Cape Cod Beaches
Photo Credit: Jill O’Connor
Cape Cod beaches are sure to be a highlight of any vacation to the region. While they cover a relatively small area, the Cape, Plymouth, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket together have over 730 miles of coastline. That translates to hundreds of miles of stunning Cape Cod beaches, perfect for a range of memorable activities.
Activities at Cape Cod Beaches
Historic Beaches on Cape Cod
Cape Cod has a number of remarkably historic beaches. The Outer Cape was the site of the Mayflower’s first landing, there have been innumerable shipwrecks including that of the pirate ship Whydah (for more details visit the Whydah Pirate Museum in Yarmouth) to the iconic dune shacks, the Cape Cod National Seashore, and the significance of Inkwell Beach and Eugenia Fortes Beach.
Swimming Beaches on Cape CodIf the water is calling you, the beaches are the perfect staging point for your favorite activities. Popular swim beaches along the bays, harbors and ponds offer warm, calm water perfect for splashing around. Favorites like Chapoquoit Beach in West Falmouth or Corporation Beach have restrooms, showers, concessions and other amenities to help you make a full day of fun in the sun (and water). Surfing, boogie boarding, and windsurfing are all the rage particularly on south and east facing beaches with big waves like Nauset Beach in Orleans, White Crest Beach in Wellfleet, or Surfside Beach on Nantucket. The calmer, east facing, harbor, and bay beaches are ideal for wading, kayaking, paddle boarding, and checking out fascinating marine life in shallow tide pools when the sea level drops. A few gems are First Encounter Beach in Eastham and Breakwater Beach in Brewster. Fishing, of course, is awesome on most Cape Cod beaches whether you like casting into the surf, seeking out lunkers between the sandbars or bait fishing while watching harbor traffic. If you plan to hit the surf while visiting beaches on Cape Cod, be sure to do some research on how to stay safe from the white sharks that you’re sure to see signs warning you about. Check out this article from our Seaside Stories blog as a starting point or visit the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Shark Center in Chatham or Provincetown.
Scenic Beaches on Cape Cod
Aside from all the beach-going activities, it’s the views that really make the beaches of Cape Cod famous. With long stretches of powdery sand, dramatic cliffs lining the shore, tall dunes obscuring any trace of civilization, lighthouses perched above the shoreline, and vast expanses of ocean waves or still water, the views from Cape Cod’s beaches are spectacular.
South and West facing beaches are favorites for sunsets, like Herring Cove Beach near Provincetown and Skaket Beach in Orleans. East facing beaches offer incredible sunrise spectacles but the sight of the full moon rising over the open water can be even more inspiring. Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet, Brant Point on Nantucket, and Joseph Silvia State Beach at Edgartown are some of the best.
And finally, many of the iconic Cape Cod lighthouses are surrounded by beautiful beaches. Gay Head Light sits atop the red cliffs next to Moshup beach at Aquinnah, Lighthouse Beach in Edgartown wraps around the cast-iron tower of Edgartown Harbor Light, and the beaches of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge frame the striking Great Point Light. If all the beachgoer activities that abound don’t thrill you, the beach views certainly will.
There are lots of great beaches on Cape Cod and the surrounding region that are perfect for walking. While it’s a lot of fun to have dogs roaming the beaches as well, it’s important to check local beach rules and regulations about when your four legged friend can join you on the beach.
Endangered shore birds nest on Cape beaches, necessitating closures and restrictions during the warmer months. To learn more about these unique shorebirds, check our Seaside Story on Piping Plovers, and click here to find dog friendly beaches on Cape Cod.
Visiting Cape Cod Beaches: What to Know
Before you grab your beach towel and swimsuit, there are a few details to iron out! Some beaches on Cape Cod are managed by local municipalities, while others are managed by the National Parks Service and the Cape Cod National Seashore, and still other beaches are privately owned or managed.
Be sure to know before you go when it comes to permits and beach stickers, municipal and parks service websites can help inform you about what you need to visit the beach! Some beaches only allow residents to buy stickers, while others are open to all but charge for parking, at the height of summer some parking can be limited!
Click here to learn more about beaches on Martha’s Vineyard.