Cape Cod, MA, is one of the most beautiful and popular places in the United States. People flock from all over, especially during the summer, swelling the population of the cape by about 250%, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. With its historic charm, quaint shops and miles upon miles of sandy beaches from bridges to tip, it is easy to see why the rest of the country wants to claim a little of the Cape Cod "salt life" for its own.
There are roughly 600 miles of Cape Cod coastline and more than 100 beaches that vary in popularity among locals and visitors. They also run the gamut of personal preference. Does one enjoy soft sand or rougher terrain? Does one want to be in near seclusion or among the crowds? Do they want off-roading and heavy surf or calm waters? It is possible to find your perfect beach on this peninsula.
With permit in hand, you can escape the crush of people who inhabit the beaches for the majority of the summer. Simply drive off among the dunes and shorebirds to find your own slice of Cape Cod paradise.
For an off-road escape, Nauset Beach might be the king of Cape Cod beaches. That’s because of the large expanse of the beach itself and the off-road areas, but mostly because of the tremendous surf of the Atlantic Ocean, which rolls along the national seashore from Orleans up through Provincetown. Nauset is also the only beach whose parking-lot status is flashed along the highway to those hoping to claim a precious space before they’re all full.
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The very tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown, is home to Race Point Beach, where the fishing is tremendous because of the "racing" current -- which is where the beach gets its name. Also, out among the dunes is Race Point Lighthouse, which can be explored or even rented for a few nights or a week so you can really get a unique perspective of Cape Cod.
Falmouth Chamber of Commerce/Dan Cutrona
Sometimes, visitors and locals don’t want to wade among the crowds, so they search for beautiful yet lesser-known beaches to get their fix. There are many such beaches that are popular among locals but still have parking spots available on most warm summer days. While they may not be at the top of visitors' lists or be plastered on every Cape Cod postcard and calendar, these beaches are still spectacular in their own right.
Very familiar to year-round residents, Old Silver Beach in Falmouth does not have off-road capabilities, particularly large surf or dunes. But what it lacks in those areas is made up for in the basics of what a beachgoer is looking for: sand and sun. Old Silver Beach is small and split in 2 by Herring Brook, making it a little more difficult to get lost. But with calmer waters than the beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side, Old Silver Beach is more family-friendly, as children can play in the water almost carefree.
Skaket Beach, being on the Cape Cod Bay side of the peninsula, is prone to gigantic tidal flats, where people can walk out as far as half a mile or more in spots that would normally be underwater. The location of the beach, at the point where the shore begins to curve northward, makes Skaket home to remarkable sunsets nearly every night of the year (weather permitting, of course).
In fact, Skaket, West Dennis and Craigville are all great walking beaches, with their sands spilling over into neighboring beaches. Even better, these beaches will almost always have room in the summer and are every bit as stunning as the most popular spots.
If you want to find the heart and soul of Cape Cod -- the truest sense of what the untouched land must have once looked and felt like -- you have to venture far from the crowds. Perhaps the most secluded beach on the cape is that of Bound Brook Island, which requires visitors to drive down a mile-long dirt road just to find the parking lot. There is a 50-foot hill to the north as you walk, and from the top, the view is as good as any on Cape Cod. You can see from Orleans all the way up to Provincetown, and even across to Plymouth on the clearest of days. It is a view that few see, as the journey to get there can be arduous.
For other secluded spots, try South Cape Beach in Mashpee, Corn Hill Beach and Head of the Meadow Beach, both in Truro, which are unspoiled oases that hark back to a time when Cape Cod was not the immensely popular vacation destination it is today.