Continually shaped by ocean currents, this windswept land of sandy beaches and dunes has compelling natural beauty. Everyone comes for the seaside, yet the crimson cranberry bogs, birch and beech forests, freshwater ponds, and interior marshlands are just as splendid. Local history is fascinating; whale-watching provides an exhilarating experience of the natural world; cycling trails lace the landscape; shops purvey everything from antiques to pure kitsch; and you can dine on simple, fresh seafood, creative contemporary cuisine, or most anything in between.
Henry David Thoreau, who famously traveled the sparsely populated mid-19th-century Cape Cod, likened the peninsula to "a bare and bended arm." Indeed, looking at a map the outline is obvious, and many people hold their own arm aloft and point to various places from shoulder to fist when asked for directions.
Separated from the Massachusetts mainland by the 17½-mile Cape Cod Canal—at 480 feet, the world's widest sea-level canal—and linked to it by two heavily trafficked bridges, the Cape is surrounded by water that defines the peninsula’s land and seascapes: just off the mainland to the southeast are the gentler, warmer waters of Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound, and Nantucket Sound. Cape Cod Bay extends north to the tip of Provincetown, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean.
There are three main roads that travel, more or less, the entire Cape: U.S. Highway 6, Route 28, and Route 6A, a designated historic road also called the Old King’s Highway. Most visitors stick to these main byways, though the back roads can save time and aggravation in summer.