Massachusetts' most popular beach vacation spots, Cape Cod, Plymouth, and "the Islands" are the perfect place for those hungry for seafood. Lounge on the beach, go for a hike, visit a heritage museum. And at night, crack open a lobster or order a plate piled high with fried clams. Here you'll find long sandy beaches, bike paths, and plenty of activities for land and sea. Hike, picnic, or swim at the Cape Cod National Seashore or bike the 25.1-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail.
Don't forget Provincetown, an eclectic arts and fishing community where the Pilgrims fist landed. Plymouth bills itself as "America's Hometown." The region also offers picturesque harbors, historic lighthouses, state-of-the-art golf courses, and acres of cranberry bogs. Whale watch cruises, harbor tours, and party fishing boats leave from Plymouth Harbor. Not just extensions of Cape Cod, the Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are in a world all their own. The slower pace of life on the islands offers visitors ample time to bike or walk to explore the islands' lighthouses, conservation land, and unspoiled beaches.
Whether you're on the Outer Cape, Mid-Cape, or Lower Cape you'll find long sandy beaches, bike paths, and plenty of activities for land and sea. Hike, picnic, or swim at the Cape Cod National Seashore or bike the 25.1-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail. Catch a game of the premier Cape Cod Baseball League. Discover ocean life at the NOAA Aquarium, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Exhibit, or the ZooQuarium's live sea lion shows.
Along with the traditional Cape Cod trimmings - go karts, mini-golf, and ice cream stands - galleries and antiques can be found along Old King's Highway (Rte. 6A). Don't limit your golfing to the miniature kind; there are more than 25 golf courses throughout the Cape. Catch a first-run double feature at the Cape's only drive-in, Wellfleet Drive-In Theatre. Take in a dune tour in Provincetown or have dinner on a train of the Cape Cod Central Railroad. Hy-Line Cruises, Island Queen and the Steamship Authority get you to the islands and back on high-speed ferries.
Driving Time from Boston: 90 minutes to 2 hours
The one hundred square-mile Island of Martha's Vineyard lies seven miles off Cape Cod, accessible by ferry or airplane. Whether one visits urbane 'down island' (Tisbury, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown) or pastoral 'up island' (Chilmark, Aquinnah and West Tisbury), there's ample enchantment for all on New England's largest island. Multiple personalities—summer and 'other' seasons—captivate visitors year-round.
People know summer best, but autumn's 'festival season' (food & wine, film, fishing, more) is also popular for weddings. Winter's serenity and spring's renewal are palpable. Beaches are broad; hills are low; rolling meadows are edged by stone walls and woods thick with black tupelo and red cedar; healthy hinterlands are pond-speckled. There is no fast food here. New traditions of slow food incorporate farm- and ocean-to-table culinary arts at restaurants island-wide.
Driving Time to Ferries from Boston: 90 minutes to 2 hours
Thirty miles off the Massachusetts coast, this crescent-shaped island is in a world by itself. Cobblestone streets and an array of stately Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival homes reflect Nantucket's history as a prosperous whaling port. Nearly 40 percent of Nantucket is protected conservation land. Several areas and habitats, natural groups of plants and animals, are rare to this region and even the world. Walk the sandy beaches, swim in the still, sparkling waters of Nantucket Sound, stroll the boutique shops and explore the art galleries and museums.
Driving Time to Ferries from Boston: 90 minutes to 2 hours
As the landing location and subsequent settlement for the Mayflower's Pilgrims in 1620, Plymouth is home to one of the greatest dramas in the founding of America. It was here in 1621, that the Pilgrims celebrated what is now known as "The First Thanksgiving" with their Wampanoag neighbors. Situated about 40 miles south of Boston along Massachusetts' South Shore, Plymouth unfolds along a scenic harbor of blue waters and picturesque boats.
Known as "America's Hometown", historical highlights include: Plymouth Rock (which when moved in 1774, "split asunder" and was transported to Liberty Square as a symbol of the 'split' with England), Pilgrim Hall Museum, the National Monument to the Forefathers, the Mayflower II (a full-scale reproduction of the original ship), and the area's premier attraction Plimoth Plantation, offering a Visitor Center and Orientation film, museum shops and dining, a Wampanoag Native American Homesite, 17th-century English Village and Craft Center.
Driving Time from Boston: 45 minutes
When you explore Plymouth, Cape Cod and the Islands, be sure to sample the area's diverse mix of unforgettable restaurants and dining experiences, ranging from upscale elegant eateries and waterfront restaurants to old-fashioned Cape Cod clambakes and seafood shanties. While this region is renowned for serving the freshest seafood, area restaurants have a wide range of dining options - everything from sushi, Brazilian barbecue and Chinese to Italian cuisine, Indian curry and French & Continental fare. Pizza and ice cream parlors, bakeries and coffee shops are never hard to find!
For nightlife on Cape Cod, Provincetown can't be beat. A historic fishing port with a diverse history, Provincetown is situated at the tip of the Cape. It's been home to sailors, pirates, fisherman, painters, and authors for centuries. Not only is it America's oldest art colony, this town is also known for being one of the top gay resorts in the country. At night in the summertime and shoulder seasons, expect, well, anything. Provincetown's renowned entertainment and nightlife is eclectic, diverse, and never disappoints. There are numerous entertainment venues, including cabarets, piano bars, drag shows, theater, movies, and more. Additionally, Provincetown is known for its famous tea dance, bar scene, and dancing venues.
Bars and pubs dot the shore from Plymouth to Cape Cod. But the other hub of nightlife on the Cape is Hyannis. The nightlife scene takes place around the harbor, and on Main Street. Hyannis, the "Homeport of Cape Cod," boasts the area's largest concentration of businesses, shops, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment spots. Lots of college kids working at the local hotels, attractions and restaurants for the summer spend their evenings in Hyannis' bars and pubs. Note: Hyannis is a village in the town of Barnstable; Barnstable is smoke-free in all public places.
Woods Hole on the southwestern tip of Cape Cod, although still a seaside fishing village, is home to an international scientific community, and can be considered a "college town" of sorts. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is known historically for discovering the Titanic but has now become the largest private non-profit oceanographic institution in the world. From Woods Hole you can board a ferry to Martha's Vineyard from the harbor. Woods Hole has great energy, with a slightly more avant-garde flavor than neighboring Falmouth.
On Martha's Vineyard, the town of Oak Bluffs is the local scene for young people, with the main drag, Circuit Ave, as well as the waterfront a haven on summer evenings for pubcrawlers. Shops, restaurants and ice cream parlors line these streets as well, and there are plenty of families out for a good time.
Vineyard Haven is the artsy little sister to Oak Bluffs, much more mellow and calm – partly due to the town ordinance making it "dry" (meaning no alcoholic beverages are sold in any of its restaurants). But this doesn't stop it from having a bit more of a bohemian character, with art galleries and women's clothing shops lining the main drag.
Nantucket is Martha's Vineyard's upscale cousin, offering a slightly more sophisticated atmosphere, cobblestoned streets and generally higher prices. Be sure to experience island specialties including its world-famous Nantucket Bay scallops, farm fresh tomatoes and corn, bluefish patéand beach plum jelly. There's only one town on the island, so once you find it, you'll know where to go for island nightlife.