The 25 Best Beach Towns in New England from Yankee Magazine
Choosing the best beach towns in a region that’s blessed with hundreds of miles of coastline and many towns that touch the sea was no easy task. Whether you’re looking for waves to ride, long stretches of sand, or lots of family activities, one of our picks for the 25 best beach towns in New England is sure to be the ideal getaway for you.
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In Ogunquit, folks plan each summer day according to the tides. Halfway between high tide and low tide, when the current of the Ogunquit River flows swiftly out to the Atlantic, people congregate on the flat stretch of sand that rolls down to the riverbank. Soon the mass of beachgoers are in the river—less chilly than the ocean, but still a bracing wake-up call. They carry an assortment of flotation devices: rafts, boogie boards, and inner tubes.
I lie on my back, take my wife’s hand, and laugh like a 6-year-old as a fast current carries us around a bend. The ride ends far too quickly, and I wade through the shallow waters back to shore. When the little girl in front of me shouts, “Let’s do it again,” I echo her enthusiasm.
Though the ocean temperature averages 63 degrees in August—almost 10 degrees lower than the water temperature on Connecticut’s Long Island Sound—Ogunquit rates as our top beach town in New England.
Want to plop down your towel? How about a wide swath of sand just east of Ogunquit’s lazy river? Ogunquit Beach stretches some three and a half miles from the center of town all the way to more remote sections called Footbridge and North beaches.
No matter where you stay along the Route 1 strip in Ogunquit, it’s within easy walking distance to the beach. That’s a prerequisite for being a world-class beach town, yet you’d be surprised how few New England communities can boast that beach-town ideal: the ability to walk from your hotel to the beach, and onward to classic seafood shacks and boutiques lined with the wares of local artisans.
I like to stay on the lower portion of Shore Road, which juts out from Route 1, where I can stroll to the main beach, stores, and restaurants in the town center, with the added pleasure of being only steps away from the Marginal Way’s mile-long cliff walk.
I book a room at the The Beachmere Inn, where morning yoga on the sprawling lawn rewards me with exquisite beach views; from there, a small gate opens onto the Marginal Way’s paved path, accessible to all. As the trail climbs, glorious vistas open up onto a rugged Maine coastline, a scene that Winslow Homer would convey brilliantly a half-hour drive up the road in Prouts Neck.
I smell sweet beach plums as I walk past the twisted branches of a century-old cedar tree, dwarf pines that somehow have survived the brunt of winter gales, and benches atop the bluffs, perfect for watching cormorants and sailboats. Below, small beaches favored by young families are buttressed between jagged rocks. On one of these spits of sand, I meet Al Korman drying off after a swim. “On a hot day, there’s nothing like a jump in that water,”
Korman says. “The ocean breeze is the best kind of air conditioning.”
On a drive up to Acadia National Park 17 years ago, Korman had a flat tire in Ogunquit and fell in love with the place. Retired now, he spends winters in Florida but returns to the Maine village every summer. “When I’m in Florida,” he adds, “I dream about this place.”
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.
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.