Cape Cod - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Cape Cod

Cape Cod

Named for the large quantities of cod caught by its founder ship in 1602, Cape Cod is a 70-mile (113km) peninsula that is likened to a flexed arm bent at the elbow extending from the main body of Massachusetts; it is the premiere vacation destination in New England with its charming historic towns and small villages, miles of sandy beaches and wind-sculpted sand dunes. Millions of visitors from around the world flock to the amazing natural beauty of the Cape, and although known as the playground for the rich and famous and mostly geared for big spenders, there is plenty of sun, sea and sand for everyone to enjoy. Provincetown, at the tip of the Cape's 'fist', is the gay centre of New England and long renowned as an artistic colony with more than 20 art galleries. It is also the liveliest resort town on the Cape. Stretching from Provincetown (which was the landing site of the first Pilgrims in the 17th century) down to the pretty town of Chatham, from the 'fist' to the 'elbow' of the peninsula along the Atlantic Ocean, are 40 miles (64km) of dunes and desolate beaches protected within the Cape Cod National Seashore. Wellfleet is a quieter and picturesque town untouched by commercial development, and famous for its oysters. The commercial towns along the horizontal stretch of the arm represented by the 'biceps' offer the obvious attractions of shopping, exquisite dining and beach activities, but there is also whale-watching, walking and biking. However, be prepared for summer crowds and traffic-filled roads, especially between June and August, when prices are high and accommodation booked out. Otherwise come in the off-season when the colder beaches afford solitude and the towns have quietened down. Cape Cod is also the gateway to the beautiful vacation islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Information & Facts


Cape Cod has a humid continental climate (sometimes almost maritime) and the weather is more moderate than further inland; temperatures are generally a bit cooler in summer and slightly warmer in winter than in neighbouring areas. The warmest months in Cape Cod are July and August, with an average temperature of about 73°F (23°C).

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

Cape Cod is home to a number of picturesque lighthouses that draw sightseers year-round. At one point there were more than 20 in the peninsula, however many of those have been decommissioned and knocked down. Those remaining have varying degrees of difficulty in access: some are easily reached, while others require a hike. Some of the most popular (and easiest to get to) include Chatham Light and Nobska, which offers a spectacular view of Martha's Vineyard. Some that involve more walking are Cape Cod Light and Race Point Light. There are also lighthouses that can only be viewed from a distance, including Monomoy Light, which involves a boat trip past a very active seal colony! Some of the lighthouses can even be rented for weekly accommodation.

Believed to have been named by mariner Bartholomew Gosnold for his daughter Martha, with the 'vineyard' referring to the abundance of wild grapes growing on the island, Martha's Vineyard is a favourite summer destination for New England's wealthy elite. Tourism is the main economy, boosted by celebrity regulars like actress Sharon Stone and the Clinton family, but they are usually tucked away in their private houses and on their private beaches.

It is far less developed than Cape Cod, but more sophisticated than neighbouring Nantucket Island and simple pleasures such as the weekly farmers' market, miles of coastal pathways to explore and an agricultural fair blend with the concerts, outdoor theatres, galleries and nightlife that keeps the towns buzzing throughout the summer. The six towns have distinct characters, from the upmarket Vineyard Haven that is the island's main port, receiving ferries as well as private yachts, to the fun centre of Oak Bluffs where the old Flying Horses Carousel, pizza take-aways and ice-cream parlours cater to the young and carefree.

The graceful Edgartown has quaint inns, historic whaling captains' homes and stylish boutiques lining the narrow streets, and is the island's oldest settlement. The pace is decidedly laid-back although the hassles of summer crowds, traffic and high prices have led to more visitors discovering the appeal of the off-season, with peaceful roads, friendly folk and private beaches that are opened to the public.

Thirty miles (48km) off the coast of Cape Cod, the island of Nantucket is smaller and more remote than Martha's Vineyard, and is an escape from city stress and the chaos of everyday life. Miles of unspoilt beaches, rolling wind-swept moors, solitary windmills and lighthouses, church steeples, quaint cottages and peaceful lanes are the attractions on the island. Its only town, Nantucket Town, was once the whaling capital of the world and has retained much of its 17th to 19th century character with historic mansions, old fashioned street lamps and cosy inns lining the cobblestone streets.

The rest of the island is mainly residential except for a few villages, and there is not a billboard, fast-food franchise or flashing neon light to be seen anywhere. Nantucket has long appealed to wealthy visitors and has grown to a summer vacation retreat for nearly 50,000 tourists, and despite the increasing amount of luxury houses going up, over 36 percent of the land is protected from development, and the island still feels like a romantic paradise.

The excellent Whaling Museum is an added attraction to the beaches, strolling and biking, and window-shopping at the exclusive boutiques. July and August are the most popular months and the busiest times, and although off-season has its charms the island is often covered in thick fog at this time.

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