Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard, Choosing the Most Memorable Vacation Spot

Cape Cod vs. Martha's Vineyard

Are you looking for the perfect summer vacation spot but conflicted between choosing Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard?

cape cod vs. martha's vineyard, which one's for you?

Characterized with scenic views, friendly locals, historical sites, and activities, both of these spots can make your vacation memorable. But which one should you choose?

Cape Cod is suited more for families looking for activities that fit all ages; Martha’s Vineyard makes the best spot for a peaceful and serene vacation. Both offer beautiful views and entertaining activities to spend your vacation in the best possible way.

This guide compares Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard in terms of uniqueness, activities, expense, accessibility, and more. In this way, we can help you decide where your next vacation should be. So, let’s begin.

What Makes the Islands Unique?

Before we dive into the specifics of Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard, let’s discover how both islands have earned their reputations as incredible vacation destinations.

Martha’s Vineyard’s Adorable Gingerbread Cottages

If you want to experience a world out of storybooks, then Martha’s Vineyard is the place to visit.

Located just the south of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard is known for its serene beaches, farmland, lighthouses, and harbor towns.  The island is known for its diversity and rich history. The Vineyard offers a very relaxing environment that can help you escape from your everyday responsibilities. There are also enough activities and attractions on the island to keep you entertained.

One of the most unique things about this island is its gingerbread cottages located in Oaks Bluffs. You won’t find such a large community these cottages anywhere else on the Cape;  they look straight out of a storybook.

cape cod vs. martha's vineyard, which one's for you?

These fairytale-like cottages are one of the most famous architectural sites on the island. Brightly colored, these Victorian cottages stand as reminiscent of the candy and gingerbread house in the story of “Hansel and Gretel.”

And you will be surprised to know; these cottages have a very humble origin. Back in the 1800s, the area around Oaks Bluffs was used for annual religious meetings and retreats by a group of Methodists.

Initially, the group slept in tents. But, over time, when the meetings became more frequent and widespread, they wanted permanent houses to support them.

Due to this need, 500 charming cottages in the architectural style of “Carpenter’s Gothic” was built. Today, only 300 gingerbread cottages remain in the campground, but they are still as magical as before.

Every year, the cottages are dazzled with paper lanterns one night in August as part of the tradition called the “Grand Illumination Night.”

Besides these unique cottages, the island is also known for its sparkling blue waters and rocky coastlines. There are dozens of bike paths and hiking trails all across the island, making it a perfect place for outdoor activities.

cape cod vs. martha's vineyard, which one's for you?

And if you love fishing, you can also access fishing activities around the island. There are plenty of opportunities for sailing and boating.

If you want a taste of urban country living, then you can go out for gourmet dining or shopping. Although there are no shopping malls on the island, there are plenty of small stores and some large retailers as well.

There are also numerous cultural activities for people interested in arts. You can visit one of the many galleries and museums or catch a film at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.

Throughout the year, the island host many festivals including the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival, Food and Wine Festival, the Film Festival and of course the popular Agricultural Fair that closes out the summer.

This is why Martha’s Vineyard attracts almost 3.2 million visitors every year despite the land being smaller than Cape Cod. However, the laid-back way of life on the island keeps it serene and tranquil.

Check out more “Must See and Do” activities on Martha’s Vineyard.

Cape Cod’s Picturesque Beaches

The irresistible natural beauty and scenic views of the Cape are bound to mesmerize you. Cape Cod is known for its abundance of beauty with sandy beaches, fascinating wildlife, and captivating marshes.

cape cod vs. martha's vineyard, which one's for you?

Whether you want to spend your vacation relaxing on a gorgeous beach or take a bike to explore the different towns, Cape Cod has what you are looking for.

The island is home to the Cape Cod National Seashore, which comprises over 27,000 acres of beautiful landscapes and beaches.

If you want to experience the sandy dunes, you can visit the Dune Shacks Trail near Provincetown. The dune shacks are located inside the Cape Cod National Seashore and look out to the sea.

The Cape is home to many industries that offer tours from cranberries to shellfish or perhaps tour a brewery or the Cape Cod Potato Chips factory.

There are also a multitude of hiking and biking trails all across Cape Cod, giving you access to beaches, lighthouses and towns, making it a safe place to explore by bike.

How about kayaking? Many locals offer kayaking tours across the tides and flow of the island, which makes it another great way to explore Cape Cod.

With a local guide’s knowledge of the area and the beauty of this island, a kayaking or boat tour, to look for seal, sharks or whales, will be one of the most memorable experiences of your vacation.

Besides these beautiful natural sites and attractions, the Cape Cod is also known for its community life. For instance, it’s common to find summer concerts in the bandstands or farmers markets and art shanties on the towns’ greens.  There are fun bars and dance clubs found all across the island, jazzed up with drag shows, comedy, and lots of entertainment.

Cape Cod is also home to plenty of fresh seafood from the clam shacks found on the piers to the upscale restaurants in town. In short, Cape Cod has the charm of a seaside village, a busy summer calendar of festivals and events, with endless trails and bays to explore for your vacation.

Check out more “Must See and Do” activities on Cape Cod.

The expense of Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard?

Before you pack your bags and head over to the ferry, it’s essential to make a budget. The first thing that many people consider before choosing a place is how expensive it is. Both island are relatively expensive places to travel due to their popularity, but there are always budget options for those who plan ahead or are willing to travel in the off-season.

cape cod vs. martha's vineyard, which one's for you?

We made some comparisons between Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard regarding the amount it takes to travel to these islands and enjoy their different attractions. Overall, Martha’s Vineyard is more expensive  compared to Cape Cod. In fact, Martha’s Vineyard is rated as the second most expensive destination in the US after Montauk (NY).

Any Drawbacks on Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard?

The attractive features like the beautiful beaches, scrumptious seafood and laid-back vibes are what draws the tourists year after year to both islands. But is there anything you should avoid when considering Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard?

Martha’s Vineyard Has No Vineyard

So, if you are looking to visit a vineyard, then this isn’t the island for you. Despite its name, Martha’s Vineyard does not have a vineyard!  The local restaurants carry wine from all over the world, so no need to be concerned, unless you are looking to explore a vineyard.

Getting to the Vineyard does take a bit more planning logistically.  Unless you are flying to the island, you need to book a ticket on a ferry to bring you from Cape Cod.  Some of the ferries will transport your vehicle as well, but room is limited in the summer months and reservations need to be made well in advance.  If you are not bringing a car with you to the Vineyard, it is a little pricey to rent one on the island and again due to high demand, you need to make arrangements before your arrival.  A more economical option is to rely on public transportation, taxis or Uber.

Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard Crowds

Despite being islands, both Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Due to their accessibility and features such as beaches, restaurants and lighthouses, both islands tend to get very crowded during July and August.

Therefore, if you are looking forward to enjoying a peaceful vacation away from the crowds and traffic, then even the decision of Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard in the summer might not need to be revisited.

Either choice will leave you facing crowds at some point, unless you are willing to travel in the off-season. You will need to allot extra time for travel if you are arriving or departing Cape Cod on the weekend, as traffic can get backed up heading over the bridge.

How long Should you stay?

Before heading towards your destination, you need to plan the length of your stay to make the most out of your vacation. While there is plenty to do on Cape Cod for the entire summer, many visitors that have multiple week vacations, will use some of that time for an excursion to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.

Martha’s Vineyard

Many people visit the island on day trips through ferries. It’s possible to have a glimpse of the island’s beauty if you are visiting it just for a few hours. Maybe a quick day trip can be a great introduction to the Vineyard and help you identify the places you would like to come back and spend more time exploring.

cape cod vs. martha's vineyard, which one's for you?

But the best way to spend your vacation on Martha’s Vineyard is to stay for at least two or three days.

It’s pretty easy to explore around the entire island within that time since it is only 100 square miles.  If your schedule allows, you can cover most of the landscape and architecture on the island, particularly if you are bringing your car on the island.

Even if you are unable to bring one, you can rent a car for the day. However, even without a car, you can visit the best attractions on the island if you plan your trip accordingly. You can hop on the inexpensive Island Shuttle or VTA bus system to commute across the island. Bike rentals are also available if you want to explore the island at your own pace, enjoying the beautiful coastal rides.

Depending upon where you are staying, the locals or the concierge can help you pinpoint the best areas around the island.

Cape Cod

Just like Martha’s Vineyard, many people visit Cape Cod on day trips through ferries. However, we recommend spending at least three days on the island if you want to explore the most popular sites and enjoy your time.

Cape Cod is larger than both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.  If you live in  a nearby town or city, you can easily make a weekend trip to Cape Cod, as it only takes an hour and a half to drive to Cape Cod from Boston.  However, a full week stay is ideal for vacationers who are visiting from faraway.

What you do on Cape Cod depends upon numerous factors, such as the weather and the time of year, but most importantly, it comes down to your interests. With the many local events and wide array of leisure activities you are certain to find something that will appeal to you and your travel companions.

cape cod vs. martha's vineyard, which one's for you?

There are various inns and hotels all across the island that offer excellent accommodations at an affordable price. You can also explore the many seasonal rentals available on the Cape, but either way, it is best to plan as far ahead as you can to get the best rates. Many visitors book the same cabin or house, year after year once they find their “perfect spot”.

Best time to visit Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard

The best time to visit either of these island is between May and September.  During these months, the Atlantic Ocean keeps the temperature below the 70s, ensuring the weather is lovely and clear.

If you want to avoid large crowds of people, then the best months to do so will be May, June, September, and October. These months are characterized by pleasant temperatures, which makes it easier to enjoy outdoor activities. There are also lesser crowds during these months and the rates are also more affordable.

Can you visit both on the same trip?

Of course, and that is perhaps the best solution to the Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard decision. If you have time, it is better to do both!!  The Vineyard is just 28 miles away from Cape Cod. You can easily travel back and forth between the two islands through a ferry.

cape cod vs. martha's vineyard, which one's for you?

Many summer visitors to Cape Cod opt to take a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard or perhaps have an overnight stay during their week on Cape Cod. Or conversely spend a night on Cape Cod to explore a bit before heading out for a week on the Vineyard.

Exploring Cape Cod vs. Martha’s Vineyard, they both have something unique to offer. Each one of them offers plenty of varied activities and stunning natural landscapes to appease everyone in your group.

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