Cape Cod has a year-round population of 216,000 that swells to a million and a half in the summer. Year-round residents experience a very different Cape Cod than summer visitors.
Author Christopher Setterlund is a 12th generation Cape Codder whose ninth great-grandfather, Deacon John Doane, helped establish the town of Eastham. Setterlund, an avid veteran of Cape Cod road races, boasts a lean runner’s build, and he loves being here all year long. “The best part has to be getting to enjoy the scenery of Cape Cod through all of the seasons,” he says. “Those who come only in summer get to see some amazing sights but watching the flowers bloom in spring or the leaves change color in the fall is spectacular.”
Jim Gould is another full-time resident and there is no debate regarding the best time of year for him. “Everyone’s favorite season is fall’s Indian Summer, a long stretch of warm weather from September, October until Thanksgiving [the fourth Thursday in November],” he says. “The leaves turn into a glorious display of scarlet, orange and gold. There’s little rain and lots of blue sky. The cranberry harvest produces great pools of bright, red berries. Most of the summer crowd has gone home. The roads open up. The beaches are free. It’s a great time to visit the grand sea captains’ homes and the fascinating museums of Cape history.”
But there is also a downside to living in a place with a year-round population of 216,000 that booms in summer. “The worst part of living here year-round,” says Christopher, “might be the fact that so many businesses are seasonal and cater to tourists, so when they leave, the businesses close. We tend to get the shaft a bit as far as that goes.”
Certainly, no one will be lonely here in July and August. “I suppose it is possible to get a bit claustrophobic during the heights of summer when it seems as though every inch of the Cape is filled,” he says. “I use that as an opportunity to go deeper and try to find that unoccupied space. You know that tourists like it here and are not going to stop coming, so you sort of have to adapt. There is no real solution, another bridge at the Cape Cod canal won’t change anything. Since the Cape is a finite space, you would almost have to add land to accommodate everyone and that is not possible.”
Jason, chief of natural resources management and science at Cape Cod National Seashore, has a thing for spring. “Spring is when the trees and flowers begin to bud, the temperatures are starting to warm and favorite restaurants emerge from their winter dormancy,” he says. “It is also a good time to see North Atlantic right whales that begin surfacing off some of the national seashore’s beaches, such as those at Herring Cove and Race Point.
“You can go for a very quiet, isolated walk on the beach without battling a nor’easter. Yet you can still feel winter’s energy in the thundering waves crashing against the backshore. It can be truly awesome.”
Earn a commission on every booking you make – money you can use to fund your next trip. Learn more!