My sister and I were planning a vacation but not sure where to go or what to do. My sister wanted to go to the Florida Keys to show me around, since it’s one of her favorite places, so that was our original plan. Then flights started getting cancelled and people mentioned it’s Florida’s hurricane season so we decided to go low-key and drive a few hours away to Cape Cod, Massachusetts to bike and hike instead. Thankfully we did because our vacation was planned the week after Hurricane Ian hit Florida.
My sister stayed at The Falmouth Inn (824 Main St in Falmouth) previously so we chose it again for the first half of our 6 night / 7 day trip. The hotel is clean, the staff’s friendly (the front desk guys are cute, important details when traveling), safe, and a great location for local restaurants and a grocery store if you want to take advantage of the room’s fridge and microwave. It’s only 1.5 miles (which can be driven, biked or walked) to the 3.5 mile marker of The Shining Sea Bikeway (81 Depot Ave) which runs 10.7 miles from North Falmouth to the Steamship Authority parking lot in Woods Hole. The hotel is also a 1/2 mile from the Island Queen Ferry which we used later in our trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Unfortunately the remnants of Hurricane Ian worked their way up the east coast causing rainy and windy conditions for six of our seven days. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried to hike and bike in 20 miles per hour winds.
Thanks to the nice lady at the Falmouth Visitor center for her rainy-day ideas, we took advantage of a walk at the Two Ponds Conservation Area (marked parking is at Atria Woodbriar Park at 339 Gifford St) put on by The 300 Committee Land Trust.
We also checked out the Falmouth Art Center (137 Gifford St) where the admission is free but donations are accepted. The art was cool and one exhibit had free painted rocks. Did someone say free? My sister was rooting around those rocks like Zsa Zsa Gabor going through her jewelry box. I was having none of the rocks until she mentioned they were signed by the artist exhibiting, Diane S. Scotti. Did someone say free signed merch? Move out of my way! Then we drove over to the Nobska Lighthouse to check out the inspiration for The Cape Cod Potato Chip Company logo.
One must-do on a gloomy, damp, rainy day in October in New England is hit an old-school graveyard and the Museums On The Green (55 Palmer Ave) had a tour of Falmouth’s First Burying Ground for $10 per person. The oldest grave with a tombstone was dated 1705 but there were probably a Poltergeist-worthy amount of corpses under each unmarked step we took. I give Tom The Tour Guide props for staying out there for two hours in the rain to give us and a married couple a tour to remember.
For the second half of our trip, we traveled 20 miles up the Cape to the Comfort Inn Hyannis (259 Main St). The hotel is clean, safe, a good location to some restaurants in a cute downtown with fairy lights covering almost every lamp post, but if the staff are going to have cold personalities then I’d appreciate a hotter view. We were running a bit early for check-in and it was only sprinkling so we decided to go 14 miles past Hyannis to Headwaters Drive in Harwich to pick up the middle of the Cape Cod Rail Trail that runs 25 miles from Yarmouth to Wellfleet. The 14 miles we did (7 miles each way) was well paved, took us through Nickerson State Park, and had some nice views that would have been nicer with less fog.
The next day we walked our bikes a half mile to the Steamboat Authority to purchase high-speed ferry (as opposed to a ferry on speed) tickets to the island of Nantucket. The high-speed (1 hour) tickets were only $55 per person and $14 per bike as opposed to $40 per person and $7 per bike on the traditional ferry that takes 2 hours and 15 minutes. Who wants to be traditional? The ticketing people weren’t the most helpful just like the hotel staff so maybe it’s just that area. For me to say they’re rude is something because I love New Yorkers and I’m New England born and raised, so I know rude.
Nantucket is ok. It’s great if you like that fancy, rich and low-key beach vibe but that’s not really my scene. My sister and I walked our bikes out of town a mile and a half because riding intown would have been death defying with those drivers. It’s bad when I say they drive too fast, I’m known for my lead foot. You know in horror movies when the creepy landscaper of the mansion comes up to you and warns you to stay away? We had that moment with a local. We walked into the road, around his vehicle that was blocking the sidewalk. He said, “You better look out for them because they won’t look out for you!” Great, we don’t know who they are but they’re out to get us.
At the town rotary, Massachusetts loves their rotaries (I do not), we took the Sconset Path a little ways to the Polpis Road Path. How far is it? Nobody really knows, maps are unclear and so are internet sites. We stopped in the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum along the path to use the bathroom. They said they were 4 1/2 miles from town and we had another 6 1/2 miles to go on that trail. Websites have it between 8-9.5 miles. Then we had to bike a bit through streets to pick up another part of the Sconset again to do a full loop that’s maybe another 6 miles. Doing Polpis in the beginning of the loop is the way to go because it’s more downhill than up. I’m guessing we biked at least 14 miles and walked another 3. The paths were all paved which was nice. Some of the scenery is pretty but it’s mostly just the same old thing and you’re riding next to a road. Ah, the smell of Nantucket, pine and car exhaust. Where’s that scent Yankee Candle? It’s a good path for exercise but it’s not scenic enough to make the trip. Maybe their other paths are nicer but Nantucket is a one-and-done sort of place for me.
For our final day of vacation, my sister and I took the Island Queen Ferry (with a name like that, you can’t go wrong) in Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard. The staff were friendly and the trip was fast. Just over a half hour and we were there. Tickets were $25 each and parking was $20. We could have taken the Steamboat Authority out of Woods Hole but it would have been a longer drive and ferry ride, however it would have given more options to return and been only $10 per person and I don’t know about parking costs. Island Queen Ferry isn’t as reliable, because our first few days there, service was cancelled due to weather and the weekend we left was the last weekend the ferry was running but it worked well for us.
Matha’s Vineyard has some very touristy spots with tons of shopping and restaurants with friendly people, tons of hiking that we didn’t get a chance to explore, and a few bike paths that cover much of the island. We left our bikes ashore, our asses wouldn’t forgive us if we brought them again, although in some states I’m probably engaged to my seat now. We chose to walk the 7 miles bike path that hugs the shore running along Beach Road that goes into the Edgartown part of The Vineyard. We walked through the shops and restaurants on our way to The Edgartown Lighthouse. By this time, we were walked out so we took the 13 bus back over to Oak Bluffs where our ferry came in. Martha’s Vineyard has an extensive public transportation system that is easy to understand but the stops are a bit hidden. I also think our driver scammed me by charging us $5 for a ride and he pocketed the money, I was too tired and sweaty to argue. If we would’ve had more time, we could’ve explored more of the island using it. One day in Martha’s Vineyard is enough to get a taste but there was much more to explore.
Speaking of taste, during our entire trip we did a lot of take out food and continental breakfasts at both hotels. Most of it was good, and even at it’s worst, it was adequate. However, there is one must-have if you find yourself on Martha’s Vineyard and it’s almost worth the trip alone, Mad Martha’s Homemade Ice Cream with three locations all over the island. Since I’m vegan, I look for good dairy-free options. At Mad Martha’s, she had three dairy-free ice “cream” options that day. The black raspberry was amazing, the coconut was heaven, and the Oreo chocolate had me looking for a tissue but not for my mouth. I highly recommend it.
Traveling to The Cape off season is definitely the way to go. There are still crowds and traffic but I can’t even imagine how crowded and hot it is during tourist season. There’s not as much to do off-season, lots of places were closed and not many events, but it’s nice having the air a bit crisp for hiking and biking. If the weather would have cooperated, I think we could have been there less time but we needed a week to fit in everything we wanted to do between rain storms. If you’re into biking, hiking, and walking The Cape is great. If I didn’t have those to do, I would have found myself bored but I can see why it’s a summer resort destination.