics will not soon be forgotten. John F. Kennedy was pivotal in creating the Cape Cod National Seashore, preserving the shores of the land they loved. Now known as the Kennedy Legacy Trail, this was the first such act that created a national park out of land that was primarily privately owned.
4. Best Place to Catch the Sunset
With nothing between you and the sunset except the Atlantic Ocean, Provincetown is hands-down the best place to watch the sunset on Cape Cod. Known to locals as P-Town, this is the original landing spot of Pilgrims on their journey to Plymouth in 1620. P-Town locals are proud of their place in history, recounting the first meeting of a Pilgrim and a Native American took place on First Encounter Beach.
At the outermost tip of the Outer Cape, Provincetown expands from a quaint town of three thousand year-round residents to a resort destination bustling with sixty thousand guests in the height of summer. Provincetown is a popular summer location due to its beaches, harbor, artists, and status as a top vacation destination for LGBTQ+ travelers.
Other Noteworthy Places to See the Sunset
- Gray’s Beach
- The Knob
- Sandy Neck Beach Park
Your journey to Race Point Beach at the tip of the cape will feel like you have reached the end of the world. Photography pro-tip: capture your picture of the sunset as it slides behind the Race Point Lighthouse. All you need to complete the meditative experience is a blanket, a bottle of wine, and a few deep breaths.
5. Best Seafood on Cape Cod
Surrounded by water on three sides, Cape Cod is a virtual wonderland of seafood. From scallops and oysters to fried clams and lobster rolls, you will find the traditional tastes of the Cape at every turn. Whether you are looking for upscale fare or a causal but talented street vendor, the towns and eateries on Cape Cod will not disappoint. You can eat at a roadside clam shack, a bustling fish market, or fine-dining establishment, all of which pull their fare from the surrounding waters and serve it up fresh.
Popular seafood from the surrounding waters include:
Buzzard Bay, a popular fishing destination, is home to the largest fishing fleet in the United States. Based in the New Bedford Harbor, the fleet boasts two hundred and seventy vessels. The shallowness of the bay, as seen in detail on a Cape Cod wood map, illustrates how the bay stays temperate throughout the year, mixing ocean saline water with fresh water from the bay. Buzzard Bay is recognized as a highly valuable resource area because of its habitat for various species, including lobster, shellfish, and finfish.
Cape Cod seafood availability is based on the season but always plentiful and fresh. Locally caught seafood is abundant throughout the peninsula, supporting fishers and the local economy and maintaining the reputation of Cape Cod as a top destination for seafood lovers.
6. Best Places to Surf on Cape Cod
With forty miles of open beach, Cape Cod has some great yet under-rated surf spots. Limited to the Atlantic beaches on the outer cape, the surf from Nauset Beach in Chatham to Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro remains about knee-high. Not exactly significant swell conditions, but notable for its consistency and hot spots for surf schools.
Coast Guard Beach in Eastham is best known for summer surf. Consistent short and longboard swell in the water and ample amenities on the shore keep this local spot top-of-mind with locals and visitors alike. Other beaches popular for surfing include:
Popular Cape Cod Surf Spots:
- Nauset Beac
- Nauset Light Beach
- Marconi Beach
- Whitecrest Beach
Do not let the movie Jaws and all its sequels fool you – sharks may be abundant in the cold water, but they are not targeting swimmers and surfers. With a considerable increase in the seal population surrounding the outer cape, sharks have naturally increased in numbers. White shark activity is highest along Cape Cod, where the seal population is the densest, but it is not exclusive to Cape Cod. If you are not fond of close encounters with sharks, you may want to spend your days soaking up the rays from the shore.
Be sure to pack your wet suit as this is cold water surfing! Curious to see where the waves may break and surf may be highest? Plan your surfing according to the topography of a beautifully detailed Cape Cod wood map – avoid the shallows and look for deep water!
7. Best Beaches on Cape Cod
The beaches of Cape Cod have developed their own personalities and offer unique glimpses into the bathymetry of the seafloor around them. As seen in the details of a quality-made wood map, the beaches along the sheltered Cape Cod Bay on the west and north sides of the peninsula differ from those that border the Atlantic Ocean on the east side.
On the sheltered side of the cape, the waters tend to be a bit warmer, while the Atlantic waters cool the eastern side. The views are as varied as the land surrounding each stretch of beach. Some easily reached and some secluded for the adventurous spirit to find, Cape Cod beaches have something for everyone.
- Mayflower Beach: the beach’s soft sand is consistently noted as a favorite; get there early as the beach fills up quickly and the beach area shrinks at high tide.
- Marconi Beach: backed by a forty-foot scarp and fronted by breath-taking views of the outer cape, including both ocean and bay, this beach offers unparalleled solitude with nature views on all sides.
- Race Point Beach: located at the tip of the cape at Provincetown, this is a good surfing beach. Best for seeing and being seen, Race Point is the destination of choice for the Provincetown Fast Ferry, a one-hour and fifteen-minute ferry trip for Bostonians searching for the sand and suntans.
- Veterans Park: the site of both a John F. Kennedy and Korean War memorial, this beach offers visitors a tranquil setting in the shade of a pine grove. Beautiful views of Lewis Bay, beachgoers can watch the boats traveling in and out of Hyannis Harbor.
A trip to Cape Cod is sure to delight even the most discriminating traveler. With endless water views, sumptuous seafood, and outdoor adventures in plentiful supply, this peninsula is the vacation destination for you. The waters surrounding the cape will delight and astonish you.
Your travels are best commemorated with a Cape Cod wood map. The depths and shallows will reveal themselves to you, and your eyes will trace the details that you experienced during your adventures along the extraordinary peninsula.
Hanging your high-quality wood map on a prominent wall in your home will invite a flood of memories every day; remembering your days stepping in the footsteps of JFK in Hyannis Port or breathing in the moment the sun set at the outermost tip of the Outer Cape.
Keeping a cork map of Martha’s Vineyard on your desk will not only spark your memory of biking the nature trails and spotting the occasional celebrity but inspire you to create a plan for your next adventure. And the Nantucket clock on your wall? A constant reminder it is time to get back out and explore this big, beautiful world.