What Is the Difference Between Cape Cod and Nantucket?

Are you planning a trip to Massachusetts and wondering what the difference is between Cape Cod and Nantucket? While both destinations are popular vacation spots, they offer distinct experiences for visitors. Let’s take a closer look.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod is a peninsula located in eastern Massachusetts. It’s known for its beautiful beaches, quaint towns, and historic landmarks.

The Cape is divided into four regions: Upper Cape, Mid-Cape, Lower Cape, and Outer Cape. Each region has its own unique charm.

Upper Cape

The Upper Cape includes the towns of Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, and Mashpee. This region is known for its beaches and outdoor activities like hiking and biking on the Shining Sea Bikeway.


The Mid-Cape includes the towns of Barnstable, Yarmouth, and Dennis. This region has a mix of historic sites like the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum and family-friendly attractions like the Cape Cod Inflatable Park.

Lower Cape

The Lower Cape includes the towns of Brewster, Harwich, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, and Truro. This region is known for its natural beauty with beaches like Nauset Beach and hiking trails in Nickerson State Park.

Outer Cape

The Outer Cape includes the towns of Provincetown and Truro. This region is famous for its artistic community with galleries and studios lining Commercial Street in Provincetown.

  • Fun Fact: The Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown before settling in Plymouth.


Nantucket is a small island located off the coast of Cape Cod. It’s known for its charming cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and beautiful beaches.

  • Fun Fact: Nantucket was once the whaling capital of the world.

The island is divided into three regions: Nantucket Town, Mid-Island, and Siasconset. Each region offers a different experience for visitors.

Nantucket Town

Nantucket Town is the main hub of the island with boutique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Visitors can take a walking tour to learn about the town’s history or visit the Whaling Museum to learn about Nantucket’s whaling past.


The Mid-Island region includes neighborhoods like Surfside and Tom Nevers. This area has some of the island’s best beaches like Surfside Beach and Cisco Beach.


Siasconset (or ‘Sconset) is a small village on the eastern part of the island. It’s known for its charming rose-covered cottages and quiet beaches like Sankaty Head Beach.

  • Fun Fact: The Sankaty Head Lighthouse in ‘Sconset is one of the oldest lighthouses in America.

The Differences Between Cape Cod and Nantucket

While both Cape Cod and Nantucket offer beautiful beaches and historic charm, there are some notable differences between these two destinations:

  • Size: Cape Cod is much larger than Nantucket with more towns to explore.
  • Accessibility: Cape Cod is easily accessible by car, while Nantucket requires a ferry ride.
  • Culture: Cape Cod has a more laid-back vibe with a mix of families and retirees, while Nantucket is known for its upscale atmosphere and affluent visitors.
  • Activities: While both destinations offer outdoor activities like hiking and beach-going, Cape Cod also has attractions like mini golf courses and water parks, while Nantucket has more high-end shopping and dining options.

Ultimately, the choice between Cape Cod and Nantucket comes down to personal preference. Both destinations offer beautiful scenery and plenty of things to do. Whether you’re looking for a quiet beach getaway or a family-friendly vacation spot, you can’t go wrong with either choice.

Photo of author

Lindsay Collins