The “perfect” beach means different things to different people.
Here are 20 of our favorites, including two on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, plus one honorable mention in Buzzards Bay. Whatever vibe you crave, you’re bound to find it at one of these sublime sandy spots.Text and photography By Marina Davalos
1. Ballston Beach, Truro
Like its Wellfleet counterparts, Ballston boasts cliffs and waves, though slightly smaller in size. Not only do Ballston’s sands stretch out endlessly in either direction along the Cape Cod National Seashore, but sandbars are aplenty at low tide. Picturesque tranquility.
2. Cahoon Hollow Beach, Wellfleet
Located in the Cape Cod National Seashore, Cahoon Hollow features one of the Cape’s most striking cliff landscapes. This beach is awesome not only for its massive dunes on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, but also for the famously popular Wellfleet Beachcomber bar and restaurant. Known for world-class surfing.
3. Chapoquoit “Chappy,” Falmouth
Off the beaten track, Chappy Beach sits on a somewhat isolated expanse of peninsula facing Buzzards Bay to the west —think beautiful sunsets. This long stretch of beach is perfect for walking or just hanging out. Windsurfers frequent the beach for Chappy’s offshore winds. Cross the road and you’re in West Falmouth Harbor, where a marsh is maintained by Salt Pond Area Bird Sanctuaries.
4. Cold Storage Beach, East Dennis
Even at high tide, there’s plenty of room on this large bayside beach. At low tide, walk out on
seemingly endless sandbars. A jetty to the west borders Sesuit Harbor, so watching the boats come in and out of the harbor is an extra bonus. At low tide, kids will love playing in the tidal pools
and finding hermit crabs. Resident parking only.
5. Coast Guard Beach, Eastham
The southernmost beach along the National Seashore, Coast Guard is lined with cliffs and also has great surf. Walk for miles in either direction, feeling the misty air on your skin. Parking is limited, but there’s a shuttle from the National Seashore’s Salt Pond Visitor Center, just off of Route 6. Bring an umbrella, a cooler of food and drinks and enjoy the day! Bonus: At low tide, you just may see seals sunning themselves.
6. Craigville Beach, Centerville
A Cape Cod tradition for decades, Craigville Beach has been referred to as “world famous.” Bustling Craigville, with colorful umbrellas and coolers practically on top of one another, is not only great for people-watching, it’s the perfect beach for families and children, with its calm, shallow waters and bounty of shells. The Barnacle snack bar is right across the street. Park your beach chair here for the day and savor every moment.
7. Dowses Beach, Osterville
With dazzling views of the Centerville River and surrounding sandy spots, Dowses has been a family tradition for generations. To the north of the parking lot is the river bank, where kids love finding shells, rocks and crabs. Facing south is a jetty where locals like to fish. There’s even a newly built handicap accessible pier for fishing or just contemplating the amazing views.
8. First Encounter Beach, Eastham
On Eastham’s bay side, First Encounter boasts beautiful sandbars and tidal flats with soft sand easy for walking. Kids love to find shells and dig for crabs. If you walk all the way to the south of this beach peninsula, you’ll find yourself at the mouth of Herring River, a lovely area to explore. First Encounter faces west—think stellar sunsets.
9. Kalmus Beach, Hyannis
At the very end of Hyannis’ bustling Ocean Street, the white sands of Kalmus beckon visitors to relax. The beach is L-shaped, with one side overlooking Hyannis Harbor and the other side facing Lewis Bay. Watch the ferries come and go between Hyannis and Nantucket or the Vineyard. A jetty juts out from the point of the L, and both sides of the beach are long and perfect for walking. Windsurfers flock here in the spring, summer and fall.
10. Lighthouse Beach, Chatham
If you’re seeing sandbars crested over calm blue waters everywhere you look, you must be in Chatham. Facing the sandy North Beach Island, Lighthouse Beach is located right outside of the downtown area, slightly south of Chatham Bars Inn. The scenic beach sits below Chatham Light, an active lighthouse at the Coast Guard Station that aids in the navigation of Chatham waters. Lighthouse Beach is known for its strong currents and shark sightings.
11. Mayflower Beach, Dennis
Considered by many to be one of the most scenic beaches in Dennis, Mayflower has long attracted visitors in search of tidal flats and stunning sunsets. At low tide, walk out nearly a mile. The low tide also brings tidal pools galore—great for the kids. A scenic boardwalk for easy access stretches from the parking lot, over the dunes and to the beach.
12. Nauset Beach, Orleans
Surf’s up! Just hearing the name Nauset evokes images of surfers shredding waves. But even if hanging ten isn’t your thing, mile and miles of white sand beckon in either direction. It’s easy to find a quiet place to sit and sunbathe. Or, take a stroll on one of the boardwalks through the dunes.
13. Old Silver Beach, Falmouth
This longtime Falmouth favorite never disappoints. With Falmouth Cliffs to the south and a long stretch of beach to the north, Old Silver has calm waters and soft sand—great for walking—and super sunsets. Kids love boogie-boarding at high tide, and at low tide, walk out on an endless sandbar with minimal rocks and shells. Parking can be a challenge, so get there early or later in the day. Bonus: There’s a snack bar and outdoor showers.
14. Paine’s Creek Beach, Brewster
As the name implies, this beach sits at the mouth of Paine’s Creek, and kids love to explore its nooks and crannies, especially at low tide. It also makes for a uniquely picturesque landscape. Like its companion beaches here on the Cape’s bay side, tidal flats stretch out seemingly forever.
15. Race Point Beach, Provincetown
Cape Codders be proud—Race Point was recently voted by Trip Advisor as one of the Top 25 beaches in the country (up there with Florida and Hawaii). Pack your cooler and forget your worries. At the tip of the National Seashore, the waters here are a little faster, with an undertow, so take heed. Did someone say whales? You’ll see them spouting or breaching not too far from shore. For the adventurous: Explore bike paths and dune shacks.
16. Red River Beach, Harwich
Named for its position at the mouth of Red River, which meanders through Harwich to the ocean, the beach faces south and is perfect for families and walking. It’s been called small and quaint, but it’s still a good stretch of beach, with several jetties and a boat ramp at the end of the parking lot. The popular Beach Day in September features hay rides, a sand-sculpting contest, live music and a bonfire.
17. Sandy Neck Beach, Sandwich/Barnstable
The Cape’s premier four-wheeling beach, Sandy Neck, is synonymous with dunes. Permitted ORVs can travel almost to the end of the neck, though the town asks visitors to stay within allocated boundaries, as Sandy Neck is designated an area of critical environmental concern. There are, however, designated hiking trails for visitors who wish to explore the dunes, forest and marsh.
18. Seagull Beach, West Yarmouth
Yarmouth’s largest and most popular beach—for good reason. The nearly one-mile-long stretch of white sand dazzles the senses. It has calm seas, perfect for families with kids and floats, but it’s big enough to have your own personal space. There is also a good snack bar and ample parking!
19. South Cape Beach, Mashpee
Descend some stairs from the parking lot to the sandy shores of South Cape Beach, a long stretch in either direction—perfect for a long walk. Part of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the area consists of 2,800 acres of land and water for conservation. Many walking trails begin at South Cape and lead through pine forests.
20. West Dennis Beach
We love long stretches of beach for walking, and West Dennis Beach fits the bill since it spans a little over a mile. The parking lot is just about as long as the beach, so you don’t have to walk too far to the sand. Situated on a long peninsula, walk to the west and you’ll end up at the mouth of Bass River. Popular for windsurfing and flying kites. Extra bonus: Swings for the kids.
ON THE ISLANDS:
Gay Head Beach, Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard
A unique landscape worth the 10-minute walk from the parking lot, this beach is famous for its sunsets, red cliffs and historic lighthouse. Below the clay cliffs is Jungle Beach, one of the few nude beaches left in the U.S.
Madaket Beach, Nantucket
With crashing waves, turquoise water and eternal white sands, Madaket sits on the southernmost end of Nantucket’s west coast—the sunset here is the perfect way to end your day.
Monument Beach, Bourne
It’s a small beach, but noteworthy for its unique scenery. Situated on the enclosed Phinneys Harbor, it looks out over the Bourne entrance to the Cape Cod Canal and the scenic Monument Beach Marina.