see + do
Beaches on Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Concierge.com's insider take:
The 115 beaches strung out along Cape Cod's 560 miles of coastline run the gamut from surfer-friendly to family-friendly to clothing-optional. The best (and generally the most crowded) are the ocean-facing beaches, especially those along the Cape Cod National Seashore's 40-mile stretch of soaring dunes and heavy surf. These include Coast Guard Beach, which has an intact Coast Guard lifesaving station (now used for educational programs), and Nauset Light Beach, under the lighthouse made famous by artist Edward Hopper. Enter the park at the Salt Pond Visitor Center, off Route 6 in Eastham ($15 per car, $3 per bike or pedestrian; 508-771-2144, nps.gov/caco).
To the south of the National Seashore is Atlantic-facing Nauset Beach, the largest beach on the Cape. Managed by the town of Orleans, it has a full-service concession stand, rental chairs, and umbrellas, and plenty of parking (Nauset Beach Rd., 508-240-3780, town.orleans.ma.us/Pages/OrleansMA_Parks/beaches). On the Outer Cape (i.e., furthest from the mainland), Wellfleet's Marconi Beach (Marconi Beach Road, off Route 6) and Truro's Head of the Meadow Beach (off Route 6) have mountainous sand dunes. In Provincetown, Race Point Beach (off Route 6) has huge dunes and powerful surf; the town-operated Herring Cove Beach (at the end of Route 6A) is more or less officially clothing-optional.
Beaches on the protected Cape Cod Bay side, where there are seldom waves, are usually less busy and attract residents and families with young children. The glaciers that formed Cape Cod also left behind more than 350 freshwater lakes and ponds, and some of those have beaches that are especially good for families with kids.
Some beaches restrict parking to residents only, though those are typically still accessible by bike. Most others charge up to $20 per day in the summer. Weekly and full-season parking stickers (typically from $50 to $70 and from $110 to $225, respectively, depending on the town) can be purchased at the town hall for beaches in that town. A list of beaches with their locations is at Capecodchamber.org/beaches, and a helpful map can be found at Capecodbeachchair.com/beachguide.