Cape Cod is one of those fun-filled locations that most people only see while on vacation. The Cape’s beautiful beaches go hand in hand with its sunny weather, and if you like a little adventure, there are some great hiking and biking trails in the area.
The Cape has something for everyone: beaches, natural parks, five-star dining options, traditional Cape architecture, and more.
A common misconception people have is that Cape Cod is too expensive to move to. But living in the Cape can be affordable as long as you avoid prime areas—it’s a location that can cater to every lifestyle.
So whether you’re planning on becoming a Cape Cod resident or you’re just dreaming about moving there, here’s what living in Cape Cod is like.
A Brief History of Cape Cod
The Cape was originally home to the native Wampanoag people until the 17th century. In 1620, the Pilgrims landed in Cape Cod at Provincetown before settling a month later in Plymouth across the Cape Cod Bay.
Twenty years later, European settlers came to Cape Cod and began to spread into the Cape. They learned from the Wampanoag people and adopted the native farming and fishing techniques. Settlers even built homes similar to those of the natives at first before building European-style homes.
Over the centuries, Cape Cod became more and more of a tourist destination. In the 19th century, people from Boston would travel to the Cape by boat or coach, and as technology improved, train travel connected the Cape to Boston and Providence, Rhode Island.
Three canal bridges were eventually built, making Cape Cod easy to access, and tourists have been venturing to the peninsula ever since.
Navigating Around Cape Cod
Cape Cod is a peninsula in Massachusetts that curves out into the Atlantic Ocean. While the Cape is separated from the rest of the state by a narrow body of water, this stretch of land is easily accessible from Boston and Providence thanks to canal bridges.
Cape Cod spans the whole of Barnstable County and has 15 towns. To make it easier to remember where everything is, Cape Cod is split into four different sections: Upper Cape, Mid-Cape, Outer Cape, and Lower Cape.
Think of Cape Cod as an arm, with the Upper Cape as the shoulder and the Lower Cape as the elbow. This visual will help you place towns and locations as different points on the Cape Cod arm.
Getting around the Cape
Even if you think of Cape Cod as four sections of an arm, the roads of Cape Cod can take a little getting used to. The road system dates back to the 17th-century hunting trails used by the European settlers, so you may encounter routes that seem to meander in strange ways.
However, it doesn’t take long to get used to them, and many of the Cape’s roads will lead you past some beautiful sights.
If you don’t want to drive in Cape Cod, there are public transit options available. Sit back and relax on one of the Cape’s buses. Some buses can take you around the Cape, while other buses connect Cape Cod to Boston, Brockton, and Providence.
Taking a trip out of Cape Cod
If you live in Cape Cod, you’ve got plenty of options for day trips and vacations. The Cape is well-connected to Boston and Providence by road and by public transportation.
You can reach either city within one to two hours, provided that traffic is reasonable, so locals often go on day trips to go shopping or see sights and museums. In fact, the cities are so close that many people even commute to work in Boston or Providence from the Cape.
As for vacations out of Cape Cod, there are bus services to Provincetown and Hyannis airports, which take the stress out of getting to the airport.
Moving to Cape Cod
Before you consider moving to Cape Cod, it’s worth learning a bit more about the area and what it’s like to live there. Here are some things to consider before moving to Cape Cod.
Choosing your neighborhood
People often think of Cape Cod as one place, but there are so many distinct towns and villages within the Cape. Each town has its own quirks and perks, and each area offers a different lifestyle.
So before moving to Cape Cod, look into the different areas and choose the neighborhood that suits you best.
Ask yourself these questions to help decide which neighborhood is right for you:
- Do you want to be close to convenience stores and public facilities? Or would you rather be in a more rural location?
- Do you want to live just a few steps from the beach in a premium location? Or would you rather be away from the hustle and bustle during tourist season?
Cost of living in Cape Cod
People move to Cape Cod for stunning sea views, spacious ranch-style homes, and beautiful landscapes. However, these homes come with a price tag to match.
While the peninsula’s prime locations are more expensive, they offer the best of Cape life. Some of the more expensive houses have private beach access, while others have access to swimming ponds.
Keep in mind that when compared to other prime locations, such as a wealthy suburb of Boston or a downtown luxury brownstone, top spots in Cape Cod may not be that much more expensive.
And if you look for towns and locations that are off the beaten path, you’ll find Cape Cod homes that are more affordable for all types of lifestyles.
Home insurance is typically more expensive in Cape Cod because the area is more susceptible to hurricane damage, but the lower property taxes offset this to some degree. There’s also no sales tax on non-luxury food and clothing, so the cost of living tends to balance out compared to a city.
A big factor when considering a move to Cape Cod is the lack of jobs in the region. Most jobs are in the tourism industry—there isn’t really a Cape Cod business district. So if you’re hoping to find work when you relocate, you may have to commute a greater distance to the nearby cities of Boston or Providence.
Crime rate in Cape Cod
For the most part, cities and towns on the Cape are relatively low-density and crime rates among the permanent population are low. Thanks to increased police presence on the Cape in recent years, the number of violent crimes in the area are largely declining across the board.
However, Cape Cod attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year, which can inflate crime statistics. The town of Barnstable ranked 93rd in the Top 100 Most Dangerous U.S. Cities list for 2017, according to NeighborhoodScout. To get a more well-rounded understanding of the level of day-to-day crime on the Cape, it’s better to follow local print publications or news websites such as Cape Cod Today.
As many homes in Cape Cod are vacant outside of the summer months, installing a home security system is crucial to keeping these homes protected year-round from burglars and environmental hazards like fires and floods. Installing an alarm system for your vacation home in Cape Cod is highly recommended to avoid costly repairs or insurance premiums down the line.
Should you feel unsafe while living on the Cape, there are steps you can take to secure your home from burglars, including adding a home security system. Read our list of 30 home security tips to prevent home invasions to learn more
What are the safest towns in Cape Cod?
According to the FBI, the safest towns in the area are Sandwich, Brewster, Bourne, Harwich, and Mashpee.
Not only is Sandwich the safest town but also the oldest in Cape Cod being incorporated in 1639. The overall crime rate in this town is 1.11%.
- Population: 20.6K residents
- Crime Rate: 11.1 per 1,000 residents
There is no shortage of inns and B&B’s in Brewster. Home of the Captain Freeman Inn and Crosby Mansion this town takes silver with a crime percentage of 1.34%.
- Population: 9.8K residents
- Crime Rate: 13.4 per 1,000 residents
Bourne is located on the western end of Barnstable County and gets the bronze medal with a crime percentage of 1.88%.
- Population: 19.8K residents
- Crime Rate: 18.8 per 1,000 residents
Harwich is most well known for its cranberry bogs and the annual Harwich Cranberry Festival. This town is fourth on our list with a crime percentage of 1.91%.
- Population: 12.2K residents
- Crime Rate: 19.1 per 1,000 residents
One of the most diverse towns on the Cape, Mashpee starts the list with a crime percentage of 1.99%.
- Population: 14.1K residents
- Crime Rate: 19.9 per 1,000 residents
Traditional Cape Cod architecture
If you’ve visited Cape Cod before, you no doubt remember the unique style of Cape Cod architecture. Homes in the peninsula are often reminiscent of traditional New England homes constructed around the early 20th century.
You can buy a house with a history in Cape Cod. Some homes in the area are up to 200 years old, and while they involve a little more maintenance and a few more inspections, they often have a lot of character.
Two main styles of homes you’ll find in Cape Cod are Cape cottages and Cape ranches. Cape cottages evolved from the simple cottages that the earliest settlers learned to build.
Cape ranches, on the other hand, date back only to the 1960s. Cape ranches are single-story homes with lower-sloping roofs than Cape cottages. Cape ranches are usually more affordable, as they have less attic space. You’ll also find homes built in a Georgian or federal style around the Cape.
Enjoying Life in the Cape
Living in Cape Cod is the perfect experience if you want to fill your free time with fun and adventure and escape the fast-paced and crowded city life. The peninsula offers plenty of activities and opportunities to keep local residents entertained and active year-round.
Cape Cod has many beautiful and pristine landscapes, so it’s an ideal location if you like to explore off the beaten track.
The weather is relatively warm for much of the year—well, warm by New England standards. This means you can spend more days outdoors, taking in the scenery.
There are hikes to be taken, and bike trails to cycle. If you’re feeling adventurous, go for a swim. While Atlantic cod aren’t as plentiful as they used to be on Cape Cod, there is still a variety of fish to catch. Buy or rent fishing gear and enjoy a peaceful afternoon out on the water. Kayaking opportunities abound, and kayak rental companies are spread out all over the Cape.
Sailing and boat trips are also available around the Cape, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot the occasional whale.
Hit the beach
Beach days are the perfect way to relax, soak up the sun, and enjoy the water. And in Cape Cod, every day can be a beach day. There are so many beaches in Cape Cod that no matter where you’re based, you’ll never be too far from a gorgeous stretch of sand with lapping waves.
Because the Cape is such a popular tourist destination, you’ll be able to find a variety of seaside activities, especially during peak season. So whether you’re hoping to relax or adventure by the sea, Cape Cod is the place for you.
Clubs and classes
With its rich history and the diversity of the nearby cities sparking creativity, Cape Cod is a culturally diverse area. There are choirs, art classes, art history classes, and library clubs where you can gather with other locals to socialize and show off your creativity.
If you’re not into the arts, there’s still plenty to do. Try an astronomical society, a hiking club, volunteer opportunities, and classes teaching all sorts of skills.
Cape Cod: The Perfect Place to Live
Living in Cape Cod is a dream that can be made a reality. The laid-back lifestyle, sweeping beaches, and lush landscapes make the Cape a paradise to live in.
Living in Cape Cod gives you the best of both worlds. During the colder months, you get the Cape’s beauty all to yourself.
One of the most magical times in Cape Cod is in September. All of the tourists have gone back to work or school, and you can enjoy everything the Cape has to offer without the crowds. Residents take to the local restaurants, walk the now-quiet beaches, and remember why they chose to live in Cape Cod in the first place.
And, of course, during the summers, you get to soak up the sun and waves and enjoy the vacation-worthy vibe of the Cape.