Sand Dunes & Salty Air: Cape Cod

Beach Essentials

Where: Large island south east off the coast of Massachusetts
When: Year round resort – great winter landscape and summer sun.
Happenings: Sea walks, landscape painting, stunning sand dunes

Cape Cod is where New Englanders go for the summer, miles and miles of sandy beaches and good weather provide for lazy days, seafood dinner and an all around chill out experience.


As with just about everywhere in New England, it’s soaked in history as it’s the site where the first pilgrims boats landed. The pious pilgrims would be rolling over in their graves if they knew that their first landing site in Provincetown is now a gay mecca. If they thought 400 years ago that they were fleeing one queen and founding a home for many others, they probably would have taken theMayflower and sailed in the opposite direction.
In the 19th century, Cape Cod was known for it “toilsome” sandy roads and windmills, which later gave way to a more commercial beach life.

What’s there to See and Do?

The saltwater and fresh water beaches aroung the Cape are fantastic for an array of adventures – swimming, sunbathing and sports. It’s also great for long walks.

As an old Patti Page song goes,

“If you’re fond of sand dunes and salty air,
Quaint little villages here and there
You’re sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod. ”

Recently re-invented by dance act Groove Armada, the appeal of ‘Old Cape Cod’ is timeless and attracts visitors of all ages.

It’s a year round resort, as the walk’s and winter wilderness offer stunning view for artists even off season. Artists have been drawn to the cape for 100 years and it offer many summer schools inTruro and Provincetown, which was once the home of many great artists like Rothko andPollock. Nature writers, playwrights, actors and even president JFK have all been drawn here with its wealth of migratory birds and sealife.

Although Provincetown is full of touristy shops it does have a vibrant arts scene, thanks to the hoards of artists and writers who’ve been coming here since the 1920’s and right outside of town is the start of Cape Cod’s 60 miles of beach.

Where to Stay

A great place to stay to seek total isolation is in a light house. You have to be picked up in town and dropped off, but the experience is a real piece of Americana. Prices range between $125 and 150 a night so it is pricey but a unique experience.

Sand Dunes

On parts of the coast, if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and a permit you are allowed to drive up and down the beach, but you don’t get to see the best part, which is the dunes. If you go with a guide, you can see it all and you get a locals perspective. The dunes were once all woodland, until the early Portuguese used the wood for houses and fuel. Eventually the top-soil blew away revealing the sandy dune-scape which President Kennedy declared a National Seashore in 1961. The National Seashore continues for 42 square miles, all covered with beautiful dunes. There are bicycle and nature trails, salt marshes and forests and most of it is virtually deserted.

Martha’s Vineyard

The islands off Cape Cod are very popular summer retreats, the most famous of which has to beMartha’s Vineyard. You can go by ferry which is only a short hop and there are lots of departures. It costs a hefty $100 to bring your car across, so your best bit is to go for the day with a more modest $11 passenger ticket. Martha’s Vineyard is pretty much a millionaires playground where you can see plenty of palacial summer houses. It’s charm also attracted Hollywood, and it was the setting for the movie Jaws. Although throughout the summer it’s packed with tourists, off season it’s a wonderfully quiet and secluded place to visit.
You’ll need to hop on a ferry to get to check out the sights of Martha’s Vineyard.

Ferry to Martha’s Vineyard

Foot Passenger:

Hy-Line Cruiser
Ocean Street Dock
Hyannis, MA 02601
Tel: 001 508 778 2600


For both passengers and vehicles:

The Steamship Authority
Mashpee office
Tel: 001 508 477 8600

Biking around Martha’s Vineyard

One of the best ways to explore Martha’s Vineyard is by bike, you can cruise around the streets and easily get to the beach with so little hassle.

Martha’s Bike Rentals
Lagoon Pond Rd
Vinard Haven
Tel: 001 508 693 6593

Cape Cod Dune Tours

To have a real experience of Cape Cod, you have to jump in a jeep and explore the dunes of the National Seashore.

Art’s Dune Tours
Contact: Rob Costa
Tel: 001 508 487 1950 Fax: 001 800 894 1951

More Information

Introduction to Cape Cod
Clifton Johnson’s turn of the century history of early Cape Cod life.

Insiders Guide to Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard
The lowdown on a fantastic book to explore this unique pocket of New England.

Cape Cod – The Way if Feels
Photos and poetry inspired by the beauty of the Cape.

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