There is a known high disparity in access to perinatal care services between urban and rural areas in Tanzania. This study analysed repeated cross-sectional (RCS) data from Tanzania to explore the relationship between antenatal care (ANC) visits, facility-based delivery and the reasons for home births in women who had made ANC visits. We used data from RCS Demographic and Health Surveys spanning 20 years and a cluster sample of 30 830 women from 52 districts of Tanzania. The relationship between the number of ANC visits (up to four) and facility delivery in the latest pregnancy was explored. Regional changes in facility delivery and related variables over time in urban and rural areas were analysed using linear mixed models. To explore the disconnect between ANC visits and facility deliveries, reasons for home delivery were analysed. In the analytic model with other regional-level covariates, a higher proportion of ANC (>2–4 visits) and exposure to media related to an increased facility delivery rate in urban areas. For rural women, there was no significant relationship between the number of visits and facility delivery rate. According to the fifth wave result (2009–10), the most frequent reason for home delivery was ‘physical distance to facility’, and a significantly higher proportion of rural women reported that they were ‘not allowed to deliver in facility’. The disconnect between ANC visits and facility delivery in rural areas may be attributable to physical, cultural or familial barriers, and quality of care in health facilities. This suggests that improving access to ANC may not be enough to motivate facility-based delivery, especially in rural areas.