Cape Cod beaches: Put these eight at the top of your list

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Ask Cape Cod locals to name their favorite beach, and you’ll likely hear a wealth of differing opinions. Stephen Leatherman, the well-traveled operator of the website Dr. Beach (drbeach.org), recently chose Coast Guard Beach, in the town of Eastham, as one of America’s 10 best. But that shouldn’t stop visitors from exploring the more than 130 options the peninsula has to offer. Here are eight suggestions.
 

TOWN NECK BEACH, SANDWICH

Sandwich, MA, USA - July 14,2016: Famous walkway
(Credit: Getty Images/CaptureLight)

The approach to the town beach of Sandwich is nearly as dramatic as the ocean itself. A colorful marsh separates the parking lot from the beach, and visitors make the trek via a long wooden boardwalk. At the boardwalk’s end is a high ridge of dune that provides a scenic reveal for what lies beyond: soft sands scattered with amber stones, a view of Cape Cod Canal and the Sagamore Bridge, and the uncommonly clear waters of the bay. After the beach, stay in town for the Sandwich Glass Museum (sandwichglassmuseum.org) or a meal at the Dan’l Webster Inn (danlwebsterinn.com). 
ACCESS The parking lot is small, so get there early; otherwise, it’s a mile walk from the town center. Nonresident parking stickers are $15 per day. 
INFO sandwichmass.org
 

SANDY NECK BEACH, BARNSTABLE

A small open motorboat is moored in Barnstable
(Credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto/Ken Wiedemann)

It’s not uncommon for beachgoers at Sandy Neck to linger until evening for the spectacular sunsets over Cape Cod Bay. The eastern section of the beach allows vehicles (with permits), and many visitors dig barbecue pits and camp until morning. For many, however, the highlight of this immense Barnstable site is the looping network of nature trails that meander throughout the dunes. You’re likely to meet fellow hikers, dog walkers or bird-watchers; on chillier days, you might see only egrets, loons or even one of the red-tailed hawks that sometimes nest nearby.

ACCESS Large parking lot; easy walk and wheelchair ramp from the lot to the beach; $15 per day.

INFO town.barnstable.ma.us/sandyneckpark

COLD STORAGE BEACH, DENNIS

Boulders On The Flats - Cold Storage Beach
(Credit: firstduephotos.com/Ted Pendergast)

On summer afternoons, the motels, clam shacks and ice-cream stands along Highways 6 and 28 are often crammed with tourists, and the beaches beyond — there are 18 in total — are just as popular. A less-frequented option is Cold Storage Beach: Here, the sand is soft and white, the water sapphire blue and the horizon provides a distant view of the curling “arm” of the Cape and the endlessly crisscrossing fishing boats. The beach gets its name from the ice-storage huts that chilled the daily haul from Dennis’ fishermen in the early 1900s. 

ACCESS Nonresident daily passes are $20 or $25 on weekends. 

INFO town.dennis.ma.us

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NAUSET BEACH, ORLEANS

Massachusetts Cape Cod Orleans Nauset Beach free summer
(Credit: Alamy/Rosa Irene Betancourt)

At nearly 10 miles long, Nauset is a giant among Cape Cod’s beaches. Whereas most face north toward the bay or south toward the open Atlantic, Nauset rests along the far eastern edge of the Cape, making it ideal for sunrise views or, more surprisingly, for surfing and boogie-boarding. Take note: Nauset Beach parking lot — with enough space for 900 cars — can fill up fast. After Orleans, take a 10-minute drive to neighboring Chatham, one of the Cape’s wealthiest and most beautiful towns.

ACCESS For nonresidents, a daily pass is $20 and a weekly $75. 

INFO town.orleans.ma.us

COAST GUARD BEACH, EASTHAM

USA MASSACHUSETTS CAPE COD COAST GUARD BEACH
(Credit: Alamy)

It’s easy to see why Coast Guard Beach was named one of America’s best. This beautiful beach is especially popular for swimming, as the water stays clear and shallow for many yards out, and is especially cool during the summer heat. If you want to do more than just sunbathe and swim, pack binoculars — the area is home to several species of endangered plovers and terns that nest in the marshes behind the Coast Guard station. Visitors to the adjoining Nauset Spit can walk on the long beach barrier (which often provides a resting spot for harbor seals during the late fall and winter).

ACCESS Although the parking area is small, a shuttle bus runs every 10 minutes, carrying beachgoers from a larger lot to the beach. 

INFO nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/coast-guard-beach-eastham.htm

CAHOON HOLLOW BEACH, WELLFLEET

Sunrise, Cahoon Hollow beach, Cape Cod, Wellfleet, Massachusetts.
(Credit: Alamy)

With its still-active drive-in movie theater and its annual Oyster Festival (this year Oct. 14-15, wellfleetspat.org), Wellfleet sometimes seems like a town from another time. The beaches here, too, are among the calmest — a good example is Cahoon Hollow, named for a local Wellfleet family; its colossal dunes and cool waters make it a favorite with locals. A trip to this beach isn’t complete without a stop at the Wellfleet Beachcomber (thebeachcomber.com). Housed in what was once a lifesaving station, it now keeps tourists happy with lobster dinners and Wellfleet oysters.

ACCESS Parking is limited; in season visitors pay $20 a day, or $5 per person for drop-off. 

INFO wellfleet-ma.gov

LONGNOOK BEACH, TRURO

Longnook Beach Truro Cape Cod Massachusetts USA
(Credit: Alamy/Julian Castle)

Some locals call Longnook the “secret beach” — a somewhat isolated place favored by those wishing to escape the crowds of neighboring Provincetown. It’s true that until you see the parking lot, you might not even know the beach is there: The hulking dunes obscure it from street view. Once you tackle the somewhat steep trek down, you’ll discover that Longnook is one of the prettiest spots on the Cape. The beach is most popular with local families and, when the wind is strong, a few adventurous surfers; it’s also a great spot for seashell hunting. Wandering too far down the beach might lead you into “clothing optional” territory. If that doesn’t appeal, a visit to the nearby Truro Vineyards (trurovineyardsofcapecod.com) just might.

ACCESS In season, permits for the large lot are $20 per day. Walking down to the beach is a bit tricky, and it is not handicap accessible.

INFO truro-ma.gov

RACE POINT BEACH, PROVINCETOWN

Race Point Lighthouse during sunset.
(Credit: Alamy/Susan Candelario)

A trip to Provincetown, the town at the very end of Cape Cod popular with artists and the LGBT community, wouldn’t be complete without renting a bicycle and following the bike trail through the woods to popular Race Point Beach. While the waters here can be choppy, the beach is a favorite for sunbathers: It lies at the northernmost spot on the Cape and is unblocked by dunes. Don’t bother packing a lunch — just bike the mile back into town, where a wealth of options awaits along Commercial Street, from standbys such as the Lobster Pot (ptownlobsterpot.com) to newer favorites like The Canteen (thecanteenptown.com). 

ACCESS The main Provincetown beaches are part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, where the daily vehicle fee is $20 and the individual pedestrian or bicycle fee is $3. Pedicabs can transport visitors from the town center to the beaches. 

INFO ptownchamber.com/on-the-water/beaches

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