Water St. in Woods Hole, as seen from "Street View".
Cape Cod vacation veterans know that every town and village along this 70 mile stretch of sand is unique.
Hyannis is as opposite in atmosphere and topography to Truro as Texas is to Vermont. How do you know which spot on the Cape is best for a first-time visitor? Start with Google Street View.
Street View is the mapping program by Google that takes you on a virtual drive of many streets of the world.
Sparsely populated and largely rural, the Cape has not had a lot of mapping by the special google car fitted with a camera and GPS plotting technology. But the major streets and most commercial districts are covered and they are a good point from which to begin your Cape Cod vacation planning. It can show you the essential nature of an area and begin to answer from your home computer if this is the Cape experience you seek this summer.
To use Street View, go to google.com, click "maps", and type in the name of a town or village. You'll see a magnification bar on the left side of the map inviting you to zoom in or out.
Zoom all the way in and click on the little stick figure who will bend in the direction of the map. Then simply click and drag him to the street you want to tour.
If Street View mapped out the road, it will now appear in blue and you are good to go. Once "on the ground", you can manipulate the compass and follow the arrows in any direction you wish to drive.
Street View is controversial. Critics complain it is an invasion of privacy because you can see pedestrians, vehicles and private homes in the course of viewing a street from the google car. But most users find it to be a useful planning tool. In addition to the obvious view of the look of a place you can see in advance if traffic and parking will be a problem, for example.
A quick survey of Street View around the Cape found some notable omissions. While largely residential Bradford Street in Provincetown is featured because it is a section of scenic Route 6A, the thriving and wildly popular Commercial Street is not.
Wellfleet is not represented by Street View at all, depriving many potential visitors of the lure of that funky artist's colony and birthplace of the famous oyster that bears its name.
And elegant Main Street in Chatham, another top tourist destination, is also absent from Street View.
Finally,the number one reason people come to the Cape --the dozens of public beaches of all descriptions, are not featured either.
But if you are sitting at home in this unseasonably chilly month of March and you are dreaming of a Cape escape this summer, add Google Street View to your list of online trip planning tools.