The clean, sandy beaches along New England’s 6,000 miles of coast have long provided a playground for locals and visitors from around the world. Who wouldn't enjoy the lobster shacks and the fried clams, the homemade ice cream and the long, hot summer days? Once you have experienced a New England beach summer, you’ll want to come again!
In high summer, the Connecticut shoreline offers a series of escapes: beaches, bays and boats — not forgetting lobster shacks. Not far from New York City, some of the state’s best southern beaches include East Norwalk’s Calf Pasture Beach, where British troops landed during the Revolution. It is more peaceful and more fun today, with its fishing pier and skateboard park, playground and bocce courts, plus a baseball diamond and a restaurant.
A little further east, Westport’s Sherwood Island State Park is Connecticut's first state park, and is still rated as one of the best. If you are feeling energetic, head for Compo Beach, also in Westport. This 29-acre park has basketball and sand volleyball courts, a softball field and open skate areas, as well as picnic areas with grills. Famous for its annual Oyster Festival in August is the historic town of Milford, where Silver Sands State Park has a beautiful sandy beach that looks over to Charles Island. Legend has it that Captain Kidd buried his pirate treasure on what is now a 14-acre bird sanctuary. You can even walk out there at low tide. Refreshed by the waters of Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean is pristine Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. Often rated Connecticut’s best beach, the sands stretching for two miles are the largest shoreline park in the state.
Further east, in the town of East Lyme, 710-acre Rocky Neck State Park is wedged between a broad salt marsh and a river. With its white sand, this is a peaceful spot where locals come for the picnic areas, hiking trails, wildlife-viewing platform — and the swimming! Anglers on the jetty fish for striped bass and blackfish. On a peninsula, jutting out into Long Island Sound, Bluff Point State Park is a "coastal reserve," so the beach is delightfully unspoiled. Nearby attractions include Mystic, with Mystic Seaport, and in Groton itself, the Submarine Force Museum, home of USS Nautilus, the world’s first atomic submarine, launched in 1954.
Visitors often think of Maine as a rocky coastline, so they are happily surprised to find the long sandy beaches of southern Maine. An added bonus is The Kittery Outlets, with more than 130 stores and restaurants. The Greater Region of York offers several beaches, along with the much-photographed Nubble Lighthouse. In the language of the Abenaki tribe, Ogunquit means "beautiful place by the sea" — no wonder artists flocked here in days gone by. Today, you can enjoy three miles of dune-backed beach, as well as an ocean walk, a fishing cove dotted with lobster restaurants, and a summer playhouse.
A further 20-minute drive up the coast are the Kennebunks, the seaside towns of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, Arundel and Cape Porpoise. Kennebunkport has several beaches (bring your own food) and interesting shops and boutiques. Visitors also enjoy taking the scenic drive along Ocean Avenue, which includes the summer retreat of the 41st U.S. President, George Herbert Walker Bush. By contrast, Old Orchard Beach is all about summer fun, with its beachfront Palace Playland Park and other amusements, plus nightly entertainment including dancing at the end of the Pier, and weekly fireworks and concerts.
Eight miles south of the city of Portland in picturesque Cape Elizabeth is Crescent Beach State Park. Popham Beach State Park is a 3-mile expanse of sand at the mouth of the Kennebec River. In 1607, British settlers founded the Popham Colony here, but they didn’t stay. They built the Virginia, the New World’s first sailing ship, to return to England — starting the long tradition of boat building on the Kennebec River. Today, you can see lighthouses offshore, guarding the mouth of the Kennebec, and you can walk out to Fox Island at low tide.
Massachusetts offers dozens of beaches all along its coastline. North of Boston, there’s Crane Beach in Ipswich with famous fried clam restaurants nearby, Singing Beach in Manchester (named for its unusual sand that squeaks or "sings" beneath your feet), and Good Harbor in Gloucester. The south coast offers spectacular beaches, both on and off the beaten path. Horseneck Beach State Reservation in Westport Point, one of the most popular facilities in the Massachusetts state parks system, offers nearly 600 acres of barrier beach and salt marsh.
Further east are all the hidden inlets and coves of Buzzards Bay, just waiting to be explored. One of the top beach destinations in the United States, Cape Cod and the Islands offer more than 100 public beaches. The northern bay side of the Cape is ideal for families with young children, while the ocean-side beaches offer roaring surf. Riding high among America’s top ten beaches is Coast Guard Beach, one of several that are part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Some visitors come to swim and picnic, others to spot wildlife, such as the piping plover. Many just want to savor the stunning seascape of dunes, broad shoreline and Atlantic Ocean.
The scenic beaches on the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, just off Cape Cod, have long been firm favorites with the summer crowds and celebrities. Catch the regular passenger ferry from Falmouth, Hyannis, Nantucket, New Bedford and Woods Hole (Massachusetts), Quonset Point (Rhode Island), Montauk and New York City (New York). Read more about Massachusetts beaches and Massachusetts in summer.
New Hampshire may have a mere 18 miles of coastline, but this stretch includes excellent sandy beaches. Hampton Beach State Park is a local favorite, famous for family fun, with entertainment above and beyond mere swimming and sunning. As well as international sand castle competitions, there are 18 fireworks displays this summer on Wednesday nights, free evening concerts, and a Children’s Festival in mid-August.
Quieter beaches, with plenty of home and cottage rentals nearby, include Wallis Sands State Park, Jenness State Beach, and Rye Beach on New Hampshire’s Gold Coast. In the historic town of New Castle, just outside the city of Portsmouth, visit the Great Island Common, a giant hill of a park overlooking the sea where there is a small beach, plenty of picnic tables, and a playground. And if you have never tried fresh water swimming, then New Hampshire's Lakes Region is the best place to start — with some 273 clean, clear lakes and ponds. Read more about New Hampshire beaches.
Newport, the city by the sea, is home to many public beaches, such as Easton’s Beach (known as First Beach) with concession stands, bumper boats, antique carousel, playground, bathrooms & showers and the Save the Bay Exploration Center. The lapping waves at Gooseberry Beach on Ocean Drive and Third Beach in Middletown are perfect for a relaxing swim.
A short drive away is Sachuest Beach (also known as 2nd Beach), the largest beach in the area, with fine sand, a concession area, bathrooms and showers. The beach abuts the Norman Bird Sanctuary and Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. More than 100 miles of the state's more expansive beaches are found in Rhode Island’s South County, including the barrier island beaches of Charlestown. Narragansett offers four popular beaches including Narragansett Town Beach, Scarborough State Beach, and Captain Roger Wheeler State Beach. Misquamicut State Beach is another of the state’s most popular and offers outside showers, wooden walkways with rails, and earth-friendly facilities.
One of the Ocean State’s hidden gems is Block Island. With 17 miles of pristine public beaches and dramatic cliffs, this could be the perfect summer destination. Accessed only by ferry from the mainland (or in your own boat!), this 10-square-mile island is 12 miles offshore; with its casual lifestyle, a vacation here feels like a step back in time. Crescent Beach has more than two miles of sand to stretch out on, while Fred Benson Town Beach offers lifeguard protection. And don’t forget Block Island’s old-fashioned ice creams! Read more about Rhode Island beaches.
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