Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard

Deciding between Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard for your next vacation can be quite the dilemma. Both destinations boast beautiful coastlines, charming towns, and plenty of activities for all ages. But which one will truly capture your heart? Stick around, and we'll help you make that tough decision.
Cape Cod vs. Martha's Vineyard

Table of Contents

Ah, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard – two picturesque New England gems that leave travelers swooning. While both destinations have plenty to offer, it’s time to dig a little deeper and uncover the unique characteristics that set them apart. So, buckle up, and let’s embark on this journey to find your perfect vacation spot!

History & Culture

Let’s kick things off by diving into the rich history and culture of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. Both destinations have their own stories to tell, so let’s see how they compare.

Cape Cod, a hook-shaped peninsula, has a long history dating back to the Native American Wampanoag tribe and the Pilgrims’ landing in the 17th century. Today, it’s a melting pot of culture, blending its historic roots with a vibrant arts scene.

On the other hand, Martha’s Vineyard, an idyllic island south of Cape Cod, also has deep ties to the Wampanoag tribe and played a role in the whaling industry during the 19th century. Its unique cultural heritage is evident in its historic buildings and charming towns.

When it comes to art, Cape Cod is home to numerous galleries, museums, and theaters. It’s a haven for artists, with communities like Provincetown being particularly well-known for their thriving arts scene. Meanwhile, Martha’s Vineyard also boasts a thriving arts community, with galleries, studios, and art events taking place throughout the year.

Both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are steeped in maritime history. In Cape Cod, you’ll find lighthouses dotting the coastline, serving as reminders of its seafaring past. Martha’s Vineyard also has its share of historic lighthouses, as well as a rich seafaring history that is still celebrated today.

Traditions run deep in both destinations. Cape Cod is known for its quintessential New England charm, with historic architecture, picturesque villages, and friendly locals. Martha’s Vineyard has a slightly more laid-back vibe, with a tight-knit community that takes pride in its traditions and island life.

In conclusion, both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard offer rich histories and diverse cultural experiences. While Cape Cod boasts a vibrant arts scene and strong maritime heritage, Martha’s Vineyard shines with its relaxed island atmosphere and unique traditions.

Attractions & Activities

Now that we’ve explored the history and culture, let’s dive into the attractions and activities that make Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard stand out. Both destinations have plenty to offer, so let’s see what sets them apart.

Starting with Cape Cod, the Cape Cod National Seashore is a must-visit. Stretching over 40 miles (64 kilometers), it features stunning landscapes, pristine forests, and abundant wildlife. For a more relaxed activity, consider a scenic drive along the Old King’s Highway (Route 6A), where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views and charming historic villages.

Another Cape Cod highlight is the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 25-mile (40-kilometer) paved path that takes you through diverse landscapes, from marshlands to cranberry bogs. Don’t miss the opportunity to go whale watching in Provincetown, where you can spot these majestic creatures up close during the season.

Over on Martha’s Vineyard, the Aquinnah Cliffs are a must-see natural wonder. These magnificent clay cliffs offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape and ocean. Another unique attraction is the Polly Hill Arboretum, where you can explore 20 acres (8 hectares) of lush gardens, featuring rare trees and plants.

For history buffs, visiting the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association in Oak Bluffs is a delight. This historic community is known for its vibrant and colorful gingerbread cottages that are sure to enchant. Additionally, take a stroll through Edgartown, a picturesque harbor town filled with elegant 19th-century architecture and historic landmarks.

Both destinations also offer a range of outdoor activities. Cape Cod has numerous hiking trails, such as the Great Island Trail and Fort Hill, providing beautiful views and a chance to connect with nature. Martha’s Vineyard is perfect for cycling, with over 44 miles (70 kilometers) of bike trails to explore, as well as the option to take guided tours of the island.

In terms of attractions and activities, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard both have a lot to offer. From stunning natural wonders and charming historic sites to a wide array of outdoor activities, you’ll be spoiled for choice in both destinations. Whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation, there’s something for everyone in these two enchanting locations.


Alright, let’s talk beaches! Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are both known for their beautiful coastlines, but which one takes the cake? Let’s dive in and compare these sandy paradises.

Cape Cod is home to some of the most stunning beaches on the East Coast—

For instance, Coast Guard Beach in Eastham is a popular spot, offering pristine sands and beautiful views. It stretches for 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) and is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and surfing. Then there’s Mayflower Beach in Dennis, known for its calm waters, making it ideal for families and beachgoers seeking relaxation.

On the other hand, Martha’s Vineyard boasts equally beautiful shores—

South Beach in Edgartown is a picturesque 3-mile (4.8-kilometer) stretch of sandy coastline, perfect for swimming and sunbathing. Its strong waves also make it a popular spot for surfers. Meanwhile, Menemsha Beach in Chilmark offers a more tranquil atmosphere, with gentle waves and spectacular sunsets that draw both locals and visitors alike.

Both destinations also feature hidden gems. Cape Cod’s Skaket Beach in Orleans, for example, has tidal flats that offer unique opportunities for beachcombing and exploring. Over in Martha’s Vineyard, you’ll find the remote Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark, where stunning clay cliffs serve as a dramatic backdrop to the pristine shoreline.

In conclusion, both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard have their fair share of beautiful beaches. Whether you prefer the bustling atmosphere of Coast Guard Beach or the serene vibes of Menemsha Beach, you’ll be sure to find the perfect coastal escape in either destination. So, grab your sunscreen and sunglasses, and get ready for some unforgettable beach days!

Eating, Drinking & Nightlife

Foodies, rejoice! We’re about to explore the culinary and nightlife scenes in Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. Let’s see what these two destinations have to offer when the sun goes down and the stomach starts rumbling.

Cape Cod is a haven for seafood lovers, boasting a variety of local catches like clams, scallops, and the ever-popular lobster. You’ll find plenty of spots to grab a delicious bite, from casual clam shacks to fine dining establishments.

The drinks scene is also on point, with local breweries, wineries, and distilleries offering tastings and tours for those who enjoy a good tipple.

Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, has a more intimate dining scene. You’ll still find plenty of fresh seafood on offer but with a focus on farm-to-table dining and locally sourced ingredients. You can also satisfy your thirst at a handful of local breweries and wineries, perfect for an afternoon or evening out.

Now, let’s talk nightlife. Cape Cod has a more bustling scene, with a mix of bars, clubs, and live music venues to choose from. Whether you’re after a laid-back pub or a lively dance floor, there’s something for everyone. Plus, there’s a great selection of summer events and festivals that bring the party to the streets.

The nightlife in Martha’s Vineyard is a bit more low-key, with a focus on relaxed bars, pubs, and lounges. You’ll find live music and trivia nights, but overall, the vibe is more laid-back and sophisticated. If you’re looking for a tranquil evening with good company and conversation, this might be your ideal destination.

So, in summary, both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard have their unique culinary and nightlife charms. If you’re after a lively night out with a variety of entertainment options, Cape Cod might be your go-to. However, if a more subdued and sophisticated evening is what you’re craving, Martha’s Vineyard is sure to please.


Alright, shoppers, it’s time to compare the retail therapy options in Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. Let’s see which destination will satisfy your inner shopaholic.

Cape Cod has a wide array of shopping opportunities, from quaint boutiques and charming local shops to larger shopping centers. You’ll find everything from antiques and home décor to clothing, art, and souvenirs. Plus, the Cape is known for its numerous farmers’ markets, where you can snag some locally made goodies and fresh produce.

Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, offers a more boutique shopping experience. The island is home to a collection of small, unique shops that sell locally made goods, crafts, and artwork. You’ll also find a handful of high-end clothing stores and specialty shops, perfect for those in search of something exclusive and one-of-a-kind.

One thing’s for sure: both destinations provide a lovely shopping atmosphere—

Cape Cod is your destination if you want a mix of small-town charm and larger retail options, with the added bonus of farmers’ markets to explore. Martha’s Vineyard, however, is the go-to for those who prefer a boutique shopping experience and are willing to splurge a bit more on high-quality items.

In conclusion, no matter which destination you choose, you’re sure to find unique shopping experiences that cater to a range of tastes and budgets. Cape Cod offers a more diverse selection, while Martha’s Vineyard has an emphasis on local, high-end, and artisanal items.


Now that we’ve covered the fun stuff, let’s talk about where to lay your head after a day of exploring Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. Both destinations offer a range of accommodations, but let’s see which one suits your needs best.

Cape Cod provides a variety of lodging options, from charming bed and breakfasts and historic inns to budget-friendly motels and luxurious resorts. No matter your budget or preferences, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to rest and recharge during your Cape Cod getaway.

Martha’s Vineyard, while smaller, still offers a diverse array of accommodations. You’ll find cozy bed and breakfasts, quaint inns, and upscale hotels, as well as vacation rentals for those who prefer a more private, home-like experience. Keep in mind, though, that Martha’s Vineyard tends to be a bit pricier than Cape Cod when it comes to lodging.

In a nutshell, Cape Cod has a wider range of accommodation options catering to all budgets, while Martha’s Vineyard offers a more boutique, upscale experience at a slightly higher price point. Regardless of which destination you choose, you’re guaranteed to find a comfy place to call your temporary home.

Family-Friendliness & Children’s Activities

Family vacations are all about creating unforgettable memories, so let’s dive into what Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard have to offer when it comes to keeping the kids entertained and happy. Each destination has its own unique charm, so let’s see which one is the best fit for your family.

Cape Cod is a family-friendly haven, with plenty of activities designed to keep the young ones engaged and excited. From mini-golf courses and bike trails to outdoor adventures like whale watching, there’s no shortage of family-oriented fun. Plus, the Cape Cod Children’s Museum offers hands-on exhibits and programs that are both educational and entertaining.

Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, offers a more laid-back family vacation experience—

While it may not have as many children-specific attractions, the island’s beautiful scenery and relaxed atmosphere make for a fantastic family getaway. There are still plenty of kid-friendly activities, like visiting the alpacas at Island Alpaca or exploring the island by bike or on foot, ensuring the whole family has a great time.

Both destinations are family-friendly in their own way, but Cape Cod takes the cake when it comes to a more extensive selection of children’s activities. Martha’s Vineyard offers a more serene and nature-oriented family experience, which may be perfect for some families looking to unplug and unwind together.

So, consider what kind of family vacation you’re after, and choose the destination that best aligns with your preferences.

Getting There & Getting Around

Figuring out how to reach your vacation destination and getting around once you’re there is an essential part of planning any trip. So let’s break down the logistics for both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, making it easier for you to decide which one suits your travel style better.

Getting to Cape Cod is a breeze. With multiple options, you can either fly into Boston Logan International Airport (approximately 70 miles/110 kilometers from Cape Cod) or opt for a regional airport like Barnstable Municipal Airport.

Once you’ve arrived, car rentals, buses, and shuttles are available for a smooth transition to your final destination. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Boston to Provincetown, which is at the tip of Cape Cod.

On the other hand, reaching Martha’s Vineyard involves a ferry ride. You can catch a ferry from Woods Hole, Falmouth, or Hyannis in Cape Cod, or from New Bedford in Massachusetts. Flights are also available to Martha’s Vineyard Airport from various locations, including Boston, New York, and Providence.

Once you’re in Cape Cod, getting around is pretty straightforward. Car rentals are popular, giving you the freedom to explore at your own pace. Biking and walking are also excellent ways to experience the area. Public transportation options include buses and seasonal shuttles, which can be a cost-effective choice for navigating the Cape.

Martha’s Vineyard, being an island, has a more limited transportation infrastructure. However, you can still get around without much trouble. Biking and walking are popular, and the Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) offers a reliable public bus service. Car rentals are available but keep in mind that parking can be scarce during peak season.

In conclusion, Cape Cod provides more transportation options and easier access, while Martha’s Vineyard requires a bit more planning and effort to reach and explore. Consider your travel preferences and choose the destination that works best for you.


When planning a vacation, the weather plays a significant role in determining the perfect destination. So, let’s dive into the climate of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard to see which one matches your ideal vacation weather.

Cape Cod experiences a typical New England climate, with cold winters and mild summers. Average summer temperatures hover around 75°F (24°C), perfect for beach days and outdoor activities. However, during the winter months, temperatures can dip to around 32°F (0°C), accompanied by snowfall, making it a cozy winter getaway.

Martha’s Vineyard, being an island, boasts a more moderate climate. Summers are warm and pleasant, with average temperatures of 77°F (25°C). Winters are mild, with temperatures rarely falling below freezing, averaging around 35°F (2°C). This milder weather makes the island a great year-round destination.

In summary, both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard offer fantastic weather during the summer months, with Cape Cod being slightly cooler. If you’re considering a winter trip, Martha’s Vineyard might be a better choice due to its milder climate. Ultimately, your weather preferences should help you decide which destination suits you best.


Safety is a top priority when choosing a vacation destination. Let’s explore the safety aspects of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard to ensure you have a worry-free trip.

Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are generally considered safe destinations for travelers. Both places have low crime rates, and tourists can feel at ease exploring the towns and beaches. Like any tourist destination, it’s always wise to exercise common sense and keep an eye on your belongings, but overall, you can expect a safe experience in both locations.

Cape Cod, however, has a unique safety concern: sharks. While shark sightings are relatively rare, it’s essential to pay attention to any posted warnings and follow local guidelines to ensure a safe beach experience. On the other hand, Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t share this concern, making it a more worry-free choice for beachgoers.

Martha’s Vineyard requires extra attention to ticks, as they are prevalent on the island and can carry Lyme disease. Make sure to take necessary precautions like using insect repellent and checking for ticks after spending time outdoors.

In conclusion, both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are considered safe destinations with low crime rates. Cape Cod has occasional shark sightings, while Martha’s Vineyard requires vigilance against ticks. By keeping these unique concerns in mind and following local guidelines, you can enjoy a safe and memorable vacation at either destination.


Let’s talk money! Vacation costs can make or break a trip, so let’s compare Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard to see how your wallet will fare in each destination.

Cape Cod is generally more affordable than Martha’s Vineyard. Lodging options in Cape Cod offer a wide range of prices, from budget-friendly motels to luxury resorts. Dining options also vary, with numerous wallet-friendly seafood shacks and mid-range eateries to choose from.

In Martha’s Vineyard, accommodation and dining tend to be pricier, with upscale hotels and restaurants being the norm.

Activities in both destinations can be tailored to suit different budgets. Cape Cod offers plenty of free or low-cost attractions, such as beach visits, nature trails, and scenic drives.

Similarly, Martha’s Vineyard has free beaches, parks, and lighthouses to explore. However, some popular activities, like guided tours and bike rentals, may come at a higher price in Martha’s Vineyard compared to Cape Cod.

Overall, Cape Cod is generally a more budget-friendly option for travelers, offering a wider variety of affordable accommodations and dining choices. Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, leans towards a more upscale and expensive experience.

Keep in mind that both destinations offer a range of activities to suit different budgets, so you can still enjoy a fantastic vacation in either location regardless of your spending preferences.

Which Is Better – Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard?

Well, folks, we’ve compared Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard across a variety of factors, and the verdict is… it depends! Both destinations have their unique charms and offerings, so let’s break it down to help you decide which one is best for your vacation.

If history and culture are high on your list, both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard offer fascinating historical sites and rich cultural experiences. Cape Cod boasts a longer history, while Martha’s Vineyard showcases a more laid-back island vibe.

When it comes to attractions and activities, Cape Cod has a larger land area, which translates to more diverse offerings. Martha’s Vineyard, on the other hand, has a more exclusive feel and provides a variety of unique island experiences.

Beach lovers will find plenty to enjoy at both destinations. Cape Cod has an extensive coastline with various beaches, while Martha’s Vineyard features smaller, more intimate shores. It’s a matter of personal preference, so choose according to the beach atmosphere you’re seeking.

For foodies and party animals, both destinations deliver. Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard offer mouth-watering dining options and a range of nightlife experiences. However, Cape Cod generally has more budget-friendly options, while Martha’s Vineyard caters to a more upscale crowd.

If shopping is your thing, Cape Cod has a greater variety of shopping options. Martha’s Vineyard still offers charming boutiques, but the selection may be more limited.

Accommodation-wise, Cape Cod has a wider range of options, from budget-friendly to luxurious. Martha’s Vineyard leans towards the higher end of the spectrum, so if you’re seeking a more upscale experience, the island might be your best bet.

For families, Cape Cod tends to be more family-friendly and offers a broader range of children’s activities. Martha’s Vineyard has its share of family attractions but may be better suited for older kids or couples seeking a romantic getaway.

Getting there and around is easier in Cape Cod due to its more extensive transportation options. Martha’s Vineyard requires a ferry ride, which can be a fun experience, but may add extra travel time.

Weather-wise, both destinations have similar climates, so there’s no significant difference there. In terms of safety, both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are generally safe destinations with a few unique concerns to consider.

Finally, if budget is a major factor, Cape Cod is generally more affordable than Martha’s Vineyard. However, both locations can cater to a range of budgets depending on your preferences.

In conclusion, the choice between Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard comes down to personal preferences and priorities.

Cape Cod may be the better choice for budget-conscious travelers and families, while Martha’s Vineyard may be the ideal spot for couples seeking a romantic, upscale getaway. No matter which destination you choose, you’re sure to create lasting memories on your vacation.