Cape Cod in a Nutshell:
Cape Cod, an arm-shaped peninsula (technically it was "divorced" from the mainland in 1914 by the opening of Cape Cod Canal) less than an hour southeast of Boston, is one of the world's great summer playgrounds. It's famous among gay travelers for its outermost community, Provincetown, but Cape Cod is actually highly gay-friendly from end to end, with a variety of eclectic communities offering everything from great biking and fishing to a wealth of art galleries and sophisticated inns. Gradually, gay visitors are exploring other parts of the Cape as well as the famous nearby islands, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
Although Cape Cod is more popular in summer, and many of its businesses close off-season, it's actually appealing year-round, especially during the less-crowded but still mild spring and fall seasons. Generally, the towns closer to the mainland remain the most popular year-round, among them Falmouth and Sandwich.
Climate varies depending on where you are on the Cape. Mid Cape, averages are 37F/21F in Jan., 52F/38F in Apr., 78F/63F in July, and 60F/44F in Oct. Snow falls occasionally in winter, and summer breezes generally prevent extended heat waves. Fall and spring offer crisp, cool, and often beautiful weather.
Cape Cod is a roughly 400-square-mile peninsula off the southeastern coast of Massachusetts, separated from the mainland only by a narrow canal constructed in 1914. It's shaped roughly like a curled arm, with the largest and most populous section nearest to the mainland and known as the Upper Cape. As you progress farther east and away from the mainland, you come to the Mid Cape and Lower Cape, and the narrowest and farthest-away section is the Outer Cape - at the end of this section, you'll find gay-popular Provincetown. The islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard lie just south of Cape Cod.
Driving distances to the Upper Cape bridges, which mark the beginning of Cape Cod, from prominent places and points of interest are:
- Boston: 55 miles (1 hr)
- Burlington, VT: 270 miles (4.5 to 5 hrs)
- Montreal: 430 miles (6.5 to 7.5 hrs)
- Newport, RI: 60 miles (1 hr)
- New Haven, CT: 160 miles (2.5 hrs)
- New York City: 240 miles (4 hrs)
- Northampton: 150 miles (2.5 hrs)
- Portland, ME: 160 miles (2.5 hrs)
- Providence, RI: 60 miles (1 hr)
- Provincetown: 60 miles (75 min)
- Washington, DC: 460 miles (7 to 8 hrs)
Traveling to Cape Cod:
Although a car is handy for reaching the Cape and exploring different parts of it, in summer the traffic is horrendous, and a car can be a liability. The Cape has excellent public transportation, both to and around the region.
You can fly into the region's major airports, such as Providence's T.F. Green Airport, and Boston's busy Logan International, which are both about an hour away from the Cape. Or fly to the Cape's own Barnstable Airport, which is served by Cape Air (from Boston and with service to Martha's Vineyard), Island Air (with service to Nantucket), and Nantucket Airlines (also with service to Nantucket). The Cape is well-served by Peter Pan Bus Lines, Cape Cod Regional Transit, and Plymouth & Brockton bus lines, plus numerous ferry services (see the Martha's Vineyard and Provincetown guides).
Cape Cod Events and Festivals 2014-2015:
In addition to those events listed below, there are numerous GLBT events that take place in Provincetown.
- Mid-May to mid-June: Cape Cod Maritime Days.
- Early June: Cape Cod Antique Dealers Association Spring Show.
- Early June: Cape Cod Food & Wine Festival.
- Late July: Barnstable County Fair.
- Late July to early Aug.: Woods Hole Film Festival.
- Aug.: Cape & Islands Chamber Music Festival.
- Mid-Aug.: Provincetown Jazz Festival.
- Mid-Sept.: Harwich Cranberry, Arts & Music Festival.
- Late Sept.: Bourne Scallop Fest.
- Late Sept.: Cape Cod BrewFest (Falmouth).
- Early Oct.: Falmouth JazzFest.
- Mid-Oct.: Wellfleet OysterFest.
Cape Cod - Towns and Divisions:
Cape Cod is divided into four geographical sections, the Upper Cape, which is nearest the mainland; and the Mid Cape, Lower Cape, and Outer Cape, which are progressively farther from the mainland. Although the Outer Cape, because it's home to the famed gay resort of Provincetown, is most popular with GLBT travelers, each section of the Cape has its charms and worthy attractions.
The most noteworthy communities on the Cape include Sandwich, Falmouth, and Woods Hole on the Upper Cape; Barnstable and Hyannis on the Mid Cape; Chatham, Brewster, and Orleans on the Lower Cape; and P'town and Wellfleet on the Outer Cape.
Top Cape Cod Attractions:
You'd need a full week to explore the Cape, but here are a few must-sees (also see Provincetown).
- Plymouth (just off the Cape): Plimoth Plantation.
- Upper Cape (just as you enter Cape): Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center and recreation areas.
- Sandwich: Thornton W. Burgess Museum.
- Sandwich: Heritage Museums and Gardens.
- Sandwich: Sandwich Glass Museum.
- Falmouth: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
- Dennis: Cape Playhouse.
- Dennis: Cape Cod Museum of Art.
- Yarmouthport: Edward Gorey House.
- Brewster: Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.
- Brewster: Cape Rep Theatre.
- Brewster: Nickerson State Park.
- Hyannis: John F. Kennedy Museum.
- Hyannis: Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra.
- Chatham: Shopping in downtown Chatham.
- Chatham: Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
- Chatham: Monomoy Theatre.
- Mid- to Outer Cape: Cape Cod Rail Trail.
- Outer Cape: Cape Cod National Seashore.
- Wellfleet: Downtown art gallery hopping.
- Wellfleet: Wellfleet Bay Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary.
Cape Cod Travel Resources:
Each town on Cape Cod has a very good chamber of commerce with its own website, but you can also get plenty of general information on the region from the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, which can help with accommodations, sightseeing, transportation, and other travel assistance.
A good resource on gay-friendly businesses on the Cape is the Cape Cod and Islands Pride Pages. In Provincetown, look to the Provincetown Business Guild for tons of great information on gay travel to one of the country's leading resort destinations.
Getting to Know Cape Cod:
Scenic, artsy, and generally liberal Cape Cod has long been a popular place to vacation and live among gays and lesbians. Provincetown, for good reason, gets much of the attention with the GLBT crowd, but the entire Cape actually has plenty to see and do. Certain areas are a bit more geared toward kids and families than others, particularly the somewhat built-up stretch along Rte. 28 from the east edge of Hyannis through Yarmouth, Dennis Port, Harwich, and West Chatham.
There are a few towns on the Cape, beyond just Provincetown, that have quietly developed increased cachet in recent years. On the Upper Cape, both Sandwich and Falmouth have inviting commercial districts and great restaurants. Falmouth, in particular, makes for a terrific weekend getaway and is also a wonderful base for making day-trips to Martha's Vineyard. Excellent gay-friendly lodging choice in the area include Falmouth's stately Palmer House Inn and Captain Tom Lawrence House, and Sandwich's historic Inn at Sandwich Center
In the Mid Cape, the bustling town of Hyannis, with its extensive ties to the Kennedy family, has a vibrant downtown with great dining and gay-friendly pubs and bars. Just north in Barnstable, scenic and charming Rte. 6A runs through Yarmouth, East Dennis, and Brewster, passing by dozens of antiques shops, cafes, and galleries. If you have the time, it's the most enjoyable route across the Cape. Highly recommended gay-friendly accommodations include the gay-owned Captain David Kelley House in Centerville, Lamb and Lion Inn in Barnstable, Brewster's historic Captain Freeman Inn, the Captain Farris House in South Yarmouth, and the romantic Sea Meadow Inn in Brewster.
The Lower and Outer Cape communities of Chatham and Wellfleet are particularly charming for shopping, dining, and exploring nature, and quiet and scenic Truro is a great spot that's super-close to Provincetown but completely peaceful. Chatham has something of a conservative reputation, at least as Cape Cod goes, somewhat akin to blue-blooded Nantucket, but accommodations here are still perfectly gay-friendly. Wellfleet is a bit more artsy and extremely secluded, it being the last community with bustling downtown center before you reach Provincetown - you'll find a slew of excellent art galleries here. Gay-friendly accommodations in these parts include Eastham's luxurious Penny House Inn, Orleans's sunny and bright Little Inn on Pleasant Bay, Chatham's lovely and gay-owned Chatham Gables Inn, Wellfleet's rambling and historic Holden Inn, and the Crow's Nest Resort & Cottages and economical Cape View Motel, up in North Truro, quite close to Provincetown..
Provincetown, of course, is still a winner when it comes to its dynamic, exciting gay scene, but don't overlook the rest of Cape Cod.