Cape Cod Feature

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The Cape's Best Beaches

Blessed by a great variety of surrounding waters, Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket boast some of the world's best beaches. They face the wild, bracing surf of the Atlantic Ocean on one side, while the warmer and gentler waters of Cape Cod Bay or the Nantucket Sound sweep the opposite shores.

Cape Cod alone has more than 150 beaches—enough to keep the most inveterate beachcomber busy all year long. One can still capture that sense of adventure that enchanted Thoreau so long ago while walking the isolated stretches of towering dune-backed beaches from Eastham to Provincetown. Families love the easy access and more placid beaches of the bay and sound, which tend to be more crowded. If saltwater isn't your thing, the Cape has dozens of freshwater kettle holes inland that were carved in the far-distant past by receding glaciers. Aside from warm, salt-free water, some—like Scargo Lake in Dennis—are also blessed with sandy beaches.

Upper Cape

For Families: Parents love Old Silver —a long crescent of soft white sand in North Falmouth—for its comparatively calm, warm water, and kids like poking around the shallow tidal pools full of sea life.

Mid Cape

For Wanderers: Stretching some 6 miles across a peninsula that ends at Sandy Neck Light, Sandy Neck Beach in West Barnstable offers a spectacular combination of sand, sea, and dunes perfect for strolling and watching the plentiful birdlife.

For Active Types: Encompassing 1.5 miles of soft white sand on Nantucket Sound, busy West Dennis Beach has plenty of space to try windsurfing, play a game of beach volleyball, or just sit back and enjoy the people-watching.

Lower Cape

For Traditionalists: Locals contend that Eastham's Nauset Light Beach and Coast Guard Beach, both set within the Cape Cod National Seashore, are the quintessential beaches. Combining serious surf, sweeping expanses of sand, magnificent dunes, and mesmerizing views, these spots deliver on the wow factor.

For Bird-Watchers: On the barrier beaches of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge, accessible by boat tours from Chatham, you're bound to see more sandpipers and plovers than people. Summer through early fall, shorebirds and waterfowl flock here to nest, rest, and feast in tidal flats.

For Historians: In this centuries-old area even a fun-in-the-sun day can double as a history lesson. In the Lower Cape, Eastham's popular First Encounter Beach has a bronze plaque that marks the spot where Myles Standish and his Mayflower buddies first encountered Native Americans in 1620.

Outer Cape

For Surfers: Wave-blasted White Crest Beach in Wellfleet is one of the preeminent places on the peninsula to Hang 10.

For Views: After the winding drive amid the dunes and scrub in the National Seashore, Race Point Beach in Provincetown literally is the end of the road. Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic meet here in a powerful tumbling of waves; views are vast and include extraordinary sunsets as well whale sightings.

For Night Owls: After-hours it's tough to beat Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet. The water here is chilly but the music at the Beachcomber bar and restaurant is hot.

Martha's Vineyard

For Photographers: Perhaps no beach in this camera-ready region is more photogenic than that below the Aquinnah Cliffs. The multicolored clay cliffs face west allowing for gorgeous shots at sunset.

Nantucket

For Sand Castle Connoisseurs: Jetties Beach has the finest sand castle building material. Hordes gather to prove it during Sandcastle & Sculpture Day, held annually in mid-August.

Updated: 05-2013

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