Coast Guard Beach, part of the National Seashore, is a long beach backed by low grass and heathland. A handsome former Coast Guard station is also here, though it's not open to the public. The beach has no parking lot of its own, so park at the Salt Pond Visitor Center or at the lot up Doane Road from the center and take the free shuttle to the beach. At high tide the size of the beach shrinks considerably, so watch your blanket. Amenities: lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunrise; surfing; swimming; walking.
A great spot for watching sunsets over Cape Cod Bay, First Encounter Beach is rich in history. Near the parking lot, a bronze marker commemorates the first encounter between local Native Americans and passengers from the Mayflower, led by Captain Myles Standish, who explored the entire area for five weeks in 1620 before moving on to Plymouth. The beach is popular with families who favor its warmer, calmer waters and tide pools. Amenities: parking (fee); showers, toilets. Best for: sunset; swimming; walking; windsurfing.
Adjacent to Coast Guard Beach, this long, sandy beach is backed by tall dunes, frilly grasses, and heathland. The trail to the Three Sisters lighthouses takes you through a pitch-pine forest. Parking here fills up very quickly in summer; plan to arrive early or you may have to go elsewhere. Nauset charges $15 per car, but you can buy an annual pass for $45 (valid for all six Cape Cod National Seashore beaches). Amenities: lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunrise; surfing; swimming; walking.