Summer Boating Destinations on Cape Cod

Cape Cod is one of the best places to test drive your new boat this summer. We might be a little biased, but with so many different harbors, ponds, and islands, why shouldn’t you make boating on Cape Cod a priority? Besides spending the day at Bass River (which is obviously our usual go-to), here are some of our favorite CC day trips:


Vineyard Haven: Vineyard Haven is short run from Hyannis (18 nm), Falmouth (5 nm) or Wood’s Hole (6 nm) and offers boating amenities galore. You can drop off passengers at the Owen Park town dock then anchor in the outer harbor or secure a mooring for the day, night or weekend (reservations are recommended in summer). Call the harbormasters, who are always ready to help. Once ashore, there are many shops and restaurants to explore nearby. Don’t miss the homemade ice cream at Mad Martha’s, harborside dining at The Black Dog Tavern or the fresh seafood-in-the-rough at the Net Result on Beach Road.


Menemsha Harbor: 14 nm from Falmouth Harbor, Menemsha Harbor is Martha’s Vineyard’s most isolated and picturesque port—a working harbor that remains home to a stalwart commercial fishing fleet. Once you arrive, contact the harbormaster  to arrange a slip, mooring or space alongside Dutcher Dock. If the weather is just right, you can also drop the hook outside the harbor and dinghy (or swim) to the gorgeous white-sand beach. Grab a stuffed quahog or lobster roll at Larsen’s Fish Market, or pick up some fantastic fried fare just up the street at the The Bite.


Cuttyhunk: This isolated outpost at the end of the Elizabeth Islands chain is within reach of many South Cape boaters launching from points west of Hyannis (distance from Falmouth Harbor is 16 nm). Duck inside the peaceful, protected harbor and call Cuttyhunk Marina at the town wharf for short-term dockage. For moorings, contact Jenkins Moorings, (508) 996-9294, or Frog Pond Marine, (508) 992-7530. Once you’re on shore you can see amazing views of Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay.


Washburn Island: This unique island inside Waquoit Bay’s state park offers a rustic ocean escape for all types of boaters, from kayakers to fishermen. You can be sure to find sandy beaches, walking trails and campsites on Washburn Island, which can be reserved from May to October. The surrounding waters are warm in season and ideal for swimming and kayaking, and the island makes an ideal base camp for fishing trips in Vineyard Sound and beyond.


Hyannis Harbor: Centrally located, Hyannis Harbor is an easy run from most any South Cape port, plus it boasts a variety of restaurants, shops, and other attractions. Contact the harbormasters office to see about free dockage along Bismore Park. While you’re there, grab lunch Spanky’s Clam Shack; or the Black Cat Tavern. Both are kid-friendly. Ice cream is available at Ben & Jerry’s next to the Hy-Line Ferry.

Sampson’s Island: This long barrier island (also known as “Dead Neck”) off Osterville and Cotuit is managed by Massachusetts Audubon, whose staff may ask for a donation while you use the beach. You can access the protected backside of the island via the narrow channel that connects Cotuit and West Bays then gently nose your bow onto the sand to offload passengers and gear. This is a wonderfully protected place for small children to splash around, and there’s a fun tidal pool on the western end of the island to explore. Note that much of the island’s interior is off-limits to protect nesting shorebirds.


Tarpaulin Cove: Veteran cruisers know Tarpaulin Cove, about midway along the Vineyard Sound side of Naushon Island in the Elizabeth Islands, as a well-protected anchorage and all-around aquatic gathering spot. It’s also one of the few places on the privately owned island where you can go ashore and enjoy the lovely sand beach. Just don’t wander into the island interior. Note that there are no public bathrooms on shore.

The view from our office: the one, the only Bass River Marina!