14 Top-Rated Beaches on Cape Cod
Cape Cod has long been noted as a geographical icon in American history. The shores of this island jutting into the Atlantic Ocean attract visitors from all over the world. When you stop to consider that there are more than 130 beaches, it's not surprising that sun worshippers everywhere want to visit this part of Massachusetts and dip their toes in the sand and sparkling ocean waters.
Charming villages, gray-shingled cottages, and legendary seafood add to the maritime character that swells the population between Memorial and Labor Day. Lighthouses dot the coastline, guiding boat traffic through challenging waters. Wildlife abounds in marshes and wetlands. Cape Cod National Seashore was preserved as a National Park in 1961.
The Cape is divided into four sections: Upper, Mid, Lower, and Outer, each with its own personality and offerings. With more than 550 miles of shoreline and abundant lakes and ponds, you can rest assured that this seaside section of New England offers something for everyone. Choose a picturesque slice of coast to enjoy with this list of the best beaches on Cape Cod.
1 Head of the Meadow, Truro
Among many superlatives, Head of the Meadow in Truro is truly a postcard-worthy destination. The sandy dune experience can be reached with a scenic walk through stretches of tall, deep, sea-green grass. Visitors are rewarded with a relatively unpopulated area that presents 360-degree views of windswept sand dunes, blue rippling ponds, and rolling ocean waves. Tiny saltbox houses are perched like sentinels on the dunes facing the ocean vista.
For forty miles, the Cape Cod coastline of the eastern elbow has limitless sand bars lining the shore. The peaceful scene on a calm and sunny day belies the fact that many ships and lives have been lost, when the ocean shows her teeth and the winds and storms drive the unlucky or unwise upon the sand.
At low tide, you can often see the remains of the Frances, which was lost in an 1872 storm. Luckily, all aboard were rescued. Many others were not so fortunate, and shipwrecks dot the sea here.
On a typical sunny day, the Head of the Meadow provides two beach retreats: one is operated by the Town of Truro, the other by the Cape Cod National Seashore. In season, the seashore side has lifeguard protection. Surfing is allowed outside the swim zone, and the sport is quite popular here. For those in need of additional exercise, a two-mile bicycle path provides a ride through dunes, sea grass, and an ocean view one can only call awesome.
Location: Off Rt. 6 in Truro, Massachusetts
2 Race Point Beach, Provincetown
For the determined and adventurous, driving to the end of Cape Cod takes you to an area far fewer people visit on trips to the Cape. Situated on the hook of Cape Cod is the unique and quaint town of Provincetown. The town sits majestically on a slight bluff looking out on the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay.
The addition of a seasonal fast ferry from Boston transports day visitors to the area in a quick 90 minutes. Whatever your means of transportation to the end of the Cape, all will be pleasantly rewarded when you arrive at Race Point Beach.
The beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore land holdings. The expanse of beach is wide and lengthy. Due to its location at the confluence of Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the strip of sand is known for rougher waters and some dangerous tides. There are still plenty of shallow areas for less experienced swimmers and children. The beach provides seasonal restrooms, showers, and changing rooms.
If the sea and sun are not your preference, there are extensive paths for biking and hiking behind the rolling dunes and sea grass off the beach. The Province Lands Bike Trail is a challenging path and leads you to another beach and Herring Cove.
There is a two-mile stretch that leads to Race Point Lighthouse, a local landmark that has saved many a mariner from an unwelcome introduction to the many sand bars that surround the "Hook" of the Cape. It takes about 45 minutes on foot to hike to the lighthouse.
While not for everyone, if you like to walk the beach, it's a lovely trail through spectacular dunes. Do not forget the dunes and sea grass areas, like all areas of the Cape and Islands, have poison ivy and a tick population, so take care and you will have a memorable walk. If you prefer to drive overland, sand permits can be purchased in town. Free tours of the lighthouse are offered at limited times, and the open hours can be checked online.
If your stay in Provincetown is more than a day trip, the highly rated Land's End Inn offers luxurious accommodations with majestic views of the Atlantic and beaches. Additional Provincetown accommodations can be found at the
Cape Colony Inn boasting an above ground pool among its many amenities. The Seaglass Inn and Spa sits atop a scenic hill with the accompanying spectacular sea view. For those not comfortable in the ocean and seeking a cooling swim, the inn has an outdoor pool for an enjoyable dip.
Location: Race Point Road, Provincetown, Massachusetts
3 Marconi Beach, Wellfleet
One of the Cape's true gems is Marconi Beach. Well known as the famous location of the first transmitted telegraph to Europe, Marconi has now gained fame for the soaring beach cliffs framing a backdrop to a beach that sparkles in the sunlight.
The sand often changes colors along the cliffs of this beauty in Wellfleet, resulting in an ombré of hues. Many have recorded the layers of earth one would normally see in Sedona and the cliff sites in Arizona. The beach is wide and backed by large dunes that can take a beating over the storm season from the surf. This often means the size of the beach fluctuates from year to year.
The views from the top of the dunes stretch out to the bay, the ocean, and the outer cape. Wooden stairs lead from the dunes to the beach, and as you can imagine, such a beautiful spot can get crowded, even on the off-season.
Guards are on duty in areas designated for swimming, and visitors can often see seals frolicking in the waves or sunning on a secluded spit of sand. Walkers will find a perfect place to daydream as they peruse the shore. A volleyball game is usually taking place, boogie boarders are busy riding the surf, and everyone can enjoy their own activity in this part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Bathrooms and outdoor showers are available. About a five-minute drive from Marconi Beach, Even'tide Resort Motel and Cottages has an indoor pool and bike path.
Location: Six miles north of Salt Pond Visitor Center, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
4 Old Silver Beach, Falmouth
For those looking for some sand and surf without driving to the hook of the Cape there is a delightful stretch of beach much closer to Boston in Falmouth. Old Silver Beach, lies on the western shore of Falmouth and is blessed with warm sea waters coming up into Buzzards Bay from southerly climes. The beach is best known for the dramatic views of the Cape Cod Canal, which opened to boat traffic more than a century ago. This is the route north to the New England states as well as Canada.
Separated by a jetty, the area provides two beaches for swimming, sunbathing, and recreational beach activities. Local Falmouth residents are given parking stickers and have access to one side. The other is for the general public. Make sure to park in the correct area for visitors, as the locals are very protective of their beach jewel. Go early, as this beach (like most of the public beaches in Massachusetts) fills early in the dog days of summer.
While the soft sand and gentle waves are a big attraction, tourists need to be careful, as the rolling tides and warm waters can create powerful currents. Be vigilant, especially if you have little ones in tow.
This classic New England beach has great amenities: a hamburger shack, Italian ice cart, water toys, even a t-shirt or two. Photo worthy sunsets bring in extra tourists in the late afternoon to close out another summer day. Parents will be happy with the value at the nearby Holiday Inn Cape Cod -Falmouth. The high-ranking accommodation has a kids-stay-free policy.
Location: Quaker Road, Falmouth, Massachusetts
5 Rock Harbor Beach, Orleans
The season on Cape Cod is starting to stretch further and further into the fall. Truthfully, September is one of the most beautiful months. That being said, visitors choose the same beautiful beaches no matter what time of year they are visiting.
Rock Harbor in Orleans is one such spot. As the Cape starts to turn to the north, this is a location that really stands out. The area is filled with nooks and crannies of bays and tidal pools. At low tide, the flats seem to stretch on forever. Similar to other places on a narrow inlet, the magnificent Rock Harbor is split into two areas. Fishing and charter boats are found on the more popular western side. The small beach here can get very crowded, especially because there is no charge for parking.
The more secret side of Rock Harbor is located on the east side and is a wonderful place to watch the candy-colored sunsets. You'll find the entrance down Dyer Prince Road. A short walk to the beach through a sandy trail leads to a much less populated area. The Cove Motel on the waterfront is a quaint spot with a seasonal pool. Some of the rooms have decks. There is a picnic area and gazebo as well. The Knack is a must visit for traditional seafood specialties.
Location: Rock Harbor Road, Orleans, Massachusetts.
6 Coast Guard Beach, Eastham
While there is no way to seriously rank one Cape Beach from another there is little dispute from visitors that Coast Guard Beach in Eastham is simply take-your-breath-away gorgeous. Often recognized as one of the top 10 on various lists of America's best beaches, sun worshippers find it hard to disagree. Large, dramatic dunes back the flat, sandy beach, which is regularly full of volleyball games, boogie boarders, surfers, and sunseekers.
This is a very popular beach, with its expansive sand dunes, adjacent marshlands, and stunning sea views. The boardwalk runs right to the beach and is equipped for disabled access. The surf is large and attracts surfers and adventurous boogie boarders. The younger crowd is engrossed in multiple beach activities, and the soft sand provides a cushioned landing pad for active volleyball and boogie board participants. Large waves make this a great surfing spot. Watch for the curious seals, who although harmless, could be a bit startling. Sunset views make Coast Guard Beach a popular spot to close out the day.
There is limited parking here for residents only. Drop-off and pickup at the beach is prohibited and closely monitored. Visitors park at the Little Creek parking lot on Doane Road and take the free shuttle to the beach. The shuttles are very
convenient and run every few minutes.
Facilities are somewhat limited and include lifeguards and restrooms. There is also a wheelchair ramp down to the beach.
Most of the hotels available in this area are of the motel style. Midway Motel offers free Wi-Fi and parking. It backs up to the scenic Cape Cod Rail Trail for biking and jogs. For a great pool and morning muffins, try the Eagle Way Inn.
Location: 1.5 miles East on Nauset and Doane Roads (on the beach access road from Salt Pond Visitor Center). Look for brown and white signs.
7 Mayflower Beach, Dennis
Mayflower Beach is an award-winning property, a prize belonging to the Cape Cod National Seashore. This is a spot that presents a wonderful landscape captured by artists from around the globe. The dunes, fine sand, marshlands, and breaking waves are all here, melding into a beach scene most have pictured in their mind's eye.
Tourists will find that, in season, the beach is very popular, but if you are willing to persevere, you can find a quiet spot to call your own. The waves make it a regular spot for surfers and boogie boarders. Parents will need to keep watch if little ones are in tow.
Three parking lots corresponding to the areas of the beach are available for a fee. Amenities include lifeguards, showers, and restrooms. The boardwalk is wheelchair accessible, and special wheelchairs are available for the beach.
Continue the oceanfront experience with the Corsair and Cross Rip Oceanfront, with balcony suites, a pool, and private beach. The popular Sesuit Harbor House has a colonial New England charm. Loyal fans return year after year for their vacations.
Location: Dunes Road, Dennis, Massachusetts
8 Nauset Beach, Orleans, Massachusetts
Fishermen would like to keep the secrets of Nauset beach all to themselves. Bass and bluefish make a habit of swimming these waters when the timing is right. Unfortunately for them, word is out, and this spot is as popular for early sunrises as it is for the golden hour. Despite an enormous parking lot, in prime season, you must arrive early, or find another means of transportation.
With a special permit, the beach is open to off-road vehicles, which depending on your point of view can be a deal breaker. The 10-mile stretch of open space starts in Orleans and works its way down to Chatham. Good waves make Nauset popular with boogie boarders and swimmers. Surfing is allowed outside of the protected areas, and lifeguards are on duty from 9am to 6pm.
Although the beach is wide, find a spot close to the water, so you won't be dodging umbrellas and burning your feet on the way to the water in the heat of summer. Additional amenities include showers and restrooms, picnic areas, and snack bars, as well as beach wheelchairs for water entry. On a location note: there is another beach in the area called Nauset Light Beach, part of the National Seashore. It's easy to confuse the two. Visit The Cove Motel for a great location within walking distance to the beach.
Address: 250 Beach Road, Orleans, Massachusetts
9 Chatham Lighthouse Beach, Chatham
Although there are a handful of beaches with vistas of Nantucket Sound, few would argue that the most lovely is Chatham Lighthouse Beach. The beach is set below the guiding light of an active beacon, and this important landmark directs visiting boats and ships through what can be the treacherous Chatham waters.
Pay attention to different areas for swimming, as the current can be quite strong. Dangerous areas are closed for your own protection. The policy here is swim at your own risk; no lifeguards are on duty, and boat patrols monitor the area for emergencies. A red flag flying means swimming is prohibited in all areas.
While the shore is certainly scenic, this area is also all about the wildlife. A large seal population is regularly seen having fun in the waters and surrounding shores. There is a popular nature walk out to Monomoy Island, where birds are found in abundance. Seal tours are offered from the beach as well.
Parking is restricted, and a beach pass is necessary to park along Bridge Street. The lighthouse is normally closed to visitors, but during the summer months, a few lucky tourists will climb the tower during one of the random openings. The walk to the beach from town is about half a mile.
Chatham has many options for places to stay. The Chatham Inn at 359 Main is popular for its fire pit and chocolate-covered cranberries. Chatham Bars Inn Resort and Spa is a larger property with a well-known restaurant. The pool and beach are a big draw, as is the lovely spa. For a more boutique experience, the Chatham Tides has its own pool and beach, along with a selection of suites.
Address: 30 Main Street, Chatham, Massachusetts
10 Corporation Beach, Dennis
The scent of the rugged rosa rugosa fills the air when in bloom at this crescent-shaped beach attracting families for generations. The shape of the beach creates tidal pools where kids love to explore and dig for sand crabs. When low tide comes in, the flats provide even more space for long summer walks in the sand and excellent skimboarding. Reflections along the way provide a photographer's dream landscape.
A parade of pleasure boats going to and from Sesuit Harbor takes place in the distance, and sailboats cross the horizon. It's a busy place, full of visitors enjoying the simple pleasures of summer on the Cape. Many pack for the day and stay to enjoy the spectacular sunsets.
Early arrival is recommended, and parking is available for a fee. Lifeguards, restrooms, and a picnic area with snackbar complete the facilities. Wheelchairs are available.
Address: 250 Corporation Road, Dennis Massachusetts
11 Craigville Beach, Centerville
The south side of Cape Cod is home to many beaches, but Craigville Beach is probably the one that receives the most attention. Although the beach is regarded as a favorite with the younger generation, the large space in a picturesque setting welcomes everyone. Regular winds make it a popular spot for kite surfers whose colorful sails dot the skies along Nantucket Sound. The town also has a private beach, Covell's, but the parking lot is open to both residents and non-residents for a fee.
Enthusiastic entrepreneurs offer chairs and umbrellas for rent, and this lovely stretch of beach provides showers, restrooms, lifeguards, and even swimming lessons. The boardwalk allows for wheelchair access. Captain David Kelley House is a wonderful bed-and-breakfast, as charming inside as it is out. Their fresh scones are legendary. The Ocean View Motel lives up to its name and has a seaside vibe and décor.
Address: Craigville Beach Road, Centerville, Massachusetts
12 Town Neck Beach, Sandwich
The north end of Cape Cod Canal provides yet another location for viewing boats entering and exiting this waterway. Town Neck beach in Sandwich is a pebbly shore bordered by expansive dunes on one side and intermittent rock jetties on the other. The water is usually calm and fairly flat, making it a popular spot for young families, as well as distance swimmers and kayakers. The lengthy boardwalk acts as a jumping-off point for visitors into the water.
A large parking lot is a short walk to the beach, and this is one of the few areas that offer umbrellas and chairs for rent on the Cape. Lifeguards are on duty seasonally, and restrooms are available. Heritage Museums and Garden is a popular nearby attraction.
If you're looking for a place to stay in historic Sandwich, the Isaiah Jones Homestead Bed & Breakfast is a beautiful Victorian. Seven suites are decorated with period and reproduction era antiques. The Earl of Sandwich Motel welcomes guests with lush grounds, a duck pond, and pool area.
Location: Town Neck Road, Sandwich, Massachusetts
13 Monument Beach, Bourne
The seven-mile-long Cape Cod Canal connects Cape Cod Bay with Buzzards Bay to the north. This remarkable piece of engineering saves boats 135 miles when traveling on the Intracoastal Waterway. Monument Beach is located at the southern entrance to the canal in Bourne. Despite the fact that more than 140,000 boats travel on the water here every year, the beach, with views of the entrance, is quite beautiful and low key. The water is usually calm, as the adjoining Mashnee Island shelters the sea. Many water birds call this island home; ospreys and cormorants can often be seen diving for fish in the distance.
Beach volleyball and windsurfing are two of the popular sports taking place on the wide expanse of sand. Sunsets in the area are magnificent, and if you are really lucky, the occasional whale or dolphin might make an appearance. Adjacent to the beach is the Monument Beach Marina, which has many boating activities, including sailing and marine science lessons. Seasonal lifeguards, public restrooms, concession stands, and bathhouses can be found, in addition to a boardwalk.
Location: Shore Road, Bourne, Massachusetts
14 Grays Beach (Bass Hole), Yarmouth
At the other end of the ocean spectrum are the saltwater marshes of Yarmouth, with an area known as Grays Beach or Bass Hole. This area represents the quintessential landscape often seen in calm, scenic paintings of low tides and wetlands. Wildlife is frequently in the tall grasses, and the many shades of blue and green are welcome to the eye.
Cape Cod Bay and the opening to Garden Creek has a long wooden boardwalk that extends out over the marshes and leads to the beach. Gazing in the distance are views of typical flora and fauna known to the marsh area. Families are drawn to this area for the size of the beach and the shallow water. At high tide, expect to see plenty of cannon balls off the platform that sits over the water.
Although not the largest beach around, there is a spacious picnic area that features a shaded, covered gazebo. Next to the residents' beach sits the parking lot for Grays Beach, which is open to the public. Seasonal lifeguards and restrooms (no showers) are available. Since there is no food facility, this a great spot to plan a picnic and bring all the necessary utensils. The boardwalk makes it fairly easy to get all the inevitable paraphernalia over to the sand.
Yarmouth Port is well known for its selection of bed-and-breakfasts, all providing a central location for exploring Cape Cod. Built in the 1800s by shipwrights, the Liberty Hill Inn is an elegant destination with rooms offered in the main house, as well as a quaint carriage house. Welcoming owners await, along with a delicious breakfast at The Kings Inne, and the convenient and tastefully decorated The Village Inn Cape Cod has a long history of hospitality.
Address: 400 Center Street, Yarmouth, Massachusetts