Cape Cod has been a popular getaway with summering Bostonians for generations thanks to miles of unspoiled sand, sea and sun. There’s a variety of different Cape Cod beaches to choose, mainly due to the region’s unusual flexed-arm shape. The calm waters of Cape Cod Bay along the inner section of the cape are perfect for gentle swimming, while the sand dunes and bigger waves facing the open Atlantic are wilder. Here’s our pick of the best beaches in Cape Cod.

Coast Guard Beach

Why Visit

Fronting the Atlantic Ocean along Cape Cod National Seashore, Coast Guard Beach is perennially popular and should make it onto any Cape Cod itinerary. It has a wide stretch of open sand and waves perfect for surfing and bodyboarding. A boardwalk provides easier access for those with limited mobility. Facilities include outdoor showers and bike racks.

Getting There

The nearest town is Eastham on Cape Cod’s outer arm. There’s no visitor parking at the beach, but a parking lot nearby just off Doane Rd provides a shuttle bus to the entrance.

Craigville Beach

Why Visit

A long arc of sand on Nantucket Sound, Craigville Beach is everything you expect from a Cape Cod beach, complete with clam shacks. It’s accessible enough to attract a mixed crowd, from frolicking teens to families and sporty types. Kitesurfing is popular on breezy days. Amenities include bathrooms, showers, rental shops and a boardwalk for disabled access.

Getting There

Craigville Beach is part of Centerville on the south cape. There is a paid parking lot right at the beachfront.

Nauset Beach

Why Visit

Ten-mile-long Nauset Beach is a straight strip of flat sand perfect for sandcastle building, sunbathing and bodyboarding, as well as fishing. It gets busy with families and photographers alike, the latter coming early in the morning to capture the sunrise over the beach.

Getting There

Nauset Beach is near the town of Orleans along Cape Cod National Seashore. There’s a cash-only visitor parking lot with 900 spaces at the beachfront. Sightings of great white sharks have been known in the waters here, prompting no-swimming orders – the Sharktivity app lists sightings and updates.

Marconi Beach

Why Visit

This classic Cape Cod beach was named for inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who sent the first transatlantic radio transmission from here to the UK in 1903. This is a wide, flat beach between surfable waves and a huge dune. There are restrooms and showers, but you have to go back to Route 6 for food and drinks.

Getting There

Follow brown signs for Marconi from Route 6 in South Wellfleet. There is plenty of paid parking. You have to climb a steep flight of stairs to reach the sand.

Race Point Beach

Why Visit

Race Point Beach is about as far out the arm of the cape as you can go, in northerly Provincetown (known for its annual Provincetown Carnival in August). Soft sand meets rough waves here, and its remote location equals fewer crowds. Strong swimmers and surfers enjoy the water, but this is mainly a beach for sunbathing, walking and biking. There are changing rooms, bathrooms and showers open seasonally.

Getting There

Race Point Beach is north of Provincetown airport. There is a paid visitor’s parking lot at the beachfront.

Old Silver Beach

Why Visit

Old Silver Beach’s calm, warm water and general proximity to accommodations and dining make it a popular choice for families and beachgoers who just want a relaxing swim and place to lay their towel. An alternative Cape Cod beach to the wild North Atlantic shores, Old Silver Beach lies along Buzzards Bay at the ‘elbow’ of the cape.

Getting There

Old Silver Beach is easily accessible off Route 28, but parking is very limited at the beachfront visitors’ lot.

Mayflower Beach

Why Visit

A quintessential Cape Cod beach, Mayflower Beach has soft sand and gentle lapping waters that make it perfect for families with kids. Conditions are gentle and sunny all day, and tides here are long, resulting in miles of pools and coves to explore when the water recedes. There are no showers, but bathrooms, picnic tables and a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk are available.

Getting There

Mayflower Beach is located along a straight strip of inner cape coast at Dennis. There’s a large parking lot at the beachfront.

Cahoon Hollow Beach

Why Visit

This beach gets its name from the fact that it is sandwiched between a 75ft-high dune and the Atlantic waves. It’s tricky to reach – you have to climb a steep path over the dune – so it tends to be most popular with younger beachgoers, surfers and those fit for a walk. The Beachcomber, a bar in a former U.S. Lifesaving Station, welcomes dune climbers with sundowners overlooking the ocean.

Getting There

The nearest town to Cahoon Hollow is Wellfleet. The small parking lot is known to fill up, so arrive early.

Sandy Neck Beach

Why Visit

Six-mile-long Sandy Neck Beach is not so much sandy as pebbly. However, it’s open in early season to off-road vehicles, meaning it’s one of the few beaches on Cape Cod that you can drive on. There are also miles of wetlands to kayak and wilder terrain to explore in the Great Marshes next door.

Getting There

Limited parking is available, but you need to buy a day pass at the Gatehouse, which also sells annual permits for off-road vehicles. Check the Barnstable town website for a list of requirements.

If you’re Boston-based, check out our other suggestions for long weekend trips from Boston.