The village of Woods Hole is located in the far southwest corner of Cape Cod. It is a quaint seaside town that is the perfect place to wander on a sunny day.
This is a scientific community dedicated to marine biology. Woods Hole is home base to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and NOAA’s Marine Science Laboratory. While most of these labs are not open to the public, there are a few discovery centers that you can explore.
Parking can be a challenge so we like to ride our bikes there on the Sea to Shining Sea Bike Trail.
Here is a list of the best things to do in Woods Hole, Cape Cod.
1. Woods Hole Science Aquarium
The Woods Hole Science Aquarium was established in 1875, making it the country’s oldest public aquarium. The Aquarium displays approximately 80 species of marine animals found in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. waters.
The greatest draw is the seals out front, which you can view free of charge. It is a small aquarium, and you wouldn’t spend more that an hour here. Enjoy a self-guided tour of the main exhibits and a behind-the-scenes look at aquarium operations.
Look for the nearby Waterfront Park which is a quiet spot to sit on a bench and watch the ships go by. There is a statue dedicated to Rachel Carson.
2. Watch the Drawbridge go up and down
This bridge brings me right back to my childhood. We used to ride bikes to Woods Hole each summer to eat clam chowder at what was once called the Fish Monger and watch the bridge go up and down. It’s fascinating to watch the operation.
There is nothing better that sitting on the pier at Captain Kidd’s on a nice day. I love this historic building that has been welcoming guests for 100 years. The food and craft cocktails can’t be beat!
Fun fact: in 1985 the Atlantis captain and crew came to the Kidd to celebrate the discovery of the Titanic.
Stop at the WHOI Visitor Center to ask a question, pick up maps of Woods Hole Village, get information about research at WHOI, and learn about upcoming activities and events. You’ll find a full array of WHOI shirts and hats, plus other ocean-themed mementos.
The Ocean Science Discovery Center is a research facility with public exhibits about marine life, ocean exploration & the Titanic recovery. This is one of the kid’s favorite stops because they always have something interesting going on.
Their fun and interactive “wet lab” features hands-on science for kids of all ages. My kids love imagining that they are exploring the ocean floor inside of the replica of the Alvin, a deep-sea submersible.
6. Marine Biological Laboratory
We always pop into this small discovery center to see the axolotls. These critically endangered paedomorphic salamanders are equally as fascinating as they are adorable.
7. The Knob
This short scenic walk leads out to a little peninsula with a sweeping view of the ocean. This used to be my secret spot. I would do this walk and not pass another soul. Well, it has been discovered but it is no less beautiful. Parking is limited so that is the hardest part about visiting.
It is only a ten minute walk if you do the direct route. I love the shady route that winds through the forest. There are outlets that bring you to little sandy beaches. Leashed dogs are welcome.
On my last visit, I took this aerial photo of pretty Quissett Harbor. You can see the woodland that hooks back to the Knob in the distance. I love the sign as you enter that states:
“Cornelia L. Carey left this sanctuary for the enjoyment of all those who love to walk and take pleasure in the quiet beauty of the woods and the sea.”
8. The Sea to Shining Sea Bike Trail
This is arguably the prettiest part of the Cape Cod Rail trail. This trail goes through a shaded woodland and then out along the ocean. There are several nice spots to stop to rest on the beach or have a picnic.
The bike trail ends in Woods Hole. Park your bikes at the bike rack near the ferry and remember to bring a lock. This is the best way to visit Woods Hole because parking is so limited.
It took us about 40 minutes to ride here from where we were staying at AutoCamp. AutoCamp is located right on the bike trail. We had the best time staying in an Airstream and I would highly recommend it. Click here to read all about our experience.
9. Nobska Point Lighthouse
Nobska Light is a mile southeast of Woods Hole Village. It was built in 1876 at the confluence of the Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds.
Parking is very limited here so you have to cross your fingers that you can get a spot. It is on a bend at the the road, but if you carefully cross the street, there are some great ocean views. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset.
10. Daytrip to Martha’s Vineyard
Reach the Vineyard in just 45 minutes with the Steamship Authority. This is a popular summer destination and tickets do sell out. It’s fun to walk your bike right onto the ferry and then ride the bike trail to Edgartown.
Highfield Hall & Gardens is not your typical historic estate. While there’s plenty of history within their glorious old walls, Highfield is a vibrant cultural center surrounded by restored gardens, peaceful walking trails and conservation land.
I hope this list of the best things to do in Woods Hole in Cape Cod helps you plan your trip. We love visiting here each summer.