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The Best Beach in Each New England State

The Best Beach in Each New England State
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The Best Beach in Each New England StatePhoto/Art by Madeline Polss

Longnook Beach, Truro, Massachusetts

I like to arrive at Longnook in the early morning, while the fog still casts a hazy glaze over the water. Joined by surfers and dog walkers, I stroll down the sandy path to the soft, white beach. Then I glance back at the towering tan and red dunes, realizing instantly why JFK wanted this landscape preserved as a National Seashore. As I look to the left, the beach curves toward Province­town, the dunes melding with sand, sea, and sky, as if the land is going to plummet into the water. Listen to the waves, watch the surfers glide atop the ocean, walk the beach to find an errant lobster trap run ashore, and savor the scene before families start to pour in around 11 a.m.

Getting there:
Longnook Road, Truro, MA. Within Cape Cod National Seashore but town managed. From Route 6, look for the green sign: “to Longnook Road.” Stickers/fees and other information: 508-487-6983; truro-ma.gov

Where to stay:
Downtown Truro. Lodging options: 508-487-1288; trurochamberofcommerce.com

Second Beach, Middletown, Rhode Island

Everyone rides the waves at Second Beach, located just outside the Newport town line. Surfers are found to the west, near Purgatory Chasm, a deep cleft in the bedrock rising above Sachuest Bay. Atop the rise is the campus of St. George’s School, its limestone chapel tower a dramatic backdrop to the powdery sand. Families grab their boogie boards and head to the center of the beach to try their luck. You’ll find singles and college kids to the east, using their bodies to ride the crest. Everyone comes for the surf, pounding the shores with its consistent thump. Rhode Island’s waters are warmer than the beaches of Cape Ann and Cape Cod, so Bostonians think nothing of making the hour-long drive south. After swallowing gulps of the Atlantic, the crowds retreat to the spacious shoreline, only to jump back into the ocean when their bodies wilt under the sun.

Getting there:
474 Sachuest Point Road, Middletown, RI. Follow Route 138 east from Newport; over the town line, at the junction of Purgatory Ave., Paradise Road, and Hanging Rock Road. Legal parking only at beach lots. Stickers/fees and other information: 401-846-2119; middletownri.com

Where to stay:
Downtown Newport and Middletown. Lodging options: 800-976-5122; gonewport.com

Odiorne Point, Rye, New Hampshire

The Granite State extends to the rock-littered shoreline of Odiorne Point, southeast of Portsmouth. One sandy stretch here offers a quintessential New England seascape, including a picturesque lighthouse (the circa-1872 granite Whaleback, on the Kittery, Maine, side of the harbor), the historic Wentworth by the Sea hotel in New Castle, and all those sailboats on the dark-blue Atlantic. The hard part is finding this hidden gem. I always park my car at the boat launch and then bike the trail along Route 1A toward the main parking lot. Less than a half-mile later, a wide, grassy dirt road leads through Odiorne’s forest all the way to a long breakwater called Frost Point. The dense sand slopes to the water’s edge just to the left there: a placid retreat, with fewer than a handful of people in the know reclining on their beach chairs. And you thought all New Hampshire beaches were crowded …

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