Massachusetts : Safety by City
- Cape Cod
- Fall River
- Martha’s Vineyard
- New Bedford
Cape Cod is shaped like a flexed arm, and you’ll find the town of Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in the center of the forearm.
This region is also known as the Outer Cape.
Wellfleet isn’t the most robust city on the Cape, but it is still popular due to the outdoor and seaside activities.
Half of the town is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
A more modest Main Street that in places like Hyannis gives way to beaches, marshes, and waterways while still offering an array of amenities.
This region boasts two coasts, one facing the calmer and warmer bay, with the other facing the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal being the nearest landmass overseas.
The dual coastlines also offer brilliant sunrise and sunset views each day.
In addition to all the public land, you still get fresh seafood restaurants throughout Wellfleet, historic homes, and charming shops.
Wellfleet is also home to the only drive-in movie theater on Cape Cod.
The busy city of Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod is just a 20-minute scenic drive away.
Chatham at the “Elbow” of the Cape is less than 30 minutes south.
Warnings & Dangers in Wellfleet
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Cape Cod is an overall safe place, and Wellfleet is one of the reasons why. The low crime rates mixed with plenty of safe activities for families, solo travelers, and any group size are reasons why the population of 4,300 increases nearly sevenfold every summer.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The Outer Cape is a great place to have your own vehicle since it's a good distance from places like Hyannis and doesn't have small town after small town like the lower or mid-Cape regions. Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority has fixed routes across the Cape. Train rides are available from Boston to Hyannis, but then you'll need to use the bus or get a car to reach Wellfleet. Provincetown to the north also has ferries seasonally to Boston and back. Taxis and rideshares are available but might not be as plentiful as in the larger Cape cities.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
The risk is low, but there was one purse snatching in 2021: a $2000 loss. It's a great reminder to limit cash and valuables in your purse. Don't leave items unattended on the beach or let your purse or backpack out of sight in restaurants.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
The 2022 Wellfleet Hazard Mitigation Plan lists erosion, dam failure, floods, hurricanes/tropical storms, nor'easters, landslides, high winds, thunderstorms, and severe winter weather as the top risks. The plan is detailed with some incredible imagery of previous disasters. All the weather risks here come with plenty of warning.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Wellfleet has seen two robberies total since 2011, so that's a very low risk. No matter how safe a town is, you should still use good personal safety precautions.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is a more remote part of the Cape and has a low risk. Places like Boston would be a much larger potential target. While there's always a risk of a Lone Wolf act in any American community, there aren't a lot of large gathering spaces outside the beaches in Wellfleet.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Rental scams are the biggest concern in Wellfleet and across Cape Cod, mostly for those looking for non-hotel/inn-based housing. The fact is that Cape Cod is expensive, even during the off-season. A discounted deal that seems too good to be true probably is. You'll greatly reduce your risk by using the Chamber of Commerce's recommended rental services.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women shouldn't have anything to worry about here regarding crime, but beach, water, and outdoor safety training are paramount.
TAP WATER RISK : MEDIUM
Wellfleet has seen problems with coliform in the water over the past few years. As of this publication, it was unclear if there was an actual water quality violation or a problem with the sensors and other equipment. To be safe, use bottled water for drinking. Tap water can be used for bathing, but don't let any of it get in your mouth. Check with the city's water department to get the latest sampling reports before your visit.
Safest Places to Visit in Wellfleet
VistCapeCod.com is a great cyber-safe resource to review for all the Cape cities, and there’s a whole section called Wellfleet Information.
You can also visit WellfleetChamber.com to learn about new businesses or local events.
Follow the Chamber on Facebook @WellfleetChamber.
Starting at the Wellfleet Historical Society Museum helps you learn the history of this land and get some insider information about the best places to visit during the season you’re there.
Wellfleet’s noted history with artifacts dates back to the 1600s, and the museum has exhibits through every century moving forward.
The museum is located at Main Street’s start (or end), and you’ll find some small businesses along the way within scenic New England neighborhoods.
Some businesses are off the main road of Highway 6.
The Wellfleet town pier is near the harbor, just south of Main Street.
The shoreline there is lined with several hotels and cottage resorts.
The eastern shore of Wellfleet is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and includes several beaches.
Along the way, don’t miss the Marconi Wireless Station, which is the site of the first transatlantic wireless telegraph station.
Marconi Beach is just south of there in the Marconi Wildlife Management Area.
To learn more about the history of telegraphy on the Cape, visit the Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum in Chatham.
The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary sits on Silver Spring Harbor.
Programs, classes, and activities are planned throughout the year, but you can also explore independently.
The sanctuary has beaches, saltwater marshes, and pine woodlands, each hosting its own type of wildlife.
Cape Cod National Seashore is much larger (or should I say – longer) than Wellfleet, although half of Wellfleet is part of the park.
Wellfleet is the only place where the park stretches to both coastlines.
Not all beaches in Wellfleet are property of the park service.
Most are local beaches under the jurisdiction of Wellfleet.
Marconi Beach and the Great Island Trail are two park service areas.
The other National Park Service beaches span from Orleans to Provincetown.
Wellfleet Cinemas is where you’ll find the only drive-in movie theater on the Cape.
It also hosts “Cape Cod’s Biggest and Best Flea Market.”
You can also play mini golf and visit the dairy bar.
Places to Avoid in Wellfleet
Regarding crime, there aren’t any neighborhoods too dangerous to visit.
You can freely roam through the public areas and neighborhoods.
Just stay off of the private property and don’t try to sneak past community or home gates.
That goes for the members-only country clubs.
Security is too tight on the Cape to sneak into any private club.
Beach safety is paramount here, and despite the abundance of beaches, there will be times you need to avoid the water.
Lifeguards won’t be at the beach from Labor Day through Memorial Day, although beach warning signs for currents, marine life, and water quality will be updated daily.
Sharks are in the Cape Cod waters, which catches some visitors off guard.
Increased shark sightings could lead to beach closures, and you definitely should not risk it by ignoring the warnings.
Great white sharks are especially active in the fall.
If you see seals, you can be there are sharks nearby.
Here are some other reasons to avoid the bay or oceanfront waters in Wellfleet, according to the National Park Service:
- Murky or low-visibility waters
- When there’s a purple beach flag (this means sharks have been spotted)
- Schools of fish
- Use extreme caution during rip current warnings
You don’t need to avoid Wellfleet during the off-season, as most beaches and parks remain open, but you will need to prepare for windy, winter, or bitterly cold weather.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Wellfleet
- Wellfleet has its own police department and states that it is “Always On Duty.” You can call (508) 349-3702 with any questions before your visit or while you are there. You can also find them on Facebook @WellfleetPolice. The site is updated a few times a week, more when an emergency happens.
- Use myAlerts in the app stores to sign up for emergency notifications in Wellfleet. This will cover incoming weather threats, hurricane details, road closures, water quality alerts, and other safety information. You can opt to get text alerts, emails, or phone calls.
- If you want to go shellfishing, you’ll need a permit from the city. The permit takes a minimum of 24 hours to process. This is a different process than getting your fishing license from the state division of fisheries and wildlife.
- Download the National Park Service app to have detailed information about Cape Cod Seashore in the palm of your hand. The visitor centers for the park are only in Provincetown and Eastham, so unless you want to make that drive, you’ll need the important information in the app. Safety alerts are posted at the top of each app section.
- Do not feed any wildlife in the national park, local sanctuary, or local beaches. Coyotes and foxes are in this area and can be aggressive if they’re used to human food. The park service says there have been serious pet and people injuries from aggressive animals here. If you see injured or dead wildlife, contact a ranger at (508)255-3421 or (508)487-1256.
- Stay away from the top of the bluffs or the bottom of the bluffs on the shoreline. The unstable earth could collapse anytime, especially if it has rained recently. These beaches have spotty mobile phone service, so getting help could be difficult if there’s a collapse or landslide.
- The Sharktivity app is the best way to track recent shark sightings in Cape Cod’s waters. To learn more about shark dangers, there’s a Shark Center in Provincetown and Chatham.
- The great outdoors brings some great dangers here in the form of bugs and pests. You should be knowledgeable about mosquitos, ticks, poison ivy, browntail caterpillars, and greenhead flies. The Browntail caterpillars are active in May and June. They have poisonous hairs that can become airborne and cause respiratory issues. Greenhead flies are found in saltwater marshes and have painful bites. Bug spray does not deter them.
- Wellfleet is known for its Kettle Ponds. These clear blue ponds of water are scattered throughout the town. The water is clean, still, and safe for everyone. Not all ponds have parking lots, and not all ponds are easy to find. Locals try to keep the ponds a secret, so don’t be surprised if you get a blank stare when you ask. The city does list each one on its website.
- You’ll need a parking sticker from the city of Wellfleet to use any parking lot. You will need to stay in Wellfleet to be eligible as a visitor. Your landlord must provide a letter as well. Non-visitor stickers start at $65 for three days and go up to $190 for two weeks.
So... How Safe Is Wellfleet Really?
Wellfleet has more outdoor dangers than crime dangers.
The city hasn’t had more than nine violent crimes in a year since at least 2011, with an average of five per year.
Only one violent crime involved a stranger in 2021.
Just 12 thefts were reported, which is incredibly low for a place with so many visitors.
You need to know the best practices of marine, beach, and water safety to enjoy the safest experience here.
Knowing the tide charts and when high tide or low tide hits are important because some beach areas or businesses could be cut off from the mainland during high tide.
Even the shellfish permit office is open during the hours of “according to the tides.”
With unique critters like toxic caterpillars and bloodsucking flies, studying outdoor safety advice from the National Park Service, Emergency Management, and Health Department will help you be better prepared for outdoor hazards.
You should also review the hurricane evacuation and safety plan if you’ll be visiting from June through November, as that’s Hurricane Season.
Wellfleet is a gem in the Cape Cod crown and a wonderful option for people who prefer the great outdoors over shopping and spa days.
The only potential drawback is that it’s pretty far from communities like Hyannis or any ferries to Nantucket or the Vineyard, and summer traffic is persistent and frustrating.
However, the remote nature of this community might be just what you’re looking for in a Cape Cod getaway.
How Does Wellfleet Compare?
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- Visas - International visitors must have a passport and a U.S. Visa or Visa Waiver issued by the U.S. State Department. The process requires paperwork, a criminal background check, a face-to-face interview, and a review of all social media accounts from the past five years. Check with the U.S. Embassy in your country for the wait time for interviews, as that can slow down the process.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted here. You'll find more cash-only places here than in other parts of the Cape, so exchange currency before you arrive. You'll pay lower fees if you take care of that in your home country. Given how heavy traffic can be on the Cape, exchange currency at the airport, so you don't have to pull off the road.
- Weather - For winter, you'll face blustery conditions - snow, the cold, wind, and sleet at times. Bring warm layers of clothing with a waterproof and insulated coat. Waterproof snow boots are necessary much of the time too. The summers don't usually get above 85°(F), and that's at the peak of summer, while those summer nights can be chilly with the winds. You'll want boat shoes, hiking boots, and water shoes, plus plenty of sunscreens.
- Airports - You can take the CapeFLYER train to Boston Logan Airport, but it only goes as far as Hyannis, where you'd need to pick up a bus to get to Wellfleet. The drive to Boston is about two hours if you have your own vehicle. You can also drive, rideshare, or taxi to Provincetown and take the ferry to Boston seasonally.
- Travel Insurance - When you have to hope for good weather, several modes of transportation, and speed bumps that come with any international travel, it's smart to get travel insurance to protect against delays or cancelations.
Wellfleet Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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