The harbor village of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, lies at the end of Cape Cod’s southwest area.
A census-designated area under the Falmouth township in Barnstable County, this coastal location is one of Cape Cod’s key ports and the departure point going to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket islands.
The area once thrived in the whaling, fishing, and shipping industries but is now well-known for its local tourism and major marine research facilities.
Some of these important research institutions include the Marine Biological Laboratory, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Woodwell Climate Research Center, and NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center, among others.
Wood Hole offers more than just fantastic beaches and exciting marine facility tours and a list of nature and historic attractions like gardens, museums, and front water spots.
So here’s a list of amazing places you can visit at Woods Hole and the best things to do here:
See the Historic Nobska Lighthouse
Originally called Nobsque Light, the Nobska Lighthouse stands near the boundaries of Buzzards Bay, the Nantucket Sound, and Vineyard Sound.
In 1828, the US government acquired this 4-acre location in Nobska Point and built a wooden tower structure above a keeper’s quarters to serve as a guide for docking mariners.
It was replaced in 1876 with what we see today as the tall 42-foot cast-iron lighthouse tower.
When you get to Nobska Lighthouse, you’ll get a breathtaking view of Martha's Vineyard and Nonamesset Island with the rushing coastal waters below.
Have a tour of the lighthouse and see the antique Fresnel lens.
Take pictures of the panoramic seaside view and the lighthouse for your travel keepsake.
Have a Great Bike Ride at Shining Sea Bikeway
The Shining Sea Bikeway follows the tracks of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad that runs from Buzzard Bay around Woods Hole and to Falmouth Station.
Back in the early 70s, the town of Falmouth procured the right of way and removed the tracks to open the Shining Sea Bikeway in 1975.
Commonly called the SSB, the bikeway spans 3.3 miles and was named after a line from the song America the Beautiful, written by Katharine Lee Bates, who also happens to be a native of Falmouth.
The Bikeway is very ideal for casual and beginner bikers with its leveled path and only some slopes in certain spots.
You’ll get to enjoy a wonderful scenic bike ride with abundant flowers and trees along the way, pass through the cranberry bogs in Sippewissett Marsh and get a glimpse of Chapaquoit Beach.
The Falmouth Bikeways Committee now provides a repair station at the Depot Avenue parking lot.
Enjoy a Unique Penninsula View at The Knob
This uniquely narrow peninsula with beaches on both sides and wooded areas leads to a shaped rocky point or what is called The Knob.
Hike through the 12-acre trail while having the sights of the picturesque Quissett Harbor on the east and the Buzzards Bay on the west side.
You can take the Main Trail, that’s just half a mile, or hike along the Harbor Cliff, which goes from the left of the Main Trail until you arrive at Fisherman’s Beach.
The Knob offers you spectacular sunset views each time, overlooking the Bay towards the West Island and New Bedford Harbor.
You can go for a swim at Little Sandy Beach right off the parking area, try the Crescent Beach, which can be accessed from the Main Trail, or go for the rocky Fisherman’s Beach plagued with oyster shells during low tide.
Get Some Beach Fun at Stony Beach
Owned by the Marine Biological Laboratory, this sandy beach is a well-loved attraction on the coast of Wood Holes.
It’s well-maintained by the Town of Falmouth and also the perfect summer spot if you’re a beach lover.
Just a short walk or bike ride from the village, and you’re ready to get your dose of the sea.
You’ll also get a different view of Buzzards Bay from a southern mainland perspective.
Though having the name Stony Beach, it has a wide sandy shore area, and you can even wade out and snorkel in its shallow waters during low tide.
Since it’s nestled between two rock jetties, the beach waters are sheltered from the winds and are a good place for novice snorkelers.
Catch some herring gulls hovering over the sunny blue skies or watch some cormorants perched over the rocks.
Relax on Sandy the Shores of Falmouth Heights Beach
A great beach area to wind down, get some tan and relax that’s Falmouth Heights Beach, just off Falmouth Heights Road.
Go for a walk along the soft sandy shores and take a dip in the warm waters. Run
Have beachside activities like beach volley or frisbee.
The beach location is spacious if you aim for quiet, private time, and you might as well enjoy the outstanding view of Martha’s Vineyard on Nantucket Sound’s waters.
There are also food concessions nearby, so you can grab something to eat anytime.
Lifeguard and restroom facilities are also available for visitors.
Have a Unique Learning Experience at the Marine Biological Laboratory
The Marine Biological Laboratory, or MBL, is an institute dedicated to scientific discoveries through research and education in the fields of Biology, Biomedicine, and Environmental Science.
It is a nonprofit institution founded in 1888 and affiliated with the University of Chicago.
See what MBL is all about at the Pierce Exhibit Center.
You can have a great learning experience with the guided tours that include a visit to the Resource Center, where you’ll get to see marine life used in MBL for research, and a tour of the MBLWHOI Library and the campus.
There’s an array of eye-catching exhibits that tell the history of MBL and its contributions to life sciences.
See live marine animals or watch amazing underwater footage, get hands-on with the microscope or see the interactive squid.
Learn More about the Ocean Habitat at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Ocean Science Discovery Center
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has 90 years of serving the public through ocean research, education, and exploration.
It was founded in 1930 with a vision to develop the field of oceanography through collaborative scientific efforts.
Know more about ocean science research and discover the tools and vessels developed by the institution’s engineers and scientists used for their research.
See an interactive exhibit that features the Titanic’s discovery and exploration.
Learn more about whales and dolphins and get to listen to recordings of these marine creatures.
Discover facts and trivia about toxic algae, the Ocean Twilight Zone, or see the REMUS SharkCam and how it is used to track great white sharks.
Don’t forget to visit the WHOI Gift Shop and purchase some merchandise to help support WHOI's various research, education, and outreach initiatives.
Catch More Marine Animals at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium
Established in 1885, the Woods Hole Science Aquarium is known to be the oldest public aquarium in the US.
The marine exhibit is located at Water Street and features around 140 aquatic life species found in the country’s Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas.
Observe some toadfish, sea urchins, skates, and horseshoe crabs used for research.
You can also get to encounter marine creatures with peculiar colors, nature, and appearances like the sea bass, sea ravens, and wolfish.
Watch some of the staff prepare food, feed the animals, and clean tanks at the work area behind the tough tank.
You can touch live marine animals and shell creatures at the Touch Tank for a different kind of experience.
View the dry exhibits of bones, skulls, shark teeth, and other aquatic creatures.
Get to hear and listen to different sounds made by marine animals, fish, and even invertebrates with the interactive multimedia display.
Discover Rich Local History at Woods Hole Historical Museum
The Woods Hole Historical Museum was created when the collections of the Bradley House, the Yale Workshop, and the Swift Barn were put together.
The museum aims to establish and preserve collections highlighting the Woods Hole culture and history.
Explore the Bradley House and discover archeological facts about Cape Cod’s earliest Native American inhabitants.
Learn about the history and significant events that led to the development of Woods Hole from the 1600s to the present with the documents, artifacts, photographs, and tools on display.
You’ll also see a scale model which shows the old Woods Hole in the year 1895, a time when ferries, the scientific institutions, and summer visitors thrived.
Check the different boats and marine artifacts on display that were built by E.E. Swift in 1877.
Head to the children’s interactive exhibit, where they can play on the Cape Cod Knockabout Penguin or try some knots and pulleys.
Pay a Visit to Woods Hole Waterfront Park
The Waterfront serves as the main embarkment for ferries, mainly going to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.
You’ll see the sculpture of David Lewis, a biologist, author, and conservationist, as well as the statute of the author Rachel Carson, who wrote Silent Spring and the Sea Around Us and influenced the global environmental movement.
You can also see a bronze sculpture by businessman Gordon Gund called “Flukes,” inspired by the pilot whales he saw on the coast.
There’s also a sundial dedicated to Robert crane, one of WHOI’s first financiers.
Stroll along the relaxing park with the ocean breeze or just sit and have a private time in the shaded sitting areas.
Grab some delicious pastry snacks at Pie in the Sky or have great food served in one of the waterfront restaurants nearby.
Stroll along Nature Trails at the Spohr Gardens
Overlooking the Oyster Pond is the 6-acre woodland garden called Spohr Gardens, located on Fells Road.
The couple Charles and Margaret Spohr worked out the garden for many years, growing varieties of daffodils, and hundreds of varieties of perennials, azaleas, hydrangeas, and other summer and spring blooms.
Some of the trees that thrive in this woodland garden are crabapples, pines, tree peonies, beech, and others.
The garden’s path and trails are perfect spots for a much-needed nature walk.
Among the interesting finds that you can see in the garden are Charlie’s anchor collections, a huge bell cast, and a smaller bell by the water.
You’ll also see prized lighthouse lanterns, charming water fountains, and birdbaths throughout the garden.
One highlight of this attraction is the butterfly grow and release project held yearly, with different butterfly species like Monarchs, Spicebush Swallowtails, Tiger Swallowtails, White Cabbage, and much more.
Explore the Old Peterson Farm
The Peterson Farm is one of Cape Cod’s oldest farms.
The farm was originally owned by the Weeks family but was abandoned when the wool industry dwindled during the late 1800s.
Captain John person purchased the land in 1949 and grew fruit and vegetable crops.
The land was eventually bought by The Town of Falmouth in 1998, where they brought sheep back to the farm.
You can explore the farm through old dirt roads, watch the sheep grazing, and find other wildlife like owls, hawks, deer, and foxes.
And, of course, you’ll get to see the sheep breeds on the farm like the North Country Cheviots, the Scottish Blackface sheep, and the Katahdin sheep.
Tour the Highfield Hall & Gardens
The Highfield Hall was built by the Beebe family in 1878 as a summer family mansion.
It is one of the few remaining Stick-style structures with Queen Anne architecture left in the Northeast.
The self-guided tour to the estate takes about 45 minutes with a visit to the mansion and art exhibits and another hour to see the garden grounds.
You can also go for the docent-led tours to the property that last about 2-3 hours.
You can stay for a picnic on a bench or covered porch with a view of the back lawn or stay under the beech trees.
Take pictures of beautifully landscaped gardens and the classic mansion, see Highfield Story exhibit, and know the history of Highfield Hall.
Trek through the Beebe Woods
The Beebe Woods is a vast acre of land given by Mr. and Mrs. Josiah K. Lilly, III to the Town of Falmouth.
The wooded area used to be a part of the property acquired by James Madison Beebe during the 1870s.
Today, it hosts a network of extensive walking trails covering terrains, wooded ridges, and hollows and a picturesque pond called “Punch Bowl.”
The trails also lead to the Peterson Farm area from the south ends of the woods.
Currently, Beebe Woods is managed by The 300 Committee Land Trust and owned by the Town of Falmouth.
Know Some Town History at Falmouth Historical Society
The Falmouth Historical Society focuses on educating the public and preserving the history and culture of the town of Falmouth.
See the Changing with the Times exhibit and get a glimpse of different industries that thrived in Falmouth.
You’ll find antique objects and items like the 19th-century telescope and octant, an 1841 whaleship built in Woods Hole, a 1928 gavel used by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and more.
Get to see some of the many displays of rare old items owned by John Tobey, a Falmouth resident, and his artifacts that include 200-year-old receipts, a wax stamp, a wooden tankard, a keg tap, and old-fashioned banknotes.
Woods Hole is an area with amazing water and pristine beach attractions.
It’s a prime and busy Cape Cod harbor.
It’s also host to abundant marine life and major marine institutions.
You can find a store of rich local history here, too.
Make Woods Hole one of your vacation stops in Cape Cod.