What Makes a Beach the "Best"?
It's always subjective when you begin a conversation about the ten best of anything. One person's number one favorite might be someone else's last choice.
However, when discussing the beaches on Cape Cod, each one is the "best" at something. Whether it's the best for surfing, or a first pick for families with young children, each has its own appeal. The list below includes an overview of which beaches are best for which activities. Some are better for families, others are great for young adults or those looking for specific activities.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Corporation Beach, Dennis, MA
Corporation is a great family friendly beach. It is stunning in the fall, winter, and spring. The lack of crowds during the fall and spring make it an ideal spot to take pictures or sit back in a beach chair with a good book. In the summer, parking is limited and requires a daily fee ($20.00 in 2016). Seasonal passes are also available. Dennis has an array of beautiful beaches including Mayflower Beach (next to Corporation), West Dennis Beach (warmer, south side water), and South Village Beach.
At low tide, Corporation has tidal pools and tiny streams in the sand that make it exciting for little beachcombers. If you're going for the tidal pools, the best one is located right in front of the parking lot facing the rock wall. The sand is fairly flat and compact so it's also an ideal beach to enjoy a long walk. There is a brand new snack bar located on the high hill. There are also restrooms and a swing set for the little ones.
Parking is fairly limited and in the summer you will do best to get there before 8:30 a.m. As with most beaches on the Cape, cars will line up trying to get a parking spot very early, although this is not a problem in the off-season.
Nauset & Coast Guard Beaches
Fairly close (but not right next to each other), these two beaches are well known for great surf, beautiful dunes, and colder water.
Nauset Beach is not the same as Nauset Light Beach (just to avoid any confusion). Nauset Beach is easily one of the most beautiful beaches on the Cape and affords the chance to see a seal or two swimming in the surf. It is family-friendly, although the trek through the expansive sand beach may be tiresome for some little ones. The water is fairly chilly year round and the surf can be strong. The dunes are approximately 15 feet high and truly make you feel part of the Cape Cod landscape. There are bathrooms, a snack bar, and lifeguards on duty during the summer months. A daily fee of $20.00 (2016) is required for parking.
Coast Guard Beach is the one to go to if you like to surf. The unique landscape, with sandbars off shore, offers plenty to surfers and sunbathers alike. Noted as one of the best beaches in America, it should definitely be on your list. There is a seasonal snack bar and parking but it's fairly limited. During the high summer season, shuttle buses are provided from the Little Creek parking area.
What makes a beach the best?
Sandy Neck, Sandwich, MA
Sandy Neck is the place to head to if you've always wanted to camp in the sand. Sandy Neck is a town-owned park that provides nature and beach lovers a multitude of ways to enjoy the sand and surf. A long 6 mile stretch of sand is perfect for off-road vehicles and campers and can be accessed from mid-spring to mid-fall. The shore is rockier than most of the beaches on Cape Cod. Prices vary depending upon the length of stay.
Horseback riding is permitted on various lengths of the beach as well. (A $30.00 permit is required.) Fishing is also permitted. In the winter, it is possible to spot the Atlantic Right Whale feeding off the shore. Campfires are usually permitted after 7 p.m.
Sandy Neck is a great place to spend the fourth of July holiday. Sitting around the fire directly on the beach and watching the fireworks is a memory just waiting to be created.
There is a parking lot which allows people with regular cars (not campers or RVs) to park and enjoy the beach for the day. A daily sticker is required.
Craigville Beach, Centerville, MA
Craigville is a flat expanse of warm sun and water on Nantucket Sound. Popular with teenagers and young adults, there is ample room for a volleyball game or two. This beach is centrally located near everything Hyannis has to offer.
There is a snack bar across the street and there is always something going on during the summer months. The parking lot is a decent size but, as with all Cape Cod beaches, get there early, and be aware that there are some parking spots reserved for residents only. The water is warm during the summer months and shallow at the shore. At times, there can be a lot of seaweed in the water, however that is normal for most south side beaches.
There are lifeguards on duty and a daily parking sticker is required.
Race Point is large and growing due to the nature of the current and drifting sands. It's part of the National Seashore and is within walking distance to Race Point Lighthouse. Provincetown has amazing sand dunes and you can spend the day watching whales and boats. Because of its position, it's perfect for sunbathers as it's possible to have front-facing sun most of the day.
The Province Lands Visitor Center can provide you with information about the beach and the surrounding area. You can purchase off-road vehicle driving permits, as well.
Old Silver, Scusset, & Jetties Beaches
Old Silver Beach is located in Falmouth and is popular for many reasons, including the fact that it is close to the bridges to the Cape and thus makes the perfect day trip. The water is warm and the sand is soft... perfect for families.
Scusset Beach is less populated and has a very large parking lot. On most days you can leisurely arrive by 11 a.m. and still find a parking spot. There is an adjacent campground, as well.
Jetties Beach is by far the most fun and active on the Island of Nantucket. Volleyball, boat rentals, and varied food choices make for a fun day. The food can be a bit pricey though so you may want to bring a cooler instead.
Chapin Beach rounds out the best of the best. The parking lot here is small. It's also a driving-off point for off-road vehicles. At low tide, you can walk for miles on tightly compacted sand and tidal flats. The only word to describe it is breathtaking. There is no snack bar here but the town does provide portable toilets.
The beaches on the Cape have a place in our country's history. Not only are they magnificent in their beauty, but represent a starting point for the colonization of America. If you have the time and inclination, think about stopping off at some of the other, less popular beaches.
- Corn Hill in Truro was where the pilgrims found a hidden stash of corn that helped them survive the first few weeks in the new world.
- First Encounter beach in Eastham is where the pilgrims had their first encounter with the Native Americans.
- And if possible, consider visiting some of these beaches in the off season, when the awe-inspiring beauty of these natural wonders is not hidden by the multitude of tourists.
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