Cape Cod and Beyond: 12 Best Beaches in Massachusetts

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Sunset in Cape Cod at Ocean Beach Golf & Spa Resort, one of the many beaches in Massachusetts.
Sunset in Cape Cod at Ocean Beach Golf & Spa Resort. Photo credit: Terri Marshall

Mention going to the beach in America and tropical destinations typically come to mind first. But, don’t rule out New England, where Massachusetts boasts some of the best beaches in the USA. From the famed Martha’s Vineyard to Nantucket to Provincetown and the delightful Cape Cod Beaches, you’re certain to find a Massachusetts beach to love.

Who doesn’t love a day at the beach? Whether you choose to spend your beach time sunbathing, swimming, boogie boarding, or playing beach volleyball, beachgoers who venture to the stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that graces New England’s shores experience the wealth of some of the best beaches in America. Let’s take a look!

View of sandy beach, sand fencing and ocean water under a blue sky with puffy white clouds, while visiting Cape Cod National Seashore, one of thebeaches in Massachusetts
Cape Cod National Seashore. Photo credit: Shutterstock

1. Cape Cod National Seashore

Created in August 1961, the Cape Cod National Seashore encompasses 43,607 acres. It includes the eastern seashore of the towns Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, and Chatham. Famous for sandy beaches, oysters, lobster rolls, and quintessential New England charm, Cape Cod National Seashore harbors some of America’s most popular beaches. Among those is Coast Guard Beach. This gorgeous spot often makes the top ten lists of best beaches in the USA. Coast Guard Beach offers stunning scenery and inspiring sunrises. The 1.6-mile Nauset Bike Trail connects the beach to the Salt Pond Visitor Center.

Beaches along the Cape Cod National Seashore provide a variety of experiences. At Grays Beach in Yarmouth Port, Bass Hole Boardwalk stretches over a salt marsh providing a nice place for a stroll. The beach also has restrooms, a playground, and hiking trails. Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown links to the Province Lands Bike Trail. Pedal out to the beach for sunsets which are spectacular from Herring Cove.

If you’re a sunrise person, start your morning with a walk on Marconi Beach in South Wellfleet. A large staircase leads down to the beach where cold water and big waves attract surfers. In West Barnstable, Sandy Neck Beach Park boasts thousands of acres of sand dunes, salt marsh, trails, and forest. It’s considered one of the best beaches on Cade Cod if you want your beach getaway to include swimming as well as hiking.

For a bit of history, visit the Marconi Wireless Station Site. In 1902, the Italian Gugliemo Marconi built one of two North American wireless stations at South Wellfleet. The first communication in Morse code between Europe and the Atlantic took place through this station. While you’re there, be sure to take in the jaw-dropping view of the high bluffs and sand dunes of Marconi Beach.

Read More: Best Family Resorts Near Cape Cod

2. Nantucket Island Beaches

Idyllicly located in the Atlantic Ocean about 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Nantucket’s island beaches are truly special. Gentle surf beaches on the north shore include Jetties, Steps Beach, and Dionis. The calm waters make these beaches ideal for children. Jetties is one of the most popular beaches for families with young kids with calm surf and warm water. Lifeguards are on duty in season and large sandbars are accessible at low tide. A walk along the soft sand of the wide flat beach often yields discoveries including seashells and sea glass. In August, Jetties hosts the Boston Pops concert. And an annual Sand Castle and Sculpture Contest is held on the beach’s harbor side.

In the off-season, Jetties is open for beach driving but only with a permit. Access is from the Jetties Beach parking lot. The beach is also handicap-accessible and beach-accessible wheelchairs can be reserved in town.

Among the most popular beaches on Nantucket is Dionis Beach. Sheltered by sand dunes, Dionis sits along the Nantucket Sound and has calm water ideal for paddleboarding. The hard-packed beach sand contains lots of shells. And the dunes and harbor views of sailboats and ferries add to its charm.

On West Dennis Beach you’ll find the warm, gentle clear waters of Nantucket Sound. Ideal for families, this large beach has swings for the kids, restrooms, and parking spots close to the beach to make lugging all that beach gear easier.

Beachgoers who also like to hike will enjoy South Cape Beach State Park in Mashpee. The beach is close to Dead Neck Trail, a hike that winds behind the beach area to a breakwater.

View of cliffs and lighthouse overlooking the ocean at Martha's Vineyard, one of the beaches in Massachusetts.
Martha’s Vineyard. Photo credit: Shutterstock

3. Martha’s Vineyard

When it comes to island beaches in the USA, Martha’s Vineyard ranks among the best. Accessible only by boat or air, Martha’s Vineyard, sits in the Atlantic Ocean just south of Cape Cod National Seashore. A treasured New England summer colony, the island is famous for its charming harbor towns, lighthouses, farmland, and sandy beaches. Those beaches deliver a variety of experiences.

SheBuysTravel Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we’re traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.

At Manesmsha Beach — a popular sunset spot — the waters are calm and lifeguards are present. You’ll also find seafood shacks nearby. In contrast, at Katama Beach (also called South Beach) surfers can conquer the larger Atlantic waves. Joseph Sylvia State Beach is the site of the famous “Jaws Bridge” — a popular place for climbing up and jumping off into the water below, minus the shark of course!

Oak Bluffs Town Beach also known as Inkwell Beach is considered one of New England’s best beach towns. Unique to Oak Bluffs Town Beach are its whimsical gingerbread cottage neighborhood and the antique Flying Horses Carousel.

4. Crane Beach

Located north of Cape Ann in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Crane Beach boasts four miles of sandy and spectacular beachfront. In addition to its beautiful beach, this 1,234-acre conservation and recreation property also offers sand dunes and a maritime forest.

The clean, inviting beach waters beckon to swimmers. On-duty Lifeguards are present from Memorial Day to Labor Day. In summer months, swimming and sunbathing are among the most popular activities at Crane Beach, Year-round activities include strolling down the boardwalk, birdwatching and hiking the 5.5 miles of winding trails and coastal dunes.

5. Castle Island

Located in South Boston on the shore of Boston Harbor, Castle Island is no longer an actual island, but a peninsula that was connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of land back in 1928.

Castle Island offers incredible views of the Boston Harbor and is also home to a small beach overlooking Pleasure Bay for families looking to cool off. However, just a short three-minute walk away is the larger and livelier Pleasure Bay beach for families looking to swim and sunbathe. There are also lifeguards during the summer months, a large playground, and designated picnic areas.

However, Castle Island is so much more than just a day of swimming and sunbathing. It is also packed with interesting history. The biggest feature of Castle Island is the pentagon-shaped Fort Independence, a granite fort used by the military during World War I and World War II. Families who are history buffs and want to learn more can take a free tour of the Fort, which is in the National Register of Historic Places (along with the island itself).

6. Revere Beach

Historically known as “the People’s Beach,” Revere Beach claims the title of the first public beach in the United States. One of the best beaches near Boston, Revere Beach serves up a lively atmosphere with plenty to do for the entire family.

Just five miles north of Boston, Revere Beach has all you need to enjoy a family day at the beach including athletic fields, a public bathhouse, pavilions, and food vendors. It is easily accessible from Boston via the T’s Blue Line for families who don’t want to drive. Because of its three-mile-long crescent-shaped shoreline that gradually slopes out into the waters, it is a great beach for swimming even for the younger family members. There are also lifeguards present during the summer months.

Revere Beach is also home to the flagship Revere Beach International Sand-Sculpting Festival (ISSF), which draws thousands to the area to view amazing sand sculptures from sculptors around the world.

7. Nahant Beach

A protected coastal reservation and hidden gem of Boston’s North Shore, the Nahant Beach reservation has 67 acres of beach and recreational fun for a relaxing and enjoyable day with the family.

Located 12 miles from Boston, Nahant Beach is open year-round and offers miles of clean, quiet, and sandy beaches with a picturesque view of the New England coastline. The beach is a great place to surf, take a stroll, or just sit back and relax under the sun. Because of its shape and shallow waters, Nahant Beach is another one of the best beaches near Boston for families of young children. There are seasonal lifeguards on site for added safety.

In addition to the beach, there are numerous bike paths and a two-mile walkway with beautiful scenery. There’s also ramp access for boaters as well as athletic fields, a bathhouse, a restaurant, and a snack bar. The only downside is that there isn’t much shade, so it may be a good idea to bring your own beach umbrella!

8. Good Harbor Beach

Boasting soft white sands and breathtaking sunsets, Good Harbor Beach isn’t just one of the best beaches in Massachusetts, it’s a contender as one of the best beaches in America. Located less than an hour northeast of Boston in Gloucester, Good Harbor Beach makes a wonderful day trip.

A visit during high tide provides opportunities for body surfing on boogie boards. However, if you visit at low tide, a land bridge reveals itself and you can walk out to Salt Island.

Concessions, restrooms, and showers are available. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s important to note that surfing, inflatable objects and floatation devices (with the exception of boogie boards) are prohibited when lifeguards are on duty. Good Harbor Beach is also handicapped accessible and has beach wheelchairs available. Parking is limited, so if you visit during the busier days you’ll want to arrive early.

9. Singing Beach

Less than an hour northeast of Boston in Manchester-By-The-Sea, Singing Beach is one of the most beautiful white sand beaches in New England. Singing Beach is best known for its “singing” sands that squeak under your feet when you walk. This North Shore beach is also popular for swimming and, of course, taking in stunning scenery. There’s a bathhouse with a privately run snack stand as well as restrooms with showers and changing stalls.

10. Spectacle Island

One of the 34 Boston Harbor Islands and peninsulas, Spectacle Island is just a 30minute ferry ride from Boston. With 105 acres of beach and amenities, it’s no surprise that it is among one of the best beaches near Boston.

Spectacle Island doesn’t just offer panoramic views of the Boston Harbor, but it also offers a life-guarded swimming beach, five miles of walking trails, a marina, a cafe, and a visitor center with exhibits. It is an excellent way to spend a day swimming, hiking, or boating with family and friends. If you’re up to it, hike to the top of North Drumlin, a 155-foot hill where you’ll find a gazebo with picnic tables to relax. North Drumlin is the highest point in Boston with beautiful 360-degree views.

11. Long Beach

Located in Gloucester, Long Beach has a 1.5-mile white sand coastline with incredible views of the Thatcher’s Island twin lighthouses. Just an hour north of Boston, this beautiful beach makes a great day trip from the city to connect with nature.

A day at Long Beach can be spent swimming, surfing, or boogie boarding in the waves. The beach is also great for taking a stroll and exploring the tidal pools. In addition to the striking views of the twin lighthouses, there’s also the beautiful view of the quaint New England cottages and inns along the shoreline.

12. Wingaersheek Beach

Located in the western part of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Wingaersheek Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the area with incredible views of Ipswich Bay and Annisquam Lighthouse. It’s an ideal beach for families with young children because of the sandbar that appears during low tide, making it a safe place to take a walk and swim.

Low tide is also a good time to explore sea life in the tidal pools. On the beach is a concession stand that offers delicious food and drinks as well as beach toys for the kids. There are also restrooms with showers to rinse off after a day of playing in the sand.

Based in New York City, Terri Marshall is an award-winning writer covering cultural travel, multi-generational travel, road trips, soft-adventure, camping, cars and characters. From hanging out with penguins in Antarctica to fishing for piranhas in Peru to road-tripping through the jungles of Belize, Terri’s always up for an adventure. Drop her into a landscape filled with mountains, towering evergreens, waterfalls and a glacier or two and she’ll be in heaven. But what thrills her most of all is traveling with her teenage grandkids. Terri serves on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee for the North American Travel Journalist Association (NATJA). She also serves as the First Vice-Chair of the Eastern Chapter for the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). In addition to writing for SheBuysTravel, Terri’s publication credits include AARP, Island Soul, Girl Camper Magazine, A Girls Guide to Cars, CHILLED, World Footprints, North Hills Monthly, Alaska Business Monthly, Alaska Contractor and more. Follow her on Instagram at TrippingWithTerri.
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