Curling 65 miles into the Atlantic Ocean from the southeastern corner of Massachusetts, Cape Cod juts out like a flexing arm. It’s an apt geographic metaphor for a summer vacation spot that packs a mighty punch: Within these roughly 1,300 square miles, you’ll find historic fishing villages and whaling ports, lighthouses, hiking and biking trails, boutique-lined main streets, and hundreds of miles of pristine beaches.
The region boasts plenty of unique lodging options, including a newly opened glamping resort with Airstream trailers, but if you truly want to get on Cape Cod’s salty, nautical wavelength, an Airbnb is the best way to live like a local. Sip Cape Codders in the backyard with friends, grill seafood or slurp down oysters, and slow down to the pace of these laid-back coastal communities, where little has changed since the days the Kennedys sought solitude on these sandy shores.
Cape Cod regions and towns
Among Cape Cod’s many towns are quaint Chatham, historic Sandwich, artsy Wellfleet, and the LGBTQ haven of Provincetown (aka P-town) at the Cape’s windswept tip. Here are the main areas to consider when booking an Airbnb or vacation rental in Cape Cod.
The Upper Cape: At only about an hour’s drive from Boston, Cape Cod’s most accessible stretch comprises the towns of Falmouth, Mashpee, Bourne, and historic Sandwich, which dates back to 1639. Less glitzy than some of the more remote destinations farther along the peninsula, the area is home to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, historic museums, and charming fishing hamlets.
The Mid-Cape: Flanked by Cape Cod Bay to the north and Nantucket Sound to the south, the region’s buzzing tourist heart includes Dennis, Yarmouth, and the seven villages of Barnstable—one of which, Hyannis, is often referred to as the Capital of the Cape. The former stomping grounds of the Kennedy clan, this populated and commercial section is also a gateway for sightseeing tour boats and the ferries to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
The Lower Cape: Located on the Cape’s “elbow,” this stretch includes four towns: Brewster, with its grand sea captains’ mansions; artsy Orleans, with its galleries and performing arts venue; the former whaling port of Harwich, from which you can now embark on seal-watching cruises; and charming, pedestrian-friendly Chatham, with its high-end boutiques and plenty of access to nature.
The Outer Cape: Dominated by the 44,000-acre Cape Cod National Seashore and its 40 miles of beaches and lighthouses, the cape’s ruggedly wild tip includes bucolic Truro, which inspired the paintings of Edward Hopper; Eastham, which is crisscrossed with hiking and biking trails; Wellfleet, which boasts its own variety of oysters; and Provincetown, a historic village that dates back to the arrival of the Pilgrims (they came here before Plymouth, 402 years ago) and later emerged as one of the East Coast’s gay-friendliest beach resorts and party destinations.
7 Highly Vetted Airbnbs in Cape Cod
At the time of publishing, these Cape Cod Airbnbs are all operated by Superhosts, who each have an overall rating of 4.80 or higher and all positive reviews from previous guests. Additionally, these vacation rentals are also either Airbnb Plus properties, which are vetted in-person by Airbnb using a 100-point inspection process, or regular Airbnbs that have achieved a cleanliness score of 4.90 or higher. From sprawling five-bedroom homes to cozy beachfront cottages, these seven Airbnbs are the perfect jumping-off point for a beachy summer getaway.
1. Family-friendly, five-bedroom house in Chatham
Sleeps: 12 Highlights: Kid-friendly amenities, access to Oyster Pond Beach Book now: From $1,243 per night, airbnb.com
With five bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, this cedar-shingled house is perfect for entertaining a crowd—and thanks to the available crib, pack ’n’ play, safety gates, and kids’ toys, that crowd can happily include the under-five set. Expect subtly maritime touches like anchor-print cushions and seascape paintings, plus a sunny kitchen with navy-blue cabinetry and glass-fronted storage spaces that would look right at home in a Nancy Meyers rom-com. Tucked away on a quiet side street, the house is a quick stroll from Main Street and its movie theater, restaurants, ice cream shops, and Veterans Field, home to the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League. And you’re mere minutes away from Oyster Pond Beach, a saltwater tidal inlet where the water is calmer, warmer, and shallower than ocean beaches—excellent for young swimmers.
2. Adorable freestanding beach cottage in Provincetown
Sleeps: 2 Highlights: Beach access, affordable rates Book now: From $195 per night, airbnb.com
This compact and cozy one-room beach cottage boasts an only-in-Provincetown design aesthetic that perfectly balances the rustic (cedar shingles, natural wood ceiling) with the glitzy (crystal chandeliers, cherry-red appliances). You’ll particularly love the whimsical bathroom decor, which includes a kraken attack shower curtain and vintage-looking prints of monstrous whales and squid dwarfing tiny ships. The front porch is a dreamy spot on which to sit with your morning coffee and take in the sea breeze. From here, a sandy footpath leads down to the bayside beach, or you’re about a quarter-mile from the Maple Grove Bird Sanctuary, ideal for a restorative walk in the woods after a night out on the town in one (or many) of P-town’s iconically rowdy bars and clubs.
3. Quiet modern home with decks and a fireplace in Provincetown
Sleeps: 4 Highlights: Screened porch, gas fireplace, proximity to historic sites Book now: From $432 per night, airbnb.com
The five framed maritime signal flags on the living room wall set the tone here, and if you don’t speak the language of the seas, we’ll help you crack the code: They spell out P-TOWN! Throughout the classic Cape Cod–style home, you’ll find a patriotic palette of reds, whites, and blues with thoughtful touches like a traditional golden cod above the door and vintage books like Edward Rowe Snow’s A Pilgrim Returns to Cape Cod in case you forgot to pack something to read. In addition to its two bedrooms, there’s a loft with a pull-out double bed, and the gas fireplace is a welcome addition if you book during the brisk off-season. A few minutes walk from bustling Commercial Street, the house is especially well located for history buffs, who will enjoy access to the nearly 253-foot-tall granite Pilgrim Monument, the Provincetown Museum, and the Provincetown Cemetery, where author Norman Mailer and painter Robert Motherwell are buried.
4. Immaculate new-build in Wellfleet
Sleeps: 9Highlights: Baby-friendly amenities, beach accessBook now: From $779 per night, airbnb.com
New parents hoping to book a getaway without having to pack up the entire nursery will love this family-friendly, four-bedroom home, which comes equipped with everything you need for baby’s first vacation: a high chair, a changing table, a crib, safety gates, outlet covers, children’s dinnerware, and more. Older kids will feel right at home in their own room, which features a daybed with whale-print linens and a shelf of children’s books, plus a sprawling backyard ripe for exploring; parents can keep watch from the raised deck as they grill or lounge on the Adirondack chairs. Nearby, you’ll have access to Marconi Beach, a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore known for its towering coastal bluffs; the stretch of sand gets its name from Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who used the elevated landscape as the site of the first transatlantic wireless communication between the United States and England in 1903. Rent a bike in town to take advantage of the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a 25.5-mile route that runs along a disused rail line.
5. Farmhouse-style haven with vaulted ceilings in Chatham
Sleeps: 8 Highlights: Private suite, spacious backyard with barbecue Book now: From $639 per night, airbnb.com
This farmhouse-inspired cottage in Chatham features exposed timber beams and abundant seafaring design elements, including model sailboats, porthole-like mirrors, a sperm whale carving on the living room wall, and a chair upholstered with sea fan coral print fabric. Cozy up on the deep-set leather sectional around the fireplace, plan a backyard barbecue, or head to the nearby Hardings and Ridgevale Beaches on Nantucket Sound. Among the property’s four bedrooms is a ground-floor suite with its own entrance, which affords an added touch of privacy if you need a break from a larger group. And the listing’s comments section is filled with tales of owner Bill living up to his title of “superhost,” dropping everything to deliver a new propane tank for the grill or offer area recommendations.
6. Three-bedroom home near the Cape Cod National Seashore in Eastham
Sleeps: 6 Highlights: Bike trail access, bocce court Book now: From $345 per night, airbnb.com
There’s an elegant simplicity to this three-bedroom house, which foregos beach-town clichés in favor of an elegant black and white design scheme—with the occasional framed starfish or seashell lamp thrown in for good measure. In addition to all the necessary baby amenities (including a crib and high chair), there’s a playfully decorated bedroom with two single beds that’s ideal for bunking older siblings. You’ll spend much of your time in the backyard, with its bocce court, barbecue grill, and an outdoor shower that’s great for rinsing off after a swim on one of the nearby beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore. The house sits adjacent to the paved Cape Cod Rail Trail, and you’re about a 10-minute ride away from Eastham’s trio of historic lighthouses known as the Three Sisters of Nauset.
7. Rustic writer’s cabin in the woods in Wellfleet
Sleeps: 2Highlights: Book collection, forest setting, wood stoveBook now: From $154 per night, airbnb.com
There’s something magical about this tiny home, hidden away in the woods outside of Wellfleet, with its colorful quilts, stained glass, wood-burning stove, and shelf lined with hundreds of books. Owners Susannah and Russell are, respectively, a writer for the arts section of the local newspaper and a carpenter who’s been building Cape Cod–style homes for more than three decades, and they’ve crafted a relaxing retreat that’s surrounded on all sides by nature. Wellfleet’s beaches, ponds, trails, and shops are all easily accessible, but once you walk the wooded path and climb the stairs to this cozy cabin, you may be more inclined to spend your time in quiet contemplation in the reading nook, at the writing desk, or surrounded by birdsong on the porch. Bonus: You’ll wake up to a batch of freshly baked muffins on your doorstep.
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Nicholas DeRenzo Nicholas DeRenzo is a freelance travel and culture writer based in Brooklyn. A graduate of NYU’s Cultural Reporting and Criticism program, he worked as an editor at Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and, most recently, as executive editor at Hemispheres, the in-flight magazine of United Airlines. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, New York, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Sunset, Wine Enthusiast, and more.