Best Time to Visit Cape Cod MA | Seasons | Festivals | Whale Watching

If you ask me when is the best time to visit Cape Cod, my answer will be the same as with any other place:  whenever you feel for it. You just need to know what to expect, what is it that you enjoy most, what is happening in each season and what clothes to bring.

Best time to visit Cape Cod - Cape Cod Map

There was a time when nobody went to Cape Cod before Memorial Day. Today, many people live on Cape year-round and many tourists prefer not to visit during the Memorial Day party madness and insane crowds.

So, let’s find out what is there to do on Cape in different seasons, so you can decide when to go and what to pack for your trip.

Summer

Entrance to the beach between wooden fences. Large rock and wild rose bushes at seashore with view of Martha's Vineyard on Cape Cod - Best beaches in Cape Cod

Entrance to the beach – Martha’s Vineyard on Cape Cod.

It is like someone turned the switch on after the low season slump: on Memorial Day Cape Cod opens for business again: thousands of people pour in on the packed ferry, all inns, rental houses and hotels are packed, restaurants that were closed for the offseason are sprucing up and opening their doors.

You cannot blame people to want to spend their first summer holiday in Cape. Guaranteed wonderful warm weather means stretching on the beach, splashing in the warm water, enjoying the best seafood in the world and taking part in one of many summer events.


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Summer Festivals

 

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The Figawi sailboat race takes part every year on Memorial Day weekend, marking the official start of summer. The Provincetown Jazz Festival captures the New England cool vibes.

The popular annual Woods Hole Film Festival offers eight days of independent films.

Bikers from all over the country race to the finish line during the Pan-Mass Challenge to support the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The annual Grecian festival not only introduces delicious Mediterranean cuisine but also celebrates Greek music, dancing and culture.

Then there is the Cape Cod Food Truck Festival, the Summer Concert Series in Martha’s Vineyard,  handmade works of art and gorgeous crafts at CraftFest Cotuit, the Annual Chowderfest with the best Clam Chowder in New England, and so much more. There is something happening for everyone.

Summer comes to an end with Labor Day, a heavily trafficked weekend you’ll probably want to avoid.

You can go hiking, biking, paddleboarding, kayaking, windsurfing and, of course, eating. Summer is the time of the year, when so much local produce is in season and seafood is fresh and plentiful.

The other side of the coin

There is a price for all this fun. Summer is not the best time to visit Cape Cod if your budget is limited. Everything is more expensive – plane rides, hotels, guest houses, restaurants, food and drinks. The restaurants tend to be crowded in the summer and the prices might be scary, but you will surely enjoy it.

Atlantic Ocean bathe a scenic beach in Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean bathe a scenic beach in Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

There are crowds everywhere – on the roads, on the ferry to the islands, on the beach and even on the hiking trails. If that bothers you, maybe Spring is more of your season.

Summer Weather

Best Time to Visit Cape Cod - Beach fence with shadows at the entrance to the sea

The weather is almost always wonderful, with temperatures between the 60s and the 80s throughout July and August. This being New England, there are always unpredictable rains and fog, when you wish you had a room with a fireplace.


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Spring

Wychmere Harbor on a summer afternoon in Harwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts; horizontal.

Wychmere Harbor in Harwich, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Spring in Cape Cod is the time when everything starts to come back to life. Daffodils open their cheerful yellow heads in April. Shops that shuttered down in winter reopen, tourists start to come back, whale watching season begins,   and the Cape is filled with life.

Spring in Cape Cod is a great time for a quick getaway from the winter doldrums in the city. It is very pleasant for long strolls along the beach or a bike ride along the Shining Sea Bikeway.

Enjoy driving through quaint little towns and exploring local antique shops, sitting on the pier and watching fishermen howl in their nets full of that morning catch.

With flowers blooming all over Cape, there are flower festivals everywhere. Check Cape Cod Rhododendron Festival at the Heritage Museums and Gardens,  Daffodil Days at Spohr Garden and the Brewster in Bloom Festival.

Spring Weather

Seascape over Shining Sun Bikeway in Falmouth on Cape Cod

Seascape over Shining Sun Bikeway in Falmouth on Cape Cod

The weather is warming up and by June, the average temperature reaches the 70s.

Spring can still surprise you with rainy days and whale watching can be a chilly affair with the cold winds blowing from the Atlantic. Wear layers so you do not get surprised.

Since the water is not warm enough for the beach, Cape and the islands are still free of crowds that will descend in the summer. Restaurants and hotels offer discounts. It is the best time to visit Cape Cod if you want to enjoy the magic of Cape Cod in solitude.


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Fall

Colorful cranberry bog autumn landscape on Cape Cod in Massachusetts

Colorful cranberry bog autumn landscape on Cape Cod in Massachusetts

After Labor Day and its insane crowds, folks at Cape Cod breathe a sigh of relief and things start to slow down. As the temperatures drop, leaves start turning into a riot of colors. Roads start to empty and finding a table at the restaurants is easy again.

Cooler temperatures make Cape Cod and its expanse of grassy moors, massive dunes and endless beaches just perfect for long walks, fast jogs or a stroll with a camera. The combination of colorful trees and gloomy gray skies make spectacular photos.

In the fall you can enjoy outdoor activities without sweating as you do in summer and you can brave the morning chill with a warm jacket.

Intrepid might find the ocean still warm enough for a swim, but fall is much better for enjoying your oysters from a restaurant deck overlooking the ocean and watch sailboats disappearing in the distance.

Festivals

Best time of year to visit Cape Cod - Oysters and Champagne from Cape Cod MA

Oysters and Champagne from Cape Cod MA

Fall is also the time for festivals. Marathoners from all over the country come to Cape Cod in the fall to participate in the Cape Cod Challenge Half Marathon in September and the Cape Cod Marathon in October.

The fall is the oyster season and that means the Wellfleet OysterFest. Shuck some oysters, enjoy fantastic fresh shellfish with Cape Cod’s local music in the background.

Check out the Harwich Arts & Music Cranberry Festival with a series of outdoor musical performances, local crafts, arts and cuisine. Join the Harbor to the Bay Bike Ride to support the community’s awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Do not miss the Cape Cod Brew Fest with over 100 breweries showing their wares.

A rainy day in Cape Cod is the perfect opportunity to visit local museums, antique shops and theatres to learn about the area’s history and culture.

Take in a performance shown at the Cape Playhouse, enjoy exhibits at the Edward Gorey House and do not miss the Cape Cod Museum of Art.


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Winter

Beautiful Sunset in Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts - When is off season in Cape Cod?

Beautiful Sunset in Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Winter on Cape Cod is the time when Cape returns to the locals. As tourists leave and many touristy shops and some restaurants close during winter months, peace and quiet take over the streets and beaches of Cape.

Festivals

USA, Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Provincetown. Lobster trap Christmas Tree - Best Time to Visit Cape Cod

Lobster trap Christmas Tree on Cape Cod, Provincetown.

December is a different story. Cape celebrates Christmas in style and there are all sorts of events and festivals going on. There is the Christmas Stroll in early December and Santa’s arrival on the ferry on  Martha’s Vineyard.

Many towns such as Sandwich, Falmouth, Osterville, and Chatham, have their own holiday festivals.

From January to the end of March is the really quiet season. It is the time to get to know the locals as there are very few tourists around. But what fun to have the entire lovely old historic towns and magnificent landscapes to yourself and a few locals. Bleak weather chases even the locals south.

Besides checking the local galleries and museums, cold rainy days should send you to enjoy a performance by the Cape Symphony, pamper yourself at the Chatham Bars Spa or check out the Holiday Festival at Taylor-Bray Farm.

Winter Weather

Covehead lighthouse in a snow covered sand dune mid winter.

Covehead lighthouse in a snow covered sand dune mid winter.

Temperatures drop to the low 20s at night and the highest you can expect during the day are mid- 50s. Do not be surprised if you wake up to the world covered in snow.

The cold keeps most tourists away but if you crave privacy and peace, winter is the best time to visit Cape Cod. Dress warmly and take long strolls along the deserted beaches or across the huge dunes.

The best restaurants on Cape normally remain open so you can enjoy some truly magnificent meals Cape is famous for.

Best Time to go to Cape Cod for Whale Watching

From April to October, many folks come to visit Cape Cod hoping to see whales. There is something awe-inspiring in those massive majestic creatures as they breach the water right by your boat, like they are saying ‘hello’ in their own way.

Whales Swimming and jumping in Cape Cod Ma - Best Time to go to Cape Cod for Whale Watching

Whales Swimming and Jumping in Cape Cod Ma

There is a good reason why there are so many whale-sightings from Cape Cod and the rest of the coast of Massachusetts. Whales migrate to this area because it is rich in mackerel, krill, herring, and other kinds of schooling fish that live and breed in these waters so rich in nutrients.

As soon as the weather turns cold, the whales are gone to warmer waters where they mate and give birth.

Most often, whale watching trips will find humpback whales, but it is possible to spot finback whales, minke whales, pilot whales, and right whales.

Most of the tours travel to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, about 25 miles off the Massachusetts coast. That area is an important feeding ground for whales.

Often, when the conditions are right, you can also see dolphins and seals on the way to the deeper waters where whales pass.

There are several companies with an excellent reputation you should consider when planning your whale-watching trip.

Cruises

Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises runs its boats from Barnstable Harbor and takes the visitors to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary where the chance of spotting whales is the biggest.

 

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Their boats are designed for whale watching, with three levels and bench seating all over the boat. There is a trained naturalist to provide education on whales, and answer questions. Tours last three and a half to four hours and run two times a day.

The tickets start at $65 for adults, $45 for kids between 3 and 12 and they are free for children under 3.

Dolphin Fleet runs out of Provincetown. Since they are so close to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the visitors are able to spot whales almost as soon as the boat is out of the port.

The cruises last three to four hours. A trained naturalist shares information about whales, their habitat, feeding habits and how to identify them.

Tours start at Provincetown’s MacMillan Pier and run a few times a day. The boat has two decks and an inside cabin that is heated and air-conditioned

Tickets cost $65 for adults, $40 for kids 5 to 12 and children under 4 go free. IN some rare cases that no whales are spotted, visitors are invited to try again at no additional charge.

The Cheapest Time to Visit Martha’s Vineyard

It makes sense that the most expensive time to visit Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard is in summer – the top season for enjoying the beach, warm weather and whales. That is also the time of biggest crowds, congested roads, packed ferries and no vacancies at hotels and inns.

Boats moored in Edgartown Harbor on Martha's Vineyard.

As the weather gets colder, the prices go down. The discounts start usually right after the holidays, so you can expect the cheapest prices during the periods from January 15 to March 25, April 16 to May 6 (except the holiday week of April 23rd), August 13 to November 18. The absolute cheapest time is early to mid-September.

This might change as more and more events and festivals are now organized during the relatively quiet periods, so there are now more visitors who come to enjoy them in Spring, Fall and Winter.

Low prices include airline and ferry tickets, hotels and inns, restaurants, markets and grocery stores.


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Cape Cod in August

 Cape Cod in August - Provincetown Cape Cod USA - Sun worshipers at the beach at National Seashore some on becach chairs and some on sand with dunes and lighthouse behind

Cape Cod in August – Provincetown Cape Cod USA – Sun worshipers at the beach at National Seashore some on becach chairs and some on sand with dunes and lighthouse behind

August is the month when Cape Cod is bursting at seams with crowds. Wonderful weather brings people who love the long sandy Cape beaches, perfect for swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling and just splashing around. It is also the peak season for whale watching.

August is also great for biking and hiking the popular Cape Cod Rail Trail. The seafood is plentiful and you can enjoy Cape’s famous Clam Chowder and fabulous fresh .seafood. August is the perfect month for wine tasting, so go visit  Truro Vineyards.

August is the time to enjoy the famous annual Cape Jazz Festival that starts in June. It takes place in Harwich in Wequasset Resort and Golf Club.

Be prepared to open your wallet for the visit in August – the prices are at their highest. You should also book your accommodation months in advance to have a chance of reserving the place you like.

The prices are likely more affordable and the crowds more bearable on the Outer Cape,  in small towns like Truro, Eastham, and Wellfleet.

Cape Cod in August Weather

Beach at Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. Cape Cod in August Weather

Beach at Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. Cape Cod Weather in August

August is the heart of the summer, the month of glorious weather and temperatures between the 60s and the 80s. The water is warm, with average temperature of 68.9°F.

Cape Cod in September

Falmouth Cape Cod Masschusetts September Passengers disembarking from the ferry Island Queen in Falmouth

As the days are getting shorter, beach time on the Cape becomes more of the time for long walks and searching for shells. On the good side, most tourists are gone by September and it is nice to sit on the decks of your favorite restaurants without having to wait.

Another good thing is – parking is free after Labor Day!

September is the peak season for the famous Wellfleet oysters, so have your bellyful of them without having to fight the crowds. The rest of the seafood is plentiful in September as well, so gorge on lobster rolls, fried clams, fish & chips, and surf & turf.

Crowds are gone from the golf courses as well in September, so hit the Greens, the weather is perfect for it, with light breezes and lower temperatures. There are plenty of public golf courses all over Cape.

Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown, Massachusetts with lighthouse keeper's house.

There are over 114 miles of bike trails on Cape Cod, and September is the perfect time to check them out. From the Upper to the Outer Cape, there are over 25 running trails and paths. The trees are slowly turning glorious reds and yellows, providing a wonderful background for your walk.

September is full of festivals and fairs. More than 75 vendors get together for The Bass River Arts & Crafts Festival, selling art, jewelry, photography, clothing and more.

There is the Truro Agricultural Fair for the local bounty, from lobster to local honey, live music, scavenger hunt, and more the Eastham Windmill Weekend.

The Seaside Le Mans Formula One Kart Race raises money for local charities, The Harwich Cranberry & Music Festival offers music and art and the annual Tennesse Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown showcases his plays.

Cape Cod in September Weather

Cape Cod in September - Off-season Provincetown Beach during the day - Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Off-season Provincetown Beach during the day – Provincetown, Massachusetts.

September on Cape Cod is more of the end of summer than the beginning of fall, with warm weather and temperatures between the upper 60s and mid-70s during the day. As the sun goes down, it gets chilly and you need a light jacket or sweater.

Weather on Cape, like in the rest of New England, can be unpredictable and fickle in September, with occasional rains and fogs.

Cape Cod in October

Cape Cod in October Weather - Sagamore Bridge Sunrise over Cape Cod Canal. Dawn Silhouette Architectural Image with Orange and Golden Colors. High Contrast Panoramic Seascape Image with Space for Text and Design.

Sagamore Bridge Sunrise over Cape Cod Canal.

By early October, Cape Cod is covered with splashes of reds and gold foliage among the lush local greenery. As the temperatures drop further, the more colorful the trees get.

The days are still mostly sunny, perfect for long drives or hikes to enjoy the fall colors. But, you can expect sudden rains, tiresome drizzle and ubiquitous New England fog.

Bright red and orange rose hips and some late-season wildflowers line the beaches and trails. Bogs are full of juicy cranberries ready to be harvested.

Take the stroll along the path at the Heritage Museums & Gardens to feast your eyes on colorful berries, with hydrangeas turning pinks and red.

Cape Cod in October Weather

Cape Cod in October Weather - HARWICH MA OCTOBER The Wequassett Inn Resort and Golf Club is a historic luxury hotel located in the elbow of Cape Cod, Massachusetts overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

HARWICH MA OCTOBER The Wequassett Inn Resort and Golf Club is a historic luxury hotel located in the elbow of Cape Cod, Massachusetts

October days are mostly mild and nights are pleasantly crisp. The temperatures range from the mid-60s during the day to the low 50s at night. Rains can surprise you suddenly so bring a  rain jacket if you are going on a longer hike or bike ride.

Conclusion

The best time to visit Cape Cod is spring for the early blooms, summer for the endless beaches, fall for the festivals and golden trees and winter for the peace and tranquility. All you have to do is decide what you need most. It is a glorious place any time of the year.

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