"Barnstable" Barnstable by tayloretc
Barnstable Travel Guide: 10 reviews and 51 photos
Barnstable is a county, a town, and a village. The county of Barnstable comprises all of Cape Cod. The town of Barnstable comprises seven villages scattered between Barnstable Bay and Nantucket Sound: Hyannis, Centerville, Osterville, Cotuit, Marstens Mills, Barnstable, and West Barnstable. I have had the good fortune to spend a few months living in Barnstable village during the fall and winter, end-of-season enough to miss the people who summer on the Cape, and early enough to miss the winter storms. Update: I’ve been here through the winter, too, and the storms can be impressive.
Barnstable village is located on the bicep of the Cape. It was first settled in 1636 – one of the earliest settlements in the United States – incorporated a few years later, and became home to wealthy ship captains and business owners in the 1800s. It later became a tourist destination, and a place of summer homes, which it still is. Recently there has been an influx of new families renovating the old places, and these days it’s mostly quiet, pretty, and well-tended.
Main street is about a mile of 6A, the old King’s Highway carriage route branching off of 6 just over the Sagamore Bridge and running a twisting single-lane halfway to Provincetown. There are lots of original 17th century buildings still standing and zoning restrictions that ensure that new buildings conform to the look. Many of the old buildings have been converted to businesses – antique and used book stores, B&Bs, galleries and office space – but others are still private homes (some of which were for sale while I was there).
There’s not a whole lot to do in the village itself – a couple of nice restaurants and arts/antiques places, and renowned genealogy resources at the Sturgis Library and the Historical Society. There’s a haunted and history tour nightly during the summer, leaving from the Old Jail. Mostly, life is centered on the water. There are a handful of public access points and public landings off 6A, as well as beautiful Sandy Neck on a spit of land across the harbor, with dune hikes and beach camping. Most of the summer traffic is pulling a boat. The marina advertises whale watches and charter fishing, and almost every conversation I had with locals came back to seafood or sailing.
For excitement you have to head over to Hyannis. Also for large grocery stores, laundromats, movies, and most other things. If you’re looking for peace and quiet with great beach access and the odd ghost, though, you could do much worse.
There are a surprising number of books detailing the history and singing the praises of Barnstable. If you like to read up on a place before going, try Kitteredge, The Seven Villages of Barnstable.
Barnstable Historical Society
Tales of Cape Cod, Inc. Located in the Old Colonial Courthouse, with a growing collection of documents and audio and video recordings of Cape Cod history.
US Coast Guard Heritage Museum Photos and memorabilia of the US Coast Guard. Continues where the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station Museum (Provincetown) leaves off.
Barnstable Facts and Trivia
Barnstable village is one of the oldest settlements in Massachusetts, founded by Reverend John Lothrop as a place for his congregation (kicked out of England) to worship in their own way, making it the first settlement to be truly founded as a haven of religious freedom.
It’s also the second most haunted town on Cape Cod, after Sandwich.
If you can trace your ancestry to one of the original founders, you can be buried in one of the fifteen local graveyards and join in the haunting.
Most of the ghosts are rumored to be nice enough, except for one mean old man who practiced black magic. He used to live in what is now the single most haunted building in town, and currently makes unpleasant appearances in Cobb’s Hill Cemetery.
Joss Whedon is supposed to be or have been a resident of Barnstable (no one seemed quite to know).
So were the Kennedy family, Kurt Vonnegut, Judy Garland, Jack Kerouac, and Art Buchwald, among others.
In a few thousand years, Barnstable will probably be landlocked, given the growth of Sandy Neck from sediment and the growth of marshland behind it.
The railroad used to run all down the Cape to Wellfleet, but most of the old rails have been changed to bike trails –... more travel advice
The original parts of the Old Jail date to the 1690s or earlier, with later parts built in the 1800s. The building has... more travel advice
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