Three of Boston’s most popular summer vacation destinations are Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.
Their popularity and proximity mean it can often be difficult to get to any of them, so it’s wise to have a backup plan on how to get there.
Here are the best ways to travel from Boston to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.
Driving from Boston to Cape Cod
I’m gonna be upfront with you – if you’re just going to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket for the weekend, be ready to spend a lot of that time in your car due to absolutely insane traffic.
Yep, even if your employer gives you Summer Fridays, you’ll inevitably hit traffic when driving to Cape Cod from Boston.
Aside from the nasty traffic, the directions for driving from Boston to Cape Cod are simple: take Route 3 South.
Once you cross the Sagamore Bridge into Cape Cod, continue to your Cape Cod destination.
But yes, once you cross the Sagamore Bridge, the traffic will continue all the way to Provincetown.
Now let’s look at a few other ways to get from Boston to Cape Cod, many of which will help you avoid the nasty South Shore traffic.
Take the Cape Flyer from Boston to Cape Cod
The CapeFLYER is a train from Boston to Cape Cod. It departs from South Station in Boston and makes several South Shore stops before continuing on to Cape Cod.
The CapeFLYER is a seasonal service that runs from late May to early September in 2018.
Train stations for the CapeFLYER include Boston South Station, Braintree, Brockton, Middleborough/Lakeville, Wareham Village, Buzzards Bay, and Hyannis.
If your destination in Cape Cod is Falmouth, get off at Buzzards Bay, just before the train crosses into Cape proper. From Buzzards Bay, take the local Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority bus to Falmouth.
After Buzzards Bay is the last stop, Hyannis. Hyannis itself is a popular Cape Cod vacation town, but it’s also a transit hub for getting to other areas of Cape Cod or on to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
If you are taking the train from Boston to Hyannis, a round trip ticket for an adult costs $40. For Boston to Buzzards Bay, the cost is $35.
If leaving from one of the South shore stops, the round trip cost is less.
Tickets can be purchased at South Station in Boston or via the MBTA mobile app. You can also pay onboard using cash.
Boston to Cape Cod bus service
There are several options for taking a bus to Cape Cod from Boston. Boston bus stops include Boston Logan Airport, Boston South Station, and Boston Park Square (nearby Copley Square).
Plymouth & Brockton bus provides service from Boston to Hyannis, and Hyannis to Provincetown.
The schedules are set up so that if you want to take the bus from Boston to Provincetown, you can simply transfer buses in Hyannis. The wait time between the 2 schedules is 15 minutes.
The Boston to Hyannis bus makes 3 stops in Cape Cod in the following order: Sagamore, Barnstable, and Hyannis.
The Hyannis to Provincetown bus makes 9 stops in the following order: Harwich, Orleans, Eastham, North Eastham, South Wellfleet, Wellfleet, Truro, North Truro, and Provincetown.
Peter Pan bus
Peter Pan bus provides service from Boston to Cape Cod, as well. Service is available to the following areas: Barnstable, Barnstable Airport in Hyannis, Buzzards Bay, Falmouth, Hyannis, and Woods Hole.
If your destination is Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, the stops to look into are Barnstable Airport, Hyannis and Woods Hole.
The Barnstable Airport stop is key for those that will be connecting to the islands via air shuttle (see below section on Flying for more info).
The Hyannis stop is roughly .5 mile walking distance (or a cheap Lyft ride if you have too much luggage to schlep).
The Woods Hole stop is at the Woods Hole ferry terminal, so unless the ferry schedule from Hyannis is more convenient for you, the Woods Hole stop is overall more convenient.
Boston to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket via ferry
Ferry service is available from Boston to Provincetown in Cape Cod.
There are several departing port options for getting from Cape Cod to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, but you’ll have to decide how to get to those ports first, as there aren’t any direct ferry options from Boston to the islands.
Provincetown ferry options
The best way to get from Boston to Provincetown is via ferry. There are 2 companies that operate a Boston to Provincetown ferry: Boston Harbor Cruises and Bay State Cruise Company.
Bay State Cruise Company offers 2 ferry options, regular and high-speed, from mid-May to early October.
The high-speed ferry takes 90 minutes and costs $89-95 round trip for an adult. The regular ferry takes 3 hours and costs $60 round trip for an adult.
Boston Harbor Cruises ferry departs from Boston’s Long Wharf, next to the New England Aquarium, and operates from around mid-May to early October.
Trips take about 90 minutes one way. 2018 rates are $93 for an adult round trip ticket. A 10 ride pass is available for $400, which is $210 savings.
If you’ll be visiting Provincetown often, there is also a VIP pass available for $1100, which provides unlimited ferry rides for 2 adults.
The VIP pass also gets you $4 off the standard fare for 1 guest traveling with you. VIP pass holders can also bring their bike on the ferry (normally $16 round trip).
Martha’s Vineyard ferry options
To get to Martha’s Vineyard, the most economical way is via ferry.
There are 4 ports in Massachusetts from which you can get to Martha’s Vineyard: New Bedford, Falmouth, Wood’s Hole, and Hyannis.
The last 3 are the most convenient if you’re coming from Boston. To decide which departing port is best, know your destination on Martha’s Vineyard, as the ferries don’t all go to the same arrival port on the island.
Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard
For ferry service to Edgartown, the departing port is Falmouth. Service is provided by Island Queen Ferry and runs from late May to mid-October.
In 2018, a round-trip adult far is $22. There is an extra charge if you want to bring a bike, kayak, or paddleboard with you.
While there are several departure times each day, tickets are not for a specific departure time, so it is best to show up about 45 minutes before the departure time you want.
Oaks Bluff, Martha’s Vineyard
As the most popular of vacation towns in Martha’s Vineyard, there are several departure ports that provide service to Oaks Bluff: Woods Hole, Hyannis, and Nantucket.
The Steamship Authority provides year-round service from Woods Hole to Oaks Bluff.
In 2018, a round trip ticket costs $17 for adults, with an extra cost for large items like bikes and surfboards.
The ferry has limited space for motor vehicles, so you have to reserve space ahead of time if you intend to take your car with you.
Price for vehicles varies depending on the time of the year, as well as the size of the vehicle, so it’s best to check the Steamship Authority website for exact pricing.
Hy-Line Cruises provides several daily departures from Hyannis to Oaks Bluff from early May through late October.
The route takes about 1 hour. In 2018, an adult round trip ticket is $59, with an extra charge for bicycles.
The Island Queen Ferry provides ferry service from Falmouth to Oaks Bluff from late May to mid-October.
A round trip adult ticket is $22 with an extra charge for bicycles. The trip takes about 35 minutes.
Vineyard Haven, Martha’s Vineyard
The Steamship Authority provides year-round ferry service from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven.
In 2018, a round trip ticket for adults is $17 and the trip takes about 45 minutes.
As with their service to Oaks Bluff, there is an extra charge for large items and reservations are required for vehicles due to limited space.
Nantucket ferry options
There are three options for catching a ferry to Nantucket: New Bedford, Hyannis, and Harwich. The last two ports are most convenient when coming from Boston.
Hyannis to Nantucket ferry
The Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises both run service from Hyannis to Nantucket.
The Steamship Authority provides 2 year-round ferry options on their schedule: high-speed and regular. Both options have limited space for vehicles, so reservations are required.
The high-speed ferry gets you from Hyannis to Nantucket in 1 hour. In 2018, a round trip ticket for an adult costs $69, with an extra charge for large items like bikes and trailers.
The regular ferry takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes. In 2018, a round trip ticket for an adult costs $37.
Hy-Line Cruises also provides year-round high-speed service from Hyannis to Nantucket.
In 2018, a round trip ticket for an adult costs $41. They do not have space for vehicles, so if you intend to take your car, The Steamship Authority is your only option.
Harwich to Nantucket
Freedom Cruise Line provides seasonal service from late May to late September from Harwich to Nantucket.
In 2018, a round trip ticket is $76 for an adult, with an extra charge for bikes.
Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Inter-island Ferry
From late May to early October, Hy-Line Cruises runs ferry service between Oaks Bluff in Martha’s Vineyard and downtown Nantucket.
In 2018, a round trip ticket is $65 for adults. There are several departures per day and the trip takes about 1 hour.
Flying to Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket
Flying is a super convenient time-saving option for getting from Boston to Cape Cod. It’s certainly not the cheapest option, but a short flight certainly beats sitting in a traffic jam.
Cape Air runs flights from Boston to Provincetown, Hyannis, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.
In the Summer months, Cape Air partners with JetBlue to provide connecting service from outside Boston.
If your destination is Nantucket, Nantucket Airlines provides air shuttle service between Hyannis to Nantucket.
Nantucket Airlines partners with United, American Airlines, and JetBlue to provide connecting service from outside the area.
If you’re starting from Boston, you’ll either have to get to Barnstable Airport in Hyannis or stick with Cape Air for flights from Boston’s Logan Airport.
Lastly, if you’re really rolling in the dough, you can connect with BLADE to charter a flight from Boston to the Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket.
There’s also the option to hop on board one of BLADE’s regular flights from Boston to Nantucket.
What’s the best way to get from Boston to Cape Cod?
My opinion is that the ferry and train are the best ways to get from Boston to Cape Cod, Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.
With either of these options, you’ll avoid the crazy South Shore traffic, thereby maximizing your vacation time and keeping stress levels low.
Flying is also a decent option, but not as affordable if you’re originating from Boston.