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10 Best Beaches in New England | Recommendations

Nov/Dec 2015


10 Best Beaches in New England | Recommendations
55 votes, 3.59 avg. rating (71% score)
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Watch Hill, Rhode Island
Photo/Art by Deganta Choudhury
Watch Hill, Rhode Island

The beaches that stretch along New England’s coastline beckon both locals and tourists to their sandy shores. With so many choices, how do you decide which one is worth the trip? From warmest water to most scenic, we share our picks for the best beaches in New England.

Warmest Water
Silver Sands State Park,
Milford, Connecticut

To find warmth, head south to the shallow slopes of Long Island Sound. The beach at Silver Sands State Park is small compared with other Connecticut state parks, but it is delightfully more remote.

It’s also far more affordable than many of the private town beaches in this part of Connecticut. A long boardwalk leads from the parking lot across a marsh (good for bird-watching, but not great if you’re carrying food, sand toys, and Junior).
Silver Sands

Best Walk
Napatree Point,
Watch Hill, Rhode Island

With its highest point being a mere 812 feet, Rhode Island is not a place most folks think of when they want to take a hike. Yet it does have some of the longest beach strolls in New England. Napatree Point juts out from the village of Watch Hill on a wild strip of coastline, offering views of Connecticut and Fishers Island, New York.

Take off your shoes and listen to the waves as you saunter along the water all the way to the point of this crescent-shaped beach. The spit of land curves back toward Rhode Island, similar to how Provincetown lies at the tip of Cape Cod. Sailboats cruise Block Island Sound; ospreys and their young fly above the shores. As you reach the point and the last square foot of terra firma, the wind begins to howl, the surf seems a bit more ominous, and the sand is replaced by large battered rocks. On the return trip, you’ll be treated to a view of the Victorian houses that cling to the bluffs of Watch Hill.

Best Surfing
Narragansett Town Beach,
Narragansett, Rhode Island

When hurricane swells from the Caribbean sweep up the Atlantic seaboard in the summer months, most people on the East Coast batten down their hatches and hide indoors. Everybody, that is, except surfers on the Rhode Island coast. Narragansett Town Beach is quickly gaining acclaim as the place to be when tropical depressions make their move north from mid-July to mid-September. The crescent-shaped beach and shifting sandbars often produce waves in excess of 10 feet.
Even without inclement weather, the surf is reasonably good all year. In the winter, there are swells in the 3- to 4-foot range. In summer, when the water often resembles a duck pond, you need patience. The best time for the sport is in the early-morning hours before the winds pick up. If the waves aren’t working at Narragansett, try Second Beach (Sachuset) in Middletown. Gansett Juice (74 Narragansett Ave.; 401-789-7890; rents boards for the town beach and gives lessons.

Best for Solitude
Mohegan Bluffs,
Block Island, Rhode Island

A patch of grass lines a redbrick lighthouse that has been keeping watch on the southeast corner of Block Island for more than a century and a quarter. Below, sea-gouged clay cliffs plummet some 200 feet to a white crescent beach that serves as a welcome mat for the Atlantic surf. The lap of waves is interrupted only by the call of a goldfinch making its way north. To stand on this wild stretch of coastline below Mohegan Bluffs is to truly feel inconsequential.

But privacy always comes with a price. In this case, it’s getting here. For the most scenic experience, take an hour-long ferry from Point Judith or New London, Connecticut, to Block Island, pick up a bike in Old Harbor, ride three miles south, and then walk down the wooden stairs to the beach. Here the surf is always strong, the sand dotted with driftwood and sea glass. For a great natural spa treatment, take a good hunk of clay from the cliffs and massage your body, then rinse off in the ocean.

Best Sand
Coast Guard Beach,
Eastham, Massachusetts

“Wishing to get a better view than I had yet had of the ocean … I made a visit to Cape Cod….” Thus began the account of Henry David Thoreau’s adventures in the book Cape Cod. Thoreau walked the coastline from Eastham to Provincetown three times in the mid-19th century, comparing his treks along the desolate seascape to “traveling a desert.” Naturalist Henry Beston followed Thoreau’s path to Eastham. In The Outermost House, Beston describes his experience of living for a year on the dunes of Coast Guard Beach between 1926 and 1927. The house no longer stands, but you can still get a feeling of the isolation these men felt amid the towering dunes.

Take a shuttle bus from the nearby Little Creek parking area, then walk down the steps to the pearly white sand. This is no flat beach, but one that slopes up to the dunes, sand piled high, soft and warm to the touch. Veer left and stroll past the sunbathers. You’ll soon have this slice of Cape Cod National Seashore to yourself.

Most Scenic
Aquinnah Public Beach
(formerly Moshup Beach),
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Far from the ferries that disembark in the busy summer retreats of Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven, Aquinnah Public Beach is set in the wild southwestern corner of Martha’s Vineyard, tucked southeast of the Aquinnah Cliffs. Layers of clay form the cliffs, with varying degrees of vivid color depending on the sedimentary deposit. The result is a dramatic backdrop of reds, greens, yellows, and whites, which becomes even more striking at sunset. The day’s last rays create a spectacular light show across the cliffs.

A 10-minute walk from the parking lot at Aquinnah Lighthouse will bring you to the public portion of the beach. Turn right and you’ll notice that the rounded cliffs become more jagged as they get taller, and the colors grow more intense the closer you get. (Note: Climbing on the cliffs and removing clay are prohibited. Part of the beach beneath the cliffs is also off-limits to the public.)

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22 Responses to 10 Best Beaches in New England | Recommendations

  1. Nelson Carter June 9, 2008 at 4:59 pm #

    We now have lived in Naperville Illinois for 28 years, but continue to return to Wallis Sands Beach and Hoyt’s Cottages in Rye, NY…the best…and, yes, travel to Oqunquit and Perkins Cove, too!!!!

  2. Alan Brouillet August 21, 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    I have always liked Sandy Neck Beach Park in Barnstable on Cape Cod. Don’t ask me why, I just do!

  3. Don Ulltich August 2, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    A lot has changed since 2007 – you need to update this info !!!

  4. Norma Deston August 3, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    The Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine is such a beautiful place. It takes your breath away! Don’t miss it

  5. Donald McAvoy August 3, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Walked from 5 AM until 10AM with my brother and grandfarther from Salisbury thru Hampton and returned for breakfast with the family.That was way back in 1946 or so. Still remember the sand, water and fresh smells and the wonderful time we had just walking and talking. May not make the best beach rating but I loved it. Have not been back for the last 50 or so years and its probably not like anything I remember, but its New England and a New England beach so it will still be just great.

    • Julie R June 22, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

      Hampton and Salisbury are still great, they just did the hatshell all over at hampton and are doing renovations at Salisbury as well. The air is still fresh and clean I save all year long to go up there for a week in the summer. Love it, love it love it! Hampton has been rated as a five star beach, I am surprised that it is not on the list, and you should go back and visit! Happy Beachgoing!

  6. Linda Wall August 5, 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    Another beautiful beach is Drake’s Island, Wells ME. Get there early if you want to get into the jetty parking lot. Great kids beach.

  7. Ann Fisher August 9, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    OOB is a tradition for us Mainers; from the ’70s to now it’s changed a lot. Go before Memorial Day and after Labor Day to get the best experience.

  8. Francisca Sabadie August 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    i cannot believe you did not mention Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport or Powder Point beach in Duxbury, Mass though i don’t know some of these other beaches

  9. Patty Cook June 22, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    Different beaches for different purposes. Skaket Beach in Orleans MA for famillies with young kids.

  10. Victoria Regina June 22, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    What about Crane’s Beach in Ipswich, Massachusetts?

  11. Ashley Odell June 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    I am beyond baffled that Hampton Beach isn’t on here! In addition to being one of the classic stops in New Hampshire and really all of New England, it is routinely ranked the first or near-first cleanest beach in America. It is so gorgeously maintained and a pleasure to visit as a result. You never need to worry about putting your towel down on a piece of broken glass.

    And you have all the cheesiness of Hampton Beach, the solitude of the other beaches in the area if you want them, and the gawking opportunities with the outlying mansions and, just a bit further away, Exeter. Plus, there’s always something going on since they do year-round events.

    I can’t remember the specific name they gave the main beach, but it’s the one right in the village. Everyone knows it. I’ll put the link as my website so that it’s clickable for people. To be clear, I am *not* affiliated in any way or even from there — Nutmeg State pride! — but it just seems nuts for Yankee Magazine to leave out one of the classic experiences for Yankees.

    • Julie R June 22, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

      That is true, I don’t know why they left it out either! Hampton is a great place!

  12. Camy June 22, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    I think Good Harbor in Gloucester is the best beach in New England!!!

  13. Susan Clark June 23, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    I think that some of the best beaches are not on here because we who know where they are wont tell. Also suspect the RI Bureau of Tourism gave something away to those who voted. RI beaches are nice but……..

  14. Mark June 23, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Race Point Beach Provincetown, MA…nuff said!

  15. CATHERINE June 23, 2014 at 6:38 pm #

    To me, any beach is beautiful! My three favorites are Nauset Light Beach, Marconi Beach and the Brewster bay side beaches. I also agree with Mark, Race Point is a great one.

  16. Holly Garavel June 24, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Mayflower Beach in Dennis, MA is by far the best of the Cape and the best of New England! At low tide you can walk for miles!!

  17. Steve Sullivan July 2, 2014 at 7:28 pm #

    I have traveled the East coast from Maine to Florida and when it comes to great beaches, it is hard to beat the variety in Rhode Island. From Watch Hill to Newport, you can e,njoy big surf, honky tonk, family, secluded, or any type of beach you may like.

  18. WALTER BANK August 6, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    All those rmainland beaches are wonderful. but you can’t beat Mohegan Bluffs and the Crescent beach on Block Island, one for beauty and solitude and the second for full beach enjoyment and great surf!

  19. Lizzie February 14, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    I have to say my favorite is Narraganset beach.. But yes Catherine is right any beach is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!

  20. Laloush March 8, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

    We are planning to go to Loaden NH, for the Motor Speedway, 3rd week of July, 2015 and then would like to go to a clean warm beach to spend some time there with our 3 Teens, what warm and clean beaches do you recommend me ???? Thanks

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