Hostelling community welcomes Hyannis haven

The Angeline Crocker Hinckley Hostel has views of Hyannis Harbor. The Angeline Crocker Hinckley Hostel has views of Hyannis Harbor. (Ron Driscoll for The Boston Globe)
By Ron Driscoll
Globe Correspondent / September 5, 2010

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HYANNIS — With nightly rates of $32 to $35 per person and views of Hyannis Harbor from several of its rooms, the Angeline Crocker Hinckley Hostel has attracted guests from all over the world since it opened in July. They’ve come from Australia, Ireland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Malaysia, and Sardinia.

Sardinia, N.Y., that is — just outside of Buffalo.

That’s where Jackie O’Donnell is from, and she was relaxing at the hostel on a Saturday. O’Donnell, 62, has traveled for work and fun for a long time, and she prefers the hostel experience.

“I enjoy hostelling for what it is — it’s eclectic and you get to interact with people,’’ said O’Donnell. “I traveled around the world for work for many years, and hotel rooms really get to be insanity. I started staying in hostels about 10 years ago, all over the US.’’

This particular hostel restores a link in a chain of Bay State locations managed by Hostelling International’s Eastern New England Council. A hostel on Route 28 in Hyannis closed because of unsafe conditions in 1994, leaving a void between Boston and the Outer Cape and the islands. A hostel in the hub of Cape Cod provides a jumping-off point for day trips to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, or a stopover on the way to Outer Cape posts in Eastham and Truro.

Lisa Miller manages the Hinckley Hostel; she was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point when she discovered hosteling while she was studying abroad. She ended up converting her entire family.

“My family hostelled together in Alaska,’’ said Miller, 29, who has been with Hostelling International for five years. “My dad hung out in a big leather chair in the lobby of our hostel in Anchorage, just chatting with people all day.’’

The Hyannis site can house 40 guests, and includes free Internet access and kitchen privileges. The staff was organizing a barbecue for guests on the Saturday we stopped by, and its proximity to the ferries, beaches, a bus station, and Main Street make it easy to suggest activities and itineraries. A recent week’s offerings included $1 bowling night, free yoga sessions, a farmer’s market, outdoor concerts, and Cape Cod League baseball hosted by the Hyannis Hawks. Bikes can be rented through the Bike Zone nearby for $15 a day.

“So far, I’d say we have attracted a mix of half-and-half veterans and newcomers,’’ said Miller. “We get the backpackers who quickly find the grocery stores and come back and do their cooking. Then there are the people who are stunned to find out that breakfast is included in the rate. It’s a real ‘wow’ moment.’’

The Hinckley Hostel came to fruition thanks to Ruth Rusher, a Cape native who lived on this Ocean Street property all her life and left it to Hostelling International when she died in 2004. The hostel is named for her mother.

The building was originally a Sears-Roebuck kit house, constructed about 1910. Updates have included the addition of a third floor, and there are bedrooms for groups and families, along with shared bathrooms. A $1.6 million renovation project will eventually include four buildings: two hostels, a family cottage, and staff quarters.

“The idea is to create a community and help people to discover what’s unique about Hyannis,’’ said Miller. “We also have a ‘take a book, leave a book’ shelf, and lots of discounts through area businesses. And we don’t assign chores, like some people might think. You just have to do your own dishes.’’

The only other suggestion Miller has is to bring earplugs and an eye mask, in case someone in your room comes back later or is an earlier riser.

The Hyannis hostel will close for the season Oct. 11, as will the Martha’s Vineyard location. The other three Cape-area hostels will close late this month.

Ron Driscoll can be reached at

If You Go

Angeline Crocker Hinckley Hostel
111 Ocean St., Hyannis
One of five hostels on the Cape and Islands, all with rates from $29-$32 weekdays, $32-$35 weekends, breakfast included. The others are in Eastham, Truro, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.