Cape Cod - AttractionGuide

Cape Cod

Welcome to MetroGuide Networks' overview of Cape Cod-area attractions. The Greater Cape Cod area is full of attractions for all ages. Cape Cod (named in 1602 by an English explorer for huge quantities of cod brought in by his crew), Martha's Vineyard (a triangular-shaped haven known for being less developed yet more cosmopolitan than Cape Cod), and Nantucket (an architectural gem that once was the world's foremost whaling port) are magnets for tourism, especially between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The area's first homes were wigwams of bark, but settlers soon started building the famed steep-roof saltbox and Cape Cod cottage for growing families. Wampanoag Indians taught settlers how to strip blubber from whales stranded on beaches. When the supply of near-shore whales thinned, the hunt began for far-flung sperm whales, which grew into a New England industry. Eventual decline in whaling hit hard, and the Cape turned to tourism. Where once people reached the Cape only by stagecoach or packet boat, train service from Boston began in 1848, first to Sandwich, then to Provincetown. In the 1890s, President Grover Cleveland made his Bourne residence the Cape's first “summer White House.” Seaside resorts soon popped up. In the 1930s, a trio of bridges - two for traffic and one for rail – were built. Advent of the Mid Cape Highway (U.S. 6) in the 1950s marked a boom in Cape growth, and the presidency of John F. Kennedy, who summered in Hyannis Port, added to the charisma. Overall, the Cape's summer population is more than 500,000, 2.5 times the year-round population. Despite tourism, more than 100 farms remain, along with a healthy fishing industry, with lobstering, scalloping, and oyster aquaculture. Martha's Vineyard cherishes its persona as a place where the famed can go their own way without aggravation, where a code of reverse snobbery means a beat-up vehicle gets a welcoming nod while a stretch limo rates a raised eyebrow. Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are within a day's driving or ferry distance of each other, yet, depending on preferences, their distinct personalities call for thought on where to allocate time.

Below is a list of some suggested things to do in the Cape Cod Metropolitan Area, with links to more details when available..

Cape Cod
(Communities include Bourne, Falmouth, Sandwich, Barnstable, Hyannis, Yarmouth, Dennis, Brewster, Harwich, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown.)

Aptucxet Trading Post Museum
This recreated trading post museum, on the site of a 17th century trading post for pilgrims, Wampanoag Indians and the Dutch, is abloom in summer with 17th century-style herb and wildflower gardens.
24 Aptucxet Road, Bourne Village. (508) 759-9487
Atwood House Museum
The circa 1752 Atwood House is filled with furnishings, paintings and toys of the 18th and 19th century. Seven galleries feature portraits of sea captains, shells, Sandwich glass, maritime artifacts, murals of Chatham townspeople, and more.
347 Stage Harbor Road, Chatham.
Bourne Historical Society
Rotating exhibits include “Hurricanes – The Great Forces of Nature on Our Shore.”
30 Keene Street, Bourne Village. (508) 759-8167
Briggs-McDermott House and Alonzo Booth Blacksmith Shop
This Greek Revival house, furnished in circa 1830-1910, belonged to a politically and culturally prominent family, and features include a Charles Raleigh ceiling painting, period gardens and a small granite-walled barn. President Grover Cleveland had his horses shod at this blacksmith shop, restored with a working forge, artifacts, tools and a wagon.
22 Sandwich Road, Bourne. (508) 759-6120
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Awaiting visitors are trails, exhibits, salt- and fresh-water aquariums, guided walks, nature tours, a library and a museum store.
869 Route 6A, Brewster. (508) 896-3867
Cape Cod National Seashore
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation establishing Cape Cod National Seashore, where visitors are drawn to its white shoreline and roaring surf. Daily fees, subject to change, are to park ($10), bike or walk in ($3), and passes include a seasonal ($30), for purchase at visitors centers. Six main beaches are: Coast Guard (via Little Creek Staging Area, off Route 6, Doane Road, Eastham); Nauset Light (off Route 6, off Nauset and Cable Road, N. Eastham); Head of the Meadow (Off Route 6, N. Truro); Marconi (Off Route 6, Maconi Beach Road, S. Wellfleet), Herring Cove (Route 6, past the turn to Provincetown Center); and Race Point (Race Point Road off Route 6, Provincetown).
Salt Pond Visitors Center, Route 6, Eastham. Provinceland Visitor Center, Race Point Road, Provincetown.
Capt. Bangs Hallet House Museum
This restored 1840 Greek Revival sea captain's house and 1873 Kelley Chapel are maintained by the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth. An exhibition details experiences of Capt. Bangs Hallet and other sea captains in the China Trade.
11 Strawberry Lane, Yarmouth. (508) 362-3021
Centerville Historical Museum
A Colonial Revival kitchen, Victorian parlor, maritime gallery and military artifacts are highlighted here along with a Civil War display, children's toys and dolls and a 19th century school room.
513 Main Street, Barnstable. (508) 775-0331
Chatham Railroad Museum
Admission is free at this repository for locomotive models, bells, lanterns, marker lights, and a fully restored 90-year-old wooden caboose, along with historic Western Union telegraph equipment.
Old Chatham Railroad Co. Station, Depot Road, Chatham. (508) 945-2809
Edward Gorey House
Previously owned and occupied by the late artist Edward Gorey, the house features his works and legacy as a proponent of animal welfare, along with rare photographs, illustrations and an interactive children's room.
8 Strawberry Lane, off Route 6A, Yarmouthport. (508) 362-3909
Falmouth Museums on the Green
Guided tours are of two 18th Century houses featuring period furnishings, colonial kitchens, exhibits on whaling and Falmouth native Katharine Lee Bates, author of America The Beautiful. The two-acre museum complex includes colonial and herb gardens, a barn and gift shop.
55-65 Palmer Avenue, Falmouth. (508) 548-4857
Jericho Historical Center
This Sea captain's home was built in 1801 for Theophilus Baker. The house, open by appointment for group tours, has a children's room in the attic and is filled with Sandwich glass lamps, antiques, vintage clothing, quilts and samplers.
Tropping Park Road and Old Main Street, West Dennis. (508) 394-0206
1736 Josiah Dennis Manse Museum
This saltbox home was occupied by the first minister of Dennis, for whom the town was named. Furnishings are from the 1700s, with spinning and weaving demonstrations.
77 Nobscusset Road, Dennis. (508) 385-2232
John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum
Photographs, video and oral histories are from days JFK spent on Cape Cod, relaxing, sailing, and playing touch football. The exhibit, with more than 80 photos spanning 1934 to 1963, is arranged in thematic groupings. A video narrated by Walter Cronkite depicts JFK's experiences on the Cape. Included are oral histories from several JFK friends.
Old Town Hall, 397 Main Street, Hyannis. (508) 790-3077
Judah Baker Windmill
A historical renovation of this windmill was completed in 1999.
Off River Street, Bass River, South Yarmouth. (508) 398-2231
New England Fire and History Museum
Historic fire engines, a Chicago fire diorama, fire movies, fire equipment and memorabilia await here, along with a village blacksmith shop, apothecary shop and children's play area.
Route 6A, Brewster. (508) 896-5711
Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum
Histories of Provincetown and the Outer Cape include exhibits on pilgrims and the Mayflower, which dropped anchor here in 1620, and Provincetown's theater history with Eugene O'Neill and the Provincetown Players. Writers (including O'Neill) launched the Provincetown Players, the start of Cape community theater and professional summer-stock. The Barnstable Comedy Club, founded in 1922, is among the area's many amateur groups. Novelist Kurt Vonnegut acted there in the ‘50s and ‘60s and the group produced some of his early plays. Professional summer stock began in Dennis with the Cape Playhouse in 1927, where early years featured Bette Davis (starting as an usher), Henry Fonda, Ruth Gordon, and Humphrey Bogart. In 1928, the University Players Guild (today's Falmouth Playhouse) opened in Falmouth, attracting James Cagney, Orson Welles, Josh Logan, and Tallulah Bankhead. Jimmy Stewart (on break from Princeton) got his first bit part during Falmouth's inaugural season.
High Pole Hill Road, Provincetown. (508) 487-8899
Porter Thermometer Museum
With a motto of “almost always open and always free” no matter what the temperature, thermometer enthusiast Dick Porter's collection of more than 4,600 antique, rare and art-deco devices awaits, with a red-hot history lecture geared for all ages. Wall-to-wall thermometers – Porter plans to top out at 5,000 -- in assorted shapes and sizes, are mounted on boards for quick transport in case of storms. Some Porter thermometers are from flea markets, for as little as a dime. Eighty-three came from an 83-year-old Illinois woman. Others are from businesses, and a story lies behind every one. A miniature Swiss chalet has movable figurines, and a girl appears on fair-weather days, while on stormy days, a boy shows up. One features Marilyn Monroe in her famed windblown pose, and another is embedded within the stem of a wine glass. Eight of Porter's thermometers were in Oliver Stone's "U-turn," and the collector has finished a book manuscript, tentatively titled Galileo's Bulb, Past and Present.
49 Zarahemia Road, Warham. (508) 295-5504
Sandwich Glass Museum
Visitors learn about Sandwich, starting as an English colonial agricultural community in 1637 and evolving into a great glassmaking center during the American Industrial Revolution. Glittering for all to see is cut and decorated glassware made in Sandwich from 1825 to 1907, where more than 5,000 pieces were created by different glass companies.
129 Main Street, Sandwich. (508) 888-0251
Swift Daley House and Tool Museum
Next to the post office, this house with a bow-roof was built in 1741 and features period furniture, clothing, china, quilts and household items. The adjacent tool museum has hundreds of unusual items.
Route 6, Eastham. (508) 240-1247
Thornton W. Burgess Museum
The life and work of Thornton W. Burgess, author of Peter Cottontail, are preserved in the 18th century house once owned by his Aunt Arabella. On the grounds is a “tussie mussie” herb garden overlooking the swan and duck-filled Shawme Pond. A museum gift shop stocks Burgess books and other items.
4 Water Street, Route 130, Sandwich. (508) 888-4678
Toad Hall at Simmons Homestead Inn
Out back at Toad Hall, behind the Simmons Homestead Inn (billing itself as both a B&B reflecting the spirit of old Cape Cod and a great place for car nuts) are some 50 classic sports cars assembled by Bill Simmons, a self-described innkeeper of sorts. Lotuses, MGs, Jags, Triumphs, lots of Datsuns, a couple of German cars and a lone Ferrari are part of the line-up. As for the name, Toad was a character in The Wind In The Willows, Kenneth Grahame's 1908 classic. Like Toad's, all of Bill's cars are red. The Inn itself, a Simmons family homestead, was built circa 1800-1820 by sea captain Lemuel Simmons. A private estate until 1988, it was renovated into a B&B where all rooms have names like “Giraffe” or “Zebra.” The original barn now has four more guest rooms and a billiard parlor. Other amenities include a TV, grudgingly added but nicely obscured behind plants in the Annex common room (which is not the best place for anyone allergic to cats), and an “all you can eat, but absolutely no choice” breakfast, where menus vary from blueberry pancakes to ham and eggs.
288 Scudder Avenue, Barnstable, Hyannisport. (508) 778-4999

Martha's Vineyard
(Communities include Aquinnah (Gay Head), Vineyard Haven (Tisbury), Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, West Tisbury, and Chilmark.)
Chicama Vineyards
Founded in 1971 by the Mathiesen family, the bonded Chicama Vineyards offers tours and tastings. Because of its maritime climate and geography, Martha's Vineyard is now recognized as a viticultural area by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Apart from wine, the family makes wine viegars, mustards, salad dressings, flavored oils and jams, for sale in the winery shop.
West Tisbury. (508) 693-0309
Accessible only by the On-Time Ferry or “Chappy” Ferry from the Town Wharf, Chappaquiddick is a tiny island serving as a barrier beach to Martha's Vineyard that is often overlooked by visitors. With no stores, shops, or restaurants, the mood is relatively isolated with many nature preserves. The Cape Page Wildlife Refuge, across from treacherous Dyke's Bridge (scene of the 1969 fatal auto accident involving Sen. Edward Kennedy), has more than six miles of dunes, woods, salt marsh, tidal flats and barrier beach.
“Chappy” Ferry, Edgartown. (508) 627-9427
Dr. Daniel Fisher House
This Federal-style home on Main Street was built in 1840 by Dr. Daniel Fisher, the town's leading businessman. After piling up a fortune – an estimated quarter million dollars, worth far more at the time – in banking and whale oil trade, he poured a bundle into his showplace home, with its balustrades, cupola and portico, all restored in 1992. Guided tours are offered by Vineyard History Tours.
99 Main Street, Edgartown. (508) 627-8619
East and West Chop Lighthouses
Perched on Telegraph Hill overlooking Nantucket Sound, the East Chop Lighthouse is the site of sunset tours, offered by the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society each Sunday (weather permitting) from late June until Columbus Day. Built in 1817, the West Chop Lighthouse was the island's last manned light. Views of Vineyard Sound are excellent, as are the sunsets.
East Chop Drive, Oak Bluffs. (508) 627-4441 West Chop, Vineyard Haven.
Edgartown Lighthouse
Built in 1828, Edgartown's first lighthouse was on a man-made island in the harbor, reached only by boat and, later, by footbridge. Whalers walked their sweethearts over the "Bridge of Sighs" leading to the lighthouse before setting out on long journeys. Replaced in 1930's, the Edgartown Lighthouse is now found on land that filled in the harbor area once separated by water.
Far End, North Water Street, Edgartown
Flying Horses
As the nation's oldest platform merry-go-round still merrily going round, the Flying Horses both reins and reigns as a National Historic Landmark. Each of 20 horses is hand-carved, featuring a genuine horse hair mane. These steeds glide since they came about before carousels with gears for galloping. The Charles W.F. Dare Company made the carousel in New York City in 1876, and the horses were moved to Oak Bluffs from Coney Island two years later. The landmark Red Pavilion with its Flying Horses, maintained by the Martha's Vineyard Preservation Trust, is open from Easter Sunday through Columbus Day. Catch a brass ring and get a free ride.
33 Oak Bluffs Avenue, Oak Bluffs. (508) 693-9481
Gay Head Lighthouse
The red brick Gay Head Lighthouse, erected in 1844 to replace an earlier model built in 1799, stands watch over cliffs of its notoriously dangerous coastline. The lighthouse is open for inspection from late June through most of September and is a frequent site for outdoor events. Rising 150 feet from the sea, the clay Gay Head Cliffs provide views of the entire island, along with Elizabeth Islands, Norman's Island, Cape Cod and Vineyard Sound. The one-time town of Gay Head, having officially renamed itself Aquinnah in the late 1990s, is headquarters of the island's Wampanoag Indians. Also in Aquinnah (Wompanoag for “land under the hill”) is the nearly 400-acre estate of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Off State Road, Aquinnah
Grange Hall
Originally built in 1859, this building (also known as the “old” Agricultural Hall) was renovated in 1999 and is a popular site for artisan festivals, craft fairs, the farmer's market, and estate sales. The “new” Agricultural Hall was built as a larger home and fairgrounds for the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society for horse shows and the annual agricultural fair.
“Old” Agricultural Hall (Grange Hall), State Road, West Tisbury. (508) 627-4440
“New” Agricultural Hall, Panhandle, West Tisbury. (508) 693-9549
Indian Burial Grounds
This Christiantown memorial is the site of an Indian burial ground and the Mayhew Chapel, named after Thomas Mayhew Jr., a missionary. Proximity of the gravesites underscores the Wampanoag Indian practice of burying their dead sitting up, the pre-Christianized idea being to more quickly meet the maker. This site is owned by the Wampanoag Tribe and grounds are maintained by Martha's Vineyard Garden Club.
Indian Hill Road, West Tisbury.
Menemsha (Wampanoag for “place of observation”) is a typical New England-style fishing village where anglers still bring in daily catches. The Menemsha town beach is a prime spot for sunset watching. Near Dutcher's Dock are a fish market, deli and shops.
Off North Road, Chilmark.
Old Whaling Church
The Old Whaling Church, a fine example of Greek Revival architecture, got its name because it was built as a Methodist church with whaling money. Now a community performing arts center, the 1843 structure is the site of year round events, hosting such diverse performers as Arlo Guthrie and Andre Previn. The church has 50-foot hand-hewn pine beams fastened only with wooden pegs. Its 92-foot clock tower was a beacon to whalers returning home from long journeys.
Main and Church streets, Edgartown. (508) 627-4442
Pagoda Tree
Planted in the 1830's from a seed brought from China by Captain Thomas Milton, this tree is the oldest pagoda tree on the continent.
South Water Street, Edgartown.
The Tabernacle
In the center of Trinity Park, this national landmark is one of the country's largest wrought-iron structures. The Tabernacle was originally built for Methodist revivals and is now the site for the island's high school commencement and other events including the Boston Pops Orchestra's annual performance..
80 Trinity Avenue, Oak Bluffs. (508) 693-0525
Vincent House Museum
Built in 1672, Vincent House is the island's oldest home, representing more than three centuries of island living. In 1977, Vincent House was located to its present site off Church and Main streets. It was restored for museum purposes and is maintained by the Martha's Preservation Trust. Guided tours are offered by Vineyard History Tours.
Chuch and Main streets. (508) 627-8619
Vineyard Museum
The Martha's Vineyard Historical Society maintains the Vineyard Museum, which is a must for anyone intent on learning about the island and Colonial history. MVHS collections are on exhibit in several buildings on their grounds. Admission is free in winter, and nominal the rest of the year.
School and Cooke streets, Edgartown. (508) 627-4441
Vineyard Seaman's Society
Artifacts and heirlooms including a belt from the Titanic are in the Bethel Maritime Collection of the Vineyard Seaman's Society have been gifted by seafarers and their families to the museum located in the Old Schoolhouse Building, constructed in 1829. The Bethel helped seafarers for more than 100 years.
110 Main Street, Vineyard Haven. (508) 693-9317

Nantucket Attractions
Fire Hose Cart House
The Fire Hose Cart House is the last remaining 19th century firehouse on the island. It dates from 1886 and several like it were built after The Great Fire of 1846, which left the town a smoldering ruin and scores of families homeless. That prompted citizens to adopt better fire prevention measures. Firehouses were used to store hand-pumped fire-fighting gear. On display is rare equipment related to the historic 1846 fire.
8 Gardner Street.
Hadwen House
This Greek Revival mansion was built in 1845 by whaling merchant and silver retailer William Hadwen. At the time, the house and its twin next door were the most ostentatious private dwellings ever seen on the island. While symbolizing wealth and prosperity of leading citizens, they served as a huge contrast to the island's once dominant Quaker simplicity. Visitors are invited to enjoy the ground's Victorian gardens maintained by the Nantucket Garden Club.
96 Main Street, at corner of Pleasant and Main, Nantucket Town.
Nantucket Life-Saving Museum
Nantucket's early heroic life-savers (motto: “You have to go out – but you don't have to come back”) are memorialized here in testimony to scores of lives saved near the island's dangerous shores and shoals. (The motto is also held by the United States Coast Guard and the United State Life-Saving Service.) On exhibit is one of only four remaining Mass Humane Society surfboats, its horse-drawn carriage, the only Mass Humane Society beachcart left in existence, and other releics from the island's many life-saving stations. Displays also include items of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, founded by Alexander Hamilton, and artifacts recovered from the Andrea Doria, the Italian liner sinking in July 1956 after colliding with the Swedish liner Stockholm.
158 Polpis Road, on the saltmarsh. (508) 228-1885
NHA Research Library
The Nantucket Historical Association Research Library houses the Nantucket Historical Association's comprehensive collection of archive materials. Located in the original Fair Street Museum, the facility is a repository of primary resources focusing on Nantucket and maritime history including manuscripts, maps, books, and photographs. The poured concrete structure, built in 1904, was renovated in 2000 and is open to the public year round.
7 Fair Street, Nantucket Town.
The Old Gaol (Jail)
Built in 1696 on Vestal Street in response to emerging standing as an international seaport (and magnet for transients), this was Nantucket's first jail. In 1805, taxpayers opted to cough up $2,090 (back then about the cost of building a whaleship) for a sturdier pen, also on Vestal Street. The “New Gaol,” opened in 1806, constructed with iron bolts running the length of oak timber walls, iron rods across windows and heavy wood doors reinforced with iron. Prisoners were forced to plot novel escapes. Archive accounts of prison-breaks, successful and otherwise, include a 15-year-old boy crawling out the chimney flue, and of a prisoner who had a key delivered to his second floor window by a woman using a block and tackle pulley system built for the task. The New Gaol, now known as the Old Gaol, saw its last prisoner in 1933 and was deeded to the Nantucket Historical Association in 1946.
15 Vestal Street.
The Old Mill
As the oldest functioning mill in the nation, the Old Mill was built in 1746 by Nathan Wilbur, a Nantucket sailor who had been in Holland. In deplorable condition, the Old Mill was sold for $20 in 1828 to Jared Gardner to use for firewood. But Gardner, a carpenter by trade, restored the mill to working condition for grinding corn. Sold again in 1866 to a Portuguese miller of Azorean descent, the mill operated until going idle in 1892. In 1897, Miss Caroline French purchased the mill at auction for $850 and donated it to the Nantucket Historical Association.
50 Prospect Street, at South Mill Street, Nantucket Town. (508) 228-0950
Oldest House (Jethro Coffin House)
Also called the Jethro Coffin House, Nantucket's oldest residence was built as a wedding gift in 1886 for Coffin and Mary Gardner and is the sole surviving structure from the island's original 17th century English settlement. Jethro, upon his death listed as a blacksmith in 1927, was grandson of one of the island's first white settlers, Tristram Coffin. Coffin sold the house in 1708 to Nathaniel Paddack, a weaver. In the 1840s, it passed into the hands of George Turner, a cooper, who abandoned it during depressed Civil War years. In 1881, the Coffin Family Reunion spawned preservation interest and the Nantucket Historical Association acquired the house in 1923 for restoration. Lightning struck the house in 1987, spurring another restoration.
Sunset Hill, Nantucket Town. (508) 228-1894
Quaker Meetinghouse
In 1701, Mary Coffin Starbuck became interested in the Quaker faith after hearing an itinerant preacher speak before a crowd. Early Quaker meetings took place at her house at 10 Pines Street, and Quakerism gradually became the dominant religion of Nantucket's ruling elite during prosperous whaling years. Quakerism's decline here in the 19th century can be traced to internal divisions as the Nantucket Meeting broke into three sects, the Hicksites, the Gurneyites, and the Wilburites. The Quaker Meetinghouse on Fair Street was built in 1838.
Whaling Museum
In the Hadwen-Barney Candle Factory erected less than a year after the Great Fire of 1846, the Whaling Museum illustrates how Nantucketers harpooned and processed whales for their oil while at sea. On display are the skeleton of a 40-foot finback whale, a comprehensive collection of maritime arts and crafts, and artifacts from the Essex, a ship rammed by an enraged sperm whale, which inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
13 Broad Street, Nantucket Town. (508) 228-5785
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