Cape Cod calling

17 million visitors can’t be wrong.  That’s how many flock to Cape Cod each year, that curling peninsular on the easternmost part of Massachusetts, which boasts hundreds of kilometres of beaches that are lapped by an ocean which can change its mood very quickly.

Cape Cod serves its purpose as it takes the brunt of the North Atlantic storms, and shielding the Massachusetts mainland from much their rage.  Although technically part of the mainland, it was attached until 1914 when the Cape Cod Canal detached the peninsular from the mainland, it is now considered to be one of the world’s largest barrier islands, and serves the purpose of protecting Massachusetts from the worst of the Atlantic weather.

Most of those 17 million visitors flock to the island from Memorial Day, the official start of the summer season, when the beaches become packed, accommodation is at a premium, prices escalate and the restaurants are full, and the sun is at its warmest.

Canny visitors head to the Cape off-season, when you can mix with the locals, and get to know Cape Cod as it reveals its other side, that of angry seas, grey, stormy clouds and invigorating breezes which really do blow the cobwebs away.

For a place that is attractive because of its beaches, there is a beach to suit any need.  The bay side and sound beaches, for instance, tend to be much more placid than those on the ocean, which tend to be more attractive for the surfers and wind surfers.

One of the most popular is Falmouth Heights Beach where, on a clear day, you can see Martha’s Vineyard.  This is a rather trendy beach located in Falmouth’s most picturesque neighbourhood. At Falmouth you’ll see grand turn-of-the-20th century homes which compete for the view with newer motels, and the beach fills up with families throughout the day.

Spectacular Cahoon Hollow Beach on the Atlantic Ocean side begins with a winding trek down a 75-foot dune. Located near the town of Wellfleet this beach tends to attract the twenty-somethings rather than families.  The town of Wellfleet itself is a magnet for creative artists so this classic New England town burgeons with dozens of shops and galleries.   

Woods Hole is a world renowned science community, a charming fishing village, and a bohemian mecca. A proper tour of Woods Hole should include visits to the aquarium and the world famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which is probably the world’s premier marine science establishment.  No trip to Woods Hole is complete without a stroll along the bustling harbour.

The 15 towns on Cape Cod represent many different capes, with often quite distinct personalities to match the varied landscape. For instance, apart from location, few similarities exist among the towns and a place like rural Truro has little in common with the more rowdy Hyannis, which can be at odds with the historic Sandwich Village.

Today, it is the unspoiled natural beauty and historical charm of Cape Cod that attracts visitors.  Tourism has been the leading business sector since the late 19th century and is likely to remain so for centuries to come.

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