Uncovering Woods Hole MA: From Beaches to Laboratories

A world center for Marine Biomedical and Environmental Science, Woods Hole MA draws island hoppers and brainy scientists to its almost-too-perfect-to-be-true fishing village environs. Research offices, labs, and ships sprawl throughout this tiny section of Falmouth, Massachusetts, and the best part about it is that some are open to the public.

Woods Hole is the jumping-off point for Martha’s Vineyard. The Steamship Authority loads cars and island-bound visitors from here.  Great restaurants and inns round out a budget-friendly educational escape to this ersatz MIT By the Sea.

Where is Woods Hole MA?

Woods Hole is a captivating maritime village situated on the southwestern edge of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Bordered by Buzzards Bay, Vineyard Sound, Woods Hole Harbor, this quaint community combines natural beauty with scientific prestige. The harbor, along with Eel Pond, underscores the area’s nautical ambiance and serves as a backdrop for an array of water activities.

The village is not only a gateway to Martha’s Vineyard via its ferry services but also a hub for world-class marine science institutions. With its scenic coastlines, historic lighthouses, and intellectual vigor, Woods Hole offers an enriching experience that marries leisure and learning.

Looking for more weekend getaway ideas nearby? Check out our roundup of Romantic Getaways In New England.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Ocean Science Center, Woods Hole MA

Things To Do In Woods Hole MA

VISIT: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

This former New England Church is packed with fascinating interactive displays. Start with the 7-minute video about the deep ocean floor, luminous creatures, hydrothermal vents – “the most extreme environment on our planet” at 400 degrees Celsius (752 Fahrenheit) – poisonous fluids, and a diversity of new life forms to rival the tropical rainforest.

Humans got their first look at these ocean-floor vents via the marine research vessel, Alvin. Thanks to advances in submersible technologies, researchers found robust chemical-based sea life swarming 8,000 feet beneath the ocean surface.

These discoveries in the late 1970s were no small thing. They upended long-held assumptions that all Earth-born life is created and sustained by the sun’s energy.

This being a fun and highly interactive museum, visitors can sit in a crosscut prototype of Alvin. And there’s plenty more to do with other hands-on exhibits.

Titanic Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Ocean Science Center, Woods Hole MA

Program the Magic Planet Digital Video Globe that displays wind patterns and storms all over the world. Manipulate a scale model of the Titanic around an aerial photograph of Woods Hole to get an idea of its respective size.

And just get a load of what the fiberglass cast of a Right Whale’s tail, mounted high up on the main floor wall, is used for!

Every so often, the tail serves an important role in marine biology training. Scientists tie it to a rope extended off the back of a boat and practice lassoing and tagging these elusive ocean mammals.

Salmon Tank, Woods Hole Science Aquarium, Woods Hole MA

VISIT: Woods Hole Science Aquarium

Marine veterinarians care for injured sea life at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium. Hence, you’ll see everything from seals to horseshoe crabs in various stages of rehabilitation, as well as schools of salmon, fish tanks, and vats full of local crawly and swimmy things. Scientists monitor these creatures to study marine ecosystem health, aquaculture, habitat conservation, and biodiversity.

Marine Biological Lab Pierce Visitors Center Woods Hole MA

VISIT: Marine Biology Lab Visitors Center

“Discovery never ends,” according to a pullout quote on the wall of this small but engaging Marine Biological Laboratory. Accordingly,  you’re invited to don a white lab coat and spend time investigating dozens of shells, marine life skeletons, and even computer chips through a high-powered microscope.

Touch a giant squid replica near its eyes and watch “nerves” fire. The novel light show imitates the way the squid vamooses from predators. Not scientifically inclined? Never mind. You can’t help but learn a bit of marine biology here.

Nobska Lighthouse, Woods Hole MA

VISIT: Nobska Lighthouse

Built in 1878 at the end of Church St. (first right out of town), the Nobska Lighthouse was automated in 1985. It casts its shadow on the water so aquamarine blue-green you could mistake it for the Caribbean.

Shining Sea Bike Path, Woods Hole MA

BIKE: Shining Sea Bike Path

From the ferry parking lot, hop onto a paved path and ride 11 miles up the coastline to North Falmouth. On your way, take in absolutely gorgeous and bountiful views of both Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay.

RUN: Falmouth Road Race

Experience the thrill of the Falmouth Road Race, a highlight of the summer season in Falmouth, Massachusetts. This 7-mile race isn’t just for elite athletes; it’s an inclusive event that welcomes runners of all levels. With its captivating ocean views and lively crowd, the race has earned a reputation as one of the country’s most scenic and spirited runs, drawing thousands of enthusiastic participants and onlookers annually.

Woods Hole Marthas Vineyard Ferry

DAYTRIP: Steamship Authority’s Martha’s Vineyard Ferry

Spend the day on the island that celebs and presidents love – only 45 minutes away.

Restaurants in Woods Hole MA

EAT: Quicks Hole Taqueria

Cape-Cod meets Cali Cuisine. Quicks Hole Taqueria serves “Lobster Tacos” among other farm-and-sea-to-table dishes in a very casual, cheeseburger-in-paradise-type space.

If you don’t mind standing or taking your Lobster or Fish Tacos to the picnic tables out back, join the lines for these and other summer-casual fresh and quick foodstuffs.

Pie in te Sky Woods Hole MA

EAT: Pie in the Sky Bakery

Pie in the Sky is a favorite haunt for those completing or just getting ready to start on. the Shining Sea Bike Path. Coffee is home-roasted its pies and sandwiches are beyond compare.

Woods Hole MA Hotels

Woods Hole Inn Common Area MA

STAY: Woods Hole Inn

Los Angeles residents and television writers Beth Colt and P.K. Simonds (producer of Ghost Whisperers) purchased a dilapidated hotel/boarding house, originally built in 1878, and turned it into a nautical chic, “Vintage Restored” inn. The Level of hospitality year round is, most guests say, “extraordinary.”

Across the street from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), it’s just a fishing rod cast away from the Martha’s Vineyard Ferry. Because of this, many patrons stay overnight either before or after a trip to the Vineyard.

Decked out in turquoise and sea foam pastels, white wainscoting, distressed wood floors, and whimsical knickknacks, the Inn is a true in-town boutique.

Rooms at Woods Hole Inn

Woods Hole Inn Guest Room MA

Art and pillows in colors of the sea punch up 14 bright rooms. White furniture, topped with tchotchkes you’d pick up in Home Goods or local gift shops, adds informal flair.

Sunrise from Woods Hole Inn

Ask for the Penzance or Nonamessett Room, each with its own private deck, claw foot tub, and a direct view of the Ferry and the serene harbor beyond. The extra cost is worth it for the spectacular sunsets over the harbor islands alone. Complementary breakfast is “upscale” gourmet; lots of fruit, baked goods, quiches and tarts.

And here’s a bit of trivia. The Red Chair Travels began here when Beth Colt painted an old wooden chair red, making it the star of her Woods Hole photographs. Bedandbreakfast.com now sponsors the Red Chair as it makes its way across the USA, one inn after another.  

Woods Hole Passage B&B, Woods Hole MA

STAY: Woods Hole Passage B&B

Julie Brienza and Martha Bridgers opened this beachy B&B on the main road two miles from Falmouth and two miles from Woods Hole.  It was an immediate hit. Kid-friendly and all about service and value, each colorful, whimsical room – decked out with colorful quilts – is different. Former pastry chef Martha creates mouth-watering gourmet breakfasts, which you can enjoy on a patio overlooking the gorgeous backyard. 


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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2 thoughts on “Uncovering Woods Hole MA: From Beaches to Laboratories”

  1. Great story! So glad to discover that you have fallen in love with Woods Hole! We think it is the finest village on Cape Cod:) –Beth at the Woods Hole Inn

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