Going to Cape Cod on vacation and want to find the perfect beach? We’ll help you find the nicest beach on Cape Cod, including the best ones for families with kids, for dog owners, the most remote beaches, best beach sand, and some cool beaches with ORV trails.
In this article we’re going to focus on public beaches. Like every list on the subject we’re a bit biased, but these are the nicest beaches on Cape Cod that we’ve found.
Best Beach for Kids on Cape Cod
Our vote for the best beach for kids on Cape Cod is Skaket Beach in Orleans.
Skaket Beach has pure white sand, warm gentle waters, and lots of great areas of children to explore. Like most of the beaches located on the Cape Cod bay side the water is far warmer and gentler than the beaches of the outer Cape that face the open Atlantic.
The water recedes at low tide to reveal huge tidal flats. You can walk far into the water Skaket Beach and it will stay shallow. There’s lots of of interesting wildlife for kids to discover. Your children will love catching small fish and hermit crabs so bring a net and a bucket.
Nice sunsets here too. But bring bug spray, sand fleas and other biting critters await in the evenings.
The parking lot sells daily passes. It’s a short, flat walk to the beach area. Which is great if you’re lugging armfuls of toys.
Other great beaches for families
Most towns on Cape Cod have bayside beaches with similar warm water and gentle wave conditions, so you needn’t drive far to find a great beach for kids.
Bayside beaches can be found stretching from Sandwich, Barnstable, Dennis, Brewster, Orleans, Wellfleet, and Provincetown. Anything bayside is generally much gentler and warmer than what you’ll find on the Nantucket Sound or Outer Cape beaches. Bayside beaches are especially popular for families with young children, there’s much less to worry about.
Best Beach Sand on Cape Cod
Cape cod has some nice beaches, not all of them have great beach sand. If you’re looking for bleached white sand, not all cape beaches can deliver. Many have mixtures of dark sand mixed in, so the colors are usually more of a tan than a classic Caribbean white sand.
Head of the Meadow Beach has some of the softest sand on the Outer Cape Beaches. It’s less populated than other beaches in the area, and less people generally means cleaner sand. When the ORV trail at Head of the Meadow was open years back you could drive away from the busy public beach find yourself stretches of beach without footprints. The conditions were pristine.
But is the sand really clean? With thousands of seals offshore, each eating (and pooping) 50+ pounds of seafood per day, the water is just filled with bacteria. This scent trail is what draws in the Great Whites. So “clean” beach sand on Cape Cod is kind of a relative term, even in areas where people don’t go often.
Many Outer Cape beaches have lots of rocks at the tideline, which isn’t ideal for long barefoot beach walks. A few have chunks of pavement from parking lots that fall into the sea.
Nantucket Sound beaches such as those in Dennis, Yarmouth, and Harwich all tend to have broken lady slippers and other shells. Many Sound-facing beaches have Jetties which trap mountains of seaweed with the tides, which can make walking to the water a bit challenging
Some of the bayside beaches have find sand. Tidal flats such as those at Rock Harbor in Orleans have soft sand that appears in cool patterns as the tide recedes. These beach areas are great for walking barefoot, but some paths require stepping through vegetation so watch out for crabs!
Worst Beach Sand on Cape Cod:
Some Cape Beaches have a silty dirt consistency. After a day in this sand your skin and towels will be covered in this fine dust. Sorry, Cahoon’s Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. Your beach is great and one of the most fun places to have a beer around a beach fire. But your sand is yuck-yuck.
Most Remote Beach
South Beach in Chatham, MA
South Beach in Chatham is a thin strip of barrier beach that extends south of Nauset Beach out towards Monomoy Island. You can only get there by boat and it’s a long stretch of beach, so you’ll have plenty of room to spread your towel.
The East-facing dunes of South beach beach stands directly in the way of the open Atlantic. Huge waves and powerful rip currents are here, which by themselves would make swimming here a big risk.
But the real risk to swimmers are the plentiful great white sharks. South Beach and the entire outer Cape is an active shark feeding ground and the abundance of tasty seal flesh makes swimming far offshore a foolish endeavor. But you’re especially remote at this beach, so medical care isn’t an option.
The back side of the dunes at South Beach face Chatham Harbor. This is where you’ll anchor your boat, and from there it’s a quick walk across the island to the impressive outer beach.
If you’ve got a Chatham shellfish permit then bring your bucket and ring – quahogs are everywhere on the harbor side. Just walk around barefoot and you’ll feel them underwater in the soft sand, you won’t even need a rake.
This beach isn’t much of a secret, so on nice summer days you’ll likely have some company. Check out South Beach in the Spring or Fall if you’re looking for more of the beach hermit experience.
Best Beach for Dogs on Cape Cod
There’s a lot of dog friendly beaches in every town on Cape Cod that we love. But to pick the best one, we narrowed it down to beaches that allow pets in the summer, because that’s the most fun time to visit.
- To learn the dog regulations at all of the beaches on Cape Cod visit our complete list of dog-friendly beaches on Cape Cod.
Only a few towns on Cape Cod allow dogs in the summer during the daytime. You’ll need to visit Provincetown, Wellfleet, or the Cape Cod National Seashore beaches for summer access. Of these beaches, we’re going with the Cape Cod National Seashore for visitors on vacation since they’re all very dog-friendly, sell daily passes, and most have large parking areas. But which one?
Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro is one of the nicest beaches in Cape Cod, if not in the world, but it’s closed to dogs much of the summer every year due to nesting shorebirds. So that one is out.
Coast Guard Beach in Eastham is great too, but the parking lot requires a trolley ride and they don’t allow dogs. No bueno. Race Point Beach is amazing, and the ORV trails provide access to miles of beaches that are truly world-class. But the main beach and the overland driving trails all close at the start of the summer, and dogs aren’t allowed then either. Bummer.
But our vote for the best beach for dogs on Cape Cod is… Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown.
Herring Cove Beach has a lot going for it. A huge parking lot that never fills up, incredible drive-up sunset views, nice amenities including bathrooms and cold-water showers, and a snack bar that serves good food and beer.
The stretch of beach to the left of the Herring Cove parking lot stays open to dogs, and the dog-to-human ratio at this beach is very high. When Race Point’s ORV trails close sticker-holders get free access to Herring Cove, and a lot of people just go there. The result is there’s tons of cool dogs to meet.
One caveat: In the summer you should check the National Seashore dogs info page to check for any current dog restrictions before you go. They keep the page updated all season long so you can find a location where pets are still being allowed.
If you’re willing to walk a ways you’re guaranteed to find some open beach space. Just don’t walk too far unless you’re looking to find the clothing-optional beach. That one’s dog friendly too in case your dog prefers things au natural.
The sunsets at Herring Cove beach are legendary. If you drive to the right of the guard booth you can pull right up and park facing the beach for a great view without leaving your car. They stop charging for beach access around 4:30, so sunsets here are free.
After the sunset you can head into Commercial Street for dinner, it’s just a few minutes ride away by car or bike. Dogs are welcome everywhere in P-town, where you’ll find tons of pet-friendly food options and shopping.
Want to learn more?
- Find a cool beach on our list of beaches on cape cod
- Learn more about beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore
- See our 5 favorite things to do in P-town with your dog
Best Beach for Jeep Owners
A buddy with a Jeep asked me this question the other day: “What’s the nicest beach on Cape Cod to drive my Jeep?” This was pretty easy to answer, since most of the potential oversand driving trail options have such limited beach access in the summer due to piping plovers.
The winner is the ORV Trails of Race Point Beach. It’s a great place to drop some air from your tires and bounce around. Access is usually available through mid-June, then restricted until later in the summer. In recent years it’s much worse than it used to be, so the majority of beach is closed to people for most of the summer.
Other contenders for nicest beach on Cape Cod to drive a Jeep were the ORV Trails at Nauset Beach (access restricted starting in early June heavily due to nesting shorebirds) and the ORV Trail at Head of the Meadow Beach (access restricted indefinitely due to shorebirds and tough terrain). The National Seashore ORV sticker also gives you access to other oversand driving trails at High Head Road and at Coast Guard Road Beach in Truro.
So if you’re looking to get your Jeep on a beach on some trails on Cape Cod, head to P-town in early June or late August and let the party begin. The later in the season you go the more miles of shoreline trails will be open.
If you are visiting in the offseason or don’t mind shelling out a few hundred bucks for a sticker you can’t use, check out Nauset Beach too.