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Exploring Cape Cod Tide Pools

Kennedy Ryan | 9/15/2021

While I’ve lived in Massachusetts my entire life, there are many parts of Cape Cod that I’ve never had the chance to explore. I decided that this summer would be the perfect time to cross everything off my list to become a true Cape expert! From classic foods to iconic destinations, I was determined to experience them all.

Growing up on the East Coast, I’ve been to many beaches, but I had never been beachcombing. This summer I decided it was time to try it, and I am so happy I did!

During low tide, many beaches, especially the Cape Cod Bay ones, form shallow pools of water along the shore. Visitors can explore these pools of water and will often find many unique creatures! “Beachcombing” is the term used to describe the act of exploring tide pools.

Jennie and I visited a beach in Brewster so she could show me the best tide pools to explore. Breakwater Beach is one of the “Brewster Flats” beaches that are known for many tide pools. The shallow water often goes out for what seems like miles, allowing for plenty of exploring. I learned that it wasn’t hard to find plenty of creatures in the pools! Here are a few things we found on our journey.


These small, sharp crustaceans are related to crabs and lobsters. They’re known for sticking on any surface they can find, such as driftwood and even live animals like whales! Barnacles are a common tide pool find.


Mussels can be found in most bodies of fresh and saltwater. The mussels found growing in Cape Cod Bay are black, and you’ll find bunches of them growing together, usually affixing themselves to rocks.


Did you know that adult oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day? These fascinating creatures are a local seafood favorite. Many beaches have areas reserved for those who have a license to grow and harvest oysters, but these creatures can also be found in tide pools on public beaches.

Soft Clams

Soft shell clams, also known as steamers, are a favorite both in restaurants and among beachcombers. However, they’re harder to spot along the shore. These clams can bury themselves more than a foot below the surface, making it hard for predators to reach them. They grow to be about 3-4 inches in size, so if they’re along the surface you are sure to spot them!


Scallops are a species of saltwater clams. Their shells often appear in bright colors, making them a favorite for beachcombers.


Crabs found in tide pools range in color from brown to green. These creatures typically grow to 2-4 inches in size and can live up to 5 years. Watch where you step! If a crab is big enough and can grab your toes with its claw, it’ll give you a nasty pinch!

Hermit Crabs

These crustaceans are a popular favorite among tide pool visitors and are often found actively scurrying around the shore. They range in size between 2-6 inches. More closely related to lobsters than crabs, these creatures are soft-shelled. Hermits are social crabs, so they can often be found in groups. They are always on the lookout for a new home, so you may find a hermit crab in a unique shell or even one of another species!

Common Slippers

These sea snails have several nicknames, including “lady slippers” and “slipper shells.” The bottom of these small shells is actually shaped like a slipper! Adult common slipper shells don’t have the ability to move too much, so they’re often found close together along the shore.


These adorable shelled snails can be found throughout the shore. They’re mostly eaten by starfish and some species of fish. Periwinkles only grow up to an inch and can go days without water by retaining water in their gills. You can sometimes find hermit crabs living in periwinkle shells that have been left vacant!

Moon Snail

These large snails are easy to identify along the shore. Ranging in yellow to brown hues, their shells can be 2 to 51/2 inches long. These snails are known as predators and can even be found attacking other moon snails! However, these snails are harmless to humans and may even move around your hand when held!

There are plenty of creatures to find and beaches to explore, so no two tide pool experiences will be the same! You’re sure to collect unique souvenir shells and create memories that will last a lifetime.