Hello summer! It’s been a long time, but it’s back, and it’s (hopefully) going to be glorious. If you’re planning on digging your toes into the sand and playing in the surf – like we are – we’ve compiled a list of the best beaches in New England to help you out. So grab some sunscreen, a blanket, and tasty beach fare and get ready to explore New England’s best places to soak up summer.
The five best beaches in New England
Hammonasset Beach State Park
Fancy a long stretch of beach with gentle surf, scenic spots and plenty of activities for the kiddos? You’ll find it at Hammonasset Beach State Park, where the 2-mile-long shore borders not only the Atlantic, but a nearby nature preserve as well. The waves are gentle and calm thanks to its location on Long Island Sound, making it one of the best beaches in New England for families. More than 500 campsites dot the park’s 1,000 acres, and the Meigs Point Nature Center is a great place to explore the area’s natural habitat, with interactive exhibits, a touch tank, and plenty of educational programs taking place year-round. Parking is free for Connecticut residents. Nonresident fees are $15 on weekdays, $22 on weekends.
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
What’s better than plunging into the refreshing (read: chilly) Atlantic on a sweltering day? Plunging into the refreshing Atlantic amid craggy granite peaks, hundreds of miles of rugged hiking trails, car-free carriage roads and nearly 50,000 acres of protected forest in Acadia National Park. For $30, you can gain entrance to the park and bike, ride and traverse the day away in Mother Nature’s playground. You could climb the near-vertical Beehive Trail in the morning – at 500 feet, it’s got a superb view of Sand Beach – and have a picnic lunch on its shores in the afternoon. But be forewarned: At 55 degrees in the summer months, the water is – to put it mildly – bracing.
Race Point Beach
Since 1961, when President John F. Kennedy signed legislation creating the Cape Cod National Seashore, nearly 40 miles of pristine shoreline have been protected from development. You’ll find one of its six beaches – Race Point Beach – at the very tip of the Cape’s arm in Provincetown, jutting into the Atlantic. The views of the endless seas are breathtaking. Oftentimes you can see whales and a seal or two off in the distance. There are no concessions, so bring a picnic lunch and drinks. The Old Harbor Life-Saving Station, a circa-1897 building moved by barge from Chatham to Provincetown in 1977, is open daily from 2 to 4 p.m. If you feel like a little exercise, you can hop on the Province Lands Bike Path, which connects to nearby Herring Cove Beach and the Province Lands Visitor Center. The daily vehicle fee is $20, and $3 for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Narragansett Town Beach
I’m a Rhode Island girl, born and bred, so it was tough for me to pick just one favorite beach in the Ocean State. But if you’re looking for waves, whether it’s for surfing or boogie boarding, you can’t beat Narragansett Town Beach. Yes, you pay for both parking and admission, but what you get in return is a mile-long beach that’s spotless and sandy, with the added benefit of watching surfers plying the waves. Plus, you’re right in the heart of a thriving beach town. Just across the street you’ll find tons of eateries – everything from classic seafood fare to crepes – as well as shopping and ice cream spots. The wall ringing the beach is a popular spot to sit and indulge in some serious people-watching, especially with an ice-cold cone of gelato in your hand. Daily admission is $10; children 11 and under are free. Parking fees (cash only) are $10 on weekdays, $15 on weekends and holidays.
North Bennington, Vt.
If you’re looking for salt-water spray and rollicking waves, Vermont isn’t the place for you. But if you’re looking for a quaint lake maintained by volunteers with a strong sense of community, then head over to Lake Paran. There you’ll find the pretty lake with a brand-new Lake House and full snack bar featuring famous $1 grilled cheese sandwiches. You can swim and rent canoes, or play a game of horseshoes or grill up your own goodies on the charcoal grills. The lake is open every day beginning June 16, and lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The daily admission fee is a real bargain at $3.50 for adults and $1 for children. And the lake isn’t just a summertime destination. The volunteers of Paran Recreation, the nonprofit that supports the lake, always have something to celebrate, from winter bonfire parties and summer camps to a stone-skipping festival and harvest fair in the fall.
What do you think are some of the best beaches in New England? Tell us in the comments below!
Find top beaches throughout the Northeast at AAA.com/BeachGuide.