Cape Cod National Seashore | Outdoorsy

Cape Cod National Seashore
Guide

Introduction

Known as one of the most famous seashores in the United States, Cape Cod National Seashore is a must visit destination for your next RV adventure. Cape Cod has a long history and has been the home of the Wampanoag Native American people for many centuries. The modern history of the area dates back to 1602 when English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold landed in the area and took aboard a “great store of codfish", thus naming it Cape Cod. The official Cape Cod National Seashore area was first established on August 7, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy and features 43,607 acres of ponds, woods and beachfront on the Atlantic coastal pine barrens ecoregion.

Due to the massive size of the National Seashore there are many different recreational activities that will keep you occupied during your visit. There are six beaches that are fantastic for swimming, ranger guided activities (such as talks at the visitors centers and guided hikes), multiple picnic areas and opportunities for activities such as hunting and beach yoga. There is also a great visitor center that will inform you more about the history of the area and the animals that call the park home.

While there are no RV campgrounds within Cape Cod National Seashore we recommend that you stay at the nearby Nickerson State Park. Here you will find multiple camping areas that are available via reservation or on a first come, first served basis. Cape Cod National Seashore is open all year round.

Park Alerts (6)

[Information] Beach Fires are Not Allowed

As a safety mitigation measure during COVID-19, beach fires are not allowed on national seashore beaches in summer 2020.

[Caution] Coast Guard Beach High Tide Advisory

Portions of Coast Guard Beach, Eastham are impassable at high tide. Please check tide charts before planning your beach day.

[Information] Observe Pet Restrictions for Shorebird Protection

Several beaches have seasonal or temporary pet closures to protect shorebirds. Observe signage and keep pets out at all times. See link for current pet allowances and closures on beaches, and details on other locations where pets are or are not permitted.

[Caution] Warning: Aggressive Coyotes at Herring Cove Beach

Coyotes have been frequenting Herring Cove Beach seeking human food. On 5/23/2020 a visitor was bitten without provocation while reading a book, and a puppy was killed on 5/24/2020. Be alert, keep pets leashed, maintain distance, and do not feed coyotes.

[Information] COVID-19 Adaptive Recovery is Underway

Cape Cod National Seashore continues to restore services under our COVID-19 adaptive recovery The "Current Conditions" page of this website is updated as conditions and operations change. Please follow COVID-19 safety guidelines when visiting.

[Caution] Stay Safe at the Beach

Lifeguard service has ended for the 2020 season. Read and heed safety advisories at beaches if you choose to swim. Emergency call boxes and first aid kits are available at the six national seashore beaches. Note that white sharks remain active in fall.

RV Rentals in Cape Cod National Seashore

Transportation

Driving

Cape Cod National Seashore is located in far most western area of Massachusetts and is situated very close to the US-6 highway. Since the park is so large it has multiple entry and exit points that all can be accessed off the US-6. from areas north, east and west of the park.

Thanks to Cape Cod being a popular tourist and retirement area there are many towns located near the park that have plenty of services and amenities that you may need to enjoy your visit to Cape Cod National Seashore. Some of the towns close to Cape Cod include Wellfleet (around four and a half miles away), Eastham (around six miles away) and Orleans (around nine miles away). The closest city to the park is Barnstable, which is around 30 miles to the west.

Accessing the park should be quite straightforward as the roads in and around the park are very well maintained due to how busy the area is. Most of the roads into the seashore can be found off the US-6.

Parking

There is plenty of parking available within Cape Cod National Seashore.

Public Transportation

Cape Cod National Seashore is serviced by multiple bus routes that leave from the surrounding towns.

Campgrounds and parking in Cape Cod National Seashore

Campsites in Cape Cod National Seashore

Alternate camping

Nickerson State Park Campgrounds

As mentioned earlier, there are no RV-friendly camping facilities within Cape Cod National Seashore. Despite this there is a state park located close by to the park that will be the perfect place for you to call home. Nickerson State Park has 418 campsites in multiple campgrounds that are set in pine and oak forests. The campgrounds slope down to the banks of eight crystal-clear fresh water ponds and also feature paved bicycle trails, freshwater swimming and very spacious campsites.

All sites at the Nickerson State Park Campgrounds have no hookups but the campgrounds feature water collection points, washrooms, a dump station and playgrounds. Pets are also allowed in most of the campgrounds and you should be able to get cell phone reception on all of the major providers.

Reservations are recommended if you choose to stay at Nickerson State Park as the campground is very popular during the summer months. Guests cannot stay at the campgrounds for more than 14 days at a time and reserved campsites will be held until 8:00 am on the day after your scheduled arrival date.

Seasonal activities in Cape Cod National Seashore

Off-Season

Visitor Centers

Cape Cod National Seashore has two different visitor centers that are a great choice to visit no matter what the weather is like outside. Salt Pond Visitor Center is Cape Cod National Seashore's year-round facility that is jammed packed with features. Here you will find a theater, store, museum, restrooms and the seashore's orientation movie plays throughout the day. From Spring until fall you can also visit The Province Lands Visitor Center that features restrooms, a store, outdoor exhibits and decks that provide a 360-degree view of the Province Lands dunes, the Outer Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.

Birding

The birds at Cape Cod National Seashore are some of the more easily viewable animals that call the area home. Thanks to the 46,000 acres of land there is a wide range of critical habitat for around 370 different species of birds that call the park home. About 80 of these birds nest and raise their young during the spring and summer months while the remaining birds use the seashore for both migration and to overwinter. For more information on birding at the park we recommend you contact the park office.

Hiking

Due to the large acreage of Cape Cod National Seashore there are eleven different self-guided hiking trails that are waiting for you to explore. The trails all vary in length, difficulty and terrain so you will have many different options of what type of hike you can do. If you are looking for a small trail, try the Small's Swamp Trail. This is an easy trail that takes you through land that was once used by Native People for living sites and then later for farming.

In-Season

Picnicking

Cape Cod National Seashore has some of the best picnicking facilities on the east coast thanks to the eight different day-use/picnic areas that are available for you to use during your visit. Most of the picnic areas are located on the west side of the park and feature views out to sea. The picnic areas vary in what amenities they have but you can expect washrooms, water collection points, BBQ facilities and picnic shelters.

Ranger-Guided Activities

Thanks to the park rangers there are many guided activities that you and the family can enjoy during your visit. Most of the programs are free and on select nights there will also be concerts at the Salt Pond Amphitheater. If you are short on time we recommend going on the short guided trails that are located near the visitor center. Another great family fun activity is to listen to some of the local history told by rangers at beach campfires.

Swimming

As you could imagine, swimming is one of the most popular activities for visitors to Cape Cod National Seashore during the warmer months. The area has six different beaches that are suitable for swimming at and they all have their own unique features and cultural significance. If you are looking to relax at a wide sandy beach we recommend heading to Coast Guard Beach. There will be lifeguards at Coast Guard Beach but shuttle buses are the only way to get to the beach. For more information on all of the swimming beaches visit the Cape Cod National Seashore website.

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