Sea 'scape

The ocean is a big part of the life of this cape village

Woods Hole
Lynn and Mark Krueger (left) and Erica and Barry Crell dig into lobsters at Shuckers, a seafood restaurant in the center of Wood Hole. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Kathleen Burge
Globe Staff / July 16, 2008

ODD FACT: From 1863 to 1889, the Pacific Guano Co. factory in Woods Hole converted guano, or bird droppings, from around the world into fertilizer.

The combination of scientific research and its perch at the southwestern knob of Cape Cod have transformed tiny Woods Hole, a village of Falmouth, into an international giant in ocean research. Woods Hole has been steeped in science since 1871, when President Grant created the US Commission of Fish and Fisheries; Spencer Baird, the first commissioner, decided to open a lab in Woods Hole. But the village also has many diversions for travelers on more recreational missions. The small downtown is all but surrounded by water, with Eel Pond, a saltwater marina, on one side and Great Harbor on the other. Many restaurants have docks with waterside tables. Walk out Penzance Road to get glimpses of the sprawling houses with names and views over the harbor and Buzzards Bay.

Woods Hole has a ban on fast-food restaurants, so don't waste time searching for a McBurger. But the sandwiches and decadent treats at Pie in the Sky (10 Water St., 508-540-5475,, sandwiches $6-$7.50) are much beloved by locals and ferry-hoppers alike. Phusion Grille (71 Water St., 508-457-3100, phusion, dinners $19-$31), overlooking Eel Pond in the center of town, is possibly Woods Hole's most creative restaurant, with dishes like cinnamon-dusted scallops, served with grilled pineapple and linguica fried rice. Shuckers (91A Water St., 508-540-3850,, dishes $5.99-$23.95) is a traditional, spacious seafood restaurant with plenty of lobster on hand and an outdoor dock. Shuckers serves Nobska Light, a beer microbrewed by the restaurant's owner and named after Woods Hole's own lighthouse (see Play).

The Woods Hole Inn (6 Luscombe Ave., 508-495-0248,, rooms $110-$220) the only lodging in the center of town, just reopened after a big renovation. The inn has five rooms in the main building, plus a three-bedroom cottage along the water that rents by the week. The Woods Hole Passage Bed & Breakfast Inn (186 Woods Hole Road, 508-548-9575,, $95-$195), a few miles from the center of town, on the road to Falmouth, has five cheery rooms and a stone patio overlooking a lush lawn, where breakfast is served. The village's three "motor inns" - glorified motels - sit all in a row just outside the center. Sands of Time Motor Inn and Harbor House (540 Woods Hole Road, 508-548-6300,, $95-$200) offers motel rooms with private balconies or patios, many looking across the road and toward the water, as well as more stylish rooms in an elegant house. Nautilus Motor Inn (539 Woods Hole Road, 508-548-1525, nauti, $82-$225), the first motel in town, has simple but clean rooms that come with the use of nearby tennis courts. Next door is the Sleepy Hollow Motor Inn (527 Woods Hole Road, 508-548-1986,, $98-$185), with motel rooms around a swimming pool.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (266 Woods Hole Road, 508-289-2252,, the largest nonprofit oceanographic institute in the world, is the king of the scientific community here. WHOI (pronounced HOO-ee), famous for discovering the remains of the Titanic, has an exhibit center that explains the institute's work. In summer, there are tours of the institute's docks and facilities. The Marine Biological Laboratory (127 Water St., 508-548-3705, also offers free tours. The Woods Hole Historical Museum (579 Woods Hole Road, 508-548-7270, tells the village's fascinating history and includes a small boat museum.

Recreation in Woods Hole centers on the water. Stoney Beach is a small, life-guarded beach north of Woods Hole Road, though it has no public parking. The Shining Sea Bike Path, named after a line in "America the Beautiful" (lyrics written by Katharine Lee Bates, a Falmouth native), runs 3 1/2 miles from Falmouth to Woods Hole - and for a glorious mile, beside the beach - along an old railway bed. The Nobska Point Lighthouse (, established in 1829, is open for tours some Thursday and Saturday mornings.

In spite of all those college students studying marine biology, Woods Hole is fairly quiet at night. The Woods Hole Theater Company (68 Water St., 508-540-6525, puts on a few productions a year in the village's community hall. Off-season, the Woods Hole Folk Music Society (68 Water St., 508-540-0320, arts also performs in the in community hall. For a week each summer the Woods Hole Film Festival (508-495-3456, screens indie productions. This year it's July 26-Aug. 2.

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