Cape Cod National Seashore | COAST GUARD BEACH

Coast Guard Beach at Cape Cod National Seashore

Coast Guard Beach at Cape Cod National Seashore

See the Beaches at Cape Cod web page for an interactive location map.


Coast Guard Beach is the southernmost National Park Service-managed beach within Cape Cod National Seashore, and it is by far the most popular. In fact, I’ve been to every National Seashore on the east coast and this was the most crowded beach that I can recall. I had difficulty making my way through the crowd on a busy day in late July. However, most people pick a spot near the access point, so if you walk a quarter mile in either direction from there you’ll find that the crowd thins out rather quickly.

Packed day in late July on Coast Guard Beach at Cape Cod

Packed day in late July on Coast Guard Beach at Cape Codv

There is a fee to use Coast Guard Beach during the summer season: daily from late June through Labor Day, and on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through the end of September. Prices vary depending on how you arrive. At the time of this writing, fees range from $25/day for vehicle parking to $15 for those arriving on foot or bike (16 and older). You can get an annual Cape Cod National Seashore pass for $60, or an annual National Park Pass for $80. Both are valid for access to National Park Service-managed beaches at Cape Cod. The National Park Pass will also get you into any other National Park that charges an entrance fee. Keep in mind that neither of these passes is good for entry into town-managed beaches, even those within the National Seashore boundary. For the latest prices, visit the National Park Service’s official Fees and Passes web page.

Bike rack at Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod National Seashore

Bike rack at Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod National Seashore

During the summer season there is no parking at Coast Guard Beach unless you are a park employee, handicapped, or a resident of Eastham. Furthermore, you cannot drive into the beach parking area to drop off anyone. To get to the beach you must either take a shuttle bus from the Little Creek Parking Lot on Doane Road or bike or hike from the Salt Pond Visitor Center on the Nauset Trail, a distance of 1.8 miles, one way. When in service, the shuttle runs every ten minutes from 9 AM to 5 PM. If you miss the last one, it’s a little less than a mile walk back to the parking lot. The shuttle is included in the price of admission.

Shuttle bus picking up passengers at Coast Guard Beach

Shuttle bus picking up passengers at Coast Guard Beach

Lifeguards are on duty from late June through Labor Day on a designated stretch of beach, and certain restrictions apply in this area. For example, no pets, flotation devices, glass containers, or surfing is allowed. I’m not sure how well the No Flotation Device rule is enforced, for I saw plenty of people using boogie boards and other small surfing-type flotation devices just about everywhere I went.

Lifeguard stand at Coast Guard Beach

Lifeguard stand at Coast Guard Beach

Coast Guard Beach is handicap accessible for those with beach wheelchairs. A gradually sloping ramp leads down to the sand at Coast Guard Beach. Beach wheelchairs are actually available free of charge for handicap guests (subject to availability).

Ramp leads down to Coast Guard Beach

Ramp leads down to Coast Guard Beach

Coast Guard Beach gets its name from the former Coast Guard station complex located near the shore. The larger of two buildings is not open to the public and is not in great shape. The National Park Service uses it on occasion for employee-related events and meetings. The second building, which once served as the boathouse, is now used as a bathhouse and restroom. There are also outdoor rinse-off showers available. There are no other amenities, so you must bring everything with you—food, drinks, chairs, umbrellas, etc.

Bathhouse and outdoor showers at Coast Guard Beach

Bathhouse and outdoor showers at Coast Guard Beach

Coast Guard Beach often finds its way onto Top Ten lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Now, I’m not going to discount its beauty, but I don’t go to the beach to paint landscapes. I go to swim, and as far as swimming is concerned, Coast Guard Beach and most of the other beaches at Cape Cod are far from the best I’ve been to, and I’ve been to beaches at every coastal state in America other than Alaska. Gravel road quality beaches, ice cold water, and shark magnet seals make swimming less than desirable for my taste, though I will say that the pebble situation at Coast Guard Beach is much better than at some of the other beaches on Cape Cod. While the sand itself is fine, it’s the rocks near and in the water that ruin things for me—I waded in up to my waist and never found the end of them. If you have baby-soft feet like I do, try wearing mesh water-shoes. They can make the difference between a fun day at the beach and sheer misery.

Rocky shoreline at Coast Guard Beach

Rocky shoreline at Coast Guard Beach

Rocks extend into the water

Rocks extend into the water

When I visited there was a sandbar just off the shore. I waded out to it with camera equipment in hand, and once there it was like being on a beach in the middle of the ocean. I got some great photos looking back at the rest of the beachgoers on the shore. Of course sandbars come and go each season, so there is no guarantee what the future holds. Those that do form are usually washed away by the winter storms, and new ones start forming again in the spring and summer. The good news is that once one forms, unless there is a hurricane, it usually sticks around for the summer.

Sandbar just off the shore of Coast Guard Beach

Sandbar just off the shore of Coast Guard Beach

Boogie boarding on the sandbar

Boogie boarding on the sandbar

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Last updated on September 21, 2021
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