Best Beaches in Provincetown and Outer Cape Cod
With over 600 miles of coastline, Cape Cod introduces visitors to some of the most picturesque beaches in the world. The quadrant known as The Outer Cape includes the best beaches in Provincetown and extends south towards Eastham. Additional towns in this section of Cape Cod include Truro and Wellfleet. Each town has its own unique characteristics and personality. Some say the area is the Cape’s best kept secret.
This beautiful stretch of narrow land is one of the most rural and least built up destinations you will find when searching for a beach vacation in New England. Whether taking a day trip from Boston or a weekend getaway, the Outer Cape includes most of the Cape Cod National Seashore and offers pristine beaches, sea grasses and sand dunes as far as the eye can see.
Extending only a mile across in some areas, the Outer Cape includes the charming towns of Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and then at the most northernly, the best beaches in Provincetown. While the traffic to get there can be legendary and rival that of the Hamptons in high season, a bit of planning and willingness to drive at off peak hours will avoid most of the aggravation. All will be rewarded with an opportunity for the quintessential New England seaside experience.
Getting to the Best Beaches in Provincetown
Road trips seem to be on the mind of all travelers these days and a car is certainly the optimal way to explore the best beaches in Provincetown and the Outer Cape. Driving your own vehicle is convenient and handy to get around Cape Cod, particularly if you’re hoping to explore a handful of different towns and areas along the Cape Cod National Seashore.
The direct route from Boston to Provincetown covers approximately 120 miles. With normal traffic visitors will arrive in about 2 ½ hours. Route 28 and Route 6A run the width of the Cape making navigation quite simple, especially when driving off peak.
Those planning a day trip from Boston to Provincetown can also take the 90-minute fast ferry from Boston harbor for $60 to $63 (one way) to $89 to $95 (roundtrip) from mid-May through mid-October daily. Visit the Bay State Cruise Company website for schedules.
A handful of car rental companies are scattered across the Cape, with locations in Sandwich, Hyannis and Orleans, among other popular areas. Keep in mind that parking can be hard to come by and the beach lots fill up early.
Eclectic, artsy, accepting and beyond unique, Provincetown (better known as P-town) is on the very tip of Cape Cod. Distance is more than 60 miles on Route 6 from the Sagamore Bridge. The Pilgrims famously landed here in 1620. Shortly thereafter, they moved on to Plymouth, where they found fresh water and better farmland.
In the intervening years, artists and writers have long congregated in P-town, inspired by the landscape and what has been described by painters as the unique and magical light. With all of these influences and attractions, plus whale watching, ferry boats from Boston, and scores of shops, restaurants, and galleries, it’s no mystery why P-town, like the entire Cape, is popular in the summer with families, couples and tourists from all over the world.
Best Beaches in Provincetown
(Numbers correspond to location on map above)
1. Race Point Beach
Up for an adventure? Drive to the farthest point on Cape Cod where you will find a road less traveled and some of the best beaches in Provincetown . Located on the hook of Cape Cod is the unique and charming town of Provincetown. Overlooking the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay, the views are breathtaking. The town is located on a slight bluff grandly overlooking the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay.
Day trippers have the option of leaving the car at home and boarding the quick 90 minute seasonal fast ferry from Boston. Whatever your means of transportation to the end of the Cape, visitors will be pleasantly rewarded when they arrive at Race Point Beach.
As part of the Cape Cod National Seashore land holdings the protected area falls under state governance. The expanse of beach is wide and lengthy. Due to its location at the union of Cape Cod Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the strip of sand can often produce rougher waters and some dangerous tides. There are still plenty of shallow areas for less experienced swimmers and children.
There is a two-mile stretch that leads to Race Point Lighthouse, a local landmark that has saved many a mariner from an unwelcome introduction to the treacherous sand bars surrounding what’s known as the “Hook” of the Cape. It takes about 45 minutes on foot to hike to the lighthouse.
Fans of long walks on the beach will find a lovely trail through spectacular dunes. While embracing the views and nature around you, be sure to check for poison ivy and ticks. Like all areas of the Cape and Islands, the dunes and sea grass areas are a popular spot for poison ivy and tick populations.
Prefer to drive on the sand? Overland Sand permits can be purchased in Town. Free tours of the lighthouse are offered at limited times and the hours open can be checked on-line.
If the sea and sun are not your preference there are extensive paths for biking and hiking behind the rolling dunes and sea grass off the beach. The Province Lands Bike Trail is a challenging path and leads you to another beach and Herring Cove.
During the summer months and high season, the beach offers showers, changing rooms, and restrooms.
Location: Race Point Rd. Provincetown, Massachusetts
2. Herring Cove Beach
Found at the very tip of Provincetown, and just a short distance from downtown, is Herring Cove Beach. Known for its magnificent sunsets, the Travel Channel named this strip as one of “the best beaches on the east coast”. Visitors will have no problem understanding why many a painter has been inspired by the views and unique light found here at the golden hour of each day.
As part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, the beaches herring cove shelters maintain a rich marine ecosystem and a wide diversity of sea life off shore. The location is easy to get to by bike path and connects with the Province Lands Bike Trail. Parking is available along with other seasonal amenities and restrooms.
As with other areas of the Cape with beach access through dune grass, be mindful of ticks and poison ivy.
Location: Race Point Road, Provincetown, MA 02657
Best Beaches on The Outer Cape
The population in Truro today is less than what it was in the 1800’s when it thrived as a whaling and shipbuilding port. Artsy, environmentally beautiful and focused on keeping the area protected, Truro is a nature lovers dream and a great spot for a taste of old harbor life. Visitors might also be surprised to learn of the areas own winery featuring maritime grapes and the South Hollow Spirits. Boston residents can try a sample at The Public Market.
3. Head of the Meadow-Truro
Described by many superlatives, Head of the Meadow in Truro is truly an instagram worthy destination. Take the scenic route thru the tall deep sea green grass to reach the white sandy dunes. Visitors are rewarded with a relatively unpopulated location that presents panoramic views of windswept dunes, cobalt sheltered ponds and rolling ocean waves. Tiny saltbox houses are perched like watchmen on the dunes facing the ocean landscapes.
Along the Cape Cod coastline of the eastern elbow, the everlasting sandbars stretch for forty miles down the shoreline. The calm scene on a peaceful sunny day gives no indication of the many ships and lives that have been lost when the ocean shows her might. The winds and storms have driven many an unwitting sailor crashing into the sandy offshore reefs.
At low tide, visitors can often see the remains of the Frances, which was lost in an 1872 storm. Luckily, all aboard the wreck, were rescued. Many others were not so blessed and shipwrecks dot the coastline.
On a typical sunny day the Head of the Meadow provides two beach retreats; one is operated by the Town of Truro, the other by the Cape Cod National Seashore. During the there are lifeguards on duty. Outside of the swim zone, you will find many surfers catching waves and hanging ten. If you are in need of an extra challenge, head to the two-mile bicycle path and experience a magical ride through the dunes, sea grasses, and a magnificent ocean view.
Location: Off Rt. 6 in Truro, Massachusetts
4. Ballston Beach-Truro
Time seems to move slowly in Truro and that’s just fine with visitors who quickly fall in love with the town’s charm. With expansive views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, visitors will find Ballston Beach at the end of a winding residential street. Scenes here might remind you of the visuals in an Edward Hopper painting. No surprise, since the well known Truro artist was often inspired by the golden tones and expansive dunes that line the area. The large beach has soft sand warmed by the sun making for long lazy days of summer.
Waves make it a great spot for those looking for a bit of surf. Fog often rolls into the coast line, but usually burns off by mid day. The shoreline is often affected by winter storms and can bring dynamic changes to the shifting sands and shape of the beach year after year. Seals are frequent visitors to the area, but the beach is large with plenty of sea for all.
Bikers will appreciate the rack available and there is a ramp for disability access. The lot can get crowded, so arrive early for best chance of securing a spot.
Location: S Pamet Rd, Truro, MA
8. Corn Hill Beach – Truro
Corn Hill Beach was named for the historic location where the Pilgrims located a secret stash of corn buried by Native Americans who lived in the area. The long and narrow sandy beach is a favorite with families.
Waters are generally calm and warm with plentiful beach area for everyone. Entry into the refreshing bay is along a shallow, gradual coastline making it the ideal setting for children or seniors looking for calm waters. Inlets behind the beach make for areas filled with discovery and few crowds.
Facilities include parking, restrooms, a boardwalk for access and lifeguards. Proximity to the harbor makes for enjoyable viewing of maritime activity.
Location: Corn Hill Rd, Truro, MA
Forests of oak and pine cover more than 70% of Wellfleet’s landscape making it a unique destination for a Cape Cod road trip. Driving along Rt. 6, visiotrs can get a taste of the environmental splendor that awaits a visit to this area, including the beautiful trails for the Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary. This contemporary fishing village is well known for all things shell fish and its famous oysters make it a popular destination for foodies seeking the source.
5. White Crest Beach-Wellfleet
Steep dunes line the backdrop for White Crest Beach in Wellfleet. The beach here is long and wide. This spot is also known as Four Mile and Surfers’ Beach, and no surprise, is known for rougher waves making it popular with surfers.
There are lifeguards on duty during the season, restroom facilities and a concession stand. Crowds are not usually a problem and two parking lots provide good space for tourists. The walk from the lot can be a bit tricky, so keep that in mind for accessibility. The more difficult access insures less of a crowd during the busy summer. There are also two lunch spots within walking distance not too far away.
Location: 740 Ocean View Dr, Wellfleet, MA.
6. Marconi Beach-Well Fleet
Often listed as one of the Cape’s true gems is Marconi Beach. Well known as the famous location of the first transmitted telegraph to Europe, Marconi has now gained fame for the soaring sand cliffs framing a backdrop to a shoreline that glistens in the sunlight.
The landscape often changes colors along the cliffs of this beauty in Wellfleet resulting in an ombré of hued patterns in the sand. Many have recorded the layers of earth reminiscent of scenes from Sedona and the cliffs found in Arizona. The wide beach is surrounded by large dunes that are often affected by storm season, resulting in fluctuating beach sizes from year to year.
Panoramic views from the upper dunes stretch out to the bay, the ocean and the outer cape. Boardwalks and stairs lead from the dunes to the beach and as you can imagine, such a beautiful spot can get crowded, even in the off-season.
Guards are on duty in areas designated for swimming. Visitors can often see seals frolicking in the waves or sunning on a secluded spit of sand. Walkers will find a perfect place to daydream as they gaze out into the horizon from the shore. Volleyball is a favorite activity here and boogie boarders are busy catching waves. Everyone can enjoy their favorite beach activity in this part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Aside from the enchanting views and peaceful experience, the beach also offers amenities including outdoor showers and bathrooms
Location: Marconi Beach Rd. Wellfleet, MA.
9. Mayo Beach-Well Fleet Harbor
Tucked away in Wellfleet Harbor, visitors will find a beach perfect for families with small children. The waters are warm in the summer and because its on the inner water, the waves are almost always calm. Several restaurants are within walking distance as are the pier and theater. Best of all, there is ample free parking in an area where space can be at a premium. Off in the distance are the picturesque Great and Lieutenants Islands.
Location: 101 Kendrick Ave, Wellfleet, MA
As one of the original settlements on Cape Cod, the historical value of Eastham is undeniable. First Encounter Beach is iconically named for the meeting of Myles Standish and the Nauset Native Americans in 1620.
7. Coast Guard Beach-Eastham
Certainly the ranking of Cape Cod’s most beautiful beaches is a subjective one. However, few would dispute the take your breath away gorgeous views of Coast Guard Beach in Eastham. Often recognized as one of the Top 10 on various lists of America’s Best Beaches, sun worshippers and beach bums alike will be happy in this Outer beach location.
Large, dramatic dunes back the flat sandy beach which is regularly full of volleyball games, boogie boarders, surfers and sun seekers.
This is a very popular beach with expansive sand dunes, adjacent marshlands and stunning sea views. The boardwalk runs right to the beach and it is handicap accessible. Beach goers will usually find aheavy surf. The large waves attract surfers and adventurous boogie boarders.
The younger crowd is engrossed with multiple beach activities and the soft sand provides a cushioned landing pad for active volleyball and boogie boards participants. Large waves make this a great surfing spot.
Watch for the curious seals, who although harmless, could be a bit startling! Sunset views make Coast Guard Beach a popular spot to close out the day.
Facilities are somewhat limited and include lifeguards and restrooms. There is also a wheel chair ramp down to the beach.
Parking here can be an issue and its best to take advantage of the Little Creek parking lot on Doane Road and take the free shuttle to the beach. The shuttles are very convenient and run every few minutes. Drop off with the shuttle is a short walk to the beach.
Location: One and one-half miles East on Nauset and Doane Roads (on road to beach from Salt Pond Visitor Center). Look for brown and white signs.
Final Thoughts about Cape and Provincetown Best Beaches
Throughout history, the Cape has always been distinct from mainland Massachusetts in its geography, vegetation, architecture and culture. From its beginnings, the area surrounding Provincetown beaches and the Outer Cape has appealed to artists, inventors and people of all different life styles. For this three season destination, the galleries, restaurants, shops, inns and especially the beautiful beaches draw families and tourists who temporarily call the Cape their island getaway.
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