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The 25 Best Beach Towns in New England from Yankee Magazine

Eventually I reach Perkins Cove at the top of the Marginal Way (south of the town center), home to a handful of seafood restaurants, including the beloved lobster-in-the-rough joint Barnacle Billy’s. Place your order for clam chowder, lobster rolls, and steamed clams, and grab a table outside overlooking the lobster boats, as you listen for your number. The clam chowder has a thin, milky broth, chock-full of clams and potatoes. The lobster roll is served on a hot buttered bun, full of claw meat.

Best Beach Towns in New England
Photo/Art by Kindra Clineff
Lobster-in-the rough eatery Barnacle Billy’s.

At night, I wander over to the Ogunquit Playhouse, one of New England’s historic summer-stock theaters, where Helen Hayes, Bette Davis, and Anthony Quinn all once graced the stage. Now this spacious building is a blessed retreat for talented Broadway actors who make the shrewd move of leaving Manhattan in the sweltering summer.

There are only two reasons I’d set foot in my car in Ogunquit. The first was to enjoy a meal at Arrows (now closed), the James Beard Foundation Award–winning restaurant two miles from the town center. As you overlook the establishment’s expansive vegetable and flower gardens, it’s easy to understand how Arrows became one of the first restaurants of the farm-to-fork movement more than two decades ago.

And the second reason? When it rains, I’m not at a loss. I can head 45 minutes north to Portland, to visit the latest exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art and to enjoy my requisite Belgian fries with truffle ketchup at Duckfat. That’s a rarity, however. Most of the time, you’ll find me riding the tide, laughing, as I watch the clouds roll by and let the sea wash over me.

See Yankee‘s recommendations for the best places to go, eat, and stay in Ogunquit, Maine.

Best Beach Towns in New England
Photo/Art by Christopher Seufert Photography/Getty Images
The Old Harbor Lifesaving Station was built in Chatham in 1897; the National Park Service moved it to Provincetown in 1977.

#2 Provincetown, Massachusetts

Frankly, it was tough choosing between P-town and Ogunquit for top spot. At the tip of Cape Cod, P-town has it all: Cape Cod National Seashore beaches where, if you’re willing to walk, you can always find a strip to yourself; stunning sunsets; a vibrant gallery and restaurant scene; popular whale-watching cruises; and the most eclectic (and at times electric) people watching of all. (When rain threatens to put a definite damper on your outdoor activities, check out P-town’s shops, too.) Devotees are passionate about Provincetown; an inspired place to visit off-season, its narrow streets can barely hold the cars in midsummer. Don’t miss: Province Lands Bike Trail, a paved up-and-down route through beech forest and atop the dunes for spectacular ocean views.

See Yankee‘s recommendations for the best places to go, eat, and stay in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

As soon as you step foot onto the island of Nantucket, just 14 miles long and 3.5 miles wide off the coast of Cape Cod, you just know you’re somewhere special. Learn more about Nantucket!
Photo/Art by Aimee Seavey
As soon as you step foot onto the island of Nantucket, just 14 miles long and 3.5 miles wide off the coast of Cape Cod, you just know you’re somewhere special.
Learn more about Nantucket!

#3 Nantucket, Massachusetts

This is an incomparable beach town. The restaurants are surprisingly sophisticated for a beach destination, the mix of shops intriguing, and bike paths branch off in every direction to a variety of beaches. Just remember that it takes some organization to get here (but it’s worth it). The ferry trip is lovely, and you have options—high-speed or not, six ferries a day—but you can’t just show up at the Hyannis terminal and hop on. As for lodging, some of the most spectacular island inns in America call Nantucket home, but they come with prices to match, so plan ahead. Don’t miss: The impressive collection of scrimshaw at the Nantucket Whaling Museum, housed in a former spermaceti candle factory, recalling the gritty days when Nantucket whalers roamed the world.

See Yankee‘s recommendations for the best places to go, eat, and stay in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Updated Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

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14 Responses to The 25 Best Beach Towns in New England from Yankee Magazine

  1. Madeline thomas June 11, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    Ocean beach,new London,ct

    • vittoriao July 24, 2014 at 10:04 am #

      New London beaches are always listed in the top ten for whitest powdery nicest sand anywhere! And our water even tastes good! Nice and salty and clean ocean water every 6 hours right from The North Atlantic Hammonassett is 1) a pain in the *** to get to 2) costs money 3) is way Too crowded and 4) the water tastes the the big fat brackish OIL slick that it is yuck yuck yuck

      • vittoriao July 24, 2014 at 10:10 am #

        Waterford Beach The Strand Hole in the Wall Misquamicut State Beach RI your article is weighted too much in Northern New England overlooking all of Southern New England!

  2. Matthew Purtill July 22, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    You missed Mystic, CT. Also, your numbering is not correct. If two towns are tied for 14th, the next one is 16th, not 15th. If it trails 15 towns, it can not also be 15th.

  3. Audrey C July 23, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Matthew, that drove me crazy too. A list of the 25 top beaches should not end with 21.

  4. vittoriao July 24, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    That is because of the two ties!

  5. J Marrone July 26, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    Dennis, MA

  6. CATHERINE August 23, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    Dear Yankee,
    My husband and I lost our very dear friend to CANCER this past year. He used to sail all the New England beaches, no matter what “number” they were.

  7. John and Beth Agli April 9, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    Can’t wait for Spring to come this year Ogunquit Maine will be our first getaway. we got there about four times a year. We Stay at the Riverside on Perkins Cove just shush a beautiful Place and nice People everyplace there. Lot of Little Shops and O yes the Lobster Shack can get a bad Chowder anyplace in Maine or a lobster roll the very best anyplace. We spend our Money in Maine now on more Caribbean for us did that so many times and it’s all the same thing. what some Heat try Key West again so dam beautiful and it’s in the U.S.

    • Susan May 8, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

      We make Ogunquit Maine our first stop. Just did May 2nd. Then again in November. Marginals Way all the way. Stay at the Juniper Hill Inn.

  8. Mark Reidy April 20, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    #21 Brewster also has Sheep pond,The Brewster Store Nickerson State Park the Drummer Boy Museum.and More

  9. brad warren June 13, 2015 at 4:36 am #

    Brought back a lot of memories I left new England almost 40 yrs ago and earliest memories of going to wingersheet beach in the late 1950s it was a a beautiful beach and we couldn’t wait to start going I guess around memorial day and I still remember how cold the water was and our parents would have to pull us out because our lips were blue and would be shivering! Also have nice memories of plum island as a teenager surfcasting of the beach and hanging out at cranes beach during the summer trying to meet girls also there the crane estate what a place hopefully it is still there built by the fortunes of the first flush toilet in America

  10. Maureen Reilly August 9, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Happy to say I have been to 75% of the beach list…granted I am most partial to Falmouth and to Newport…but what a great bucket list to see the rest!

  11. Kat Sullivans May 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

    I’ve always loved the North side of Revere Beach. For 50 year’s it’s the choice for me. Although I’ve been to at least 13 on your list, my heart will always be Revere.

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