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Cape Cod is one of those quintessential New England towns perfect for a summer roadtrip. The Cape offers a variety of charming neighborhoods and towns to stay in, each with its unique character and attractions. The best neighborhood for you to stay in Cape Cod, largely depends on your preferences and the type of things you want to see and do.
The cape isn’t as small as you think. It takes 1.5 hours to 2 hours to drive from end to end (Falmouth to Provincetown). But driving between the towns and villages is a great way to soak in all that New England Charm, admiring the Cape Cod style architecture, serene coastline and sandy beaches with beautiful lighthouses, and iconic New England food. Many Cape Cod towns have lovely Main Streets flanked by cozy shops, local bakeries, and cafes. Some are best for low-key, laid-back vibes and have a more residential feel, while others offer more dining and entertainment options. But all of the Cape Cod towns are fantastic pieces of paradise in their own way.
Here is a map of the Cape highlighting the town borders
From the lively streets and entertainment options of Hyannis and Provincetown to a serene beachside escape or a mix of both, Cape Cod has the perfect neighborhood for you whether you are visiting on a day trip from Boston or taking a longer vacation on the island.
In this post, I’ve highlighted all of the main towns on Cape Cod, explaining what they are most known for and what kind of experience you can expect when staying in each area. Although I wouldn’t call Cape Cod small, the cape is small enough to explore different areas and neighborhoods during your visit, even if you’re based in one town.
Cape Cod Towns: An Overview of Where to Stay
For activities and lots of things to do: South Yarmouth, Provincetown, Hyannis (Barnstable), Falmouth
For beaches: Dennis, Mashpee, Bourne, Yarmouth Port
For hiking and Nature: Turo, Eastham, Orleans
Quite beach towns: Eastham, Orleans, Brewster, Wellfleet, Harwich
Scenic Neighborhoods: Sandwich, Chatham, Yarmouth Port
If you don’t have a car, consider a ferry to Provincetown. There is limited parking in Provincetown but plenty to keep you entertained all within walking distance near downtown. Falmouth or Hyannis (Barnstable) are other great areas easily enjoyed without a car.
If you want to visit Martha’s Vineyard Falmouth has the best ferry routes. Hyannis (a village in Barnstable) also has a fast ferry to Nantucket ($60-$80 USD round trip) and Martha’s Vineyard. Harwick has a Nantucket ferry route as well, but is most expensive at $100 round trip but comes with free parking.
Barnstable, Massachusetts, has a remarkable blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it one of the most coveted areas on the peninsula. This town comprises seven distinct villages: Barnstable Village, West Barnstable, Centerville, Osterville, Marstons Mills, Cotuit, and Hyannis.
Its largest and most developed town, Hyannis, forms a vibrant hub encapsulating the essence of Barnstable’s allure. Hyannis brims with maritime charm, home to the Cape Cod Maritime Museum, where the region’s nautical legacy comes to life through interactive exhibits and captivating stories of sailors and fishermen.
For history enthusiasts, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of this beloved president and his connection to the area. You can also take advantage of Hyannis’s ferry terminal, offering easy access to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket islands.
A Martha’s Vineyard day trip abounds in idyllic landscapes, artistic enclaves, and charming villages. While here, you can tour an oyster farm, marvel at the unique cottages, and tour one of many historic lighthouses. Meanwhile, on a day trip to Nantucket, rent bikes to explore the island, visit the Whaling Museum and enjoy the many beaches, including Jetties Beach, Surfside Beach, and Madaket Beach.
Falmouth exudes an irresistible charm that makes it one of the most coveted destinations in the region. Plus, it’s great for families, with several kid-friendly attractions. The Woods Hole Science Aquarium appeals to nature enthusiasts and families alike, providing an opportunity to explore marine life through engaging exhibits and touch tanks.
The downtown area of Falmouth is one of the best places to explore in Cape Cod, with its charming streets, boutique shops, art galleries, and a diverse range of eateries. Cruise on a bike from Falmouth Village to Woods Hole via the Shining Sea Bikeway, a 10-mile-long paved bike path. You’ll enjoy seaside views, harbors, and beaches along the way.
Speaking of beaches, Old Silver Beach is one of the best places for swimming and relaxing, home to soft sand, calm water, showers and changing rooms, lifeguards, and snack shacks.
Adults will love an afternoon spent at the Cape Cod Winery, about a ten-minute drive from downtown Falmouth. With lovely grounds, outdoor games, a snack truck, traditional wines, live music events, and fun summery drinks like Watermelon Frose, this is one of the best things to do on Cape Cod for adults.
While you’re here, don’t forget about the Falmouth Ferry Terminal – this is another fantastic gateway if you want to plan a visit to Martha’s Vineyard.
Yarmouth is divided into three villages, West Yarmouth, Yarmouth Port and South Yarmouth.
Yarmouth has a blend of family-friendly recreational delights and cultural treasures that make it a standout destination. The Cape Cod Rail Trail, over 25 miles long and passing through six towns, including Yarmouth, allows visitors to explore the area’s scenic landscapes on foot or by bike. It also leads to Yarmouth’s 2-mile multi-use trail, meandering through picturesque woodlands and tranquil ponds, providing a perfect way to experience the Cape’s natural beauty.
West Yarmouth, one of this area’s charming neighborhoods, embodies this town’s appeal with its relaxed coastal ambiance and easy access to some of the region’s finest attractions, making it an excellent place for a Cape Cod vacation.
The kids can enjoy the Whydah Pirate Museum, featuring real pirates and treasures! Cape Cod Inflatable Park is another great option; as the largest inflatable park in the United States, you could easily spend an entire day here.
The downtown area of Yarmouth Port pulses with the region’s quintessential charm. Stroll through its streets and discover boutique shops, cozy cafes, and local eateries celebrating Cape Cod’s culture. Whether you’re seeking handcrafted treasures or a taste of fresh seafood, Yarmouth’s downtown satisfies diverse cravings.
Yarmouth Port is more relaxed and residential. I love driving through its streets peeking at the beautiful homes in the area with the most pristine yards. Its downtown is small with only a handful of establishments. South Yarmouth and West Yarmouth provide a more developed atmosphere with chain hotels/Inns and plenty of restaurants, cafes and things to do including some of the best putt putt golf parks on the island.
Bourne, nestled on the Upper Cape, comprises nine villages: Bourne Village, Buzzards Bay, Cataumet, Monument Beach, Pocasset, Sagamore, Sagamore Beach, Gray Gables, and Bournedale.
One of the best villages in Bourne is Sagamore Beach, fronting Cape Cod Bay and boasting a tranquil escape along the shoreline. Its soft sands and soothing waves create a haven for relaxation and leisure, perfect for beachgoers seeking serenity by the sea.
A defining highlight of Bourne is the Cape Cod Canal, an engineering marvel that connects Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay. This waterway not only offers stunning vistas of boats and ships navigating the currents, but also provides opportunities for fishing, biking, and leisurely strolls along its scenic paths. You can enjoy the beauty of this canal along the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway, which has seven miles of track along the north bank and over six miles on the south bank.
Animal enthusiasts can visit Butterflies of Cape Cod, a native butterfly habitat filled with New England plants and pollinator-friendly gardens. Bring your camera to snap a few pictures of these colorful creatures!
As one of the oldest towns in the United States, Sandwich exudes a timeless charm that captivates visitors and locals alike, making it one of the best towns in Cape Cod.
Sandwich boasts an authentic Cape Cod atmosphere with quaint streets lined with historic homes, boutique shops, and charming cafes.
One of the top attractions in Historic Sandwich is the Sandwich Glass Museum, a tribute to the town’s illustrious glassmaking past. The museum showcases exquisite glassworks, revealing the craftsmanship that once defined the area. Visitors can marvel at intricate glass pieces and witness live glassblowing demonstrations that breathe life into this historical art form.
A few other top attractions in the downtown area include The Dexter Grist Mill, one of the most photographed sites on Cape Cod and also the nearby Hoxie House, a restored 1675 saltbox house, now a museum offering guided tours for $5.00.
Beyond its artistic legacy, Sandwich offers a glimpse into authentic Cape Cod charm with its natural beauty reigning high.
The Sandwich Boardwalk is one of the best places in town for walks amid scenic beauty and sweeping views of Cape Cod Bay. If you’d go swimming, Town Neck Beach or Sandy Neck Beach provide calm water and soft sand.
Outside of its expansive beaches, Sandwich’s natural beauty can be seen through its lush landscapes. Heritage Museums & Gardens offer a blend of horticultural wonders and art installations, providing a unique sensory experience.
Whether you want a romantic Cape Cod getaway or a family vacation, Dennis ticks all the boxes. One of the best parts of this area is the incredible beaches, including Mayflower Beach, offering a large expanse of sand with gentle waves. It’s the perfect place for a walk on the beach!
For a stunning view of the sunset, check out West Dennis Beach. While this shore is popular during the day, you’ll want to stick around as the sun goes down. Parking is usually free after 4 or 5 p.m. in beach parking lots
The Cape Cod Museum of Art is one of the top attractions in Dennis, celebrating the region’s creative spirit through an impressive collection of artwork. It showcases pieces from both local and nationally renowned artists, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the Cape’s artistic legacy.
The town itself is the perfect blend of historic architecture, quaint shops, and delightful eateries. One of my favorite restaurants is Ocean House, boasting a beautiful patio overlooking the ocean with incredible pasta, seafood, pizzas, and cocktails. Head to Sundae School for dessert, serving homemade ice cream topped with housemade whipped cream – yum!
The Cape Cod Rail Trail also passes through Dennis, making it easy to access other Cape Cod towns on foot or bike.
Nestled on the Upper Cape, Mashpee has a variety of outdoor activities, shopping, and kid-friendly attractions. You can start at South Cape Beach State Park, boasting pristine sands, tranquil waters, and stunning views, making this an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, and hiking along the picturesque trails that wind through the dunes.
Shopping enthusiasts can also visit Mashpee Commons, a vibrant outdoor shopping center combining upscale boutiques, charming shops, eateries, and entertainment. During the summer, this shopping area hosts outdoor movie nights and live music on the weekends. While you’re here, spend some time at The Lanes Bowl & Bistro for bowling, beer, live entertainment, and outdoor bocce.
If you’re visiting Mashpee with the kids, check out Cape Cod Children’s Museum. Ideal for families, this interactive museum offers hands-on exhibits that engage, educate, and entertain. Another educational spot is the Mashpee Wampanoag Museum, showcasing information through ancient artifacts and exhibits about the Native American tribe residing in Mashpee.
With its blend of coastal charm, historical richness, and outdoor adventures, Harwich is one of the best Cape Cod towns.
One of Harwich’s notable highlights is the Old Colony Rail Trail, a scenic pathway that winds 8 miles from Harwich to Chatham, offering a leisurely way to explore the town’s natural beauty. The Old Colony Rail Trail also connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, so endless outdoor activities will be at your disposal. Whether biking, jogging, or simply strolling, the trail grants access to lush landscapes, quaint neighborhoods, and serene ponds, immersing visitors in the tranquil ambiance of Cape Cod.
The Harwich Port, a small village in Harwich, is perfect for shopping and strolling along Main Street. A few must-visit shops include Below The Brine Bookshop, Murphy’s General Store, and Say It Sweetly (a fantastic candy store!).
Harwich’s idyllic beaches provide the perfect setting for relaxation and water activities. Red River Beach, in particular, is a favorite among beachgoers for its soft sands and sweeping views of Nantucket Sound.
If you’re here between March and December, don’t forget to visit the Cape Cod Lavender Farm; you’ll get especially Instagram-worthy shots during June and July while the lavender is in peak bloom!
Brewster, a small town nestled on the lower Cape, is one of the best towns in Cape Cod for those who want a quiet and slower-paced escape.
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is the crown jewel, offering a captivating journey into the region’s diverse ecosystems in over 17,000 square feet of space. Through interactive exhibits and educational programs, visitors can delve into the intricate web of Cape Cod’s flora, fauna, and geological wonders, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts. You’ll even find 400 acres of natural habitat, wildflower gardens, and trails.
Nickerson State Park, a pristine expanse of wilderness, provides a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Its expansive trail network, crystal-clear freshwater ponds, and serene woodlands create a haven for hiking, biking, fishing, and camping, immersing visitors in Cape Cod’s natural splendor. This park’s eight-mile bike trail network connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, so the opportunities for exploration are endless.
Experience a bit of Cape Cod history at the Cobb House Museum, a restored home from the late 1700s, and the Windmill Village, consisting of a restored windmill and an 18th-century house.
Located at the southeastern tip of Cape Cod, Chatham has no shortage of things to do. The iconic Chatham Lighthouse stands as a sentinel, guiding ships along the shoreline and capturing the imaginations of visitors. Its historic significance and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean make it a must-see landmark that showcases Cape Cod’s maritime legacy.
The Chatham Pier Fish Market is one of the best spots on the Cape for fresh local seafood including chowders, lobster rolls, fish sandwiches, clams and scallops. Once you order, head over to the cove and look out for seals waiting on scraps from the catch of the day.
Chatham’s downtown area offers a delightful blend of art galleries, boutique shops, and gourmet eateries, creating a fun and vibrant atmosphere. The charming streets lined with historic architecture and beautifully maintained landscapes harken back to a simpler time, evoking a sense of nostalgia.
Chatham is also home to some of the best beaches, including Lighthouse Beach, Harding’s Beach, and Ridgevale Beach, among several others. It gets my vote for the mot picturesque neighborhood on the Cape.
Set along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, Orleans is a mecca of outdoor activities, art galleries, and historical sites.
Nauset Beach, a local treasure, offers expansive sands and rolling waves, drawing beachgoers, surfers, and families to its shores. Skaket Beach provides a different experience with calm waters and stunning sunsets, making it ideal for picnics and leisurely walks.
Check out the Addison Art Gallery and the Orleans Historical Society for arts and culture, which offer insights into the town’s artistic heritage and history. Tree’s Place Gallery is an excellent spot to see contemporary art, featuring a collection of works from both renowned and local artists. The French Cable Station Museum delves into the region’s maritime history, allowing visitors to step back in time.
Spend some time exploring downtown Orleans and its walkable Main Street, where you’ll find several shops, art galleries, restaurants, and cafes.
Eastham, nestled within the pristine beauty of Cape Cod’s outermost reaches, is home to a unique blend of natural wonders, recreational opportunities, and coastal charm, making it one of the best towns in Cape Cod.
Eastham houses several sites on the National Register of Historic Places, including Nauset Light. This lighthouse, built in 1877, is painted an iconic red, white, and black. The nearby Nauset Light Beach has large waves and sand dunes, making this an excellent spot for water sports and animal watching – you might see a few seals while you’re here!
You can also visit the Three Sisters Lighthouses, aptly named due to their appearance from the ocean as three women in black hats.
Fort Hill Rural Historic District in Eastham encompasses 100 acres of farmsteads built in 1868. While you’re here, you’ll get picturesque ocean views, wildflowers and meadows along the walking trail, and marsh vistas.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail also meanders through Eastham, providing an idyllic pathway for cyclists, joggers, and walkers. This scenic route allows you to traverse the beauty of the Cape’s landscapes while enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze.
Before leaving Eastham, visit the Duone Rock, an 18-foot high boulder dating back thousands of years. It’s the largest boulder on the Cape Cod National Seashore!
Wellfleet, located on the Outer Cape, has abundant natural beauty, coastal charm, and outdoor adventures, making it an ideal place to stay for those seeking an authentic Cape Cod experience.
The Outer Cape’s untouched beauty comes to life in Wellfleet, offering a serene escape. Marconi Beach, with its stunning cliffs and sweeping vistas of the Atlantic, invites beachcombers, surfers, and nature enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the coastal splendor. Other great beaches include Cahoon Hollow Beach, White Crest Beach, and Newcomb Hollow Beach. Located on the Atlantic side, these shores are great for surfing.
If you go to Cahoon Hollow Beach, The Beachcomber is a must-visit. This lively destination has excellent food and drinks, with a fun party atmosphere at night!
Wellfleet’s portion of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, stretching from South Dennis to Wellfleet, provides a scenic journey through the Cape’s picturesque landscapes. Cyclists and walkers can enjoy the trail’s beauty as they connect with nature.
Wellfleet’s artistic scene, showcased in local galleries and cultural events, adds an enriching layer to the experience. The downtown area exudes a quaint charm, with its boutique shops, seafood restaurants, and art studios. Curiouser & Curiouser is the perfect shop for souvenir hunting, selling shirts with the names of local sites.
Provincetown, a vibrant jewel at the tip of Cape Cod’s outermost reaches, is one of the best towns in Cape Cod and is known for it LGBTQ+ community. Its allure is embodied by its iconic Commercial Street, a bustling hub of activity lined with eclectic shops, galleries, eateries, and entertainment venues. Head to the town pier, a mecca for boat tours and fishing charters.
Because it’s on the Outer Cape, Provincetown boasts unspoiled landscapes, like Race Point Beach, with stunning dunes and panoramic views with gentler waves.
Race Point Lighthouse, a sentinel on the Cape’s edge, exudes maritime history and offers breathtaking vistas. This historic landmark was first lit in 1816, and today, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Provincetown Art Association and Museum enriches the town’s cultural scene, showcasing a dynamic collection of artworks from local and national artists. Its exhibitions and educational programs make it a cultural hub that reflects Provincetown’s creative spirit.
Truro is a quiet and secluded area on the Outer Cape, boasting some of the most beautiful beaches on Cape Cod National Seashore. Head of the Meadow Beach, Ballston Beach, and Coast Guard Beach are just a few scenic spots where you can relax, swim, and enjoy the ocean’s beauty.
Longnook Beach is one of the best places in Cape Cod to experience rugged natural beauty, with enormous sand dunes. Enjoy a day on the beach but be aware, this shore has a reputation for being clothing-optional!
The Highland Light, also known as the Cape Cod Light, is a historic lighthouse that offers breathtaking coastline views and is a must-visit in Truro for history enthusiasts. This was Cape Cod’s first lighthouse, commissioned by George Washington himself! The Highland House Museum, sitting next to the lighthouse and operated by the Truro Historical Society, showcases artifacts and exhibits that provide insight into the town’s maritime and cultural history.
Truro has long attracted artists and writers due to its inspirational surroundings. The town’s artistic heritage is reflected in its galleries, studios, and creative events. The Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill hosts workshops, exhibitions, and artist residencies, contributing to the town’s vibrant arts scene.
No matter where you stay in the cape, rest assured you’ll find plenty of things to do, historical sites to see and a beautiful coastline waiting to be explored.