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Barnstable, Cape Cod

The town of Barnstable—the Cape’s largest—comprises 60 square miles. Bordered by Cape Cod Bay on the north and Nantucket Sound on the south, Barnstable has seven charming villages, each with its own distinct persona.

Hyannis is Barnstable’s largest village, and the commercial and transportation hub of Cape Cod—welcoming planes, trains, buses and ferries to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Both the Cape Cod Gateway Airport and the Hyannis Transportation Center can be found here. From the inspiring JFK Memorial to the lively waterfront on Lewis Bay, Hyannis is the official “hub” the Cape. The strollable Hyannis Main Street is a thriving downtown area lined with shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes, nightspots, ice cream parlors and entertainment venues. Visitors will invariably find themselves reading menus in Hyannis eatery windows; downtown dining includes everything from Italian and Brazilian to Thai and French. There’s plenty of fresh seafood too, taken from boats in the harbor right to your table. Just steps from Main Street is a maritime museum and a tent theater attracting world-class entertainment in season.

Hyannisport is renowned as the summer home of President John F. Kennedy and his family. Many visitors, drawn by the Kennedy mystique or seeking to pay homage to a global icon, are drawn to this tiny, seaside enclave. The Kennedy family’s longstanding connection to this area of the Cape can be explored at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main Street, along a walking legacy trail, and aboard sightseeing boat tours that cruise right by the compound. Also in Hyannis is The Zion Union Heritage Museum, which celebrates the contributions that area African Americans and Cape Verdeans have made to Cape Cod, including their role in the local whaling and cranberry industries, arts and sciences, and the civil rights movement.

Along the two main thoroughfares in Hyannis - Routes 132 and 28 - retail shops abound, from clothing and furniture outlets to Cape Cod Mall, which houses many name-brand stores.

While Hyannis may be the most well-known of Barnstable’s seven villages, the other six define the quintessential essence of Cape Cod life - their shady byways, beach roses, stalwart scrub pines and weathered shingles taken almost for granted by those who see them daily.

Along Barnstable’s southerly coast are the villages of Cotuit, Osterville and Centerville – with handsome homes and beautiful Nantucket Sound beaches. To the north are Marstons Mills, West Barnstable and Barnstable Village, bucolic spots that are reminiscent of horse-and-buggy days.

Cotuit is the smallest village and surrounded by water on three sides. Once considered the “Oyster Capital of the World” and still known for its delicious Cotuit oysters, the village comprises stately homes, historic architecture and two of the region’s cultural attractions – the Cotuit Center for the Arts and Cahoon Museum. Osterville’s charming Main Street houses upscale shops, boutiques, galleries and eateries, and the surrounding area boasts lavish homes, gated communities and two private country clubs. 

Centerville is a quiet residential community whose claim to fame is Craigville Beach, a Nantucket Sound beach with warm waters and soft sands. Its quaint Main Street includes a general store, a museum, steepled churches and an ice cream parlor dating back to 1934. Marstons Mills is another largely residential community, whose scenic features includes cranberry bogs, lakes and kettle ponds. It has a charming village center and is home to Cape Cod’s only grass airport, the circa 1929 Cape Cod Airfield, where bi-plane rides are offered.

Prim Barnstable Village—replete with its pristine antique homes, bed & breakfasts, chic eateries, galleries, antique shops, beautiful bay beaches and whale watch boats—sits astride Route 6A, the Old King's Highway. Its stately courthouse presides over the picturesque village. Whale watches depart from the scenic harbor and offer sensational sightseeing voyages of the Cape’s bayside coast en route.

West Barnstable is famous for one of Cape Cod’s most dramatic and beautiful barrier beaches—eight-mile long Sandy Neck Beach on Cape Cod Bay. The beach and its dunes protect the 8,000-acre Great Marsh, a great place to canoe at high tide and there espy the beautiful Blue Heron which feed on the Marsh’s indigenous life. The old village store and the fully restored 1717 Meetinghouse, home of the one of the founding church congregations in the country – West Parish of Barnstable – remain central features of the quaint West Barnstable village, where you can also find Cape Cod Community College, a two-year community college that was established in 1961.

Barnstable has two state-designated cultural districts—thriving clusters of galleries, artisans, museums and performance spaces. The Barnstable Village Cultural District encompasses artists’ studios, a Coast Guard Heritage Museum, a third-generation blacksmith, a monument to women’s rights pioneer Mercy Otis Warren, and Sturgis Public Library, the oldest building housing a public library in the US.

Hyannis Village boasts the town’s other designated Cultural District, known as Hyannis HyArts. Public art dots the HyArts landscape, with local artists commissioned each year for new initiatives. The HyArts Campus comprises galleries, art studios and the Guyer Barn, a community space for showcasing the works of new and established artists, performances by theater groups, and just about anything else creative-minded. Within a short walking distance is the Hyannis waterfront, where each spring welcomes the arrival of Artist Shanties—brightly colored sheds from which independent artists sell their custom wares to passersby.

When it comes to recreation, Barnstable has over 100 miles of beautiful beaches, including tourist hotspot Craigville Beach, Sandy Neck Beach with its nationally renowned hiking trails, and Kalmus Beach, a mecca for windsurfers. It is home to three public golf courses, two of which are town-owned. The town’s Hyannis Youth & Community Center is Barnstable’s recreational hub. This 105,000 square foot, full-service community center offers twin NHL regulation rinks, a 12,500 square foot gymnasium and an expansive youth center with a café, computer lab and function rooms. It has played host to the international 2nd Nations Cup (the first of its kind to take place in the US) and US Figure Skating Theatre on Ice Nationals, which brought thousands of skaters from all over the world.

Find more information on Barnstable through the Greater Hyannis Chamber of Commerce.