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Harbor LIFE: Woods Hole

Adventure awaits in this sublime village

This is the fourth installment of a new series exploring the vibrant harbors across Cape Cod and the Islands

In Woods Hole, you’ll find a unique mix of art, food, scenery and science that’s unlike any other harbor on the Cape & Islands, or perhaps anywhere.

The science component is the thing that sets the place apart. Woods Hole is home to the headquarters of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and the Woods Hole Research Center, as well as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) outpost and a Buzzards Bay Coalition visitors center. But you don’t have to have a Ph.D. to enjoy Woods Hole.

Another striking thing about Woods Hole is that no matter how you get there, the approach is beautiful. Driving on Woods Hole Road, you’re shaded by the woods lining the way until you get an open look at Little Harbor on the left. Treehouse Lodge, a new family-friendly hotel, greets you as you approach the village, and your arrival  is marked by the first glimpse of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank set into the historic triangular building at the top of Railroad Avenue. Coming by ferry, you see Nobska Lighthouse and the aptly named Airplane House on Juniper Point. Pedaling on the Shining Sea Bikeway (a 10.7-mile trip from the northern end or 3.6 miles from the Depot Avenue parking lot), you have a breathtaking view of Vineyard Sound.

Most of the action in Woods Hole centers on Great Harbor and Eel Pond. Step off the ferry or shuttle bus and in a few strides away you have a range of food options within the space of two village blocks.

On the corner of Luscombe and Railroad Avenue sits Quicks Hole Tavern, where you can enjoy cocktails whose names are inspired by local landmarks like Penzance Punch and the Monahansett Mojito, and snack on Pig Candy—crisp pork belly braised in maple syrup and house spices. The upper level of the bar gives a view of the bustling action at the ferry docks.

Next door, Jimmy’s Sandwich and Ice Cream Shop promises “food on the run for your day in the sun.” If your taste for ice cream is on the decadent side, try a cone filled with Bourbon Caramel Pistachio Brittle or Coconut Cheesecake Brownie.

Water Street, at the other end of Luscombe, constitutes the main street through the village. A right turn passes the Woods Hole Inn, where some of the second-floor rooms have private decks, with Adirondack chairs overlooking the harbor. Next up the street, a terraced flower garden on either side of the steps marks the entrance to Under the Sun, a gallery with glasswork, pottery, paintings, clothing and jewelry. Colleen Corson, who works at the shop, makes colorful sculptures from painted palm pods and leaves. “Anyone that’s local and good, we have them here,” she says. Store owner Joyce Stratton makes clocks whose faces depict nautical charts, including the Cape Cod Canal, Woods Hole and other Cape and Islands harbors. “She makes them upstairs,” says Corson. “You can’t get more local than that.”

The tempting aromas from Pie in the Sky Bakery & Café, up the street a bit farther, cut right through the salty smell of nearby ocean water. Apple, blueberry, key lime, pumpkin and chocolate mousse pies make for a difficult snacking decision, or you can go for quiche, cannoli, cookies, roll-ups and sandwiches.

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