New England

The Best Family Beaches in New England | Best 5

These stretches of sand have everything you and the kids need for a perfect summer day. Learn our picks for the best family beaches in New England.

By Kim Knox Beckius

Jun 16 2020

Photo Credit : Jerry Monkman/EcoPhotography

Splashing in the surf, wrapping little swimmers in hooded towels, shooing gulls from a snack of fried clams—these all become deposits in a parent’s memory bank that surge in value as kids edge closer to leaving the nest. And while any beach is a worthy destination when the mercury climbs, the following have a mix of amenities that make for truly unforgettable family outings.

TRAVEL NOTE:When making plans to hit the water this summer, don’t forget to check on beach accessibility and follow social distancing guidelines.

The Best Family Beaches in New England
Boogie boarding for young surf lovers at New Hampshire’s Hampton Beach.
Photo Credit : Jerry Monkman/EcoPhotography

The Best Family Beaches in New England | Best 5

Hampton Beach | Hampton, NH

With free nightly concerts, weekly fireworks, and mile-long boardwalk lined with food vendors, shops, and amusements, Hampton Beach is a powerful magnet for family fun even before you factor in the actual beach, where sand and water provide nature’s finest building materials for the imagination.

Here, kids catch crests on boogie boards in waters that have repeatedly been ranked among the cleanest in America by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The Best Family Beaches in New England
Zipping down the water slides at Ocean Beach Park in Connecticut.
Photo Credit : Kindra Clineff/Connecticut Office of Travel & Tourism

Ocean Beach Park | New London, CT

At this play-all-day park on Long Island Sound, it’s a snap to grant every family member’s wish—even the startled toddler who commands, “No! Pool!” as ocean waves lap tiny toes. Yes, there is an Olympic-sized pool as well as a spray park for tots; just steps from the beach’s half mile of soft sand are amusement rides, water slides, and an ice cream shop.

Older kids gravitate toward the nautical-themed mini golf course and Connecticut’s only beachside arcade, while grown-ups can drink in views of Ledge Light from a restaurant deck with a local beer in hand. Summer nights here are sprinkled with beach blanket movies, concerts, classic car cruises, and fireworks. 860-447-3031;

Roger W. Wheeler State Beach | Narragansett, RI

There may be no better place for a youngster’s first foray into the ocean. Pale, powdery sand slopes gradually into the water. A breakwater just offshore means the waves are tame (and a bit warmer than the norm). Lifeguards keep watch; further reducing potential stress are restrooms and plentiful parking. There’s a playground to combat boredom, while Gansett Outfitters has sundries you may have forgotten. When hunger calls, Salty’s serves burgers, seafood, and ice cream sandwiches made with Rhode Island’s own Warwick Ice Cream and doughnuts from Allie’s Donuts.

The Best Family Beaches in New England
Beachcombers can walk along tidal flats that stretch for miles at Cape Cod’s Skaket Beach.
Photo Credit : Brian Eden

Skaket Beach | Orleans, MA

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.

Walk toward Provincetown, and you’ll spy teens who’ve ridden inner tubes down Little Namskaket Creek waiting for the tide to whoosh them back in. Reach Rock Harbor, and you’ll encounter the lifeboat used in the 1952 rescue depicted in The Finest Hours. Craving more than snack-bar fare? Head to Sir Cricket’s for fresh fried seafood—but be sure to return to see the day’s last sunbeams toss glitter on the shallows. 508-240-3790;

Short Sands Beach | York, ME

The appeal of Short Sands Beach lies in the nostalgic beach-town pleasures just a short stroll away: playing Skee-Ball at the Fun-O-Rama arcade, shopping for souvenirs, queuing up for kiddie rides, and visiting the animals at York’s Wild Kingdom. When hunger strikes, grab lunch at the Goldenrod, where antique machines pull, cut, and wrap the saltwater taffy that’s been made here using the same recipe since 1896. Bonus: There’s another mile-plus of beach to explore one mile south, at Long Sands Beach, where sharp-eyed kids can find lucky sand dollars. 207-363-1040;