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Where to rent relative to different Cape and Island beaches

With over 600 miles of coastline, more than 150 beaches, and hundreds of lakes and ponds, deciding where to rent a Cape Cod, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard vacation home can be a bit overwhelming. Following is some insight to guide you in your search for the perfect location to rent a home and park your beach chair.

Nauset Beach, Orleans

Nauset Beach Orleans Cape Cod
Nauset Beach, Orleans, MA

Beaches that are on the Atlantic Ocean, such as Nauset Beach in Orleans, Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, South Beach in Edgartown (Martha's Vineyard), or Surfside Beach on Nantucket, tend to have plenty of waves and expansive views and sandy beaches. The ocean beaches are large with lots of space to set up beach games and allow kids (and adults) to run around and build large sandcastles. The waters of ocean beaches can be a bit cooler than bay- or Sound-facing beaches, and there can be significant surf, but for swimmers who love to play in the waves, listen to the crashing surf, or to beachcomb, renting a home near an ocean beach is the best.

Surfside Beach, Nantucket

Surfside Beach, Nantucket
Surfside Beach, Nantucket, MA

Vacation homes near Bayside beaches (beaches that are on Cape Cod Bay) are ideal for families with small children due to the warmer water (average summer Cape Cod Bay water temperatures range from the high 60’s to low 70’s) and calm waters, or for anyone who enjoys clamming, exploring tidal pools, looking for hermit crabs, or walking the vast tidal flats. Similar to ocean beaches, the sandy areas are generally large, and thus provide plenty of space to set up picnics and play beach games. The tides here change dramatically – often by ten feet. So, watch the tide schedules to know whether you will be swimming near the shoreline or walking up to a mile out to do so. Paine’s Creek Beach in Brewster, Mayflower Beach in Dennis and Sandy Neck Beach in Sandwich are a few favorite beaches on Cape Cod Bay.

West Dennis Beach

West Dennis Beach, Dennis MA
West Dennis Beach, Dennis, MA

Beaches as such as Craigville Beach in Barnstable, Bank Street Beach in Harwich, Kalmus Beach in Hyannis and Menemsha Beach on Martha’s Vineyard located on the Vineyard Sound, Nantucket Sound, or Buzzards Bay offer the warmest water and fairly moderate surf. The waves tend to be considerably calmer than Atlantic Ocean beaches due to their shallower waters, which is great for younger or less experienced swimmers.

Vacation rental homes located near harbor beaches such as Harbor Beach in Provincetown, Powers Landing in Wellfleet or Children’s Beach on Nantucket are great for those who love watching boats coming and going and prefer really calm waters. The beaches tend to be smaller than ocean or bayside beaches, but they are great for setting up a beach chair, reading a book, and watching the bustling activity in a harbor.

Hathaways Pond, Barnstable

Hathaways Pond, Barnstable
Hathaways Pond, Barnstable, MA

A vacation home situated near a lake or a pond is ideal for kayakers, boaters, and for those who enjoy fishing. The calm waters of a pond or lake are great for little kids, and they tend to be quite shallow and have a gradual entry into the water. Some ponds are brackish – meaning the water is a combination of fresh and saltwater. Although they tend to lack large, sandy beaches, there are usually picnic tables and plenty of grassy space as well as trees to provide shade on hot summer days. There are an abundance of ponds and lakes to choose from-local favorites include Long Pond in Harwich, Lake Tashmoo on Martha’s Vineyard and Sesachacha Pond on Nantucket.

If you are vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket, beaches facing north generally offer calmer and warmer waters than those south-facing beaches on the open Atlantic. On the Vineyard, for example, Fuller Street and State Beach in Edgartown, the Inkwell and Jetty Beaches in Oak Bluffs, and Owen Beach in Vineyard Haven all face the calmer, warmer waters of Nantucket Sound.

Whether you prefer a beach that has calm waters or high surf, the power search feature on can help you locate the ideal Cape Cod vacation rental home. Each property listing specifies the distance to the nearest beach and whether it’s on fresh or salt water. You can also choose to map your search results so that you can view the rental homes relative to the local beaches.

About Becky Fischer

About Becky Fischer: I have worked for since 2003. Currently my position entails providing photography, video, and consultation services to vacation rental homeowners, and I have photographed over 700 homes on the Cape and Islands. My husband and three children moved to Brewster in 2006. I grew up outside of Boston, spent summer vacations on Nantucket, and was married in Orleans. My favorite activities on the Cape are walking on the CCRT, deep breaths at the beach, visiting great coffee shops, and working with my community to support the schools and local events.