New England

34 Best New England Beaches

From the mountains to the ocean, these 34 New England beaches offer the perfect place to relax on a hot summer day.

By Bill Scheller

Jul 25 2023


Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Connecticut Beaches

duBois Beach, Stonington. Poking into Fishers Island Sound at the tip of Stonington Point, duBois has been called a “secret beach,” though it’s received plenty of attention from the beach-ranking media. Owned by a local improvement association, it’s a tidy little beach with placid surf, lifeguards, a wee gazebo, lovely views, a modest day fee, and—rare for town beaches—free parking.

Hammonasset Beach State Park,Madison. Extending along a peninsula for two miles into Long Island Sound, Hammonasset is Connecticut’s biggest beach and its most popular. A boardwalk runs for three-quarters of a mile along the sands, and along with lifeguards, bathhouses, and concessions including bicycle rentals, the park offers more than 500 campsites and eight rustic cabins for rent. It’s also popular with surf casters.

Ocean Beach Park,New London. Sand and surf not enough? New London has a beach with all the family-fun fixings: a water slide, a carousel, and other rides; old-fashioned arcade games; miniature golf; an Olympic pool; and a full-service restaurant. Special events include movies and classic-car “cruise nights.”

Sherwood Island State Park,Westport. Encompassing New England’s westernmost Long Island Sound beaches, Sherwood is Connecticut’s oldest state park. Twin swimming areas, whose sands get their color from garnet (red) and magnetite (black), flank a point designated for surf casting; inland, there are hiking trails, a nature center, and even a model airplane field. Picnic tables, a food concession, and showers round out the facilities.

Silver Sands State Park,Milford. Nestled along Long Island Sound between Bridgeport and New Haven, Silver Sands offers calm, warm water; a boardwalk running nearly the length of the beach; and footpaths that wind through a restored salt marsh. Charles Island, where Captain Kidd allegedly buried treasure (where didn’t he?), lies a half mile offshore; access via low-tide sandbar is permitted only off-season, when birds aren’t nesting.

Maine Beaches

Crescent Beach State Park,Cape Elizabeth. This sandy break in Maine’s famous “rockbound coast” is a mile-long gem just south of Portland. Sheltered from the open Atlantic by Cape Elizabeth (that’s the cape’s famous Two Lights to the east), the surf here is gentle and warmer than most Maine ocean waters, making Crescent Beach attractive to swimmers and sea kayakers. Add in picnic tables, grills, and a playground, and you’ve got a popular family beach, too.

Ferry Beach State Park,Saco. Only two miles from the heart of bustling Old Orchard Beach lies a 117-acre beach park ideal for families. Along with picnicking beneath a covered shelter and swimming off the white sand beach (accessible through an underpass from the picnic spot), the park is notable for its inviting walking paths, nearly two miles of trails that cut through forest, and a rare tupelo swamp over a raised boardwalk.

Footbridge Beach, Ogunquit. Ogunquit’s clifftop Marginal Way gets most of the attention, but just to the north, the barrier sands of Footbridge Beach are right on the water. Accessible by a footbridge from town, the beach lies at the quiet northern end of a three-mile swatch of sand. Facilities include a snack stand and restrooms; for restaurants and chair rentals, stroll south to busier Ogunquit Beach.

Old Orchard Beach, Old Orchard Beach. Approaching its 200th year as a resort destination, Old Orchard Beach holds its place as Maine’s liveliest seaside draw. Its seven-mile strand, embracing Saco Bay just south of Portland (and accessible via Amtrak’s Downeaster), fronts a busy mélange of motels, restaurants, snack bars, shops, and the Palace Playland amusement park with its recently built roller coaster and Ferris wheel; a 500-foot pier carries the fun out to sea.

Popham Beach State Park,Phippsburg. There’s nothing manicured about this rare spit of sand sandwiched between rocky shores. Pieces of driftwood lie on the beach, backed by dwarf pines and uprooted trees. When the water rolls in, kids swim in the warm (yes, warm) waters of the tidal pool as parents take long beach walks, watching three-masted schooners and lobstermen cruise past pine-studded islands and lighthouses. Let the cool breeze blow through your hair and breathe in the salty air. This is the raw, genuine Maine coast you’ve yearned for.

Roque Bluffs State Park, Roque Bluffs. Few coastal parks offer as much variety of terrain as Roque Bluffs—and hardly any give visitors a choice of salt- or fresh-water beaches. The pebbly shore along Englishman Bay is the place for a typically bracing Maine dip, while shallow Simpson Pond is a hot tub by comparison. On dry land, enjoy six miles of trails that weave through nearly 300 acres of woodland and meadows and along the rocky bluffs.

Sand Beach,Acadia National Park. Sand is in short supply along Acadia’s rocky shores, but this 300-yard beach on Mount Desert Island’s east side has its share, largely composed of pulverized shells. It’s a great spot for an invigorating swim in water that struggles to reach 55°F, and the starting place of scenic trails, but beach glass collectors come here for the translucent jewels (even pink shows up on occasion) tossed and polished over decades in the ocean.

Massachusetts Beaches

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.

Corn Hill Beach, Truro. A pleasant bayside alternative to the colder, heavier surf on Cape Cod’s Atlantic shores, Corn Hill (named for the spot where the Pilgrims were said to have found a stash of Wampanoag corn) is a narrow, dune-backed stretch of sand just north of Pamet Harbor. The calm, shallow waters are ideal for kids, though there are no lifeguards. Facilities are limited to porta-potties.  

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.

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.

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. A favorite among Gloucester’s public beaches, 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 in season. Parking is limited; nonresidents must reserve online. 

New Hampshire Beaches

Carry Beach,Wolfeboro. There are better-known beaches on Lake Winnipesaukee, but they’re bigger and busier. Carry Beach, on Winter Harbor, is as low-key as they come, with shallow, kid-friendly water; a small sandy beach set in parklike surroundings; and lifeguards in season. It’s also home to a water aerobics program and the swim portion of the annual Granite Man Triathlon. The beach’s name? This was once a canoe portage spot.

Hampton Beach State Park, Hampton. New Hampshire’s only slightly more sedate answer to the rollicking shore towns of New Jersey features a boardwalk; a full complement of lodgings, restaurants, and snack bars; and the pop-and-rock venue of the Hampton Beach Casino. All these attractions stand behind a miles-long state park, with a pristine white-sand beach (rated one of America’s cleanest), five bathhouses, RV camping sites, and a special section for surfers.

Odiorne Point State Park, Rye. Odiorne is a top alternative to sandy swimmers’ beaches, with a rocky shore peppered with the remains of the WWII gun emplacements, trails threading through dense brush, and the Seacoast Science Center with its fine exhibits focusing on the area’s human and natural history. The park is popular with sea kayakers, and with birders life-listing red-throated loons, broad-winged hawks, and many other species. Limited parking can be booked in advance.

Wallis Sands State Park, Rye. For a state with an 18-mile seacoast, New Hampshire does more than all right. Facing the Gulf of Maine between Rye and Odiorne Point, with views of the Isles of Shoals, Wallis is an aptly named arc of sand ranging the length of a small state park. Facilities at the north end include a picnic area, shop, and bathhouse; 500 parking spaces sound like a lot, but you’d best reserve a spot in advance.

Rhode Island Beaches

East Beach State Beach,Charlestown. While Charlestown’s Blue Shutters Beach draws a family crowd with its full facilities, the community’s Ninigret Conservation Area offers a quieter, more remote setting. With three miles of sandy shoreline, a scant 20 campsites, and limited parking, this barrier beach at the east end of Quonochontaug Neck provides an away-from-it-all experience—though seasonal lifeguards in one section make it great for kids.

East Matunuck State Beach,South Kingstown. Broad sands and vigorous surf combine with ample facilities at this popular state beach near Rhode Island’s southeastern corner. Amenities include indoor and outdoor showers, restrooms and changing areas, lifeguards, and Salty’s Burgers & Seafood. Get there early for parking, especially on weekends; during off-hours (the beach closes for swimming at 6 p.m.), it’s a prime surf-casting spot. 

Mohegan Bluffs,New Shoreham (Block Island). Towering up to 200 feet above the ocean, the bluff’s clay cliffs are aproned by one of Block Island’s finest and most remote beaches, well worth the 141-step descent on a wooden staircase (just remember, you have to climb back up!). It’s a popular spot for surfers, so expect some serious waves—this isn’t Block Island Sound, but the open Atlantic. 

Napatree Point, Westerly. This mile-and-a-half swath of sand arcs out from Westerly’s Watch Hill village and past a private club as it separates Little Narragansett Bay from Long Island Sound. Napatree is known as a walker’s beach, but swimming is fine in the gentle waters of the Sound. Protected by the Watch Hill Conservancy, the point is without facilities (including lifeguards); wardens occasionally patrolling the beach are there to protect piping plovers. 

Narragansett Town Beach, Narragansett. The smooth curve of sand near the mouth of Narragansett Bay sets the standard for town beaches. Look for full facilities, with lifeguards all summer, a first-aid office, plenty of parking, two pavilions, a boardwalk, an observation tower, and 19 acres of beachfront that accommodate the crowds—without overcrowding. And while this isn’t Maui, beginning and intermediate surfers find decent waves in a set-aside zone.

Sachuest (Second) Beach,Middletown. Everyone rides the waves at Second Beach, located just outside the Newport town line. Surfers can be found to the west, near Purgatory Chasm, a deep cleft in the bedrock rising above Sachuest Bay; atop the rise is the campus of St. George’s School, its limestone chapel tower a dramatic backdrop to the powdery sand. Families, meanwhile, grab their boogie boards and head to the center of the scenic mile-long beach to try their luck. Board rentals and lessons are available during the season, as well as a Del’s Lemonade truck and concession stand.

Vermont Beaches

Alburgh Dunes State Park, Alburgh. A beach isn’t a beach without sand dunes, so freshwater beaches are out … right? Wrong. One of Vermont’s newest state parks was established to preserve an incongruous feature of northern Lake Champlain, a duneland left behind by retreating glaciers. Along with the dunes, erosion and winds have created one of the lake’s longest beaches, enclosed within a day-use park that features a picnic area with grills, and restroom/changing facilities in a rustic setting.

Boulder Beach State Park, Groton. One of seven state parks in 26,000-acre Groton State Forest, Boulder Beach may sound rocky, but the eponymous boulders merely dot a stretch of sandy shoreline along Lake Groton. There’s a definite wilderness feel to the terrain in this southern threshold of the Northeast Kingdom, but the park is well equipped with changing facilities, boat rentals, a concession stand, and a broad lawn dotted with picnic sites behind the beach.

Crystal Lake State Park,Barton. One of the glacially carved jewels of northern Vermont’s lake country lies just outside the town of Barton and features a sandy swimming beach with a spectacular view. Located at the northern end of three-mile-long Crystal Lake, the park offers canoe and paddleboard rentals, tables and grills, and concession facilities housed in a distinctive, Civilian Conservation Corps–built changing station. There’s also a kitchen-equipped cottage for rent.

Sand Bar State Park,Milton. Vermont’s most popular day-use state park is home to its finest stretch of Lake Champlain beachfront, a 2,000-foot strand with a dropoff so gradual that it seems you could wade from the mainland to the Champlain Islands. The shallow waters make this an ideal beach for kids, who’ll also enjoy the play area and ice cream stand. Get there early to snag a table and grill.