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The Best Time to Visit Cape Cod (Including a Local Secret)

Cape Cod, a beautiful cape located southeast of Boston in Massachusetts, is gorgeous year-round. However, as is the case for the rest of New England, beach weather is limited to a few short months, as are some of the best things to do.

If you are hoping to visit Cape Cod, you’ll want to make sure you visit for the best time possible for your vacation. If your Cape Cod dreams include eating lobster rolls and ice cream by the water, there are better times than others to visit.

While Cape Cod sometimes has slightly milder weather than Boston and other inland Massachusetts destinations, winter is still typically cold. Expect to find the average temperature ranging from in the high 70s in the summer months, with January usually the coldest of the winter months with an average in the 30s.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and a purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. We’ve received complimentary/discounted admission at some Cape Cod resorts but all opinions are my own.

Long wooden boardwalk over a marshes

The Best Time to Visit Cape Cod

Many of the most popular things to do in Cape Cod, from waterfront restaurants to family attractions, keep a seasonal opening schedule. So, even if you don’t want to visit the beach, you’ll want to check with the places you plan to visit to see when they are open. The typical season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but many restaurants, shops, and attractions are open for a longer season.

Cape Cod beaches are technically open year-round, but the weather is generally only good from June through September. They usually start charging on Memorial Day Weekend, and dogs are no longer permitted during these peak months. Many guests visit Cape Cod for outdoor activities – including things like the Cape Cod Rail Trail, the Cape Cod National Seashore, and Nickerson State Park.

If you are looking to visit Cape Cod for whale watching, that season runs longer than beach season. Whale-watching cruises can be offered from April to October. Fishing charters may also start in April, and miniature golf also starts opening in April. The bike trails are available all season, and it can be an ideal time to go on a bike ride in the spring or autumn months.

Entrance to snow covered beach

Massachusetts School Vacation

While Cape Cod does get visitors from all over, many tourists are from the local area. So, it’s important to know when school is in session in MA. Because families comprise many of the visitors, school vacation weeks and summer vacation are especially busy.

Most public schools in MA have a spring break in April, starting with the Monday Patriot’s Day holiday (also when the Boston marathon is held). School lets out for the summer in mid to late June, depending on the number of snow day makeups, and kids return to school the week before or the week after Labor Day.

Blue hydrangeas

Peak Months for Cape Cod Travel

Due to a combination of school vacation weeks and the warmest weather of the year, July and August are definitely the peak months for Cape Cod travel. If you want to experience the best beach weather and have every single restaurant and attraction open for their full schedule, this is the perfect time of year to visit.

However, keep in mind that this will also be the most crowded and expensive time to visit, although it’s crowded for a good reason. Availability for hotels and vacation homes will be limited, and restaurants will have longer wait times. If you are driving, the traffic leading into the Cape will likely be backed up, and the parking lots for the best beaches often fill up.

Tourists planning to visit during these peak months should consider making reservations in advance where possible. Arrive at the beaches and other attractions early. If you are dining at a restaurant that is first come, first served, try to eat at off-peak hours when lines will be shorter.

While the weather is usually nice in these months, it’s always possible to have a rainy day. Look at the extended forecast in advance, and plan accordingly. There are also some great rainy-day activities on Cape Cod to take advantage of. These are the hottest months, so be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and umbrellas for the beach.

Driving to Cape Cod during the high season usually means sitting in some traffic. There are two bridges leading to the Cape – the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge. These often lead to bottlenecks, so it’s best to drive at an off-peak time.

Shoulder Season on Cape Cod

Shoulder season is the time between the end of the off-season and the beginning of the peak season (and then the inverse, when the peak season is over). It can be a great time to travel because you’ll be able to avoid the crowds and most expensive rates, but many of the shops, restaurants, and attractions will still be open. It is important to note, however, that it may not be hot enough for a beach day.

In Cape Cod, the shoulder season runs from April to early June, and then again from September through October. In these months you may not find everything 100% open – many places start and end their seasons with limited, weekend-only hours. But, there are much lighter crowds making it a great opportunity to check out some of the best places, including some of the most popular, busy restaurants.

The fall season starts in late September, but fall foliage is best in October. There are fewer people in the fall, and the changing leaves aren’t as much of an attraction in Cape Cod as they are in other parts of New England.

Holiday Season on Cape Cod

There are some fun, seasonal activities that take place during the holiday season on Cape Cod. The Cape Cod Central Railroad hosts the Polar Express, a popular train ride for families with younger kids. Other activities include First Night Chatham, First Night Provincetown, and holiday shopping at many of the popular shopping areas on Cape Cod.

You can also take a ferry over to the island of Nantucket in early December for the annual Christmas Stroll. This charming event includes caroling, Santa’s arrival via boat, decorated trees, and so much more.

Boat dock leading to small inlet

The Ultimate Best Time To Visit Cape Cod

While peak season is the optimal time to visit if you want to experience the hottest weather and fully operational activities and restaurants, it’s definitely a crowded and more expensive time. That’s why I recommend visiting at two different times.

Late May to early June is a great option. Most of the restaurants will be open, and the weather starts to get nice and warm. You should be able to save money on lodging during this time.

However, the local secret is Cape Cod in September. Known as local’s summer, this time is when all of the crowds retreat. The water temperatures are still warm in September, and many (but not all) restaurants and activities are open. Even in late September, I’ve experienced some really warm weather.

Recommended Hotels for a Cape Cod Vacation

Planning a Cape Cod vacation? Throughout the small towns of the Cape, you’ll find so many different lodging options – from roadside motels to luxury resorts to vacation home rentals. Here are some of the most popular hotel options for families on Cape Cod.

Looking for more Cape Cod travel tips? Click to see our guide with town recommendations, things to do, restaurants, and more in Cape Cod.

Blue hydrangeas

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