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While a visit to Cape Cod and its nearby islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket may seem like an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous during the peak summer season, post Labor Day (and even more so post Columbus Day), prices of accommodation drop significantly and these stunning Massachusetts locales start becoming affordable to the wider travel community. Throughout the spring and fall, guests can enjoy lower rates and added amenities to best savor the region. The off-peak months, when the islands are free of summertime crowds, are in fact considered to be the best by the island's locals.

I have it on good authority (straight from the mouth of a local Cape Cod resident) that the fall foliage season in this area is truly unforgettable and rivals anything you could experience in Vermont or Maine. There is also an air of intimacy to these locations, smaller resorts, historic bed and breakfasts, quaint inns and hide away hotels, often with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean or the Nantucket Sound.

Martha's Vineyard is located seven miles off the coast of Cape Cod and is accessible via various ferry services. The most direct is from New Bedford Harbor, where The Steamship Authority (www.steamshipauthority.com) operates seasonal, passenger-only ferry service to the island daily from late spring through early fall. The ferry from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard also makes several trips daily and operates year-round ($6 for adults one-way, $3.25 for children and $35 to $57 one-way for cars depending on the season). The Ferry's website provides schedule and pricing information, as well as directions to departure points. From New Bedford, Massachusetts, the fast ferry, run by New England Fast Ferry (tel. 866/453-6800; www.nefastferry.com) travels to Martha's Vineyard in about one hour. It is in service daily throughout the year. Tickets cost $20 one-way for adults, $17 for seniors and children under 12.

Nantucket lies 30-miles off the Cape Cod coastline. Between Hyannis and Nantucket (two-hours, 15 minutes), the Steamship Authority ferry fares are $14 for adults, $7.25 for children and a whopping $115 to $175 one-way for cars, which would strongly discourage even the most car-addicted drivers from taking their vehicles with them. The Hy-Line (tel. 800/492-8082; www.hy-linecruises.com) ferry costs $15 one-way. There are also a few high-speed ferries operating a one-hour journey to Nantucket. The passengers-only Hy-Line MV Grey Lady costs $61 round-trip. The Steamship Authority's high-speed catamaran, the Flying Cloud, also makes the trip in an hour for $55 round-trip for adults and $42 for children.

Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket can also be reached by air on Cape Air (tel. 800-352-0714; www.flycapeair.com), which offers flights to the islands from Boston, New Bedford, Hyannis and Providence, Rhode Island. Airfares range from $200 to $320 for a round-trip flight. If you are traveling with a group or are planning on taking multiple trips, consider purchasing a discount ticket book. Cape Air rewards frequent flyers with savings of up to 30% and each discount ticket book consists of 10 one-way tickets which can be used by individuals, businesses or families for unrestricted travel, even on holidays and weekends -- there are no expiry dates. For example a Boston to Nantucket ticket book is $1035, a saving of $265, Providence to Nantucket is $995, a saving of $205 and Boston to Hyannis is $745, a saving of $345. If you are doing a day trip, you can save up to 45% on your round-trip fare between Boston and Provincetown when you fly in a single day.

Nantucket

Fall is the perfect time to discover the award-winning White Elephant Hotel (tel. 800/445-6574; www.whiteelephanthotel.com), which overlooks picturesque Nantucket Harbor. Their "Too Good to be True for Two" fall rate is $222 per room, per night for two people whereas standard summer rates usually start at $520 per night. This price is valid for stays between Sunday and Thursday nights in September, October and November (and again in May and June 2006). Subject to availability with certain holiday blackout dates.

During spring and fall American Express card members can receive a special savings rate of 40% off the second night during their stay from September 5 to December 5, 2005 and between May 3 and June 30 2006. A minimum two-night stay and a Saturday to Wednesday arrival are required. Applicable to second night stay only on regular not discounted rates and cannot be combined with other promotions.

Or for "Sweet Romance, Nantucket Style", a romantic package starts at $689 and includes two nights' accommodation, complimentary champagne and take-home flutes, a sunset cruise and dinner for two at Brant Point Grill. This package is valid for stays from Sunday to Thursday in September October, and November, 2005 and May and June, 2006. You can also extend your stay and upgrade to suites and cottages for additional cost. Taxes are additional on all of these packages

The Sherburne Inn (tel. 888/577-4425; www.sherburneinn.com) provides three options for their accommodation and transport packages for the fall season, depending on whether you choose to take the regular ferry, the fast ferry service or fly. The two-night packages include accommodation, continental breakfast for two each morning, dinner for two and round-trip airfare or boat fare for two. From October 16, 2005, flying from Hyannis, the price starts at $360, from Boston it is $570, from Providence $540 and from New Bedford $450. Taking the regular ferry from Hyannis is $280 and the fast ferry option is $320.

More information about accommodation, restaurants and attractions is available at www.allnantucket.com.

Martha's Vineyard

The Island Inn (tel.800/462-0269; www.islandinn.com) boasts spectacular views of Nantucket Sound and is just steps away from the historic communities of Oak Bluffs and Edgartown. In this relaxing environment, guests can enjoy golf on the adjacent 18-hole golf course, swim and sun bathe at the nearby beach or take advantage of the Inn's pool, tennis, cycling, sailing, and windsurfing facilities. The Inn is offering their "Martha's Vineyard Fall for the Vineyard" special. Arrive on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday for a stay of three nights or more, and get one night free. Rates start at $135 per night in a studio, $150 in a one-bedroom suite or $170 in a two-bedroom suite. Even without the one-night free offer, these prices represent a saving of up to 30% on peak summer rates. Offer is valid from September 5th to October 30th.

From the ferry, it's just a short walk to The Mansion House Inn (tel. 800/332-4112; www.mvmansionhouse.com). Stay any three consecutive nights and get the fourth midweek night free. Rates during the fall (and spring) are $169 to $209 per night including breakfast. Enjoy their "Midweek Revival Package" from November 2005 to March 2006 and for $199 per person, guests get a two-night stay in a King standard room, delicious buffet breakfast daily, one deep tissue massage per person and one three-course dinner at Zephrus restaurant. The same package is $299 from September 6 to October 10, 2005, which is still $100 less than the June to August price of $399.

At the Colonial Inn Martha's Vineyard (tel. 800/627-4701; www.colonialinnmvy.com) reserve two nights from Sunday to Thursday at the full rate on any room type, and stay the third midweek night free. If you can't make it midweek, then add a third night onto a two-night weekend stay for a 50% discount on the third night, including Labor Day and Columbus Day weekends. For a "Midweek Escape" stay any night from Sunday to Thursday, and for $129 per night (from September 18 to October 6, 2005) or $109 per night in late fall, enjoy standard room accommodation and continental breakfast. Offers must be requested at time of reservation.

For more information about accommodation, transport and activities in Martha's Vineyard, visit www.mvol.com.

Cape Cod

The Corsair and Cross Rip (tel. 800/345-5140; www.corsaircrossrip.com) are two side-by-side oceanfront resorts located in Dennisport, Cape Cod. They are offering the following fall packages that are valid for stays from September 6 to October 20, 2005. The "Pamper Us Package" includes for her -- a gift basket of body products and local sweets, bathrobes and slippers for use during the stay, a bikram or traditional yoga class, and an in-room massage. For him -- a round of golf at one of Dennis' finest courses, either Highlands or Pines. For both -- a two course dinner for two at The Ocean House and continental breakfast the next morning. The complete two-night package for two is $445 or $495 for an ocean view room. Additional nights are available for only $88 or $115 with ocean views. Prices exclude holiday periods and weekend stays are slightly higher.

The "Outdoorsmen Package" takes you for a guided kayak tour. You will travel through the marshes of Dennis in your own kayak exploring untouched areas of Cape Cod. The package includes two-nights lodging, guided tour of Dennis marshes, boxed lunches and continental breakfasts. A weekday package for two is $295 or with cean views for $335. Weekends are slightly higher.Additional nights are $75.

For the longer Columbus Day weekend (October 7 to 10, 2005), stay in a value room from $85 per night or $125 for superior and deluxe accommodations. A minimum of three nights is required with mini-continental breakfast included.

Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club (tel. 800/343.6074; www.oceanedge.com) is hosting the first annual Ocean Edge Wine and Food Festival and offering a special to coincide with the festival. The "Wine and Food Festival Package" includes two nights' accommodation (September 16 and 17, 2005), breakfast for two each morning, a gourmet wine dinner on the Friday evening, two wine and food festival tickets and 10% discount at local art galleries and antique shops along Main Street in Brewster. This package is priced at $869 for two people and money raised will help benefit Hole in the Wall Camps (www.holeinthewallcamps.org).

Ocean Edge's "Linx Package" is designed for anyone who is passionate about golf. Their 18-hole championship course is listed as one of Boston Magazine's top ten Massachusetts golf courses and this package includes one night's accommodation, 18-holes for two people and unlimited use of the driving range. Stay between August 29 and November 15, 2005 for $299 per night.

At Bayside Resort (tel. 800/243-1114; www.baysideresort.com) all special packages are reduced in price during the fall months. The "Hyannis Harbor Cruise Package" includes two-nights deluxe accommodation, scenic sunset cruise of historic Hyannis harbor, early bird dinner and dessert for two and continental breakfast. This deal is priced at $129 midweek or $159 for a weekend from October 10 to October 29, 2005, representing a saving of over 50% over summer rates (regularly $269 midweek or $299 weekends from June to August) and a saving of 25% over the shoulder season rates ($189 midweek and $269 weekends from August 28 to October 9, 2005).

The "Romantic Sweetheart Package" offers couples a two-night getaway with champagne, chocolates, and a red rose delivered to your room, a romantic full course dinner and dessert on either night of your stay and a light breakfast overlooking Lewis Bay. This package was priced at $310 midweek and $330 weekends from June 19 to August 27, 2005 but the prices drop to $240 midweek and $310 weekends from August 28 to October 9, 2005 and from October 10 to December 30, 2005 and January 1-May 29, 2005, the package is a super-low $180 midweek and $210 weekends.

The Dolphin Inn of Chatham (tel.800/688-5900; www.dolphininn.com) has a low season package available from mid-October through to April 1, 2006. Enjoy two-nights accommodation, a 3pm check out, continental breakfast each morning, a bottle of wine and a movie pass for two from $185.00.

Colonial House Inn (www.colonialhousecapecod.com) in Yarmouthport, on the North Shore of Cape Cod, is a converted historic home set in landscaped grounds. Each of the large guest rooms is individually decorated and furnished with antiques. It is offering the following fall season 2005 rates:

  • "Columbus Day Weekend" -- October 7 to 10 for $450 for three-nights
  • "The Beginning of Foliage Season Weekend" -- October 15 to 17 for $280 for two-nights
  • "The Ghosts and Bewitching Weekend" -- October 22 to 24 including ghostly activities for $280 for two-nights
  • "The End of Foliage Weekend" -- October 29 to 31 for $280 for two-nights
  • "The Symphony Weekend" -- November 5 to 7 for $335 for two-nights including tickets (Orchestra) for a performance of Opus 02, Grieg, Opus 16 and Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 2
  • "Veteran's Day Weekend -- November 10 to 14, $450 for four-nights "Mystery Weekend' -- November 12 to 14, two-nights including mystery tours
  • "Thanksgiving Day Weekend" -- November 24 to 28, four-nights including a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for $460.

For more Cape Cod travel information, visit www.capecodtravelguide.com.

Details about the entire Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard area are available in our Destinations section.

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