Cape Cod

Cape Cod

Coordinates: 41°41′20″N 70°17′49″W / 41.68889°N 70.29694°W / 41.68889; -70.29694

Map of Massachusetts, with Cape Cod (Barnstable County) indicated in red
Dunes on Sandy Neck are part of the Cape's barrier beach which helps to prevent erosion

Cape Cod, often referred to locally as simply the Cape, is a cape in the easternmost portion of the state of Massachusetts, in the Northeastern United States. It is coextensive with Barnstable County. Several small islands right off Cape Cod, including Monomoy Island, Monomoscoy Island, Popponesset Island, and Seconsett Island, are also in Barnstable County, being part of municipalities with land on the Cape. The Cape's historic and maritime character and ample beaches attract heavy tourism during the summer months.

Cape Cod was formed as the recessional moraine of a glacier, resulting in a peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1914, the Cape Cod Canal was cut through the base or isthmus of the peninsula, forming what may be loosely described as an island. The Cape Cod Commission refers to the resultant landmass as an island; as does the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in regards to disaster preparedness.[1]

Unofficially, it is one of the biggest barrier islands in the world, shielding much of the Massachusetts coastline from North Atlantic storm waves. This protection helps to erode the Cape shoreline at the expense of cliffs, while protecting towns from Fairhaven to Marshfield.

Road vehicles from the mainland cross over the Cape Cod Canal via the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge. The two bridges are parallel some four miles apart, with the Bourne Bridge to the west, and the Sagamore to the east. In addition, the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge carries railway freight as well as passenger services.


Geography and political divisions

Towns of Barnstable County
historical map of 1890

The elevation of Cape Cod is from 306 feet (93 m), at the top of Pine Hill, in the Bourne portion of the Massachusetts Military Reservation to sea level.

The body of water located between Cape Cod and the mainland, bordered to the north by Massachusetts Bay, is Cape Cod Bay; west of Cape Cod is Buzzards Bay. The Cape Cod Canal, completed in 1916, connects Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay; to shorten the trade route between New York and Boston by 62 miles.[2] To the south of Cape Cod lie Nantucket Sound; Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, both large islands, and the mostly privately owned Elizabeth Islands.

Cape Cod incorporates all of Barnstable County, which comprises 14 towns: Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, Mashpee, Yarmouth, Harwich, Dennis, Brewster, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown and one city: Barnstable. Two of the county's fourteen towns (Bourne and Sandwich) include land on the mainland side of the Cape Cod Canal.

In the 17th century the designation Cape Cod applied only to the tip of the peninsula, essentially present-day Provincetown. Over the ensuing decades, the name came to mean all the land east of the Manomet and Scusset rivers - essentially the line of the 20th century Cape Cod Canal. Now, the complete towns of Bourne and Sandwich are widely considered to incorporate the full perimeter of Cape Cod, even though small parts of these towns are located on the west side of the canal. The canal divides the largest part of the peninsula from the mainland and the resultant landmass is loosely referred to as an island.[3][4] Additionally some "Cape Codders" – residents of "The Cape" – refer to all land on the mainland side of the canal as "off-Cape."

For most of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, Cape Cod was considered to consist of three sections:

  • The Mid-Cape includes the towns of Barnstable, Yarmouth and Dennis (Not including Dennis Port). The Mid-Cape area features many beautiful beaches, including warm-water beaches along Nantucket Sound, e.g., Kalmus Beach in Hyannis, which gets its name from one of the inventors of Technicolor, Herbert Kalmus. This popular windsurfing destination was bequeathed to the town of Barnstable by Dr. Kalmus on condition that it not be developed, possibly one of the first instances of open-space preservation in the US. The Mid-Cape is also the commercial and industrial center of the region. There are seven villages in Barnstable, including Barnstable Village, Centerville, Cotuit, Hyannis, Marstons Mills, Osterville, and West Barnstable, as well as several smaller hamlets that are incorporated into their larger neighbors (e.g., Craigville, Cummaquid, Hyannisport, Santuit, Wianno, and others).[6] The villages of Yarmouth are South Yarmouth, West Yarmouth and Yarmouth Port. There are five villages in Dennis including, North Dennis, East Dennis, and South Dennis.[7] Dennis Port is considered to be a Lower Cape area.

Provincetown (CDP)

"Upper" and "Lower"

The terms "Upper" and "Lower" derive from early usage and reliance on scaled maps and charts. When one travelled to the east, one went down the scale (toward zero at Greenwich, England). On the other hand, travel to the west was up the scale. To this day, on nearby Martha's Vineyard, "Up Island" is the western section and "Down Island" is to the east. And in Maine, the eastern portion of the state is called "Down East." Also, prevailing fair weather winds out of the southwest have been used as the basis for the designations, as winds have traditionally been a basis for directional descriptions by European settlers and their descendants in eastern North America. That is, one would be travelling "down [wind]" to the east with a westerly wind at one's back.

The best known colloquial reference, however, is the "arm" shape of the peninsula as it appears on maps and charts, thus making the southern portion of the Cape the "Upper Arm", Orleans the "Elbow," and the north-south portion that is most like an Atlantic barrier island, the "Lower Arm." Some even refer to Provincetown as the "Hand," with its various points (e.g., the current Race Point, Wood End, and Long Point) as fingers.

In the late nineteenth century, as the Cape began drawing more vacationers and artists on retreat, the nautical nomenclature and potential negative connotation of referring to the towns from Orleans to Provincetown as the "Lower Cape," lost favor to the simpler "Outer Cape."


East of America, there stands in the open Atlantic the last fragment of an ancient and vanished land. Worn by the breakers and the rains, and disintegrated by the wind, it still stands bold.

Cape Cod and Cape Cod Bay from space.[9]
The arm-shaped peninsula of Massachusetts is shown here in a digital photograph from astronauts aboard the ISS.

Cape Cod forms a continuous archipelagic region with a thin line of islands stretching toward New York, historically known by naturalists as the Outer Lands. This continuity is because the islands and Cape are all terminal glacial moraines laid down some 16,000 to 20,000 years ago.

Most of Cape Cod's geological history involves the advance and retreat of the Laurentide ice sheet in the late Pleistocene geological era and the subsequent changes in sea level. Using radiocarbon dating techniques, researchers have determined that around 23,000 years ago, the ice sheet reached its maximum southward advance over North America, and then started to retreat. Many "kettle ponds" — clear, cold lakes — were formed and remain on Cape Cod as a result of the receding glacier. By about 18,000 years ago, the ice sheet had retreated past Cape Cod. By roughly 15,000 years ago, it had retreated past southern New England. When so much of Earth's water was locked up in massive ice sheets, the sea level was lower. Truro's bayside beaches used to be a petrified forest, before it became a beach.

As the ice began to melt, the sea began to rise. Initially, sea level rose quickly, about 15 meters (50 ft) per 1,000 years, but then the rate declined. On Cape Cod, sea level rose roughly 3 meters (11 ft) per millennium between 6,000 and 2,000 years ago. After that, it continued to rise at about 1 meter (3 ft) per millennium. By 6,000 years ago, the sea level was high enough to start eroding the glacial deposits that the vanished continental ice sheet had left on Cape Cod. The water transported the eroded deposits north and south along the outer Cape's shoreline. Those reworked sediments that moved north went to the tip of Cape Cod.

Provincetown Spit, at the northern end of the Cape, consists largely of marine deposits, transported from farther up the shore. Sediments that moved south created the islands and shoals of Monomoy. So while other parts of the Cape have dwindled from the action of the waves, these parts of the Cape have grown.

This process continues today. Due to their position jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape and islands are subject to massive coastal erosion. Geologists say that, due to erosion, the Cape will be completely submerged by the sea in thousands of years.[10] This erosion causes the washout of beaches and the destruction of the barrier islands; for example, the ocean broke through the barrier island at Chatham during Hurricane Bob in 1991, allowing waves and storm surges to hit the coast with no obstruction. Consequently, the sediment and sand from the beaches is being washed away and deposited elsewhere. While this destroys land in some places, it creates land elsewhere, most noticeably in marshes where sediment is deposited by waters running through them.


Although Cape Cod's weather[11] is typically more moderate than inland locations, there have been occasions where Cape Cod has dealt with the brunt of extreme weather situations (such as the Blizzard of 2005 and Hurricane Bob). Because of the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, temperatures are typically a few degrees cooler in the summer and a few degrees warmer in the winter. A common misconception is that the climate is influenced largely by the warm Gulf Stream current; however, that current turns eastward off the coast of Virginia and the waters off the Cape are more influenced by the cold Canadian Labrador Current. As a result, the ocean temperature rarely gets above 65 °F (18 °C), except along the shallow west coast of the Upper Cape.

The Cape's climate is also notorious for a delayed spring season, being surrounded by an ocean which is still cold from the winter; however, it is also known for an exceptionally mild fall season (Indian summer), thanks to the ocean remaining warm from the summer. The highest temperature ever recorded on Cape Cod was 104 °F (40 °C) in Provincetown,[12] and the lowest temperature ever was −12 °F (−24 °C) in Barnstable.[13]

The water surrounding Cape Cod moderates winter temperatures enough to extend the USDA hardiness zone 7a to its northernmost limit in eastern North America.[14] Consequently, many subtropical indicator plant species typically found in more southerly latitudes grow there, including Camellias, Ilex opaca, Magnolia grandiflora and Albizia julibrissin.

Precipitation on Cape Cod and the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket is the lowest in the New England region, averaging slightly less than 40 inches (1,000 mm) a year (most parts of New England average 42–46 inches). This is due to storm systems which move across western areas, building up in mountainous regions, and dissipating before reaching the coast where the land has leveled out. The region does not experience a greater number of sunny days however, as the number of cloudy days is the same as inland locales, in addition to increased fog. On average, 24 inches of snow, which is a foot and a half less than Boston, falls in an average winter. Tropical storms occasionally strike the Cape. Once every 5 or 6 years, a tropical storm, accompanied by very high and potentially damaging winds and heavy rain, will strike the region. About once every 11 or 12 years a hurricane brings damaging winds and storm surges to the region. Several Category 3 storms have struck Cape Cod since record-keeping began, such as The Long Island Express of 1938, the Gale of 1815, Hurricane Bob of 1991, and Hurricane Donna of 1960.

Climate data for Cape Cod (Chatham, Massachusetts)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 37.7
Average low °F (°C) 24.0
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.23
Source: NOAA [15]

Native population

Cape Cod has been the home of the Wampanoag tribe of Native American people for many centuries. They survived off the sea and were accomplished farmers. They understood the principles of sustainable forest management, and were known to light controlled fires to keep the underbrush in check. They helped the Pilgrims, who arrived in the fall of 1620, survive at their new Plymouth Colony.

The Indians lost their lands through continued purchase and expropriation by the English colonists. The documentary Natives of the Narrowland (1993), narrated by actress Julie Harris, shows the history of the Wampanoag people through Cape Cod archaeological sites.

In 1974, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council was formed to articulate the concerns of those with Native American ancestry. They petitioned the federal government in 1975 and again in 1990 for official recognition of the Mashpee Wampanoag as a tribe. In May 2007, the Wampanoag tribe was finally federally recognized as a tribe.[16]


Cranberry picking in 1906

Cape Cod was a landmark for early explorers. It may have been the "Promontory of Vinland" mentioned by the Norse voyagers (985-1025)[citation needed]. The Manomet River area (taken up by the western end of the Cape Cod Canal in the early 20th centrury)is claimed to have been visited by Leif Ericson.[17] Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 approached it from the south. He named Martha's Vineyard Claudia, after the daughter of the King of France.[18] The next year the explorer Esteban Gómez called it Cape St. James.

In 1602 Bartholomew Gosnold named it Cape Cod, the surviving term and the ninth oldest English place-name in the U.S.[19] Samuel de Champlain charted its sand-silted harbors in 1606 and Henry Hudson landed there in 1609. Captain John Smith noted it on his map of 1614 and at last the Pilgrims entered the "Cape Harbor" and – contrary to the popular myth of Plymouth Rock – made their first landing near present-day Provincetown on November 11, 1620. Nearby, in what is now Eastham, they had their first encounter with Native Americans.

Cape Cod was among the first places settled by the English in North America. Aside from Barnstable (1639), Sandwich (1637) and Yarmouth (1639), the Cape's fifteen towns developed slowly. The final town to be established on the Cape was Bourne in 1884, breaking off from Sandwich.[20] Provincetown was a group of huts until the 18th century. A channel from Massachusetts Bay to Buzzards Bay is shown on Southack's map of 1717. The present Cape Cod Canal was slowly developed from 1870 to 1914. The Federal government purchased it in 1928.

Because of early colonial settlement and intensive land use, by the time Henry Thoreau saw Cape Cod during his four visits over 1849 to 1857,[21] its vegetation was depauperate and trees were scarce. As the settlers heated by fires, and it took 10 to 20 cords (40 to 80 m³) of wood to heat a home, they cleared most of Cape Cod of timber early on. They planted familiar crops, but these were unsuited to Cape Cod's thin, glacially derived soils. For instance, much of Eastham was planted to wheat. The settlers practiced burning of woodlands to release nutrients into the soil. Improper and intensive farming led to erosion and the loss of topsoil. Farmers grazed their cattle on the grassy dunes of coastal Massachusetts, only to watch "in horror as the denuded sands `walked' over richer lands, burying cultivated fields and fences." Dunes on the outer Cape became more common and many harbors filled in with eroded soils.[22]

By 1800, much of Cape Cod's firewood had to be transported by boat from Maine. The paucity of vegetation was worsened by the raising of merino sheep that reached its peak in New England around 1840. The early industrial revolution, which occurred through much of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, mostly bypassed Cape Cod due to a lack of significant water power in the area. As a result, and also because of its geographic position, the Cape developed as a large fishing and whaling center. After 1860 and the opening of the American West, farmers abandoned agriculture on the Cape. By 1950 forests had recovered to an extent not seen since the 18th century.

Cape Cod became a summer haven for city dwellers beginning at the end of the 19th century. Improved rail transportation made the towns of the Upper Cape, such as Bourne and Falmouth, accessible to Bostonians. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Northeastern mercantile elite built many large, shingled "cottages" along Buzzards Bay. The relaxed summer environment offered by Cape Cod was highlighted by writers including Joseph C. Lincoln, who published novels and countless short stories about Cape Cod folks in popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and the Delineator.

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. In 1914 he began construction of a new transatlantic wireless receiver station in Chatham and a companion transmitter station in Marion, MA. In 1920 the stations were acquired by RCA and in 1921 Chatham began operations as a maritime radio station communicating to ships at sea using the callsign WCC. WCC supported the communications of Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, Admiral Byrd, and the Hindenburg. Marconi chose Chatham due to its vantage point on the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded on three sides by water. Walter Cronkite narrated a 17-minute documentary in 2005 about the history of the Chatham Station.

Much of the East-facing Atlantic seacoast of Cape Cod consists of wide, sandy beaches. In 1961, a significant portion of this coastline, already slated for housing subdivisions, was made a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore by President John F. Kennedy. It was protected from private development and preserved for public use. Large portions are open to the public, including the Marconi Site in Wellfleet. This is a park encompassing the site of the first two-way transoceanic radio transmission from the United States. (Theodore Roosevelt used Marconi's equipment for this transmission).

The Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport was President Kennedy's summer White House during his presidency, and the Kennedy family contirsonality Canary Burton, and novelists Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut. Influential natives included the patriot James Otis, historian and writer Mercy Otis Warren, jurist Lemuel Shaw, and naval officer John Percival.

Lighthouses of Cape Cod

Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown (1876)

Lighthouses, from ancient times, have fascinated members of the human race. There is something about a lighted beacon that suggests hope and trust and appeals to the better instincts of mankind.

Due to its dangerous constantly moving shoals, Cape Cod's shores have featured beacons which warn ships of the danger since very early in its history. There are numerous working lighthouses on Cape Cod and the Islands, including Highland Light, Nauset Light, Chatham Light, Race Point Light, and Nobska Light, mostly operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The exception is Nauset Light, which was decommissioned in 1996 and is now maintained by the Nauset Light Preservation Society under the auspices of Cape Cod National Seashore. These lighthouses are frequently photographed symbols of Cape Cod.

Others include:

Upper Cape: Wings Neck

Mid Cape: Sandy Neck, South Hyannis, Lewis Bay, Bishop and Clerks, Bass River

Lower Cape: Wood End, Long Point, Monomoy, Stage Harbor, Pamet, Mayo Beach, Billingsgate, Three Sisters, Nauset, Highland


Cape Cod is connected to the mainland by a pair of canal-spanning highway bridges from Bourne and Sagamore that were constructed in the 1930s, and a vertical-lift railroad bridge. The limited number of access points to the peninsula can result in large traffic backups during the tourist season.

The entire Cape is roughly bisected lengthwise by U.S. Route 6, locally known as the Mid-Cape Highway and officially as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway.

Commercial air service to Cape Cod operates out of Barnstable Municipal Airport and Provincetown Municipal Airport. Several bus lines service the Cape. There are ferry connections from Boston to Provincetown, as well as from Hyannis and Woods Hole to the islands.

Cape Cod has a public transportation network comprising buses operated by three different companies, a rail line, taxis and paratransit services.

During the summer months, a private ferry line links Provincetown with downtown Boston.

The Bourne Bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, with the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge in the background


Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority operates a year-round public bus system comprising three long distance routes and a local bus in Hyannis and Barnstable Village. From mid June until October, additional local routes are added in Falmouth and Provincetown. CCRTA also operates Barnstable County's ADA required paratransit (dial-a-ride) service, under the name "B-Bus."

Long distance bus service is available through Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway, with regular service to Boston and Logan Airport, as well as less frequent service to Provincetown. Peter Pan Bus Lines also runs long distance service to Providence T.F. Green Airport and New York City.


Regular passenger rail service through Cape Cod ended in June 1959. In 1978, the tracks east of South Dennis were abandoned and replaced with the Cape Cod Rail Trail. Another bike path, the Shining Sea Bikeway, was built over abandoned tracks between Woods Hole and Falmouth in 1975; despite vehement pro-passenger rail groups, the tracks were dismantled further north between Falmouth and North Falmouth (6.3 miles (10.1 km)) in April 2008 after Commonwealth representative and lawyer Eric Turkington signed legislation to convert the controversial line into a rail trail.[23]

Active freight service remains in the Upper Cape area in Sandwich and in Bourne, largely due to a trash transfer station located at Massachusetts Military Reservation along the Bourne-Falmouth rail line. In 1986, Amtrak operated a seasonal service in the summer from New York City to Hyannis called the Cape Codder. From 1988, Amtrak and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation increased service to a daily frequency.[24] Since its demise in 1996, there have been periodic discussions about reinstating passenger rail service from Boston to reduce car traffic to and from the Cape, with officials in Bourne seeking to re-extend MBTA Commuter Rail service from Middleboro to Buzzards Bay,[25] despite a reluctant Beacon Hill legislature.

Cape Cod Central Railroad operates passenger train service on Cape Cod. The service is primarily tourist oriented and includes a dinner train. The scenic route between Downtown Hyannis and the Cape Cod Canal is about 2½ hours round trip. Massachusetts Coastal Railroad is also planning to return passenger railroad services eventually to the Bourne-Falmouth rail line in the future. An August 5, 2009 article on the New England Cable News channel, entitled South Coast rail project a priority for Mass. lawmakers, mentions a $1.4-billion railroad reconstruction plan by Governor Deval Patrick, and could mean rebuilding of old rail lines on the Cape. On November 21, 2009, the town of North Falmouth saw its first passenger train in 12 years, a set of dinner train cars from Cape Cod Central. And a trip from the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts on May 15, 2010 revealed a second trip along the Falmouth line.


Although Cape Cod has a year-round population of about 220,000, it experiences a tourist season each summer, the beginning and end of which can be roughly approximated as Memorial Day and Labor Day, respectively. Many businesses specifically target summer visitors (although the "on season" has been expanding somewhat in recent years due to Indian Summer, reduced lodging rates, and the number of people visiting the Cape after Labor Day who either have no school-age children, and the elderly, reducing the true "off season" to six or seven months). In the late 20th century, tourists and owners of second homes began visiting the Cape more and more in the spring and fall, softening the definition of the high season and expanding it somewhat (see above). Some particularly well-known Cape products and industries include cranberries, shellfish (particularly oysters and clams) and lobstering.

Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod, also berths several whale watching fleets who patrol the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Most fleets guarantee a whale sighting (mostly humpback whale, fin whale, minke whale, sei whale, and critically endangered, the North Atlantic Right Whale), and one is the only federally certified operation qualified to rescue whales. Provincetown has also long been known as 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. Many hotels and resorts are friendly to or cater to gay and lesbian tourists and it is known as a gay mecca in the summer.[26]

Cape Cod is a popular destination for beachgoers from all over. With 559.6 miles (900.6 km) of coastline, beaches, both public and private, are easily accessible. The Cape has upwards of sixty public beaches, many of which offer parking for non-residents for a daily fee (in summer). The Cape Cod National Seashore has 40 miles (64 km) of sandy beach and many walking paths.

Cape Cod is also popular for its outdoor activities like beach walking, biking, boating, fishing, go-karts, golfing, kayaking, miniature golf, and unique shopping. There are 27 public, daily-fee golf courses and 15 private courses on Cape Cod.[27] Bed and breakfasts or vacation houses are often used for lodging.

Each summer the Naukabout Music Festival is held at the Barnstable County Fair Grounds located in East Falmouth,(typically) during the first weekend of August. This Music festival features local, regional and national talent along with food, arts and family friendly activities.

Sport fishing

Cape Cod is known around the world as a spring-to-fall destination for sport anglers. Among the species most widely pursued are striped bass, bluefish, bluefin tuna, false albacore (little tunny), bonito, tautog, flounder and fluke. The Cape Cod Bay side of the Cape, from Sandwich to Provincetown, has numerous harbors, saltwater creeks, and shoals that hold bait fish and attract the larger game fish, such as striped bass, bluefish and bluefin tuna.

The outer edge of the Cape, from Provincetown to Falmouth, faces the open Atlantic from Provincetown to Chatham, and then the more protected water of Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds, from Chatham to Falmouth. The bays, harbors and shoals along this coastline also provide a robust habitat for game species, and during the late summer months warm-water species such as mahi-mahi and marlin will also appear on the southern edge of Cape Cod's waters. Nearly every harbor on Cape Cod hosts sport fishing charter boats, which run from May through October.[28]

One of the most popular fishing spots on the East Coast is the Cape Cod Canal. Striped bass, especially, in season attract anglers from far and wide. A large part of the attraction involves ease of access. Ample free parking exists all along the waterway, and the banks are a short walk from one's vehicle. This reduces fishing to the basics - a pole and a few lures.


The Cape has nine amateur baseball franchises playing within Barnstable County in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The Wareham Gatemen also play in the Cape Cod Baseball League in nearby Wareham, Massachusetts in Plymouth County. The league originated 1923, although intertown competition traces to 1866. Teams in the league are the Bourne Braves, Brewster Whitecaps, Chatham Anglers (formerly the Chatham Athletics), Cotuit Kettleers, Falmouth Commodores, Harwich Mariners, Hyannis Harbor Hawks (formerly the Hyannis Mets), Orleans Firebirds (formerly the Orleans Cardinals), Wareham Gatemen and the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. Pro ball scouts frequent the games in the summer, looking for stars of the future.

Cape Cod is also a national hot bed for baseball and hockey. Along with the Cape Cod Baseball League and the new Junior Hockey League team, the Cape Cod Cubs, many high school players are being seriously recruited as well. Barnstable and Harwich have each sent multiple players to Division 1 colleges for baseball, Harwich has also won three State titles in the past 12 years (1996, 2006, 2007). Bourne and Sandwich, known rivals in hockey have won state championships recently. Bourne in 2004, and Sandwich in 2007. Nauset, Barnstable, and Martha's Vineyard are also state hockey powerhouses. Barnstable and Falmouth also hold the title of having one of the longest Thanksgiving football rivalries in the country. The teams have played each other every year on the Thanksgiving since 1895. The Bourne and Barnstable girl's volleyball teams are two of the best teams in the state and Barnstable in the country. With Bourne winning the State title in 2003 and 2007. In the past 15 years, Barnstable has won 12 Division 1 State titles and has won the state title the past two years. In the 2010 cross country season, Sturgis Charter Public School's Division 4 cross country team remained virtually unbeaten throughout their running season.

The Cape also is home to the Cape Cod Frenzy, a team in the American Basketball Association.

Soccer on Cape Cod is represented by the Cape Cod Crusaders, playing in the USL Premier Development League (PDL) soccer based in Hyannis. In addition, a summer Cape Cod Adult Soccer League (CCASL) is active in several towns on the Cape.

Cape Cod is also the home of the Cape Cod Cubs, a new junior league hockey team that is based out of Hyannis at the new community center being built of Bearses Way.

The end of each summer is marked with the running of the world famous Falmouth Road Race which is held on the 3rd Saturday in August. It draws about 10,000 runners to the Cape and showcases the finest runners in the world (mainly for the large purse that the race is able to offer). The race is 7.2 miles (11.6 km) long, which is a non-standard distance. The reason for the unusual distance is that the man who thought the race up (Tommy Leonard) was a bartender who wanted a race along the coast from one bar (The Cap'n Kidd in Woods Hole) to another (The Brothers Four in Falmouth Heights). While the bar in Falmouth Heights is now the British Beer Company, the race still starts at the front door of the Cap'n Kidd in Woods Hole and now finishes at the beach in Falmouth Heights. Prior to the Falmouth race is an annual 5-mile (8.0 km) race through Brewster called the Brew Run, held early in August.


Each town usually consists of a few elementary schools, one or two middle schools and one large public high school that services the entire town. Exceptions to this include Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School located in Yarmouth which services both the town of Yarmouth as well as Dennis and Nauset Regional High School located in Eastham which services the town of Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown (optional). Bourne High School is the public school for students residing in the town of Bourne, which is gathered from villages in Bourne, including Sagamore, Sagamore Beach, and Buzzards Bay. Barnstable High School is the largest high school and is known for its girls' volleyball team which have been state champions a total of 12 times. Barnstable High School also boasts one of the country's best high school drama clubs which were awarded with a contract by Warner Brothers to created a documentary in webisode format based on their production of Wizard of Oz. Sturgis Charter Public School is a public school in Hyannis which was featured in Newsweek's Magazine's "Best High Schools" ranking. It ranked 28th in the country and 1st in the state of Massachusetts in the 2009 edition and ranked 43rd and 55th in the 2008 and 2007 edition, respectively. Sturgis offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in their junior and senior year and is open to students as far as Plymouth. The Cape also contains two vocational high schools. One is the Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in Harwich and the other is Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School located in Bourne. In 1976 the Cape schools and ditricts petitioned the Massachusetts Legislature to create an educational collaborative, the Cape Cod Collaborative, to facilitate cooperation and efficiancy in providing gifted and talented, and special needs programs. With locations in Osterville and Bourne the Cape Cod Collaborative provides transportation services, professional development, autism support, developmental training, itinerent services and an alternative education program. Each summer, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, it operates a gifted and talented science based program for students from around the Cape.

Lastly, Mashpee High School is home to the Mashpee Chapter of (SMPTE,) the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. This chapter is the first and only high school chapter in the world to be a part of this organization and has received much recognition within the Los Angeles broadcasting industry as a result.

In addition to public schools, Cape Cod has a wide range of private schools. The town of Barnstable has Trinity Christian Academy, Cape Cod Academy, St. Francis Xavier Preparatory School, and Pope John Paul II High School. Bourne offers the Waldorf School of Cape Cod, Orleans offers the Lighthouse Charter School for elementary and middle school students, and Falmouth offers Falmouth Academy. Riverview School is located in East Sandwich and is a special co-ed boarding school which services students as old as 22 who have learning disabilities. Another specialized school is the Penikese Island School located on Penikese Island, part of the Elizabeth Islands off southwestern Cape Cod, which services struggling and troubled teenage boys.

Cape Cod also contains two institutions of higher education. One is the Cape Cod Community College located in West Barnstable, Barnstable. The other is Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, Bourne. Massachusetts Maritime Academy is the oldest continuously operating maritime college in the United States.

Islands off Cape Cod

Like Cape Cod itself, the islands south of the Cape have evolved from whaling and trading areas to resort destinations, attracting wealthy families, celebrities, and other tourists. The islands include Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, as well as Forbes family-owned Naushon Island, which was purchased by John Murray Forbes with profits from opium dealing in the China trade during the Opium War. Naushon is one of the Elizabeth Islands, many of which are privately owned. One of the publicly accessible Elizabeths is the southernmost island in the chain, Cuttyhunk, with a year-round population of 52 people. Several prominent families have established compounds or estates on the larger islands, making these islands some of the wealthiest resorts in the Northeast, yet they retain much of the early merchant trading and whaling culture.

See also



  1. ^ Cape Cod Commission. "Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)". Retrieved 2020-05-17. 
  2. ^ American Geographic Society "The Opening of the Cape Cod Canal" (1914)
  3. ^ United States Coast Guard. "Local Cape Cod Information". 
  4. ^ Vuilleumier, Marion R. (2003). Sagamore Beach. Arcadia Publishing. p. 7. ISBN 0738511838, 9780738511832. 
  5. ^ Falmouth Chamber of Commerce (Accessed: December 21, 2006). Falmouth: A Pleasing Octet of Villages. Press kit.
  6. ^ Barnstable, Massachusetts GIS Maps (Accessed: December 21, 2006 E911 Map - Town of Barnstable.
  7. ^, Dennis Town Website (Accessed: 2009-05-03)
  8. ^ Leatherman, Stephen. " - America's Best Beaches 2007". Dr.Beach.Org. Archived from the original on 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  9. ^ "Provincetown Spit, Cape Cod, Massachusetts". NASA Earth Observatory. Retrieved 2006-05-02. 
  10. ^ Oldale, Robert N. "Coastal Erosion on Cape Cod: Some Questions and Answers". Retrieved 2007-11-30. 
  11. ^ Retrieved 3 May 2009
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  15. ^ "CLIMATOGRAPHY OF THE UNITED STATES NO. 81: 19 MASSACHUSETTS" (PDF). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2011-04-25. 
  16. ^ Stephanie Vosk (2007-05-25). "Wampanoag tribe wins recognition". Cape Cod Times. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  17. ^ "Aptucxet Trading Post, Bourne Historical Society, Bourne, Cape Cod, MA". Bourne Historical Society. Retrieved 27 Feb. 2011. 
  18. ^ Baer, Chris. "HISTORY OF MARTHA'S VINEYARD". Historical Records of Dukes County, Massachusetts. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  19. ^ Stewart, George (1945). Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States. New York: Random House. p. 27. 
  20. ^ Deyo, Simeon, The History of Barnstable County, NY, 1890, Retrieved 2009-05-03
  21. ^ Thoreau, Henry David, Cape Cod, 1865, Retrieved 3 May 2009
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  23. ^ Reckford, Laura. Lawrence-Lynch Will Build Bike Path, Falmouth Enterprise, retrieved 2008-04-04]
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  26. ^ Provincetown – Hotels, Guest Houses, and Inns (2006) Pink Choice, retrieved 6/10/2007 Provincetown lodging
  27. ^ Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, retrieved 6/10/2007 golf courses
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Geologic History of Cape Cod, Massachusetts by the United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Further reading

  • LeBlanc, D.R. (1986). Ground-water resources of Cape Cod, Massachusetts [Hydrologic Investigations Atlas HA-692]. Reston, Va.: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Massey, A.J., C.S. Carlson, and D.R. LeBlanc. (2006). Ground-water levels near the top of the water-table mound, western Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 2002-04 [Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5054]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Masterson, J.P. and J.W. Portnoy. (2005). Potential changes in ground-water flow and their effects on the ecology and water resources of the Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts [General Information Product 13]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Walter, D.A. and A.T. Whealan. (2005). Simulated water sources and effects of pumping on surface and ground water, Sagamore and Monomoy flow lenses, Cape Cod, Massachusetts [Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5181]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

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