Best times to drive to Cape Cod on a summer Saturday?
July 27, 2022 8:36 AM   Subscribe

We’re driving to Cape Cod from the west (via the Pike), on a Saturday, in August. What time windows should we aim for to not hit the worst traffic? And do we want to aim for the Bourne bridge and 495, or the Sagamore and 93 to 3?

I’m looking for updated guidance on driving times to the Cape. We’re heading to Orleans. Google’s largely showing me results from 2016, google maps gives me about 3 hours no matter what time I set as the leaving time, and I don’t know how things have changed in Covid Times, we haven’t been in a few years. We have a rental that starts at 3 on Saturday and ends at 10 on the following Saturday. Just like everyone else! We’d like to limit our time in the car to the extent possible. What are the worst times to be hitting the bridges - should we aim for later in the day? And which bridge is likely to be easier?

Complicating factor is that we have small kids and we are very covid-cautious, so between that and having a car full of stuff, we don’t want to have to kill several hours finding bathrooms and eating at a restaurant before we can get into our rental house - leaving super early and arriving at 10am isn’t workable for us. In a perfect scenario we’d get to Orleans around 230pm, but not if that means we spend 4-5 hours in the car. We’re about 150 miles from the bridges, so we’ve got at least 2.25 hours in the car before we get to the Cape.
posted by john_snow to Travel & Transportation around Barnstable County, MA (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Waze is a great tool to use to figure this out. Just plug in the times you'd like to arrive or leave, and it'll show you lots of alternate times and routes. You can even do it in advance.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:27 AM on July 27

I think that on Saturday you may be okay. But my parents live on the Cape and make frequent trips to see my brother's family off-cape, so let me ask them quick; they have a whole system designed to Avoid Summer Cape Traffic.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on July 27

Best answer: In theory the Bourne Bridge has lighter traffic, but I've found that whatever gains it yields are usually lost while cutting back to the Mid-Cape Highway on either side of the Canal. And since you're heading to Orleans, the additional travel time and risk of Route 6 having traffic further averages out the difference between routes.

A bigger factor to consider might be the impact of going through the Braintree Split. I've noticed traffic can back up on I-93 NB heading into Boston at weird times on Saturdays and in general the risk of there being a slowdown due to an accident or construction is much greater on Route 128 from the Pike than it will be farther out on 495.

It's crazy, but you might want to weigh a hybrid approach of taking 495 down to Middleboro, and U.S. 44 across to Plymouth, and then Route 3 down to Sagamore. That might combine the benefits of staying away from potential Boston traffic without sacrificing the direct Route 3->Route-6 highway connection.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:45 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]

my wife and I went to the Cape on Memorial Day. The level of activity is at or even higher than it was during COVID times. 2020 and 2021 were milder compared to 2019, but with the rise of remote work, lots of people have bought property on the Cape in the last couple of years, so there are just more people who live there on an extended part of summer. The impact of that is that traffic getting to the Cape isn't much worse than it used to be, but traffic in the Cape (esp on Rt. 28 and 6A) has gotten worse.

I think, as others say, a Saturday drive should be pretty predictable and you should trust what Google Maps says. My friends who have season long rentals on the Cape typically go down either Friday at 9pm or on Saturday morning/afternoon to skip the Friday rush hour peak. We usually leave around early Friday afternoon and it still takes us a little less than two hours to get there from Boston.
posted by bl1nk at 9:59 AM on July 27

If I were you, I'd head out Friday morning instead and get a motel for Friday night. Infinitely easiest way of doing this.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:02 AM on July 27

Best answer: I drive to and from Cape Cod every weekend and am painfully familiar with traffic on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Saturdays are hands-down the worst in terms of traffic because that is the day weekly rentals usually turn over. From our personal experience, if you get near the Bourne or Sagamore bridge after about 9am, you will experience very heavy traffic. (If it's 3 hours to Orleans from where you are, the Bourne and Sagamore are probably the 2-hour mark.) Plan to get to the bridges before 9am or after 7pm. Yes, this will get you to Orleans either very early or very late but there are plenty of beautiful things to see out there while you wait to get in.
posted by rednikki at 1:31 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I just spoke with Patercallipygos, and he confirms that yes, Saturday traffic is awful. He still had some suggestions.

* He says that it's way too unpredictable to estimate how long it would take you to get to the bridge itself. However, he says that once you get over a bridge, you can expect about an hour to get from the bridge to Orleans.

* In terms of which bridge - he recommends the Sagamore. Once you get over the Sagamore bridge you are right bang on Route 6, and that will take you straight to Orleans, he says. (NOT 6A, he adds.) Just look for an exit for Orleans and you're there.

* However, depending on how you approach the Cape, you may get close enough to get a peek at the traffic on the Bourne Bridge first before getting to the Sagamore, and assess whether you may want to take the Bourne Bridge after all if it looks clear. The only drawback is that once you get over the Bourne Bridge you'd have to follow the Canal for about 7 miles to get to Route 6 and get back on the road to Orleans. So in terms of ease you may want to stick to Sagamore, since all you'd have to do is drive straight ahead for about an hour and you're there.

* Just in case I also asked what he recommends for the trip back - he suggested considering leaving on Friday night or early on Saturday, and by "early" he meant about 8 am.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:22 PM on July 27

I drive to the Cape quite a bit and just drove there last Saturday. We left Boston around 8am and well… we wish we had left at 7am. It took us around 3 1/2 hours to get to PTown. We went over the Sagamore because as we got closer, that one seemed better. Traffic was rough through Sandwich and then again in Dennis.

Honestly super early or at 6:30pm is best.

I know folks who pack a lunch and leave super early and head right to a beach. The National Seashore beaches usually have bathrooms. You could also get food at a take out window—the one at the rotary in Orleans is good—the

Good luck, it’s a pain!
posted by jdl at 8:09 PM on July 30

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