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Backpack & Budget

Cape Cod and Other Fishy Finds

June 18, 1995|LUCY IZON

The name Cape Cod, Mass., conjures up images of woodlands, marshes, dunes and beautiful beaches with windsurfers dancing offshore. It's a playground for the rich and famous, but it's also within reach of travelers with tight funds.

"Blessed with an excellent hostel system, Cape Cod is an ideal budget seaside getaway, and is used by many cross-country travelers as a place to rest and relax after cramming in the cultural sights of urban America," say the authors of "Let's Go: USA," an excellent guide for those tackling America on a student-style budget. The 918-page 1995 edition, produced by Harvard Student Agencies, would be a good source for budget travelers who are including a stop at the cape during their North American travels. It costs $18.99 and includes eight pages of details on economical opportunities in the area.

"Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are a cyclist's paradise," say Ryan Vollmer and Patricia Mandell, authors of the recently released second edition of "Hidden Boston and Cape Cod: The Adventurer's Guide."

"The flat landscape is laced with miles of smooth, paved bicycle paths that meander past sand dunes, salt marsh, woods and pastures." This guide is geared to travelers who like hiking, biking and camping, and it includes opportunities on the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Accommodation and restaurant listings range from deluxe to shoestring budget. You'll find special sections on eight cycling and nine walking trails, plus information on popular sights and the best beaches. It's published by Ulysses Press and is available in bookstores for $9.95.

This summer, travelers will be able to find accommodations at Cape Cod (including on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket) for $12 a night at four hostels that are affiliated with the worldwide Hostelling International network.

These facilities have self-service kitchens, communal dining areas and offer programs to guests ranging from basic bicycle maintenance (at Martha's Vineyard) to stargazing (a National Parks' campfire program at the Truro hostel). There are no age restrictions, and guests age 13 and younger get a reduced rate of $6 per night. Hostel guests are also eligible for discounts at local attractions and shops.

* Guests at the rural 50-bed Mid-Cape Hostel are accommodated in cabins, which are located near the National Seashore's Visitors' Center and the Cape Cod Rail Trail (it's eight feet wide and stretches for a scenic 25 miles). You can find the hostel at 75 Goody Hallet Drive in Eastham, telephone (508) 255-2785. In addition to dormitory lodgings, the hostel has two cabins that can be rented by families for $40 each. It will be open until Sept. 16.

* The Truro Hostel is known for the wonderful view of the Cape Cod National Seashore from its kitchen/dining area. The hostel is perched on a sand dune, along North Pamet Road, 20 miles north of Eastham. Guests can enjoy the 27,000-acre protected area, known for its marshes, woodlands, 60-foot sand dunes and numerous bicycle and nature trails. Truro's 42-bed hostel is also just eight miles from the National Audubon Bird Sanctuary, and 10 miles from Provincetown, where the Pilgrims landed before going on to Plymouth and where visitors, today, can join in on whale-watching expeditions (discount coupons are available at the hostels). The Truro Hostel will open June 24 and close on Sept. 5.

* A 45-minute, $4.50 ferry trip from Woods Hole will land you on Martha's Vineyard. At only 10 miles wide and 20 miles long, it's still New England's largest island. The 78-bed Martha's Vineyard hostel, tel. (508) 693-2665 (built in 1955) was the first purpose-built youth hostel in the United States. It's located at West Tisbury on a bike path at the edge of a state forest.

Guests at this hostel can get free educational and cultural programs, and can take advantage of about 15 discounts ranging from bike rentals to outdoor activities. The hostel will be open until Nov. 15.

* Thirty miles off Cape Cod (a two-hour-and-15-minute trip from Hyannis) is the crescent-shaped island of Nantucket. Three miles from the ferry wharf, at 31 Western Ave., tel. (508) 228-0433, in a restored lifesaving station, is the 49-bed youth hostel. The building, erected in 1873, is on the National Register of Historic Places. The hostel is only a three-minute walk from the beach, and it can be reached by bicycle path. Youngs Bicycle Shop, located at Steamboat Wharf, offers hostel guests a 10% discount on rentals.

Coupons are available through all the Cape hostels for a $2 discount on the Hy-Line Cruise ferry fare from Hyannis. On Nantucket, travelers can learn about the once-thriving whaling industry at the Whaling Museum. Discounts are also available for kayak rentals The hostel will be open until Oct. 14.

Because of the popularity of the Cape Cod area it's wise to call ahead if you want to be assured of a hostel bed. Deposits can be made by phone using a Visa or MasterCard.

For a free brochure on HI-AYH's Cape and Island Hostels, contact Hostelling International Eastern New England Council, 1020 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, MA 02215; tel. (617) 731-6692.

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