Crane BeachPhoto Credit : The Trustees of Reservations
Whether you’re a kid seeing the ocean for the first time or a longtime lover of seaside haunts, Massachusetts beaches offer the perfect setting for enjoying the best of sand and surf. From Salisbury Beach in the north to Westport’s Horseneck Beach in the south — and including such famed islands as Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard — the state’s 1,500-mile coastline is dotted with places to spend blissful hours swimming and sunbathing, hunting for sea glass, or maybe just taking in a beautiful sunset. The following roundup of best beaches in Massachusetts is drawn from Yankee’s travel writings, places that our editors have returned to again and again over the years.
Do you have a beach you’d like to add to the list? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Coast Guard Beach | Eastham
A regular honoree on national “best beaches” lists, Coast Guard Beach marks the beginning of what Thoreau called “the Great Beach.” Part of Cape Cod National Seashore, Coast Guard Beach is wide, with sand dunes, marshland, and pounding waves. Parking in summer is reserved for residents and vehicles with handicapped placards, but free transportation is provided via a shuttle bus at the Little Creek parking area in Eastham. The beach itself is handicapped accessible and also rents out beach wheelchairs.
Crane Beach | Ipswich
Considered a crown jewel among the Trustees of Reservations’ 100-plus properties, Crane is a spectacular white-sand beach … and then some. The 2,100 acres donated by plumbing-fixture magnate Richard Crane and his family comprise dunes, salt marsh, and a maritime scrub forest laced with trails. In summer, there are lifeguards, bathhouses, refreshments, and outdoor showers; year-round, naturalists guide birding walks (snowy owls are regular visitors, and piping plovers nest here) and other outdoor adventures.
Good Harbor Beach | Gloucester
One of the prettiest beaches in New England, this expansive white-sand crescent overlooks the rocky ledges of Salt Island (accessible by foot at low tide). Its best feature is the comparatively warm water of the river that borders the southern end and carries lazy rafters down its final run to the sea. There are full-service amenities including lifeguards, concession stand, and restrooms with showers.
Horseneck Beach State Reservation | Westport
Two miles of sand facing Rhode Island Sound make Westport’s Horseneck Beach a great spot for sunning and swimming. It’s part of a nearly 600-acre state reservation near the mouth of Buzzards Bay that encompasses barrier beach, estuary, and salt marsh habitats. Among the highlights are the dunes — serious dunes, like the ones you’d find in the Province Lands of Cape Cod — and a 1½-mile paved, ADA-accessible walking path along the water with views of the Elizabeth Islands.
Jetties Beach | Nantucket
An easy bike ride from the center of town brings you to a seashell-strewn north-shore beach notable for a sandbar where bathers can hang out in ankle-deep water. A family favorite with lifeguards, restrooms, playground, and gentle surf, Jetties is also known for its beach-friendly wheelchairs as well as a long plastic mat along the beach to help with going to and fro. The seagulls here will thieve your lunch in a second, so come prepared with a covered basket when you swim.
Nantasket Beach Reservation | Hull
A 1928 carousel is all that remains of Nantasket’s amusement park heyday, but the mile-long beach is still there and offers one of the Boston area’s best places to swim in clean ocean water while enjoying a skyline view of the Hub. Perhaps because of its urban location, Nantasket is one of Massachusetts’s prime spots for collecting sea glass, especially as high tide recedes.
Race Point Beach | Provincetown
This sizable beach at Cape Cod National Seashore’s northern extreme has it all: miles of fine tawny sand, ocean waves, lifeguards and bathhouses, and spectacular sunsets. Race Point Light is a two-mile walk from the beach, and bike trails weaving through the dunes from Provincetown are an alternative to parking fees. The Old Harbor Life-Saving Station opens as a museum in summer; the Province Lands Visitor Center is also nearby. Evening campfire permits are available.
Skaket Beach | Orleans
On Cape Cod’s sheltered bay side, the water is relatively warm and the surf never gets very high. And when the tide goes out, over a mile of sand is laid bare for young explorers. Plop an air mattress on the flats at low tide, and you can watch your kids find curious creatures in tide pools or race down the beach lofting kites. This is also a fertile area for collecting sea glass, and a place to see some of the most picturesque sunsets on the New England coast.
South Beach (Katama Beach) | Edgartown
Located on Martha’s Vineyard, an island famous for its beaches, this three-mile-long dune-backed beauty has long, rolling waves for those who love the exhilaration of body surfing, as well as a protected saltwater pond for the surf-averse. Located a few miles from downtown, in the residential area of Katama, the beach is one of the few on the island with restrooms. Beach driving is allowed with permits, too.
Wingaersheek Beach | Gloucester
Wingaersheek embraces the calm waters at the meeting of the Annisquam River and Ipswich Bay. Tides in the bay are substantial; at low tide, the beach reaches out to a sandbar hundreds of yards from the high-tide line, which makes for a great wet-sand walk and a gradual drop-off when the tide is in. Lifeguards keep watch in season.