Moon Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket


By Ray Bartlett

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From fine-art galleries and fried clams to breathtaking beachside hikes, escape to the Cape with Moon Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket. Inside you'll find:
  • Strategic itineraries, including weekend getaways to Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, or Nantucket, and the 12-day best of all three, designed for outdoor adventurers, beach bums, foodies, families, winter visitors, and more
  • Fun highlights and unique experiences: Admire 19th century lighthouses and take in some local lore at the Whaling Museum. Feast on raw oysters, fried clams, and fresh fish. Kick back at an old-school drive-in theater or have a lively night at a popular drag show in Provincetown. Stroll the cobblestone streets of Nantucket or pop into the galleries and artisan studios on the Cape
  • The top outdoor adventures: Kayak through misty marshes, spot dolphins from a sailboat, hike to cliffside bluffs, or bike the serene beach paths of Martha's Vineyard
  • Honest advice from Cape Cod local Ray Bartlett on when to go, how to get around, and where to stay, from quiet seaside cottages to historic guest houses and posh resorts
  • Helpful resources on Covid-19 and traveling to Cape Cod
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Thorough background on the landscape, climate, wildlife, and culture
Experience the best of the Cape with Moon Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket.

Exploring more of New England? Try Moon New England Road Trip. Hitting the trails? Check out Moon New England Hiking.

About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can't wait to share their favorite places with you.

For more inspiration, follow @moonguides on social media.


Buoys on garage wall

Aquinnah Beach

DISCOVER Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket

Planning Your Trip

The Best of the Cape


Island Getaways



Water Fun for Everyone


boating in the bay.

Cape Cod takes its name from its wealth of marine resources, and that’s what still makes this area so special today. People come here to enjoy the seafood, the beaches, and the lazy summer days. This is true of all three of the area's land masses, both the Cape and its neighboring islands. Each, however, retains a distinct character that makes it unique. A Cape getaway will be very different from a trip to the Vineyard or Nantucket. Get to all three, and you'll have three vacations wrapped into one.

Cape Cod is where you will find fresh bait shops and fine-art galleries side by side. Think summer-league baseball, live music on town bandstands, double features at the drive-in, and miniature golf with a quirky maritime theme. Here you'll eat ice cream for lunch and fried clams for dinner (yum!). There are also beaches, of course—hundreds of miles of them: slack-water estuaries, freshwater ponds, rock-strewn coves, long sandy strands lapped by the rhythmic ebb and flow of the bay, and surf-scoured barrier beaches that occasionally bare the bones of old ships.

Martha's Vineyard ("the Vineyard"), the larger, more populous, and more readily accessible of the two offshore islands, has become best known for its big-name celebrities and yacht owners. While it's hardly inexpensive, it doesn't thumb its nose at budget travelers, either. Its small, easily strollable towns brim with one-of-a-kind shops and galleries, interesting architecture, and good food.

humpback breaching off Stellwagen Bank

Cape Cod dunes

Edgartown Harbor Light

Nantucket is a pretty little pearl, with rose-draped cottages hugging narrow lanes and low, shrubby moors ringed by wide, sandy beaches. This port town swathes itself in a mantle of history; arriving ferry passengers will feel like they’ve opened a doorway to the 19th century. Distance and affluence have kept some of the diversity of its neighbors firmly at bay, but it warmly welcomes day-trippers of all stripes.

You may assume that the small size of this region will make it possible to pack everything you want to see and do into a single trip, but it’s best to take it slow. Allow yourself time to get lost in slow pleasures and seaside charm, to explore not only what's within these pages but also what's between the lines and beyond the margins. Save some discoveries for your next visit to the Cape. You’ll be back.

Uncle Tim's Bridge crossing Pin Cushion Cove, Wellfleet

shucking oysters in Menemsha.

historic Eastham Mill

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go
Cape Cod

No doubt about it, the big draws of Cape Cod are those seasonal verities of sun, sand, and surf, followed closely by golf greens and shopping. There are points of interest indoors, too—around every bend in the road is a historic landmark, a local historical museum, or a uniquely themed attraction inviting exploration. Art galleries and artisans' studios abound. Antique stores are equally ubiquitous. And given the vital importance of safe navigation to the regional economy, it should come as no surprise to learn that a number of 19th-century lighthouses still stand as beacons over the Cape.

Martha's Vineyard

The island of Martha's Vineyard features endless beach roads and peaceful saltwater ponds, often lit by the stunning golden light that has drawn artists to the island for centuries.

Residents divide the island into down-island (east) and up-island (west). The former is home to the island's three main population centers: touristy Vineyard Haven, chic Edgartown, and charming Oak Bluffs. Up-island is more rural, with the cow pastures of West Tisbury and Chilmark sharing space with the scenic fishing village of Menemsha and the cliffs of Aquinnah.


Life doesn't get more idyllic (or more preppy) than in the cobblestoned main streets, saltbox homes, and creaking docks of this community, renowned for its past life as the whaling capital of the world. It was that status—enjoyed from about 1800 to 1840—that brought great wealth to the community, which is to this day studded with the immense captains' homes of yore. That wealth is still readily apparent today in the form of new mansions, sometimes complete with a helipad or two in the backyard, and boutique shopping throughout central Nantucket town.

icebergs filling First Encounter Beach in February

Flowers ring a Yarmouth kettle pond.

When to Go

Beach lovers and sun worshippers heed the call of Cape Cod's summertime offerings; the sandy beaches, warm-weather festivals, and sea-centric and conservation land-based activities available here are all an outdoor enthusiast needs to get hooked on the area in high season. But for those who'd rather see the area than muddle through the crowds it attracts, in late September to early October the hordes thin out and give way to those who want more one-on-one time with the towns, the beaches, and the land.

Deeper into the cold winter season, December-March, things get even calmer. Stores tend to reduce hours drastically, restaurants go dark for weeks at a time, and only die-hard visitors keep the inns and housing rental market busy. Starting as early as April, things begin to perk up again, but the season doesn't really get rolling until early June, when beach weather once again turns dependable.

Before You Go

Unlike the rest of Cape Cod, the islands by definition have limited space and are thus almost always fully booked in high season. Heed warnings to book accommodations and make restaurant reservations well in advance. For the former, it's best to secure arrangements several weeks ahead of time, and several months in advance for holiday and festival periods.


Only major town centers of Cape Cod are easily accessible by bus. From Boston's South Station terminal, Plymouth and Brockton buses depart daily year-round for Hyannis and the Outer Cape from Orleans to Provincetown, while Peter Pan buses run from Logan Airport and South Station to Bourne, Falmouth, and Woods Hole on the Upper Cape. Peter Pan also runs from both upstate New York and Manhattan to Hyannis via Providence. In summer there are ferries between Boston and Provincetown. Local public buses serve all 15 towns of the Cape, although service is often only to the town center, not to outlying areas like beaches or hiking trails.

Getting to and from the islands relies on ferry schedules that vary according to season. On Martha’s Vineyard, unless you are going to be spending a lot of time up-island, a car is by no means essential and can be a nuisance on the narrow, crowded roadways. The Martha's Vineyard Regional Transit Authority runs buses among all of the island's towns. On Nantucket, the Nantucket Regional Transit Authority does continuous loops from Straight Wharf in Nantucket Town to Madaket, Surfside, Siasconset, and the airport. By far the best way to avoid the frustration of summertime traffic on either island is to avoid contributing to it by renting a bicycle.

What to Pack

Packing for a visit to Cape Cod and the islands depends on what time of year you go. In spring and fall, when temperatures can be unpredictable, sweaters and a medium-weight jacket are key to rolling with the weather's changes. In winter, a heavy winter coat, umbrella, and snow boots are essential. And in summer, when most visitors swarm to the area, a rain jacket is still recommended, as are a few sweaters to throw on when nights get chilly. Beach lovers should be sure to bring along the usual surf-side gear (bathing suits, flip-flops, beach bags, sunscreen, a good book, and the like), although beach towels are provided at many hotels and inns. Meanwhile, in all seasons, comfortable shoes make walking the area's meandering town sidewalks a lot more pleasant.

The Best of the Cape

Diving into the unique attractions the coast and its islands have to offer is easy with just a little basic planning; many of the region's gems are found together in accessible clusters. It's not exactly easy to get around the Cape and islands using public transportation. A car allows you the freedom to take leisurely drives and explore the many sights along the way at your own pace.

Day 1

Begin your journey in Sandwich and head east along Route 6A toward Brewster, stopping at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich, Sandy Neck, or Millway Beach in Barnstable, the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouthport, and at whatever antiques shops or art galleries strike your fancy. Watch the sun set over Cape Cod Bay from the Bass Hole Boardwalk in Yarmouthport, or from one of the town's lovely bay-side beaches. Brewster, near the east end of the Old King's Highway, has a number of historic sea captain's mansions that have been converted into B&Bs, any one of which will make a good base for these first three nights.

Day 2

Spend a few hours cycling the Cape Cod Rail Trail. The route is most varied to the south, with ponds, cranberry bogs, and deeply wooded stretches. This being Massachusetts, there's even a nifty little bike rotary where the main rail trail intersects with the Old Colony spur to Chatham. In the afternoon, visit Brewster's Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.

Day 3

Head north to the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham and Wellfleet. Spend time at Coast Guard Beach, favorite of the state's corps of wetsuited surfers, beneath the red-flashing beacon of Nauset Light. Continue to Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, occupying the extensive salt marshes and wooded shore on the calm western side of the Outer Cape. Explore the galleries and shops of Wellfleet, perhaps the Cape's least touristy town. If you've never experienced a drive-in movie, you'll have your chance tonight after sundown at the Wellfleet Cinema.

Nauset Light

Day 4

Bid adieu to your B&B hosts and proceed to Provincetown, the Cape's answer to Key West. Spend today visiting the galleries and shops of Commercial Street. While strolling around, don't miss stepping into the public library for excellent aerial views from the Pilgrim Monument. In the afternoon, go on a dune tour. You owe it to yourself to go whale-watching, so if you won't be here for Day 5, do this now.

Day 5

P-town redux: Go whale-watching in the morning, and then rent a bike and spend the afternoon riding the National Seashore's Province Lands trails. Time your ride so that you end up at Herring Cove Beach for the best show in town: sunset.

Day 6

Pack up the car and head south to Chatham to the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Take a wildlife-watching cruise with Monomoy Island Excursions, or make a full day trip of it with a naturalist-guided walking tour, including a visit to the historic lighthouse at its tip.

Day 7

Take the morning ferry from Harwichport to Nantucket. Spend day strolling the town and visiting the Whaling Museum. Walk to tiny Brant Point Light in the late afternoon and watch the sailboats and ferries. If it's open, go star-gazing at the Loines Observatory.

Brant Point Lighthouse on Nantucket Island

The Whaling Museum houses a fine collection of scrimshaw, harpoons, ship models, and paintings.

Day 8

Still on Nantucket, wake up in the downtown vicinity and take the shuttle to quiet 'Sconset for a beach walk or lunch at The Summer House. Alternatively, rent a bike and ride to Wauwinet for a tour at Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge with the Trustees of Reservations (reserve this as far in advance as you possibly can).

Day 9

Take the ferry back to Harwichport and drive to Falmouth, making a quick stop in Hyannis to check out the JFK Museum or wares in the funky stores on Main Street.

From Falmouth, secure passage on one of the ferries to Martha's Vineyard, landing in either Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven. Spend the day in either town, ducking through the souvenir shops and art galleries and walking the downtown harbors of each. Make sure not to miss a stop at Mad Martha's ice cream shop.

Day 10

Take the island shuttle or rent a bike and cycle to Gay Head Cliffs and Menemsha, where the island really opens up and the crowds give way to incredible views and authentic island living. If you've still got energy left after the bike ride, hike the stunningly beautiful Menemsha Hills.

the multi-colored cliffs of Gay Head

Day 11

Switch gears and spend the day in Edgartown, taking in the historic captains' houses and pristine waterfront homes. When you've had enough ogling, rent a bike and bring it across on the ferry to Chappaquiddick island, home to the serene Mytoi Japanese-style gardens.

Day 12

Make your return to Falmouth by boat, then be sure to visit Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to advance your depth of knowledge of local sealife. Then, further that education at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium.

Island Getaways


Start the day in the center of Nantucket town, where quaint cobblestone streets and generations-old shops sit next to posh boutiques. After strolling around, settle in at a table for lunch at Straight Wharf Restaurant for fresh seafood overlooking the water. Along the way back to the hotel, check out the many art galleries, souvenir shops, and craft stores.


Pack a beach bag, rent a bike, and ask for a map to Madaket Beach. The well-paved, beautiful bike paths along the way are lined with beach plums and wind past neighborhoods exhibiting the island's traditional saltbox houses. Along the way, stop and pick up first-rate sandwiches and cookies at Something Natural. Bring the lunches with you to enjoy during your day on the shore.

Madaket Beach at sunset.


Make it a day filled with local history. Begin after breakfast at African Meeting House, a 1827 site once used as a meeting place and schoolhouse for the island's African residents. After lunch, make your way to Nantucket's Whaling Museum and spend the remainder of the day taking in giant whale skeletons and more whaling lore than you can shake a harpoon at.

Martha's Vineyard

Arrive in Vineyard Haven and charter a windjammer with Black Dog Tall Ships for a day on the water. Afterward, take a shuttle to Oak Bluffs and stroll the winding lanes of Oak Bluffs Campground. In the evening, take a 10-minute drive into downtown Edgartown and visit


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On Sale
May 31, 2022
Page Count
288 pages
Moon Travel

Ray Bartlett

About the Author

Ray Bartlett has lived on this sandy peninsula most of his life. He began his travel writing career at the age of 18 when he jumped a freight train for 500 miles and sold an article and photos about the experience to the Cape Cod Times. More than two decades later, Ray is still wandering the globe with pen and camera in hand.

Ray is often on the road in Japan, Korea, or Mexico, but when not elsewhere, he's here on the Cape. In addition to publishing numerous travel articles and books, he has also produced videos on such disparate topics as New England in autumn, Cape Cod whale-watching, and a Japanese fertility festival. Ray is a featured guest on Around the World, a syndicated radio show, and he has appeared on PRI's The World. He owns and operates a top-rated onsen website,, and wrote a novel, Sunsets of Tulum.

When not on assignment in different parts of the globe, Ray is on the Cape, where he drinks too much coffee and burns too much midnight oil. His hobbies are surfing and dancing Argentine Tango. Find him via his website at, on Facebook at, or @kaisoradotcom on Twitter.

Learn more about this author