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Cape Cod incorporates all of Barnstable County, which comprises 15 towns: Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, Mashpee, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Harwich, Dennis, Brewster, Chatham, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown.

Each of these towns include a number of villages; see Barnstable County for a complete list.

The creation of the canal separated the majority of the peninsula from the mainland.

Cape territory is divided into 15 towns with many villages.

Like Cape Cod itself, the islands south of the Cape have evolved from whaling and trading areas to become resort destinations, attracting wealthy families, celebrities, and other tourists.

The phrases Cape Cod and the Islands and the Cape and Islands are often used to describe the whole region of Barnstable County, Dukes County (including Martha's Vineyard and the smaller Elizabeth Islands), and Nantucket County.

Several small islands right off Cape Cod, including Monomoy Island, Monomoscoy Island, Popponesset Island, and Seconsett Island, are also in Barnstable County.

Barnstable, the most populated municipality on Cape Cod, is the only one to have adopted a city form of government, whose legislative body is an elected 13-member council.

However, like other smaller Massachusetts cities, Barnstable retained its "Town of Barnstable" moniker.Two highway bridges cross the Cape Cod Canal: the Sagamore Bridge and the Bourne Bridge.In addition, the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge carries railway freight and limited passenger services onto the Cape.The Cape Cod Canal, completed in 1916, connects Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay; its creation shortened the trade route between New York and Boston by 62 miles (100 km).Its elevation ranges from 306 feet (93 m) at its highest point, at the top of Pine Hill, in the Bourne portion of Joint Base Cape Cod, down to sea level.Cape Codders tend to refer to the land on the mainland side of the canal as "off-Cape", though the legal delineation of Cape Cod, coincident to the boundaries of Barnstable County, includes portions of the towns of Bourne and Sandwich that are located north of the canal.

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