Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket: An Explorer's Guide, Fourth Edition (Explorer's Guides)
by Kim Grant
  Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket can present a bewildering array of vacation options to visitors and locals alike. In this completely revised and updated fifth edition of the most comprehensive guide to the region, Kim Grant helps travelers cut through the clutter to find lodging, dining, and attractions to suit every taste and budget. She guides readers to nature preserves and bird sanctuaries; bicycle trails and beach paths; historic homes and lighthouses; whale-watching, sailing, and shell-fishing; antiques shops and local artisans; and summer theater, live music, and nightlife. Grant recommends lodgings ranging from family-friendly cottage rentals, to B&Bs, to luxury resorts, and dining options from clam shacks to four-star cuisine. More information and prices from:
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Fodor's Cape Cod: The Guide for All Budgets, Completely Updated, With Many Maps and Travel Tips (Fodor's Cape Cod)
  No matter what your budget or whether it's your first trip or fifteenth, Fodor's Gold Guides get you where you want to go. In this completely up-to-date guide our experts who live in Cape Cod give you the inside track, showing you all the things to see and do -- from must-see sights to off-the-beaten-path adventures, from shopping to outdoor fun. Fodor's Cape Cod shows you hundreds of hotel and restaurant choices in all price ranges -- from budget-friendly B&Bs to luxury hotels, from casual eateries to the hottest new restaurants, complete with thorough reviews showing what makes each place special.. More information and prices from:
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Islands of New England

History

On March 26 1602, Bartholomew Gosnold and his crew of 32 set sail from Falmouth, Cornwall in a "small Bark of Falmouth", the Concord. They arrived off Cape Cod on the 14th of May. According to Admont G. Clark in Sea Stories of Cape Cod and the Islands:-

'At their first anchorage they "took great store of codfish for which we altered the name (of Shoal Hope), and called it Cape Cod." Finding their way down the outer Cape, they entered Nantucket Sound and anchored off an island (which they called Martha's Vineyard). Ashore they were delighted to find:

Strawberries, red and white ... much bigger than ours; rasberries, gooseberries, whortleberries, and such an incredible store of vines ...; also many excellent springs of sweet water, and a great standing lake of fresh water. Here are also in this Island, great store of deer ...'

Gosnold's party did not settle on the islands but returned to Britain with a heavy load of wood and traded goods. When settlers did arrive they brought European diseases such as smallpox and diphtheria that soon decimated the native population. However, Aquinnah (Gay Head) is still partially populated by the Wampanoag who now have tribal recognition from the Federal government. Theirs is the main community remaining compared to a population estimated at around 4,000 in the islands in 1600.

The following description in Catherine Fallin and Elizabeth Talbot's book Martha's Vineyard: Gardens and Houses shows that the island remains fruitful:

'Most people think of Martha's Vineyard as a summer island, and it is wonderful then, with long summer days and warm nights. Sea breezes gently cool the air, fragrant wild shrubs and trees burst into bloom in spring, which might arrive the first of March or not until well into April. The air smells of pine forests, new mown hay, honeysuckle, sweet pepper bush, swamp azaleas and more. Abundant fruit trees, wild berry bushes, beach plums that are native to a very small part of the New England coast, and, of course, wild grapes of a score of varieties - all grow in profusion. Early summer and fall are marked by sparkling clear days. Winter is cold and rainy, and sometimes blizzards and northeasters cover the island in a thick blanket of snow.'

Gosnold's crew also landed on the island of Cuttyhunk (a corruption of the native American Poocutohhunk-konnoh) which was intially re-named Elizabeth Island - later extended to the group, the Elizabeth Islands.

To this day, many of the placenames in the Cape Cod area are of Cornish or West Country derivation (in the US they are all regarded as English - no matter that the Cornish are Celts). But the Elizabeth Islands mainly retain names of native American origin, although none seemed to have had permanent indigenous communities, being used for summer campsites.

The History of Martha's Vineyard, Volume II, by Dr. Charles E. Banks (1911) states that:

'The chain of a dozen islands, large and small, running westward from the mainland of Cape Cod at Woods Hole, between Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound, constitute the Elizabeth Islands, known now as the town of Gosnold, an integral part of the County of Dukes County. These islands, varying in size from a few acres to several thousand, now bear the following names, beginning at Woods Hole and going westward in sequence: Nonamesset, Uncatena, Monohansett, Naushon, Weepecket, Pasque, Nashawena, Penekese, Gull, and Cuttyhunk.'

New England has become famous for its distinctive cooking - a blend of Old and New Worlds - making use of the fresh native ingredients. See New England Cooking.

Nathaniel Philbrick's wonderful Abram's Eyes: The Native American Legacy of Nantucket Island is one of the few books to do justice to the native American inhabitants who had lived in Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard for some 5,000 years. Most local histories and tourist literature is focused on the European settlers and the whaling period. Nantucket, 28 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, is something of an archaeologist's paradise. Arrowheads are often washed from the sand banks and dumps of shells (midden waste) are found in construction sites.

Nathaniel Philbrick states that:

'... Nantucket's present-day reputation does not justly reflect its past. Instead of the birthplace of the Quaker whaleman (who flourished for a mere century or so), Nantucket should be remembered as, in the words of Massachusetts Governor John Winthrop, "an island full of indians." For the vast majority of its history, Nantucket had been home to a people who viewed it not as a sandy launching pad to wealth or relaxation, but as an island of remarkable variety and abundance.'

The indigenous people lived a comparatively healthy life, moving their wigwams to the beaches in summer and the forests in winter. They were not extensive horticulturists like their mainland relatives but they gathered the plentiful wild fruit and maintained small kitchen gardens. They made considerable use of shellfish, ducks and beached pilot whales. Cemetery evidence shows them to have been relatively tall - the men averaging five foot nine and a half inches, the women five foot three.

Unlike Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket no longer has a recognized Wampanoag community.

Exploring Cape Cod and the Islands

Cape Cod is an easy drive from Boston and offers a wide range of attractions. A 2-3 day or longer vacation is well worthwhile. Hyannis is a particularly good base from which to explore the Cape Cod coastline and take ferries to the islands. Hyannis is famous for its association with the Kennedy family. It lies on the southern coast of Cape Cod facing Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. It is an exclusive and busy resort area in mid-summer but good deals are possible, for example with the Radisson Hotel Lowest Web Rate. Look for the the Radisson Hotel Hyannis.

Articles about New England and the islands:

New England Cooking

Radisson Hotel Plymouth introduces new golf partnership

Martha's Vineyard

Elizabeth Islands

Maine Islands - an Island a Day

Nantucket Island

Block Island


Haunted Cape Cod & the Islands
by Mark Jasper
  Crammed with some 42 spine-tingling stories of paranormal activities on the Cape and Islands, this book will put you in touch with things you won't soon forget... even though you may want to! Stories are based on testimony by Cape Codders and Islanders who have sworn that what they say is true, and all have passed the investigative tests of supernatural sleuth, Mark Jasper. The book is filled with chills for the whole family!
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Sea Stories of Cape Cod and the Islands
by Admont G. Clark
  It has been nearly a lifetime since anyone published the sort of stories in this book. So it seems to be time the rich traditions of these waters were re-examined. Here collected are some fifty "sea Stories" - all true, all historic and richly illustrated. Aside from a fair amount of history, we find the first English fort on this continent (1602), mutiny, piracy, bravery, women at sea, clipper ships built on Cape Cod, disasters at sea like that caused by the Great October Gale of 1841 (tiny Truro lost fifty-one fishermen on the grand banks), rum-running, and cannibalism.
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The Enduring Shore: A History of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket
by Paul Schneider
  Cape Cod's Great Beach, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket are romantic stops on Schneider's roughly chronological human and natural history. His book is a lucid and compelling collage of seaside ecology, Indians and colonists, religion and revolution, shipwrecks and hurricanes, whalers and vengeful sperm whales, glorious clipper ships and today's beautiful but threatened beaches. Schneider's superb eye for story and detail illuminates both history and landscape. A wonderful introduction, it will also appeal to the millions of people who already have warm associations with these magical places
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