New England's 6 Best Beaches

Posted by Fodor's Editors on July 22, 2010 at 12:30:32 AM EDT | Post a Comment

Long, wide beaches edge the New England coast from southern Maine to southern Connecticut, with dozens dotting the shores of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. The waters are at their warmest in August, though they’re cold even at the height of summer along much of Maine. Inland, small lake beaches abound, most notably in New Hampshire and Vermont. Though most hit these sandy getaways in summer, beaches can even be enjoyable in winter (for a stroll, not swim), as you’ll likely have the shore to yourself.

Many of the beaches have lifeguards on duty in season; some have picnic facilities, restrooms, changing facilities, and concession stands. Depending on the locale, you may need a parking sticker to use the lot.

Block Island, Rhode Island

Twelve miles off Rhode Island’s coast, this 11-square-mi island has 12 mi of shoreline, 365 freshwater ponds, and plenty of hiking trails. Due to its rolling green hills, some liken the island to Ireland. Preserved homes and inns lend it a Victorian charm. Most visitors arrive via ferry from Port Judith, a one-hour trip, but if you’re strapped for time (and not for cash), you can hop a plane at the airport in Westerly for a 20-minute flight.

Plan a trip to Block Island»

Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

With more than 150 beaches—roughly 40 mi worth—Cape Cod has enough to keep any beachcomber happy and sandy year-round. They range from the tourist-packed sand in Dennis to the almost untouched stretches of coast protected by the Cape Cod National Seashore. Favorite activities include swimming, bicycling, and even off-road ("oversand") travel (permit required).

Plan a trip to Cape Cod»

Gloucester Beaches, Massachusetts

Along the North Shore, Gloucester is also the oldest seaport in the nation. Its trio of beaches—Good Harbor Beach, Long Beach, and Wingaersheek Beach—cools those coming north of Boston for some sun and sand. For a peek at a lighthouse, head to Wingaersheek. For excellent sunbathing, Long Beach is your best bet. For crowds, showers, and a snack bar, head to the large Good Harbor. All three have dunes.

Plan a trip to the North Shore of Massachusetts»

Hampton Beach State Park, New Hampshire

The Granite State’s ocean shore is short, but this state park along historic Route 1 takes full advantage of the space it has. In addition to swimming and fishing, there are campsites with full hookups for RVs and an amphitheater with a band shell for fair-weather concerts.

Plan a trip to New Hampshire's Seacoast»

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Think Coney Island on a smaller scale. A ghost town in the off-season, the main drag fills with cruising cars and amblers of all ages come summer. There’s a white sand beach to be sure (lapped by cold North Atlantic waters), but many come to ride the Pirate Ship at Palace Playland, drop quarters at the arcade, and browse the multitude of trinket-and-T-shirt shops. For a meal, grab a slice of pizza and an order of french fries doused with white vinegar.

Plan a trip to Maine's Southern Coast»

Reid State Park, Maine

Just east of Sheepscot Bay on Georgetown Island, oceanside Reid State Park, with its large dunes, is a beach bum’s wonderland. The water is cold much of the year, but it’s a beautiful and quiet place to spend some solitary time looking for sand dollars or climbing the rocks at low tide, exploring tidal pools. Great views can be had from the park’s rocky Griffith Head.

Plan a trip to Mid-Coast Maine»

Photo Credit: Block Island Monhegan Bluffs: istock / Nicholas Monu

Member Comments (8)  Post a Comment

  • Swantraveller on Aug 29, 11 at 02:49 AM

    Block Island is interesting - I can almost see myself overlooking the ocean!

  • bcolt on Oct 9, 10 at 02:42 PM

    Falmouth Mass on Cape Cod has some of the best undiscovered beaches on the Cape. Try Nobska Beach in the shadow of one of the most photographed lighthouses in New England, or Surf Drive for a mile long extravaganza looking out on the Vineyard. Woods Hole is the place to stay in Falmouth, a busy little village filled with shops and restaurants plus easy access to the MV ferry.

  • jdhjimbo on Jul 25, 10 at 06:47 PM

    I agree with kcdeg that Maine does have it all and I cannot understand the omission of Ogunquit in particular, especially when compared to overly-tacky Old Orchard. The other nominees are worthy, and I also enjoy the coast at Pemaquid Pt. in Maine. Having been a camp counselor in the Belgrade Lakes for 5 years in the 70's, I did a lot of exploring of Maine on days off, and have continued to return to New England every chance I get.

  • Eurocentric on Jul 22, 10 at 08:17 PM

    Agree with Block Island and Popham. Rhode Island has many great beaches on the mainland, too, assuming you don't need white sand only. How about Matunuck. Scarborough is great for kids.

  • kcdeg on Jul 22, 10 at 03:40 PM

    The two absolutely best New England beaches are in Maine.How could you leave off Ogunquit Beach in Ogunquit Maine? It is a beautiful, long immaculately kept white sand beach miles long with crystal clear water. The second beach is Popham State Park which is near Read St Beach, but nicer. It is in Phippsburg, Maine. At low tide you can walk out to a great island and it, too, is very walkable, swimmable, and clean! Maine has it all!!!

  • barlynne on Jul 22, 10 at 10:54 AM

    to tabhauser: On east side of Block Island, if you're staying in town and walking/biking, head south. There's what we called State Beach, with lockers and shower facilities and parking. You'll pass a couple of restaurants (best burgers in town are at The Beachhead), and there are some vendors at the beach too. Regular, tourist-filled beach. Good clean beaches, space, nice waves. If you go all the way to the Point, there's the lighthouse and the dusk-shore fishing. On the west side of the Island, head down West Side Road to Cooneymus. Less parking available, but nice beach areas there too. A little craggier, more rocks, little rougher waters, but wonderful for evening bonfires and gatherings. If you go to the Mohegan Bluffs at the north tip of the island, there is a long staircase you can take down to the beach. Again, craggier and many rocks, but secluded and the best spot for moon-watching under the full moon, with the other lighthouse.

  • tabhauser on Jul 22, 10 at 09:58 AM

    Pretty useless write up on Block Island. What is the name of the beach that is suppose to the best 6 on NE? More details on other beach areas like their names would be better than saying "miles of coast line"

  • StephanieNH on Jul 22, 10 at 09:39 AM

    For off-the-beaten-path beaches try:
    First and Second Beach in Newport RI and, past the boardwalk atmosphere of Hampton Beach: Wallis Sands State Park in Rye and Sandy Beach in New Castle, close to Portsmouth.

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