Hiking Trails

Cape Cod offers many swimming options for residents and visitors

Looking to beat the heat on Cape Cod?

The coastline calls, all 560 miles of it.

Cape Town generally has three shoreline options. Cape Cod Bay has calmer waters and spacious low tides. There are much fiercer waves on the Atlantic Ocean side. Nantucket Sound, the south side of Cape Cod, also tends to be calmer.

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Cape Cod Bay, with calm waves and low tides

Company Beach, Dennis

Sixty-six degree water met calm waves on a cooler Tuesday morning in early July at Corporation.

With about 145 parking spaces, the beach usually doesn’t fill up until after 11 a.m., according to gate attendants.

Matt Robertson and Lily Monahan, who each guarded Dennis’ beaches for eight years, agreed it was a popular family beach due to the “protective” shape of the shoreline.

“With families, it feels safe because it’s a crescent shape, we don’t usually have riptides or mad currents,” Monahan said.

The shore is shallow and the beach itself has a swing and tidal pools where kids can catch crabs near the rockier marsh area.

The water awaits you at Corporation Beach in Dennis.

Seth Flateland and his daughter, Charlotte, of Norwood, have family from Dennis and come to Corporation regularly. Flateland has been visiting the beach for about 20 years and loves the calm waves and space for his family as long as the tide is not very high.

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Likewise, Kristopher Heath, who was from Bow, New Hampshire, came to Corporation so his three sons could explore the tidal pools and be free to play in the shallow waters. Bow’s family have been coming to Cape Town for over 30 years, but Corporation for about five years.

On busy days, the guards said, four or five guards will be on duty, but visitors will still have some leeway. Floating beach wheelchairs are available to rent from the Corporation for the day for people with varying levels of mobility.

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Sandy Neck Beach, East Sandwich

The beach, part of Sandy Neck State Park, is a greener, more natural beach than most of Cape Town.

Josh Hersey, a fourth-year ranger at Sandy Neck, described the beach as quieter, but deeper and cooler than other Cape Cod Bay beaches.

“I like how here in particular you get a lot of space just because it’s pretty continuous,” Hersey said. “It’s not cut off by private property.”

Sandy Neck also has an RV trail and guarded sections parked at the ends of each parking lot. There’s a good mix of old and young people who frequent Sandy Neck, and tours come by quite often, Hersey said.

Sandy Neck in West Barnstable has room for beachgoers and campers.

There are always three to four rangers on duty at a time, and while people can get nervous about sharks, there hasn’t been a sighting of a live shark in three years, he said. he declares.

The beach attracts new guests such as Jeff and Teryl Klova, who came from Philadelphia on a cooler Tuesday in early July for the first time. They noted the “cold” water, but the clear atmosphere all day and the greenery of the countryside surrounding the beach.

Ocean side, with fiercer waves

White Ridge Beach, Wellfleet

On a colder Wednesday in early July, rangers at White Crest measured the water temperature at around 58 degrees. Do not worry ! The beach is unique for several reasons, one of which is the steep dune that visitors must climb and descend to reach the beach.

Lydia Bicknell, a fourth-grade lifeguard, said that although the dune requires a short walk, it allows visitors to see the whole of Wellfleet Beach – a great view of the vast shoreline and vast ocean ahead.

To access White Crest Beach in Wellfleet, a beachgoer must descend a steep dune.  As the longest beach in Wellfleet, visitors to White Crest can stretch out, although the water is a bit chilly.

“It’s the biggest beach, so there’s room to spread out and have room to yourselves,” third-year goaltender Riley Craven said. Craven grew up coming to White Crest and enjoys its space, especially comparing it to the often-crowded Cahoon Hollow Beach to the north.

One of the only beaches without a sandbar, White Crest has a story.

It used to be a surf beach, although the waves have evolved and don’t break the same way anymore.

A visitor from Connecticut recalled his visit half a dozen years ago. “It’s as beautiful as ever,” he said.

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Prairie Chief, Truro

A little off the beaten path, Head of the Meadow Beach features a sandbar, favorable surf conditions, and a natural backdrop within the Cape Cod National Seashore.

In his 38th year with the National Seashore, Gordon Miller finds this beach has the best of both worlds – a family-friendly setting and a great place to surf when the breaks are good.

“It’s an extremely dynamic beach here, the bars are constantly changing,” Miller said.

Surf conditions often change due to shifting sandbars, but visitors can expect the water to be cooler than Cape Cod Bay or Nantucket Sound.

The waters of Head of the Meadow are also populated with seals and sharks.

“At low tide the sandbars are exposed and the seals come up onto the sandbars and bask themselves,” Miller said. He said 300 to 400 seals can be seen on some occasions at low tide. With the seals comes the potential for shark sightings, for which Miller said rangers are always ready to close the beach. At least five lifeguards are present each day at Head of the Meadow, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Miller noted the bike path and hiking trails just off Head of the Meadow, as well as three campgrounds within walking distance.

Parking is plentiful as there is a National Seashore lot and a city lot just steps away.

On Nantucket Sound, with family beaches

Seagull Beach, West Yarmouth

Justin Madison has been keeping Seagull Beach for about five years and describes the place as a “laid-back”, “family-centric” atmosphere.

With few waves and a calm shoreline, the guards simply watch the pier to make sure the currents are under control for the day. On a cooler Tuesday in early July, the water temperature hovered around 61 degrees.

Lifeguard chairs at Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth

The lot includes about 600 parking spaces, but there are dirt spaces, so there is some fluctuation. It usually doesn’t fill up unless it’s a holiday, said Taylar Ruell, who has worked at Seagull for eight years.

Yarmouth’s largest beach, Seagull is very shallow, ideal for children, and its beach size is not dependent on the tides as there are not many outgoing tides. While piping plovers aren’t nesting, people will build beach volleyball courts. The water is generally in the 70s, when the air temperature is a bit warmer later in the summer.

Ridgevale Beach, Chatham

Ridgevale is the definition of a family beach.

Eric Cunningham, who runs the snack bar in the summer with his mother, Elaine, has been to Ridgevale all his life. The Cunninghams have owned the snack bar since 1960, watching families visit summer after summer, grow and keep coming back with their own children.

Chris and Elaine Cunningham stand outside their family's snack bar at Ridgevale Beach in Chatham on a sunny Thursday afternoon in July.

As Eric Cunningham walked the bridge over the creek and showed off parts of the beach from his childhood, it’s clear just how much there is to do in Ridgevale.

“When it’s low tide, the kids go fishing for crabs and minnows,” Cunningham said. “At high tide there is good kayaking and paddle boarding.”

With three or four guards on duty at a time, Ridgevale is protected by nearby Monomoy Island, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard, making the water warmer and calmer than other beaches. Visitors can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and sailboats, and can also learn to sail from this beach.

Monty Vaughn, who now lives outside of Boston, was a lifeguard at Ridgevale 30 years ago. He returns every summer with his daughter, Vivi, because of his connection to the beach and how great it is for kids.

“It’s fun for the kids. On a lot of beaches they get bored, but here that doesn’t happen,” Vaughn said.

Vivi, who is 10, said she enjoys catching crabs and the water was warmer and shallower than at other Cape Town beaches.

The history of the beach is apparent.

Mike Gorman, who grew up coming to Cape Town every summer with his family, watches his children discover Ridgevale like him.

“It’s almost nostalgic,” he said. “It’s a quaint, typical Cape Cod thing, like something you’d read about in a book. But in Ridgevale, it’s the reality.

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Janet Gorman prepares for a day at the beach with her daughter, Penny, and son, Jack, at Ridgevale Beach in Chatham.

As Gorman did when he was young, his children now carry their buckets and nets to the stream where they meet other children every day. Gorman’s lifelong friends were made at Ridgevale, and his wife, Janet, whom he met through one of those friends, has been visiting the beach with him for about nine years.

Hours of entertainment and socializing are perks they can’t get anywhere else, Janet Gorman said.

“I prefer to come here because I can let the children go alone,” she said. “It gives them a certain independence.”

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