Cape Cod Travel

Cape Cod towns have so many great beaches. Here’s why you should visit them.

"We have such a beautiful, beautiful series of beaches. I mean, expanses of sand that — it's unrivaled. It really is."

Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Flickr/Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

There are so many scenic beaches stretching across Cape Cod, choosing a sandy spot for your sun-soaked afternoon this season may seem daunting.

The six beaches that make up the Cape Cod National Seashore are always a safe bet: Coast Guard Beach and Nauset Light Beach in Eastham; Marconi Beach in Wellfleet; Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro; and Race Point Beach and Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown.

Coast Guard Beach was just named one of the top 10 beaches in America by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, also known as “Dr. Beach.”

The Cape Cod National Seashore, which drew 4 million visitors in 2021, was named one of the most visited parks in the U.S. by the National Park Service earlier this year.

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Whether on the seashore or beyond, Cape Cod town clerks shared their favorite sandy spots with us and why the destinations inspire them year after year.

Editor’s note: Boston.com is highlighting many of the great things about Cape Cod towns this summer as part of our Cape Cod Travel Guide. The beach picks ahead are sourced from town clerks and town officials interviewed for that series. More beach picks will be added to this list when the remaining Cape Cod town guides are published. We decided to publish an early version of this story to help day-trippers and travelers as the summer season picks up. 

Barnstable

Sunset at Sandy Neck Beach, Barnstable
Sunset at Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable. – Judy Croci

Ann Quirk, town clerk in Barnstable, loves spending time at Sandy Neck Beach, also known as Bodfish Beach. It’s located at Sandy Neck Beach Park in West Barnstable.

The park allows camping and beachgoers can soak in the sun and play in the surf, or take a scenic drive in the sand with an ORV (off-road vehicle) permit, she said.

“It’s a beautiful area with dunes,” Quirk said. “If you have an off-road vehicle, you can actually drive out there on the beach. It’s a beautiful, beautiful location.”

Bourne

Sunset at Monument Beach in Bourne. Shiran Pasternak/flickr

Sure, Monument Beach, a town beach on scenic Phinneys Harbor, has the sand, surf, and sunshine. But it also has great food, said Peter Meier, chairman of the board of selectmen and a lifelong resident of Bourne.

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The beach has a concession stand and Becky’s Bakery nearby, he said, adding that the popular Shore Road business sometimes has a line “down the street.”

“They make fresh cookies, muffins,” he said. “You can smell the fresh pies going out the door.”

Brewster

Sunset at Crosby Landing Beach in Brewster. – Colette Williams

Crosby Landing Beach is a great place to enjoy the Brewster Flats, said Colette Williams, town clerk in Brewster.

The tidal flats on the coastline of Cape Cod Bay, which stretch nearly 10 miles from Brewster to North Eastham, measure about 12,000 acres at low tide and are the largest flats in North America, according to capecodlife.com.

“If it’s low tide, the flats go out forever,” she said, and the kids “have a grand old time” playing in the tidal pools and catching hermit crabs and periwinkles.

She also loves Saint’s Landing Beach, where she enjoys lounging on the sand with friends and having a picnic lunch.

Chatham

Stage Harbor Lighthouse at sunset. – flickr/Ted Kerwin

Julie Smith, town clerk in Chatham, loves going to Harding’s Beach, which she called one of the most family-friendly beaches on the Cape due to its ample parking, restrooms, lifeguard stations, food trucks, and warm, calm water on Nantucket Sound.

“It also has beautiful sunsets,” said Smith. “I’ll go down with my camera, and I’m not alone. There’s quite a few people there taking pictures of that beautiful sunset.”

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The beach offers a great view of Stage Harbor Lighthouse, also called Harding’s Beach Lighthouse. Built in 1880 and billed as the youngest lighthouse on the Cape, it is a privately-owned lighthouse and not available for tours.

Dennis

The sunset at Corporation Beach in Dennis. – Terri Bunce

Dennis has the most beaches of any town on the Cape, said Terri Bunce, town clerk in Dennis. Dennis boasts 20 beaches, stretching along Cape Cod Bay to the north and Nantucket Sound to the south.

When she wants to relax, Bunce spends time on Corporation Beach, which she calls a “hot spot” for watching the sunset.

“It has a natural charm and beauty,” she said. “It’s best at low tide when there is more beach to walk on.”

Another beach worth checking out in Dennis is Mayflower Beach, popular with tourists and where the town’s annual Sand Sculpting Contest takes place, she said.

Falmouth

Chapaquoit Beach in Falmouth. – Marie Palmer

Chapoquoit Beach, called “Chappy” by the locals, is Falmouth town clerk Michael Palmer’s favorite beach.

“It’s very scenic,” he said. “I love the beach during the winter. I find it a great place to go and relax and walk without the crowds.”

The secluded beach is located on a peninsula that extends out between Buzzards Bay and West Falmouth Harbor, so visitors are treated to sweeping views of Buzzards Bay. There are seasonal lifeguards and the beach is popular with families.

It also has another draw.

“There’s great, great sunsets there,” Palmer said.

Harwich

Red River Beach in Harwich. – Emily Mitchell

Emily Mitchell, town clerk and Harwich native, said her favorite sandy spot is Red River Beach.

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“I always think of Red River as kind of the most quintessential beachy beach,” she said. “It’s a long stretch of beautiful sand with jetties going out into the water.”

The beach is handicap accessible, has restrooms, a bike rack, ample parking, and a food truck in the summer. Guests without a sticker can buy a day pass right at the beach, Mitchell said.

“It’s a great place to take a long walk, bring a bite to eat, or enjoy the sunset,” she said.

Mashpee

South Cape Beach in Mashpee. Terrie Cook

Deb Kaye, town clerk of Mashpee, recommends visitors check out South Cape Beach State Park, located along the southeast shore of Waquoit Bay.

“It’s gorgeous,” she said of the beach, and noted how soft the white sand is. “There’s a boardwalk that takes you out to a platform.”

It’s a great place to watch the sunset, Kaye said.

There are also trails for hiking, picnic areas with grills for eating, and it’s accessible, Kaye said. Sunbathing wheelchairs are available for guests.

Orleans

Nauset Beach in Orleans. Kelly Darling

Beach goers can take a four-wheel drive out onto Nauset Beach with a special permit and enjoy water views, dunes, and wildlife, said Kelly Darling, town clerk of Orleans.

“It is extremely unique to drive through the dunes,” Darling said. “The first time, I was just blown away by how beautiful it was.”

She also recommends watching a sunrise from the sand.

“It is the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s big waves and cold water and dunes and just everything one would expect with that experience,” she said.

Provincetown

Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown. – David Lyon / The Boston Globe

“You don’t realize how extensive our beaches are,” said Emmett Catanese, town clerk in Provincetown. “We have such a beautiful, beautiful series of beaches. I mean, expanses of sand that — it’s unrivaled. It really is.”

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He likes to meet friends at the Herring Cove Beach pavilion and relax on a bench there.

“Sometimes you can see the whales from that spot,” he said. “You can watch the whale spouts, so bring your binoculars. You can see them with the plain eye, too. Sometimes you can see the tail, but you mostly see the spouts. I can’t think of anything cooler than that.”

Sandwich

East Sandwich Beach in Sandwich. Photography by Anne-Marie / flickr

Taylor White, town clerk in Sandwich, recommends visitors spend time on East Sandwich Beach.

The long sandy stretch of sand on Cape Cod Bay has calm water bordered by grassy dunes.

“As far as beaches go in Sandwich, I’d have to say East Sandwich Beach is the best,” he said. “It’s not as rocky as many of our other beaches and has large sandbars and tide pools during low tide.”

Truro

Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro. – David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Kaci Fullerton, town clerk for Truro, loves going to Head of the Meadow Beach, one of the six Cape Cod National Seashore beaches.

“For me, Head of the Meadow feels a little bit more secluded,” she said.

The beach is accessible and there are lifeguards during the summer, she said. It’s also a special place for her because, as a Justice of the Peace, Fullerton has performed sunset wedding ceremonies there.

Wellfleet

Duck Harbor Beach in Wellfleet. kke227 / flicker

Jennifer Congel, town clerk for Wellfleet, loves to collect rocks and tiny shells on Duck Harbor Beach.

“It’s a really special place,” she said.

It is also very scenic.

“A lot of people go to Duck Harbor for the sunsets,” she said.

Yarmouth

The Bass Hole Boardwalk at Gray’s Beach in Yarmouth. – Town of Yarmouth

The Bass Hole Boardwalk at Gray’s Beach, an 800-foot boardwalk that extends out over the salt marsh into Cape Cod Bay, is never a bad idea, said Mary Maslowski, town clerk for Yarmouth.

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“It’s just a peaceful place,” she said. “It’s a place for a morning walk with a cup of coffee to watch the sea birds and see some of the wildlife. Or it’s a nice place to watch the sunset over Cape Cod Bay.”

Gray’s Beach, also known as Bass Hole, has a picnic area, restrooms, walking trails, a playground, and great tide pools perfect for young beachgoers, she said.

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