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Five star lifestyles seem to come naturally in Cape Cod, one of America most upscale summer resort areas. Hyannis, Provincetown, Martha Vineyard and especially Nantucket ooze New York and Boston wealth, and are not for the thin of wallet or those who hate crowds. (During the high season, highways and the main bridge leading to the Cape can be jammed with some of the 13 million people who flock here every year.)
But there a secret, discovered by Canadians who are well known in the United States for finding value: Plan now to visit Cape Cod and the islands during the shoulder seasons September October or before the Memorial Day weekend in May.
Our May off season exploration, blessed with a full week of wonderful weather, perfect for all activities save dips in the ocean, revealed why this region, rich in history, beauty, the arts and dining is so popular.
Here are our five favourite places to see on Cape Cod:This is hallowed ground. Hyannis and Hyannis Port in the town of Barnstable are where generations of Kennedys played the Camelot of Cape Cod when JFK was president. The family is actually a series of homes on the same public street.
There is a self guided walking tour of Kennedy points of interest, including St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, where respectful visitors can sit in the pew once occupied by John F. Kennedy, the JFK Museum filled with family photos, and the outdoor JFK Memorial overlooking the harbour where the president once sailed. It the same memorial plaza that was covered with flowers in 1999 after John Kennedy Jr. crashed his plane into the Atlantic in another chapter of this family some say, life.
Downtown and the harbour are packed with interesting eateries. The wait to get into the nautical Black Cat Tavern, which serves delicious seafood, is worth it. The outdoor patio, equipped with torch heaters provides comfortable dining a stone throw from the harbour.
But the best view of the marina was enjoyed from the large deck of our second storey suite at the charming Anchor in. Our pretty loft intriguingly included a book on Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and, on a separate shelf, one on Marilyn Monroe, a famous JFK acquaintance.
The charming Provincetown skyline is dominated by the 77 metre tall Pilgrim Monument set on a hilltop overlooking the bustling downtown and harbour filled with whale watching boats and pleasure craft. The tower,
marking the first landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in 1620, was completed in 1910. in about 10 minutes via its 116 steps and 60 ramps.
Provincetown colourful narrow streets bustle with artisan shops and eateries, including the world famous Lobster Pot.
Like many locales in Cape Cod, well behaved dogs are omnipresent. So, no surprise Provincetown boasts the unique Friends of Heart animal lovers boutique offering an extravaganza of arty animal gifts and souvenirs.
The lively town also boasts a 12 month calendar of parades, festivals and concerts and is one of the most liberal and LBGT communities in the world.
Visitors should take full advantage of reasonably priced downtown eateries such as Bear In Boots Gastropub, where smartly attired 8 year old Charlie Rickard helps out with the family business. A few doors down we enjoyed the lively ambience of a packed Stone L Pizza, watching a pizza dough spinning ace toss our soon to be delicious dinner high above his head. Craft beers were also in good supply.
Falmouth was home to Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote America the Beautiful.
Located 50 km offshore, Nantucket reigned as the whaling capital of the world from the mid 1700s to the late 1830s and as such was hugely prosperous. Its seamen were experts in hunting and processing sperm whales, the oil from which powered industrialization until oil was discovered beneath the ground of Pennsylvania.
That wealth translated into construction of huge, gorgeous homes occupied by America elite.
The last whaling ship left harbour in 1869, but not before the fleet had been decimated by the Civil War. As whaling declined, two thirds of the island population left. Yet the pre Civil War homes, streets and commercial buildings still stand. Today, Nantucket has 800 pre Civil War buildings.
Nantucket rose from being a near ghost island, where sheep farming and other endeavours failed, to becoming an artists colony and summer vacation mecca in the post World War years. Today, in high season, its most elegant rooms can rent for $1,000 a night and converted fish shacks on the waterfront sell for $1 million.
As guests in a spacious suite at the elegant, yet cozy, White Elephant Village we leisurely discovered Nantucket on foot. Cars are discouraged and mostly unnecessary as the island charm is easily accessed by bicycle or by taking a van tour hosted by knowledgeable locals.
Sixth generation islander Gail Johnson regaled us with tales of Nantucket and shared a drive by of her family appropriately named Tour End, a sweet spot of land barely housing a tiny cottage rented out from May to October for $15,000.