Our search for dog friendly beaches near Boston took us to the Cape Cod National Seashore this past weekend. I was on the hunt for a white sand beach where we could plop down a couple of beach chairs and a picnic. Like other dog owners, we want to bring the dog so he can dig in the sand and go swimming instead of being left behind.
Until now, a day at the beach with a dog has been elusive in Massachusetts. It turns out, the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore are dog friendly as long as you follow the rules.
The Cape Cod National Seashore is spread throughout Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro, and Provincetown. There are 6 beaches managed by the National Park Service and many more managed by the individual towns of outer Cape Cod. In all, there are over 43,577 acres of land which make up the Cape Cod National Seashore.
All beaches managed by the NPS allow leashed dogs on the beach, except within the lifeguarded areas. The lifeguarded areas are only about 100 yards wide, which you are are allowed to pass through with your dog. Once you reach the edge marked by signs, you are allowed to set up camp just like any other family. You do, however, need to keep your dog on a leash. We found everyone we came across, including the rangers, welcoming given our respect for the rules when it comes to dogs.
Before trekking out to Head of the Meadows or Race Point during the summer season, it is worthwhile to check to see if the beaches are closed to dogs due to nesting shorebirds. The nesting period normally lasts a couple of months and normally does not affect all beaches at the same time.
The six beaches managed by the National Park Service include:
- Coast Guard Beach (Eastham)
- Nauset Light Beach (Eastham)
- Marconi Beach (Wellfleet)
- Head of the Meadows (Truro)
- Race Point Beach (Provincetown)
- Herring Cove Beach (Provincetown)
The town managed beaches within the National Seashore may have different rules. Oddly enough, all of the town beaches we visited had poop bag stations and followed the same rules enforced by the National Park System. Since we did not visit all of the town beaches, I cannot be sure that all towns have the same beach rules.
Here are the town beaches we visited where dogs are allowed on the beach:
- Cahoon Hollow Beach (Wellfleet)
- White Crest Beach (Wellfleet)
- Duck Harbor Beach (Wellfleet)
- Great Island Trail (Wellfleet)
I highly suggest picking up a free Park Map at the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham. The Visitor Center is a great place to take a break and walk your dog, learn which beach parking lots are full (they do fill up) and find out if there are other issues at the beaches (e.g., closures due to bacteria, rip currents, etc.).
It is incredibly important to clean up after your dog. Nothing rankles other people more than dog owners leaving waste behind. You will also find areas that have been marked “No pets allowed” due to endangered bird breeding grounds. These areas are highly protected with stiff fines for offenders. We typically respect the leash rules while on the beaches during the summer, especially with the holiday crowds. We do remove our dog’s leash when swimming as the extra slack would have endangered both. During low tide, sandbars appear just off the beach, we did receive a written warning on 4th of July weekend. It turns out NPS has jurisdiction well past the median tide line.
Our Experience at the Beaches with our Dog
We had a blast at the Cape Cod National Seashore Beaches with our dog. Everywhere we have visited has been beautiful and a great experience. Travel from Boston, even during 4th of July weekend, was much easier than imagined since we paid close attention to traffic and avoided travel at peak times.
Right now, Marconi Beach is our favorite beach we visited, with its deep soft sand and lack of rocks and stones often found at Massachusetts beaches. Though the parking lot is pretty big, it can still fill up on a busy weekend. If we were driving down from Boston, this would be our first choice of beaches.
We were told that Coast Guard Beach is very nice, but the parking lot was full by the time we arrived. Note, there is a shuttle from a second parking lot, but dogs are not allowed.
Cahoon Hollow Beach is town managed and follows the same rules as the NPS managed beaches. Not only will you find beautiful sand beaches but this is where the legendary Beachcomber of Wellfleet is located. Sadly, you can not bring dogs to the outdoor patio of the Beachcomber. The parking lot at Cahoon Hollow can fill very fast, but a mile south is White Crest Beach, with a larger parking lot. Parking at either town beach is $15 for a non-resident.
White Crest and Cahoon Hollow Beaches were very similar, both were beautiful and both had very steep pathways down from the parking lot to the beach. Just remember, what you bring down the hill, you will be dragging back up the hill at the end of the day. Pack wisely.
Most of the beaches we explored were in the beautiful town of Wellfleet. We will head back down to find other dog friendly places well worth visiting in Wellfleet and the outer Cape Cod areas.