Looking for the best beach in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island? Here’s where to find the best beaches in New England.
By Yankee Magazine
Jun 30 2022
Heading to the beach and want to make sure it’s a good one? In 2010, we asked travel writer Steve Jermanok to highlight the best beaches in New England – one for every state. Here are his picks.
If you’re a sand-hog, you’ll savor the space offered by the two-mile-long stretch of shoreline at Hammonasset in Madison. Park near the East Bathhouse and walk a short way on the soft, white sand toward Meigs Point. Backed by grassy dunes and wildflowers, this shallow strip is so long it never feels crowded, even on a hot summer weekend day. Swim in the blue-green waters of Long Island Sound, peer at the lighthouse off in the distance, catch up on some reading, and wander over to Meigs Point Nature Center with the kids to feel the crabs in the touch tank, watch the native snakes and turtles, and walk through the butterfly garden. Then it’s back to your towel to stretch out for more sun.
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At the end of one of those fingers of land that dangles off the Maine coast into the Atlantic, Popham is hopelessly exposed to all the elements. 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. Come at low tide, and the grooved sand leads to a tiny island where seagulls have picked over unfortunate crabs, and mussels lie exposed on the kelp. 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.
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Located within the Cape Cod National Seashore but managed by the town, Longnook Beach is especially nice to visit early in the morning, while the fog still casts a hazy glaze over the water. Stroll past the towering tan and red dunes and down the sandy path to the soft, white beach and you’ll instantly realize why JFK wanted this landscape preserved as a National Seashore. Listen to the waves, watch the surfers glide atop the ocean, walk the beach to find an errant lobster trap run ashore, and savor the scene before families start to pour in around 11 a.m.
See More:The Ultimate Cape Cod Vacation Guide
Yes, there’s a beach at Odiorne Point. The Granite State extends to the rock-littered shoreline southeast of Portsmouth. One sandy stretch here offers a quintessential New England seascape, including a picturesque lighthouse (the circa-1872 granite Whaleback, on the Kittery, Maine, side of the harbor), the historic Wentworth by the Sea hotel in New Castle, and all those sailboats on the dark-blue Atlantic. The hard part is finding this hidden beach gem. Insiders know to park the car at the boat launch and then bike the trail along Route 1A toward the main parking lot. Less than a half-mile later, a wide, grassy dirt road leads through Odiorne’s forest all the way to a long breakwater called Frost Point. The dense sand slopes to the water’s edge just to the left there: a placid retreat, with fewer than a handful of people in the know reclining on their beach chairs. And you thought all New Hampshire beaches were crowded … Families will also love the Seacoast Science Center.
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Everyone rides the waves at Second Beach, located just outside the Newport town line. Surfers are 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 grab their boogie boards and head to the center of the beach to try their luck. You’ll find singles and college kids to the east, using their bodies to ride the crest. Everyone comes for the surf, pounding the shores with its consistent thump. Rhode Island’s waters are warmer than the beaches of Cape Ann and Cape Cod, so Bostonians think nothing of making the hour-long drive south. After swallowing gulps of the Atlantic, the crowds retreat to the spacious shoreline, only to jump back into the ocean when their bodies wilt under the sun.
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There’s nothing quite as nourishing for both body and soul as a dip in a Vermont swimming hole, where the sylvan surroundings enfold you in a blanket of green. Nestled in one of the largest state forests in the Northeast Kingdom, Lake Groton is actually too large to be called a genuine Vermont swimming hole. There’s no waterfall or covered bridge–but in its place is a ring of mountains, with a forest of hemlocks, birches, and maples dropping all the way down to the lake’s rim. The sand is nothing special, especially compared with the beaches of its New England neighbors and their oceanfront settings. Ahhh, but there’s that cool refreshing lake water … Try it after a morning climb up 1,958-foot Owl’s Head Mountain just north in Peacham, or a bike ride along the abandoned Montpelier/Wells River Railroad bed, and we guarantee that Boulder will be nourishing.
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Let us know your pick for the best New England beach in the comments below!
Some content in this post was first published in Yankee in 2010, and has been updated.