About Cape Cod


Cape Cod extends into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern corner of Massachusetts. Its historic, maritime character and ample beaches make the Cape a popular tourism destination during the summer months.

The Cape extends 65 miles into the Atlantic Ocean, and has a breadth of between 1-20 miles with some 400 miles of shoreline. The Cape acts as a natural barrier from North Atlantic storms and high waves for much of the Massachusetts coastline.

Today Cape Cod has a year-round population of about 220,000, and it experiences a tourist season each summer, the beginning and end of which can be roughly approximated as Memorial Day and Labor Day, respectively.

Provincetown has long been an art colony, attracting writers and artists. The town is home to the Cape’s most attended art museum, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

Cape Cod is hugely popular for its outdoor activities, such as beach walking, biking, boating, fishing, go-karts, golfing, kayaking and unique shopping. There are 27 public, daily-fee golf courses and 15 private courses on Cape Cod.

The well-known islands south of the Cape have evolved from whaling and trading areas to become coveted resort destinations, attracting wealthy families, celebrities, and tourists. Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard are famous summer tourist destinations, accessed by ferry from several Cape Cod locations.

At the end of the 19th century Cape Cod became a summer haven for city dwellers. Rail transportation made the towns of the Upper Cape accessible to Bostonians and later to residents of New York and Hartford, all beating a path to the seaside to enjoy respite from East Coast summer heat and humidity.

Cape Cod architecture is noteworthy for the distinctive Cape-style house and Cape lighthouse.

In 1797 lighthouses were first erected along Cape Cod to aid in navigation. The oldest and tallest is Highland Light (or Cape Cod Light), which remains a working lighthouse today. Most Cape Cod lighthouses are operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Guglielmo Marconi made the first transatlantic wireless transmission originating in the United States from Cape Cod, at Wellfleet. The beach below the bluffs where his station was located is now called Marconi Beach.

Much of the east-facing Atlantic seacoast of Cape Cod consists of wide, sandy beaches. In 1961, a significant portion of this coastline was made a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore by President John F. Kennedy. This protected national reserve has 40 miles of sandy beaches and many walking paths.

The Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port was President Kennedy’s summer White House during his presidency, and the Kennedy family continues to maintain residences on the compound.

From Barnstable and Provincetown visitors can board whale watching vessels to the prolific Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The fleet guarantees a whale sighting of the numerous species here. Humpback, fin, blue minke whale, sei whale, and the endangered North Atlantic right whale all fatten up here during the summer and fall seasons.

Cape Cod is a spring-to-fall destination for sport anglers, including fall catches of huge Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, up to 1,000 lbs. Striped bass and flounder are prized catches for table fare. Late summer and fall months also bring warm water tropical gamefish to the waters south of the Cape, including marlin and mahi-mahi. Nearly every harbor on Cape Cod has public sport fishing charter boats, which run from May through October.

The towns of coastal New England and especially Cape Cod have long been immensely popular for seafood lovers. Virtually every dining establishment on the Cape serves oysters, scallops, fried clams and the ever-present and always delicious lobster roll. Casual clam shacks, bustling fish markets and fine-dining establishments abound.

The Cape Codder cocktail is named after the peninsula; both are notable for cranberry.

The virtues of Cape Cod are extolled in the song “Old Cape Cod“.

Artist Edward Hopper owned a summer house in Truro, and painted numerous Cape scenes including Corn Hill (1930), Highland Light, North Truro (1930), Rich’s House (1930), High Road (1931), House on Dune Edge (1931), Cold Storage Plant (1933), and Cottages at North Truro (1936).

Norman Mailer’s 1984 noir thriller and murder mystery novel Tough Guys Don’t Dance is set in Provincetown.