Cape Cod is a collection of small coastal towns on the Massachusetts peninsula that juts into the Atlantic and curls upward, creating an inner harbor known as Cape Cod Bay. The area is known for its idyllic, coastal lifestyle and classic New England feel. If you're heading to Cape Cod, don't miss out on the miles of beaches on the Cape Cod National Seashore. Here are the top 8 beaches to check out on your trip.

Mayflower Beach, Dennis

Dennis, a community on the bayside of the mid-cape, has about 15 beaches. One of the best - which has gained much attention recently - is Mayflower Beach. This tiny spot with bone-white sands was named by Parents magazine in 2011 as one of the best beaches in the U.S. Since then, it's been tough to find a spot here, but it is a great family location because it's easy to get to and the turquoise waters are calm.

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Cahoon Hollow, Wellfleet

​This stunning beach on the oceanside of Wellfleet can only be reached via two steep, long paths down a 75-foot dune. Thus, it's not really suitable for families or seniors as the path isn't well-defined. But the views from up top are stunning. Grab some lunch or a cocktail at the popular Wellfleet Beachcomber restaurant, and you can even party on under the stars with a fire on the beach at night.

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Coast Guard Beach, Eastham

This beach on the outer cape is named for its historic coast guard station. Aside from enjoying the sun and sand on this pretty beach, you can do and see plenty of other things. To the right of the beach, you will see Nauset Marsh, which is a habitat for shellfish, wading birds, waterfowl and various fish. Go here to bird watch, see harbor seals or cast a fishing line. Coast Guard Beach also attracts surfers from the area due to its sand bars that draw water in. Visit Eastham, MA >

Surf Drive Beach, Falmouth

While this is admittedly not the best beach for swimming, it's quintessentially New England, with Nobska Lighthouse nearby, rocky shores and view of Martha's Vineyard. Come to this beach on the lower cape on Vineyard Sound for its pretty scenery and a lighthouse tour.

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Mayo Beach, Wellfleet

This beach has calm, warm waters and is surrounded by beach grasses. There's a rock jetty where you can watch boats dock or head out into the ocean. There is a playground nearby at Baker's Field, and plenty of great restaurants within walking distance, including Mac's Seafood, Wellfleet Pearl and the interesting The Bookstore and Restaurant.

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Marconi Beach, Wellfleet

Marconi Beach is on the outer cape - the Atlantic side - in popular beach town Wellfleet. While the beach can be pretty packed with sunbathers and families under brightly colored umbrellas in the summer, it's usually pleasantly quiet in the fall and perfect for a beachside picnic. The beach is named after famous Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who picked this area due to its elevated barren landscape to set up Marconi Station - a site where he hoped to make the first transatlantic wireless communication (though that eventually occurred elsewhere). Today, you can see lovely views of both the bay and ocean from the station, and the one-and-a-half-mile Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail is nearby.

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Sandy Neck Beach Park, Barnstable

This beach is located at a stunning, 4,700 acre state park with dunes, marshes and a maritime forest. The beach itself is rustic and large, and beachcombers love this area for its wealth of shells and interesting rocks. Aside from sitting in the sun, you can go fishing or horseback riding on Front Beach.

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Smugglers Beach, South Yarmouth

Known more formally as Bass River Beach, this large beach is at the mouth of the Bass River. There's a wide, sandy path leading to the beach inlet, sunsets here are absolutely glorious and the soft, glistening sand is warm and lovely. When you get hungry, head down Shore Drive to Skipper Restaurant and Chowder House - a local favorite with cerulean Atlantic views and awesome seafood.

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