If you’re planning a family vacation on Cape Cod, you’re in luck! The Cape is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, offering a fun and safe place for kids to play and explore. From sandcastles to boogie boarding, there’s no shortage of fun in the sun here. So, pack your sunscreen, towels, and sand toys, and let’s dive into the best beaches in Cape Cod for families!
As a general rule, surf conditions for Cape Cod beaches fall into 3 categories:
- Bayside beaches have warmer water and small, gentle waves that are great for young kids
- Nantucket and Vineyard Sound-facing beaches have small- to medium-sized waves with no rip currents (and less shark activity)
- Outer Cape beaches facing the open Atlantic have colder water, larger waves, and rougher undertows — and more sharks!
If you are looking for a family beach where you can take your dog, check out our list of dog friendly beaches on cape cod.
- Coast Guard Beach
Coast Guard Beach is a picturesque destination located in Eastham,the first beach of the Cape Cod National Seashore as you travel route 6 heading towards the tip of Cape Cod. This beautiful beach offers a wide expanse of white sand and crystal-clear water, making it a must-visit for families looking for a fun and safe place to play in the sun.
Coast Guard Beach is also known for its stunning scenery, with rolling sand dunes and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the perfect place to catch a breathtaking sunrise or sunset while the kids play in the sand and splash in the waves. This beach is on the Outer Cape so the waves are larger than you’ll find on bay-side beaches.
For amenities, Coast Guard Beach has restrooms, showers, and a snack bar. Learn more about Coast Guard Beach. The parking shuttle can be somewhat a hassle here for families lugging lots of stuff. For easier parking at a National Seashore beach drive further up Route 6 and head to Marconi Beach in Wellfleet or Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro.
- Nauset Beach
Nauset Beach in Orleans is another family favorite. This long, wide beach offers plenty of room for kids to run and play, and the waves are great for boogie boarding. Great for long beach walks. There are plenty of amenities, including restrooms, showers, and a snack bar.
Be careful swimming out too far at Nauset. Keep an eye on kids near the water. Some days there will be big, powerful waves and strong rip currents. And the water here is cold!
Great surf spot but it’s also a hotspot for great white shark sightings on Cape Cod. You’re rolling the dice. You’re sure to see tons of seals swimming by, and the sharks are always prowling these shores.
While the public beach at Nauset is one of the best beaches in Cape Cod for families, it can get crowded in the summertime. If you’re looking for more room for children to play, the ORV beach trails at Nauset take it to the next level. Added bonus is you won’t have to lug all your kids’ stuff down to the beach. For that alone getting an oversand driving sticker for the Nauset Beach ORV trails makes the price worth it.
- Mayflower Beach
Located in Dennis, Mayflower Beach is a popular choice for families with young children.
The water is calm and shallow, making it a great place for little ones to splash and play. And when the tide goes out, the beach is transformed into a massive playground, with miles of sandbars to explore.
The parking lot isn’t huge and it fills up fast, so plan to get to Mayflower early. If you get shut out, nearby beaches share the same family-friendly water conditions.
- Craigville Beach
If you’re looking for a beach with plenty of activities for kids, look no further than Craigville Beach in Barnstable. This beach offers volleyball, sailing, and even a playground, making it a great choice for families with kids of all ages. The waves don’t get too big here because of its location facing Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket sound. Great for little children.
- Corporation Beach
Located in Dennis, Corporation Beach is a smaller beach that’s perfect for families with young kids. The water is calm and shallow, and there are plenty of rocks and shells to collect along the shoreline.
Plus, there’s a picnic area and a playground nearby, making it a great spot for a family day out. If you don’t get up early enough to get parking at Corporation Beach, consider hitting nearby West Dennis Beach instead. West Dennis beach has a long parking lot with lots of spaces that are a very short walk from your car. Great for parents with young families and lots of stuff to carry, you can take multiple trips easily.
- Sandy Neck Beach
If you’re looking for a beach with a little bit of everything, Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable is a great choice for families with children in different age ranges. Older kids can have fun swimming, boogie boarding, hiking and exploring the sand dunes, while younger kids will be safe to splash in the ocean with gentle waves and low chance of rip currents.
Plus, there’s a snack bar and restrooms, making it easy to spend the whole day here. Sandy Neck is great beach in Cape Cod for families with kids of all ages. Afterwards plan visit Hyannis and walk the streets to find lots of family-friendly food options with outdoor seating so you can people-watch.
Sandy Neck also offers oversand driving stickers. Oversand driving means no carrying stuff for parents, so you can bring a lot more with you such as pop-up canopies and heavy coolers without working up a sweat to start your beach trip.
- Red River Beach
Located in Harwich, Red River Beach is a great choice for families who love to explore tidal pools and collect shells. There’s millions of lady slippers here, and some nice jetties. Foot protection is helpful when exploring.
The water is fairly calm at all of the Harwich beaches, which face Nantucket Sound. Not a great place to bodyboard, the waves aren’t all that big here and don’t break right. But its a safe place for younger children to swim and splash, and there’s lots of lifeguards here. Minimal rip currents due to the Jetties.
On the plus side, the chances of running into a great white shark are far lower on Sound-side beaches compared to those on the Outer Cape, so parents don’t need to be on guard.
Red River is the only beach in Harwich that offers daily parking stickers. It’s our pick for the best beach in Harwich for families because of the long parking lot which allows you to park close to your car, helpful if you’re lugging a bunch of toys and stuff for the kids.
The town collects seaweed often, so the beach is usually fairly clean. But the jetties trap the seaweed, and it’s always piling up. Bring flip flops or water shoes. There aren’t any sandbars, but at low tide kids can walk to a path on the left side end of the long parking area and explore the area behind the parking lot to hunt for hermit crabs and small fish by the mouth of Red River.
- Skaket Beach
Located in Orleans, Skaket Beach is a must-visit destination for families looking for a calm and tranquil bay-side beach experience. With its soft, white sand and minimal surf, this beach is perfect for young children who want to play in the water without getting knocked over by big waves.
At low tide, the water recedes and reveals miles of sandbars, perfect for exploring and collecting seashells. And if you’re lucky, you may even spot some horseshoe crabs, which are a common sight on this beach.
Skaket Beach offers stunning views of Cape Cod Bay, with a wide expanse of ocean and sky that seem to stretch on forever. It’s the perfect place to catch a breathtaking sunset reflecting off of tidal pools in the flats. Great beach to find hermit crabs. Bring bug repellent for the evening.
For amenities, Skaket Beach has restrooms, showers, and a snack bar, making it easy to spend the whole day here. The relatively small lot means you need to get here early in the summer.
- Falmouth Heights Beach
Falmouth Heights Beach is a great choice for families looking for a beach that’s both fun and convenient.
This beach is situated just a short walk from the town center, making it easy to combine a day at the beach with some shopping and dining in town.
Falmouth Heights Beach is a popular destination for families with older kids. Bring flip flops or crocs, the sand can be a little rocky.
Falmouth heights beach also offers nice views of Martha’s Vineyard, which is just a short ferry ride away.
There’s a restaurant/bar nearby which is great to satisfy whining children, and hopefully buy parents more time at the beach afterwards.
Herring Cove Beach sits at the tip of Cape Cod at the end of Route 6. It’s great for a day trip to Provincetown — hit the beach, visit the great dog park, and then walk commercial street for dinner.
Herring cove has bathrooms at each end of the main parking lot, changing areas, and a tasty snack bar. Absolutely killer sunsets.
Smaller kids will love the water, it’s warmer than the Outer Cape beaches and the waves are minimal. Nice long beach to walk and find cool rocks, and enough room for families to spread out if you walk a little ways from the entrances.
Parents should be aware of a few things: There’s poison ivy in the beach grass near the entrance paths. coyotes are unfortunately too common and they can be aggressive, climbing over the dunes. Don’t take too long a walk with kids to the left if you’re looking at the ocean, a long way from the main public beach there’s an adults-only nude beach. And of course there’s always the great white sharks, but there’s less of them sighted here then on other beaches. Woo-hoo.
Learn more about Herring Cove Beach.
Race Point Beach in Provincetown is our pick for the best beach in Cape Cod for families. Great sand, relatively gentle waves. Good place to see seals and maybe a great white shark. So it’s not the safest beach around to swim at.. Stay near shore and be alert, don’t let your kids wade out too far. If you’re looking for a safe place to swim or big waves to surf, pick somewhere else.
The main parking lot at Race Point is huge, with multiple levels of parking. Get there early to limit your walk, but it never fills up. There’s a nice bathroom and changing facility, outdoor showers. No food stand, better bring what you need.
It’s a short hike from the parking lot to the wide beach. Race point has miles of ORV trail access on each side of the public beach, but typically closes for nesting shorebirds much of the summer. Boo. If you drive to the south you can access an incredible sandbar pool that’s perfect for young kids, you can drive nearly within arms reach of Race Point light, and eventually reach Hatches Harbor where there is a lot to explore.
There’s also decent fishing for stripers and bluefish from shore, assuming the seals leave you any to catch. You can often see whales fairly close to the shore.
Race Point Beach is a few minutes’ drive from Commercial Street to grab food when the youngsters start complaining about being hungry. Or bribe them into silence with one of the many ice cream or fried seafood joints on your ride back down Route 6.
Learn more about Race Point Beach.
- Marconi Beach in Wellfleet has great waves and tall dunes that extend far in each direction. Really cool beach. If you’re willing to walk a ways in either direction you can find a nice place to spread out. But the steep stairs and long walk are a drawback if you’re lugging beach stuff like a pack mule for your family. Sit near a sandbar for gentler wave conditions. Good beach to surf. Be careful swimming or surfing far from the protected beach, sharks are always cruising around.
Learn more about Marconi Beach.
- The bayside beaches all along Cape Cod: beaches facing Cape Cod Bay are great if you have babies or young children. Many have wide tidal flats making it shallow and warm. Great sunsets.
- South Beach is Chatham requires a boat, but if you anchor off the back of the island you can walk over to a wide-open beach on the open Atlantic with large surf and a great chance of spotting a great white shark. Tons of seals and cool wildlife. Not a swimming beach on the open-ocean side, but a memorable day trip even bored teenagers will enjoy.
Things to remember when taking your kids to the beach on Cape Cod
To make sure your family has the most fun possible when taking your kids to the beach on Cape Cod, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Bring bug spray: A must-have. Ticks love to wait on beach grass for a friendly leg to bite. In daytime you may run into biting black flies (they’re fast!) and greenheads (easier to kill when they land). Later in the day sand fleas and no-see-ums come out, especially on bay-side beaches. Use cutter or deep woods off.
- Shade from the hot sun is important for kids and adults alike. Consider a beach umbrella or beach cabana to keep cool. Use wide brimmed hats. Drink lots of water.
- Watch out for sharks: Most great white sightings are on the outer Cape beaches, from Chatham up to Provincetown. Seals are everywhere, and the sharks aren’t far behind. Use caution and don’t swim out too far. Bay-side and Sound-side beaches have far less risk. Learn how to avoid getting bitten by a shark.
- If you want to bring your dog, check out our guide to dog-friendly beaches on Cape Cod. Most Cape beaches allow dogs in the off-season only, but the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches allow dogs all summer (unless they’re closed due to nesting shorebirds, which unfortunately occurs for much of the summer in recent years).
- Get there early on weekends to get parking. otherwise you’ll be driving on to another beach looking for spaces while the kids continue to whine and complain in the back seat. Rough way to start a vacation day.
Summary: Best beaches for families on Cape Cod
Cape Cod is a great destination for families looking for a fun and safe beach vacation. With so many beautiful beaches to choose from, it’s easy to find the perfect spot for your family to relax and play in the sun.
Beaches on Cape Cod all tend to be busy in the summertime, so plan ahead and get there early for parking. If you want to bring your dog, check ahead for restrictions due to nesting shorebirds.
Whether you’re boogie boarding on the Outer Cape or exploring tidal pools at a bay-side beaches, you’re sure to create family memories that will last a lifetime. So, grab your sunscreen and bug spray and hit the beach! Don’t forget to bring a few ice cold drinks. Family vacations all but require it.