You’ll also find wild Atlantic waves to surf, fish to reel in, lighthouses to climb and trails to explore. There's a beach for every bum, including yours.
Best for... beach bars
- Cahoon Hallow Beach If you’re ready to rock, the Beachcomber in Wellfleet is the place to head. A restaurant and bar by day, as the sun goes down 'Da Comba' morphs into a club hosting some fine bands (The Wailers and The Lemonheads have both played here). Its setting in a former lifesaving station also means you can keep an eye on the surf action as you tuck in to your lobster roll.
Best for... ice cream
- Craigville Beach It’s not exactly on the beach, but Four Seas is a nearby local institution that has been scooping homemade ice cream since the 1930s. Classic flavors with toppings such as hot fudge, butterscotch or wild cherry draw the great and the good from all over the Cape on hot summer days and nights. As for the beach itself, it's a long, soft-sanded beauty.
Best for... seclusion
- Long Point Beach Situated at the tip of the cape's curling arm, Long Point Beach in Provincetown is home to area's most serene and remote grains of sand. The beach is accessed via a two-hour walk along the stone dike at the western end of Commercial St. Bring your own water and time your walk carefully, as the dike is submerged at high tide.
Best for... surfing
The best times to surf are within three hours of low tide (before or after), when the wind is blowing from the southwest.
- White Crest Beach We hope you packed your best board because the town-run White Crest Beach in Wellfleet – backed by steep dunes – offers high-octane surfing. The morning waves are the least crowded and the most beautiful. If you need gear, SickDay Surf Shop (sickday.cc) can set you up.
- Coast Guard Beach Part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, this grand beach – backed by tall, undulating beach grasses – is a stunner. It attracts everyone from birders and beachcombers; but if surfing is your game, come for a beach break with swells up to 3m when the tide is falling.
Best for... windsurfing
- Kalmus Beach The warm waters and consistent wind of Nantucket Sound create excellent conditions for windsurfers, and Kalmus Beach in Hyannis is considered one of the best spots to raise a sail. Wear water shoes to avoid cutting your feet on the many seashells.
- West Dennis Beach Spanning a whole mile along Nantucket Sound, West Dennis Beach is the south side’s draw-card for windsurfers and kiteboarders. You can rent windsurfing gear at Inland Sea (inlandsea.com), and Air Support offers kiteboarding and stand-up paddleboarding lessons for beginners as well as rental.
Best for... skinny dipping
- Herring Cove Beach The far southern reaches of this Provincetown beach are gorgeous and desolate – enough that sunbathers make the trek when they want to feel the sun all over their bodies. Use discretion and give yourself some distance from the crowds before baring your essentials. Nudity is technically illegal on the National Seashore, so it’s wise to keep a cover-up handy in case a ranger comes calling.
Best for... picnics
- Veterans Beach The picnic tables and close proximity to the Hyannis town center make Veterans Beach an ideal spot for an ocean-side bite. Kids will be all over the playground and in the shallow waters.
- Grey’s Beach Also known as Bass Hole, Grey’s Beach in Yarmouth Port has a lovely picnic area, complete with pavilion and grills, and playground for the tykes. The long boardwalk here is also great fun – extending for a quarter of a mile over a tidal marsh and creek, you can spy all kinds of sea life beneath you.
Best for... fishing
Don’t forget your fishing license! It’s easy enough to get one at MassFishHunt (mass.gov).
- Race Point Beach Strong tidal currents, cold water and a steep offshore drop-off make Race Point Beach in Provincetown an angler’s paradise. Cast a line and reel in striped bass, bluefish and even tuna off this Cape Cod National Seashore beach. Check the fishing reports at Nelson’s Bait & Tackle (nelsonsbaitandtackle.com).
- Sandy Neck Beach Walk a few hundred meters in either direction from this popular swimming beach in West Barnstable and cast your line. The best fishing is in the fall when there’s a breeze from the northeast, but patient fishers are also rewarded in summer, especially after dark. Striped bass cruise between the sand bars as the tide is rising.
Best for... long walks
- Sandy Neck Beach The barrier beach at Sandy Neck in Barnstable covers a gorgeous 6.5 miles of the Cape Cod Bay, and its undulating dunes, salt marshes and maritime forests make for terrific ambling terrain. From four points along the beach, you can access hiking trails that cross inland over the dunes to a path skirting the salt marsh. Pick up a trail map at the gatehouse, and pay attention to the tides.
Best for... sunrises
- Nauset Beach For early-risers Nauset Beach in Orleans is a great place to watch the golden orb commence its daily journey across the sky. It's also one of the Cape's best beaches for walking, sunning and bodysurfing.
Best for... sunsets
- Herring Cove Beach Compared to the other beaches along the Cape Cod National Seashore, Herring Cove in Provincetown offers the calmest waters and the most stunning sunsets. In fact, it’s the only one facing west, thanks to the curling tip of the Cape.
Best for... students
- Craigville Beach This large public beach draws a college crowd for kitesurfing, volleyball or just splashing around in the waves. Like other south-side beaches, Craigville Beach has much warmer water than those on the north side of the Cape.
Best for... exploring tidal flats
- Skaket Beach When the tide goes out on Cape Cod Bay, wander out onto the flats for some up-close communing with sea creatures, including horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, clams and seagulls. Skaket’s generous sands triple in size when the tide goes out, when you can walk the flats all the way to Brewster and back.
Best for... lighthouses
- Lighthouse Beach The photogenic Chatham Light on this aptly named beach dates to 1787. For dramatic vistas of sand and sea and sky, head to the lighthouse viewing area off of Shore Rd.
- Nauset Light Beach Nauset Light, a picturesque red-and-white-striped tower, guards the shoreline at the eponymous beach. Nearby the Three Sisters Lighthouses are a curious trio of 19th-century lighthouses saved from an eroding sea cliff and moved to a wooded clearing, just a half-mile inland.
Best for... families
- Chapin Memorial Beach Kids will love frolicking in the gently sloping waters at this dune-backed beach in Dennis, and the rock pools are alive with all sorts of tiny sea creatures to explore. At low tide, you can walk way out onto the sandy tidal flats.
- Old Silver Beach Lifeguards, a rock jetty and a picnic area make Old Silver Beach a fine option for families, and the long, sandy stretch fills up in high summer. Kids can scramble onto sandbars in the shallows and search through tidal pools.