Here’s a list of things to do on the beaches of Massachusetts: play in the waves at Coast Guard Beach, consistently ranked the #1 family beach in America; build a sandcastle at Revere Beach, or watch the pros build them during the annual Sand Sculpting Festival; get all philosophical at Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond; ride the waves at Long Beach; sunbathe at the gorgeous Crane Beach; bark at the seals at Chatham Light Beach; go clamming at the aptly named Clammers Beach; daydream about quitting your job and moving to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard; catch the best sunset in New England at Madaket Beach. I could go on, but with almost 1,500 miles of coastline in Massachusetts plus countless picturesque ponds and lakes, there’s too much to list! Here is just a sampling of beaches found in Massachusetts:
Revere Beach, Boston
Two mile-long Revere Beach, north of Boston but easily accessible by T, looks east across the Atlantic Ocean and attracts as many as 100,000 visitors on warm summer days. Established in 1896, Revere Beach also has the distinction of being the oldest public beach in the United States. A public bathhouse, Victorian-style pavilions, and plenty of food vendors across the street add to the lively ambiance. Lifeguards are on duty from late June through Labor Day. If you enjoy crowds and occasional music from radios, Revere Beach can be a blast on the weekends. If you prefer to avoid big crowds, go early in the morning or after 6:00 in the evening, and avoid the weekends. You’ll have the beach to yourself except for a few dog walkers and photographers. Enjoy the spectacular views! For several days every July, the New England Sand Sculpting Festival brings visitors from all over the world to watch master sand sculptors turn their individual allotments of 10 tons of sand into elaborate although ephemeral pieces of art as they compete for thousands in prize money. For the best beach food, walk across the street to Kelly’s (410 Revere Beach Blvd, near Wonderland Station) for a lobster roll or clam plate.
Carson Beach, South Boston
With a nice view of the city’s skyline, Carson Beach is an ideal place for city dwellers to take advantage of Boston’s geography. From Carson, you can take advantage of the HarborWalk to enjoy nice views of Dorchester Bay on a peaceful walk, run, or bike ride to the Kennedy Library.
Constitution Beach, East Boston
Easy to access and a solid option for families, Constitution Beach is a popular spot for kids with lifeguard-supervised swimming, a playground, and athletic courts. Sunbathers and swimmers can enjoy views of Boston Harbor and Logan Airport while the sheltered benches and open field provide space for picnics or a pick-up game of Frisbee.
Menemsha Beach, Martha’s Vineyard
At first glance, the town beach in sleepy Menemsha doesn’t appear to be much, but when the lights start to go down over Martha’s Vineyard, that’s when the show begins. Grab fried clams at the nearby popular shack, The Bite, or steamed lobster from the likes of Menemsha Seafood or Larsen’s Fish Market and settle in for what many consider to be the best spot to watch a sunset in the entire state. The calmer waves at Menemsha Beach also make this a favorite spot for families with young children. For sure, Menemsha is a more serene, genteel alternative to the busier crowds on most other Vineyard beaches.
Horseneck Beach State Reservation, Westport
The drive down Route 88 can be a headache on any given day, so do yourself a favor and reach this beach by way of Horseneck Road, which runs parallel. You’ll discover rolling farm lands, a winery, and a tranquil alternative to the sometimes maddening rush. Once at Horseneck, you’ll find ample inexpensive parking ($8 for residents, $14 for non-residents), classic Massachusetts dunes, sparkling, clean sand, and new changing facilities. Birders will love the habitat situated here. Camping is also available nearby, featuring 100 sites. Ocean waves can be rough at times, and seaweed can be plentiful, but Horseneck is still a beautiful spot to spend a beach day.
Tenean Beach, Dorchester
Whether you’re looking for a spot for your kids to splash around, or a place to walk your dog close to the city, Tenean Beach is a popular swimming beach for families, with playground facilities as well as tennis and basketball courts. The beach is in a protected cove off the Neponset River, making the water very calm and safe for beginners or learners.
Katama (South) Beach, Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard
The fine, white sand at Katama Beach, also known as South Beach, plays well in contrast to the deep blue ocean crashing into it with some ferocity at the shore. The three-mile stretch of land stretches far to both left and right, creating a soothing atmosphere where no land is visible as far as the eye can see — a welcome escape. The waves can be a bit more aggressive, which makes it an ideal destination for boogie boarding or body surfing.
Singing Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea
Parking can be a real issue, as spaces at the beach are reserved for Manchester-by-the-Sea residents only. But you can find limited metered spots in the nearby downtown area if you beat the crowds, and Singing Beach still gets points for accessibility thanks to the presence of the MBTA commuter rail, just a short walk away. The rocky cliff coast of Singing comes into full view upon arrival, giving the area a feel almost like Maine. The pristine sand makes this a favorite North Shore destination, while the stunning views provide a soothing atmosphere.
Long Beach, Gloucester
Stretching all the way down to Rockport, Long Beach is one of Gloucester’s most underrated attractions. Walk along the soft sand with the quaint houses lining the beach to get a view of the beautiful twin lighthouses, and cool off in the water when you get tired. Visitors say that the waves here are some of the best, so take your boogie board, or surf after the lifeguards leave. Keep in mind that there aren’t any facilities or snack bars on the beach, so visit a restroom before you go and bring a cooler for food.
Craigville Beach, Barnstable
One of Cape Cod’s most popular beaches, Craigville gets crowded on summer days. Long and wide, the soft sand area allows for a lot of sunbathers and swimmers. Craigville is also a favorite among teens and college students, but appeals to all ages with lifeguards and clam shacks.
Cahoon Hollow, Wellfleet
Stare out at the ocean from atop this Wellfleet classic’s sand cliffs for one of Cape Cod’s most breathtaking views. Then make your way – slowly – down the adjacent embankment and it will seem like the beach swallowed you into its beauty. The clay-colored cliffs consume you, as if you’ve been swallowed up by the surroundings. Be sure to stop for lunch at the Beachcomber atop the cliffs, a typical beachside bar. Tip: Park for the day in the Beachcomber lot for $20; you’ll receive a food or merchandise voucher for the same amount. If that’s full, look for additional parking down the road. As with most popular destinations, parking can be tight, so plan to get there early.
Crane Beach, Ipswich
This gorgeous stretch of land on the North Shore features fine powdery sand, clear ocean water, and some impressively clean changing and food facilities. The short walk across the parking lot boardwalk to the beach provides beach goers with a variety of sights, from the plentiful mounds of sand dunes to the immaculate view of one of the state’s most beloved summer spots. Parking can be pricey – $25 on weekends – but spots are normally available if you get there early enough. And since the beach stretches for miles, you’re not likely to have a difficult time landing a spot in the sand even on the most crowded summer days. If you want to leave the car behind, consider taking the Ipswich Essex Explorer, from the Ipswich commuter rail station. For just $5 round-trip, the shuttle transports passengers and drops them off right in front of the beach—even if the parking lot is full. The ticket price also covers beach admission.
Cisco Beach, Nantucket
Located on the south shore of Nantucket, Cisco Beach is a surfing paradise, with waves just gnarly enough to provide the perfect atmosphere for both beginner and experienced boarders alike. This long stretch of sand is backed on one side by eroding dunes, the other by a cool ocean that boasts a number of wetsuits at any time of day. Beginners can learn the craft from the Nantucket Surfing Co., which is on hand for lessons and rentals. No public transportation to Cisco, reachable only by personal vehicle or taxi. Fare from Nantucket town is generally around $14 for one person, one-way. Each additional person will run a few dollars more.
Madaket Beach, Nantucket
Well known on the other island for sunsets is Madaket, located at Nantucket’s westernmost point. Sunsets are a seasonal treat here, but so too is an early-morning stroll on the quiet beach. The surf can be heavy, as evidenced by the amount of ocean debris on shore. And even though it’s easily reached by Nantucket public transportation, a $4 round-trip from Nantucket town, the remoteness can sometimes make you feel as though you know a secret kept from other islanders.
Race Point Beach, Provincetown
The sand is a little whiter and brighter at the tip of the Cape, where Provincetown’s crown jewel provides the final stop on the historic Cape Cod National Seashore. The views of the Atlantic Ocean are sweeping, and this is a great spot to make an early destination for a spectacular summer sunrise. Waves tend to be light here on an average day, making it a fine spot for families and those not looking to tangle with seaweed.
Coast Guard Beach, Eastham
One of the first stops on the Cape Cod National Seashore, this Eastham favorite places annually on beach guru Dr. Stephen Leatherman’s list of the top 10 cleanest beaches in the country thanks to pristine ocean conditions, fine, powdery sand, and a concerted effort to protect the nesting piping plovers. Adjacent to the beach you’ll find miles of salt marshes, providing a dramatic backdrop to a Cape Cod jewel. Plentiful parking is available in the nearby parking lot ($15), from which a free National Seashore shuttle bus will whisk you to the shore. Passes for all National Seashore-run beaches are $45 for the season.
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