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When is the best time to visit Cape Cod? Two months to consider

by Staff

This is the time of year when off-Cape friends and relatives emerge from their winter slumber and begin making travel plans. And, of course, they are besotted by the beauty of Cape Cod, longing for languorous days on the beach, clamoring for clam shack cuisine and ready to savor seaside sunsets.

They ask the eternal question that has perplexed great thinkers since the glaciers formed our peninsula: what is the best time to visit Cape Cod?

Against my better judgement, I have decided to wade into this explosive topic. I know that controversy, chaos and complaints are sure to follow. And despite the fact that I own a purple barrister’s wig and have studied the nuances of every “Judge Judy” episode, I am not qualified to rule on such a vital case.

But that’s not going to stop me! So here we go.

First off, I am eliminating July and August from the competition, a bold and perhaps foolish move. We all know that the hot, tasty months of high summer, served up like a fried cod sandwich, are reliable times for joy, fun and swimming.

But the crowds and traffic can erode true bliss, unless you have a list of summer hacks at the ready. That could be a tall order for inexperienced Cape visitors.

June versus September

Thus, we are left with a titanic matchup: June versus September. It’s a battle between the first kiss of summer and the sweet waning days at the end of the season. Both are great delicacies — it’s like choosing between oysters and caviar.

I figured the first thing to investigate was the weather angle, so I reached out to Doc Taylor, retired meteorologist and noted Falmouth weather observer. “Interestingly, the average temperature for both months is very similar, around the mid 60s,” he wrote, adding that the average low and high temperature for June last year was 59/71, while it was 63/74 for September. Precipitation was close to four inches in both months last year.

But there are some notable differences between the months. “In June the daylight is longer and the sunlight much stronger,” wrote Doc. In June 2024, sunset times will all be after 8 p.m., according to the Time and Date website, while September 2024 sunset times will be little after 7 p.m. at the start of the month, diminishing to around 6:25 p.m. by the end of the month.

“The big difference is the water temperature,” wrote Doc. “June can be chilly, while in September the warm water from the summer lingers.” According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the average monthly water temperature for Nantucket Sound is 63.4 degrees in June, 70.3 degrees in September.

The sip of a powerful elixir

By the way, Doc prefers September to June. But I’m not so sure. I feel like the excitement and optimism of June go a long way, like a sip of a powerful elixir. The days are long, and the beauty of summer is just unfurling. Restaurants and shops are open for business and the heroic summer staff hasn’t been weighed down yet by the demands of the season.

But roaming the Cape in September offers such tantalizing pleasure. It’s like getting the last scoop of the world’s best ice cream. The marshes take on a Van Gogh glow, green and gold and magical. And floating around in a Cape Cod kettle pond on a hot September afternoon might be as good as it gets.

I’m still leaning toward June, but September is coming up fast down the backstretch. The only thing for sure is that both months beat the heck out of winter, and I’m sick of wearing my long johns every day!

Eric Williams, when not solving Curious Cape Cod mysteries, writes about a variety of ways to enjoy the Cape, the weather, wildlife and other subjects. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on X: @capecast.

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