Cape Cod is New England’s quintessential summer colony. Known for a long time as a retreat for the affluent during the warmer months, this oddly shaped peninsula is famous for a good reason, of course.
A mix of quaint landscapes, nature reserves, amazing family-friendly beaches, historic buildings, and seafood, Cape Cod also holds a special place in the history of America. It was in Cape Cod where the Pilgrim Fathers first landed and set up the first proper English settlement of New England – Plymouth. This makes the illustrious history of Cape Cod, stretching back to the early 17th century, one of the most attractive things about the area – especially for anybody interested in learning about American heritage.
Although there is a lot of it to soak up, stretching all the way from Provincetown in the north to Nantucket Island in the south, it isn’t all about history in Cape Cod. There are chances to try your hand at a host of watersports, with many of Cape Cod’s southern beaches popular with windsurfers and swimmers. Surfing and yachting are also some of the best maritime activities you can get up to here.
Map of Cape Cod
Click to enlarge
Nature fans will love the opportunities to spot birds in remote island refuges, catch a glimpse of seals, or even see elusive whales on their long migrations. Hiking along coastal trails, around marshes and rivers, or further inland through pine forests, is a great way to spend time in this spectacular part of the world as well.
Staying in Cape Cod is easy. Thanks to how popular this place is in summer, you’ll find accommodation along the main road routes running through the peninsula, self-contained cottages along coastal areas, and even high-end resorts. Getting around is a piece of cake too; you can thank the road network, heritage trains and comprehensive ferry services for that.
Sitting right on the northernmost tip of Cape Cod itself, Provincetown – or P-town as it is sometimes called – is definitely a cool place to stay. Not only is this a great place to come for summertime beach fun, thanks to numerous stretches of sand and sea including Herring Cove Beach and Race Point Beach, but it’s also a popular vacation destination for LGBTQ travelers.
Most famous of all about Provincetown is its illustrious history. Namely, it was at this point that the Mayflower, carrying the so-called Pilgrim Fathers, landed in 1620. This is commemorated at the Pilgrim Monument; visitors can learn more about the Mayflower at the Provincetown Museum.
With its hotels and guesthouses on the seafront, including many refined, mid to high-end options, Provincetown is also easily reachable by car, thanks to Massachusetts Route 6, which runs the length of Cape Cod.
Where to Stay in Provincetown
- Carpe Diem Guesthouse – Carpe Diem Guesthouse & Spa is most definitely a chic hotel with an exclusive, adult-only guest policy – sorry families. The spa here reflects the 5-star quality of this hotel and is a mix of Turkish style hamam and Finnish saunas, the perfect place to indulge in relaxation. The house feels welcoming and cozy but remains stylish and upscale, featuring polished wooden floors, beamed ceilings, and ornate furnishings. This gorgeous place to stay is just half a mile from the beach and close to the harbor – easily walkable.
- Cape Colony Inn – With simple but homely rooms decked out in seascape tones, this 4-star pad offers an affordable place to stay surrounded by beautiful greenery. Location-wise, staying at Cape Colony Inn means you will be three miles from the National Seashore beach. On the other hand, there are a lot of drinking and dining options nearby, as well as the historic Pilgrim Monument. The hotel itself is situated on seven acres of land, meaning you get to spend sunny days strolling the grounds or splashing around in the outdoor pool.
- Beaconlight Guest House – Featuring wonderfully maintained gardens and antique furnishings for a traditional style, Beaconlight Guest House has plenty of personality for you to unwind and slip into a slower pace of life. There’s a sunny outdoor decking area with plenty of sun loungers, plus a guest lounge that comes with a baby grand piano. Rooms are painted in warm tones of yellow for a comfortable feeling, and come with high ceilings and modern, ensuite bathrooms. Nearby is the picturesque pier, a swashbuckling pirate museum, and numerous local eateries.
- Harbor Hotel Provincetown – This large hotel is a big holiday complex – a good choice for those traveling with families. The rooms here are bright, modern, and spacious, offering balconies and seating areas; some even have sea views. Right on the waterfront itself, Harbor Hotel Provincetown also boasts a great location. In terms of amenities, there’s an outdoor pool complete with a bar for evening drinks; there’s also a restaurant which sees evening entertainment some nights. Or you can simply choose to have a few quiet drinks around the fireplace.
The coastal town of Falmouth dates back to 1660, but it’s not necessarily about the long history of this Cape Cod settlement that makes it a great destination today. Falmouth is full of all the picturesque New England seascapes that you can imagine, with tree-lined stretches of coast, beaches, and postcard-perfect seaside communities.
It may not be packed full of hotels, but there are still a fair few places to stay, from locally run B&Bs to inns with Victorian-era fixtures and fittings.
Visitors can catch a ferry from the southernmost village of Woods Hole across to the famous island of Martha’s Vineyard, or you could just head to one of the many beaches across Falmouth for a relaxing time by the sea. There’s the white sand of Falmouth Beach or the charming Wood Neck Beach, for example. Route 28, off Route 6, connects Cape Cod’s southernmost town of Falmouth by car.
Where to Stay in Falmouth
- Coonamessett Inn – A historic, pretty little hotel, Coonamessett Inn comes with beautifully decorated rooms – bright aspects, black-and-white artwork, vintage trunks for bedside tables, fresh flowers, ornate wallpaper, and big beds. The bathrooms at this boutique-style 4-star option are modern and fresh. The hotel grounds feature a charming grassy garden and pavilion to sit in. Inside the hotel, there’s a shared lounge with an open fire – and \ an onsite restaurant, too. The ferry to Martha’s Vineyard is a five-minute drive from here, as is Surf Drive beach.
- Falmouth Heights Motor Lodge – Located a conveniently short distance from the Island Queen ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, this hotel is a clapboard beach house style building featuring large verandas. The nearby area is suitable for cycling with all its beachside paths, but there are also extensive gardens here, complete – of course – with a sizeable outdoor pool and barbecue facilities. The rooms at Falmouth Heights Motor Lodge feature large beds decorated in delicate mauve tones, and plush cream carpets. Some have the option of a small kitchenette for added convenience, too.
Chatham is the easternmost town on Cape Cod and includes within its boundaries the remote Monomoy Island. This long stretch of dunes, marshes, and beaches has no paved roads but can be toured via a boat excursion, which is also a great way to spot the seals that call this wildlife refuge home.
Elsewhere, the coast of Chatham is also marked by its beaches, marshes and sand dunes. In town, Lighthouse Beach – named after the 19th-century lighthouse close by – is an exceptionally popular spot for beachgoers, but the calm waters of Cockle Cove Beach are a good alternative, especially if you’re visiting with children.
There’s also Chatham Railroad Museum, housed in a former train depot dating all the way back to 1887. Connected by Route 28, Chatham is home to a handful of charming, cozy inns and B&Bs for visitors to enjoy this slice of New England.
Where to Stay in Chatham
- Chatham Bars Inn – This luxury option overflows with ambiance and atmosphere, making it great for a grown-up getaway by the sea. Soak up the sunset from the terrace restaurant, complete with sea views, or cool off in the refreshing serenity of the sculpted outdoor pool. The rooms at Chatham Bars Inn are spacious and well appointed – some even have their own open fireplaces, big bathtubs, and sundecks. The Atlantic Ocean is steps away; you can take a boat out to enjoy a spot of fishing then return to the hotel and dine in one of its four restaurants!
- Pleasant Bay Village Resort – The large rooms at this 4-star hotel come with big, cloud-like, comfortable beds, patio doors that open onto the garden, and their own eating areas. Some even come with kitchens so you can cook up a storm to save money. Pleasant Bay Village Resort features gardens with Asian-style pathways – perfect for a little stroll. Or take a dip in the hotel’s pool or hot tub while your kids play in the playground. Location-wise, Chatham Lighthouse is a short drive from here, as is the local airport.
Located on the narrow isthmus between the southern part of Cape Cod and the northern tip at Provincetown, Eastham has a number of hotels just off Route 6 that runs through town. Scattered throughout town, visitors will find reasonably priced inns to fill their accommodation needs – some are located in historic buildings, too. There are also a few RV parks for those on a road trip, with all the mod-cons.
Of course, the order of the day in Eastham is getting out into nature. The Fort Hill area has some hiking trails winding their way through the coastal landscape, including the Red Maple Swamp Trail. There’s also a vast stretch of sand to enjoy in the form of the Nauset Light Beach, named after the iconic 19th century Nauset Lighthouse located on the shore.
History fans should note that Eastham is also home to the Eastham Windmill, the oldest windmill on Cape Cod, which was constructed back in 1680.
Where to Stay in Eastham
- Eagle Wing Inn – Eagle Wing Inn is a locally run hotel with a lot of heart and personality. A vacation here means staying in a New England style house with wood flooring, patterned rugs, shuttered windows, high ceilings, and sea-themed artwork. Rooms are contemporary and have plenty of space to spread out. There’s a library onsite as well as an outdoor pool, plus a continental breakfast served up each morning. Nearby this charming place to stay, you’ll find the Nauset Lighthouse, but it’s also within walking distance of Coast Guard Beach and local shops and restaurants.
Hyannis is probably the most well-connected town on Cape Cod. Not only is there an airport nearby, making it the perfect place to stay for convenience, but there’s also a train station. Heritage train journeys on the Cape Cod Central Railroad run from Hyannis to Cape Cod Canal, offering food services and scenic vistas – most popular during summer, of course.
Even more convenience: Hyannis is also home to the ferry port that offers services to Nantucket. Aside from being a transportation hub, Hyannis is Cape Cod’s largest town and commercial center.
Accommodation in Hyannis is a mixed bag, including hostels, seasonal B&Bs, inns, and hotels situated in heritage buildings. Also set in a historic building in town is the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, where visitors can learn all about the late former US president and the vacations he used to take here.
Where to Stay in Hyannis
- Cape Codder Resort – Located a short drive to Kalmus Beach – as well as a sizeable nearby golf course – Cape Codder Resort & Spa is also close to a mall and market for some excellent shopping opportunities. Rooms at this hotel range from singles to family suites, with large wooden beds, jacuzzis, open fires, and balconies. This fun, family-friendly resort even comes with its very own compact waterpark, so your children can have hours of fun with the slides and wave machine. Don’t worry; there’s a regular outdoor pool, too.
- Hyannis Travel Inn – With its location right on Main Street – meters from Hyannis Harbour – you really will be spoiled for choice with things to do in the local area. But you won’t always have to go out; in terms of amenities, the hotel features two pools (indoor and outdoor) as well as a Jacuzzi, and even its own coffeehouse. The rooms at Hyannis Travel Inn all feature dark wood furnishings, large windows, and small ensuite bathrooms. If you’re arriving by train, then the location very near the station makes this a good option.
Known for its long stretch of beaches, including Sea Street Beach, Depot Street Beach and Raycroft Beach, Dennis Port is a great destination for anybody looking for fun by the sea. The family-friendly, warm, calm waters of these beaches are as perfect for swimming as they are for windsurfing – both popular activities here in the summer months.
Beach houses, cottages, hotels and guesthouses abound in Dennis Port; many are only open in the summer season.
For a different kind of watery experience, head north over Route 28 to Swan Pond; you can rent a kayak or paddleboat (or even a paddle board) here and escape for an hour or two of fun or simple drifting around. In fact, you can make your way to Nantucket Sound itself, complete with sandbars and tidal flats.
Where to Stay in Dennis Port
- Bluegreen Vacations The Soundings – This hotel is all about high-end luxury; it has rooms that you simply won’t want to leave! Choose from various suites decorated in a modern, fashionable style – all with their own indoor and outdoor seating areas. Some even come with gorgeous views of the ocean. And, of course, you could dine in thanks to the room service on offer. Elsewhere, there is an outdoor pool, but you could easily walk from the hotel to its private beach – all 365 feet of it – in no time at all.
- An English Garden – A picturesque New England style place to stay that’s as quaint as the name makes it out to be, An English Garden will charm you from the moment you arrive, with its flower gardens and blue shuttered windows. The rooms are traditional, with floral fabrics, floor to ceiling doors, cozy sofas, and quilted beds. The guest lounge adds to that homely feeling – it’s even got a grandfather clock – plus you can enjoy meals in the equally homely hotel restaurant. In terms of location, it’s just a two-minute walk to the beach from here.
The irregular coastline of Orleans – located directly south of Eastham – lends itself to exploration by boat, much of which is actually a protected environmental area. Beaches in the town of Orleans include Pleasant Bay and the much more famous Nauset Beach. The latter actually sometimes boasts some large waves, which are popular with boogie boarders and surfers alike.
Swimmers and anybody who enjoys lying on the sand soaking up the rays will enjoy Nauset Beach, but it’s also good for fishing, with striped bass and bluefish being the catch of the day here.
Founded by Pilgrims from Plymouth in 1693, Orleans has its fair share of history, including the Orleans Waterfront Inn – a hotel still in operation that dates back to 1875. Many other guesthouses and hotels can be found in Orleans as well. Both Route 6 and Route 28 meander their way through town, making it easily accessible, too.
Where to Stay in Orleans
- Seashore Park Inn – An affordable option located just a quick walk to Orleans Cove and Nicholson State Park, this hotel has been well maintained for guests’ comfort. The rooms come in a palette of taupes, warm yellows, and sea blues, and boast tiled bathrooms and outdoor seating areas – the rest of the hotel is all about its high wooden ceilings and glass-paneled walls. There is an outdoor pool at Seashore Park Inn, surrounded by green trees and countryside, plus a games room for indoor fun.
Collectively making up the area known as Yarmouth, and bordering Hyannis to the west, both South & West Yarmouth make a great place to base yourself in Cape Cod. Fans of history will love exploring the heritage buildings on offer here. Sites range from the whitewashed Captain Bangs Hallet House Museum – the former home of a sea captain, dating back to the 1700s, which can be toured around – to the Taylor–Bray Farm, first settled in 1639.
Also interesting is the Whydah Pirate Museum, boasting artifacts salvaged from an 18th-century wreck. There are nature trails in acres of forested land set around Millers Pond, providing a scenic place to stroll and breathe a breath of fresh, woodland air.
Accommodation ranges from guesthouses along Route 28 in West Yarmouth to cottages and hotels along the beaches of Parker River Beach and South Middle Beach in South Yarmouth.
Where to Stay in South & West Yarmouth
- Bayside Resort Hotel – The perfect place to stay for lovers of the outdoors, the Bayside Resort Hotel overlooks Lewis Bay; spend evenings with a drink watching the sun go down and toasting marshmallows. Get out into nature with plenty of kayaking trips on offer, or stay closer to home and take a dip in the indoor and outdoor pools. There is a selection of eating and drinking options onsite, too. And you can always get a good night’s sleep in the comfy, classically decorated bedrooms.
- Surf & Sand Beach Motel – This izeable motel boasts stunning sea views, complete with rooms reflecting the ocean landscape; they are decorated in blues and whites, and windows look out across the water. Some even come with kitchens so you can rustle up a coffee and breakfast in the morning. There is an outdoor swimming pool to splash around in, a large lawn garden where you can enjoy barbeques, plus a terrace to relax on. Outside the motel, West Dennis Beach is a short drive away.
Reached via ferry from Hyannis – or Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard – Nantucket is among the most famous destinations on Cape Cod. The history of Nantucket properly begins in 1659, when it was purchased for thirty pounds and two beaver hats by Tristram Coffin from its original settler.
There’s evidence of its long history in almost everything about Nantucket, from the charming cobblestoned Main Street (a designated Historic District) and the Jethro Coffin House, all the way to the Brant Point Light, established in 1746.
Naturally, there are many places to stay in Nantucket, most of which can be found in the port area. But around the island, there are hotels, cottages, and guesthouses, like those in the Siasconset Beach area. Some of these are definitively in the high-end of the spectrum – for example, The Wauwinet is a five-star offering in the northeast of the island boasting two private beaches.
Where to Stay in Nantucket
- The Roberts Collection – Staying here means choosing from a selection of rooms – and even houses – based around the hotel complex. Each is large and impeccably designed for comfort and style, with marble bathrooms, enormous beds, and lovely sash windows for a real New England feel. Sit out in the brick courtyard and enjoy evening drinks, or stop off for a meal at the hotel’s restaurant and bar. The location of this 4-star offering means the downtown Historic District is within easy walking distance, and it’s close to the Whaling Museum, too.
- Cliff Lodge – Cliff Lodge is a very charming B&B style hotel with traditional touches like dark wood furniture and oil paintings, making it feel very New England indeed. It should do – it’s 250 years old! It’s immaculate and tastefully done, never feeling too kitsch. Sit out on the porch in a rocking chair and watch the world go by, or take a stroll to Jetties Beach for a bit of sand and sea action. The family-run hotel is conveniently located for the local ferry, and there’s even a continental breakfast served up each morning.
The quintessential Cape Cod vacation destination, Martha’s Vineyard is the perfect example of New England summer cottages, seafood, quaint villages, and historic buildings. There’s a lot to do on the island as well, with its wildlife reserves, beaches, and museums.
You could stroll around the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, relax on the long expanse of Katama Beach, or hike the coastal trails of Great Rock Bight Preserve.
Equally, visitors can wander around the storied buildings of centuries-old Martha’s Vineyard, like the Edgartown Village Historic District – boasting an old whitewashed Whaling Church – or Wesleyan Grove, complete with rows of colorful late 19th-century gingerbread cottages.
Martha’s Vineyard can be reached via ferry from Nantucket, or even Hyannis, though Woods Hole is most convenient. Awash with inns, resorts, and hotels ranging from relatively affordable to high-end, there’s somewhere for everyone to stay on this island.
Where to Stay in Martha’s Vineyard
- Isabelle’s Beach House – This 4-star hotel right on the oceanfront boasts panoramic views of the sea. There’s even direct access to the beach so you can spend time soaking up the sun on the sand or splashing in the sea. The wood-paneled rooms at Isabelle’s Beach House definitely make you feel like you’re staying in a genuine beach house! Others are decorated in light blues and feature dark wood flooring. There is a sunny front porch to relax on – good for sunsets – and a dining area that serves breakfast each morning.
- Pequot Hotel – A quirky, cool place to stay, the Pequot Hotel boasts a local, artsy atmosphere, not least because of the plentiful pastel color pops throughout. Choose from a room in the main house or the annex, all of which are decorated to reflect the local seascape; fabrics have starfish printed on them, and the walls are pale blue. Close by, you can enjoy top attractions of the island, including restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shopping. There are great beaches nearby too, like Inkwell Beach, for your slice of salt air, or you could walk to the pretty Oak Bluffs Harbour.