Coast Guard Beach
Eastham MA 02642
Coast Guard Beach in Eastham is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, which attracts over 3 million visitors annually. A picturesque old Coast Guard station overlooks this scenic barrier spit of coarse sand, which is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the country by "Dr. Beach." A favorite of swimmers, surfers, and solitude seekers, Coast Guard Beach offers seasonal rest rooms and a handicap access ramp from the Coast Guard station to the beach. Coast Guard Beach is the southernmost tip of Henry David Thoreau's 40-mile stretch of the Outer Cape's "Great Beach," and is the setting for nature writer Henry Beston's famous book, "The Outermost House," in 1928.
Parking and public transportation at Coast Guard Beach
The great storm of February 1978 destroyed the parking lot at Coast Guard Beach, so there's only limited parking available behind the Coast Guard station, and that's limited to staff and disabled during the summer months. From late June to Labor Day, a free shuttle bus runs during the day every 10 minutes from the Little Creek parking area (located off Doane Road between the beach and the Salt Pond Visitors Center). Public transportation only runs to the visitors center, but the beach is accessible by bicycle via the Nauset Bicycle Trail.
Best and worst time to go to Coast Guard Beach
The ideal time to visit is from late August through September, especially on weekdays. Water and air temperatures are at their warmest, and the peak season for insects (especially green heads and "no-see-ums") and tourists (July and early August) has come and gone. If you do visit during that peak season, get there early -- preferably before 11 a.m. -- as the Little Creek parking area fills up quickly. Crowds are also thin in June, although water temperatures are still on the chilly side. During the winter, storms tend to draw more than a few visitors.
Admission to Coast Guard Beach
From late June to Labor Day, and on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weekend to the end of June and from Labor Day to late September, fees are collected for beach entry. As of 2015, rates were $15 for cars, $5 for motorcycles, and $3 for bicycles. Annual passes are available at the parking booths and Salt Pond Visitors Center for $45. Be advised that dropping passengers off at the beach entrance is prohibited.
Must see/do at Coast Guard Beach
If you're into surfing, this is a popular spot, particularly south of the Coast Guard station. The barrier beach, or "spit," is also a popular birdwatching area -- from piping plovers and terns in the spring and early summer, to the occasional snowy owl in the winter. Pods of gray seals often gather in the waves just offshore. In front of the retired Coast Guard station (now a National Park Service educational environmental facility), there's several informative plaques about the history of the Coast Guard and Life Saving Service, the Pilgrims, and "The Outermost House." For a great view of the barrier beach system, which includes Nauset Marsh, head to the Coast Guard station and look to the south.
Other places to visit near Coast Guard Beach
Nauset Light Beach and its namesake lighthouse are one mile north, reachable from Coast Guard Beach by automobile or even foot. For a spectacular view of the entire barrier beach and marsh, and a scenic walking trail, head to Fort Hill, reachable from Route 6 about a mile south of the Salt Pond Visitors Center. A great place to pick up a picnic lunch (deli sandwiches, beverages, chips, etc.) for the beach is the Eastham Superette, located in Route 6 next to the Eastham Windmill and across from Eastham Town Hall.
Inside tip for visitors to Coast Guard Beach
For those walking more than a few yards from the entrance ramp to the beach, be advised that the sand here is extremely loose and coarse, unlike many of the Boston area beaches. A 100-yard hike through the sand can seem like a mile or more to the casual visitor. Literary buffs seeking out Henry Beston's "Outermost House" experience on the beach might also want to visit the Inn at the Oaks, where the author often stayed when he wasn't seeking solitude.
Don Wilding has been a lifestyle, arts and entertainment, and sports writer and editor for newspapers on Cape Cod and in southeastern Massachusetts for 30 years, and a public speaker on Cape Cod subjects for 15 years.