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Exploring the Best Beaches in New England

From Cape Cod to Connecticut, here is a compilation of the best beaches in New England to catch some rays, take a hike or have a picnic.

best beaches in new england

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.

Here are our picks for the five best beaches in New England.

Note: Due to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 crisis, please check official websites before visiting to check for restrictions or closures.

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Hammonasset Beach State Park

Madison, Conn.

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 the 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. The Meigs Point Nature Center is closed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Parking is free for Connecticut residents. Non-resident fees are $15 on weekdays, $22 on weekends and holidays.

best beaches in new england

(Photo: National Park Service)

Sand Beach

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

What’s better than plunging into the refreshing (read: chilly) Atlantic ocean on a sweltering day? Plunging into the refreshing Atlantic amid craggy granite peaks, hundreds of miles of rugged hiking trails (some of which are currently closed due to Peregrine falcon nesting), 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

Provincetown, Mass.

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. You can also explore the grounds of the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station, a circa-1897 building moved by barge from Chatham to Provincetown in 1977. If you want a little exercise, you can hop on the Province Lands Bike Trail, which connects to nearby Herring Cove Beach and the Province Lands Visitor Center. The daily vehicle fee is $25, and $15 for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Narragansett Town Beach

Narragansett, R.I.

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 must park on the street (the lot is for residents/pass holders only) and pay 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 $12; children 11 and under are free.

Lake Paran

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 Lake House and full snack bar featuring famous $1 grilled cheese sandwiches. You can swim and rent canoes, play a game of horseshoes or grill up your own goodies on charcoal grills. Need some Zen to start your day? Sign up for lakeside sunrise yoga classes. The lake is open every day beginning mid-June, 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.

Comments
  • ROBERT W.

    “Best Beaches in New England” is a tough topic. If you live in CT, Western MA, or Southern VT, and want a GOOD ocean beach there really is only the Cape and RI – BUT – for the same 2-3.5 hour drive you can get really GREAT beaches (and some fantastic boardwalks) in So. NJ – especially the BEST of the BEST – Ocean City, NJ. We live in western CT (near Danbury) and will do the 200 miles (3-3.5 hrs.) to Ocean City before putting in the same (or less) road time to anywhere in New England – “Just sayin, it’s about the BEACH!”

    Reply
    • Dana L.

      Hi Robert!

      Thanks for reading. Yes, in the summer it’s ALL about the beach!

      -Dana 😉

      Reply
    • Bobbie B.

      I agree totally. We spend time in Stone Harbor, NJ every year. Beaches don’t get much better than that: big, broad, fine white sand, beautiful, accessible ocean.

      Reply
      • Greg B.

        No place like Stone Harbor! Been going there for years. Along with everything else the cleanest town I have ever seen. Nice shops, great beach.

        Reply
        • Jerry C.

          Where do you stay? Are there nice places on or near the beach

          Reply
    • Buster

      Having lived in Narragansett and NJ. Agreed-Ocean City is killer beach. But for overall ambiance (views, lack of crowds, lodging, restaurants) Narragansett wins.

      Reply
    • NJ beaches are nice, but the article is about the best beaches in New England.

      Reply
  • PAMELA M.

    Hi! I’m just wondering where you stay when you get there? Do you have a favorite place?

    Reply
    • Dana L.

      Hi Pamela!
      A few years ago we stayed at the Hampton Inn Bar Harbor when we visited Acadia. I thought it was a great hotel, modern and clean and close to everything!
      The last time I went to Provincetown I stayed in a B&B that I can’t remember the name of (sorry!) but there are plenty of inns, B&Bs and hotels strewn across the town. (If you want to be in the heart of the action, pick a place on Commercial Street.)
      I’ve rented beach houses when I’ve stayed in Narragansett, but you’ll find plenty of hotels and motels in the areas near Narragansett Town Beach and Scarborough State Beach.
      Happy travels! Let us know where you stay if you visit any of these beach towns.
      -Dana 😉

      Reply
  • BARBARA J.

    Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA. Beautiful pristine white sand beach that goes on and on.

    Reply
      • Nancy T.

        Crane is cold and due to the fact it faces north, not east, there is no surf and is unusable for much of the summer due to the green heads. It is beautiful and expensive too.

        Reply
  • ALBERT F.

    Two beaches I love to go to are in Maine. They are Old Orchard Beach, Wells Beach. They are nice places to relax during the summer months.

    Reply
    • darlene b.

      I was told recently that Maine has some beautiful beaches. I am going to look into the ones you recommended. How is parking? Any places to stay you recommend? I live in NYC and have absolutely no knowledge about Maine but I am wanting to go this Summer.

      Reply
      • Dana L.

        Hi Darlene!
        I’ve been to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Bar Harbor and really enjoyed it. Very close to everything.
        Thanks for reading!
        -Dana L.

        Reply
      • Carolyn

        Go to Camp Ellis in Saco, Maine!! Everything is there, walking distance to the restaurant Houts, fresh lobster from Ellen and a convenience store and close to the the water and pet friendly….

        Reply
    • Erik S.

      One more Maine beach to include is Higgins Beach in Scarborough. The best part of the beach is closer to the Spurwink River (tidal river). It is a lot of fun to ride the river in or out with the tide. Plus paddle boarding.

      Reply
  • Marsha J.

    In my honest opinion, don’t go to Hampton Beach in NH. Too many people, the people that visit don’t respect it, or others, play loud music, kids kick sand all over your towels. Not worth it to me anymore, I’d rather pay to have a spot on North Beach near Rye.

    Reply
  • Peter C.

    Bakers Beach in Westport, MA hands down..lived in every NE state and frequent all the beaches…

    Reply
    • Jenny R.

      But one must “belong” to Baker’s Beach, whereas Horseneck State Reservation is heavenly, all of its glorious length from Goosebury Neck to the mouth of the Westport River. Such a gift to the people of Massachusetts!

      Reply
  • Crane’s Beach in Ipswich is way better than a lot of these beaches, just saying.

    Reply
  • On the Cape, Nauset Beach best oceanside beach, Mayflower Beach best bayside beach. Both are beautiful in different ways

    Reply
  • Dave M.

    If you are a “Rhode Island girl,” you should know that East Matunuck is the best beach in the state (if you like the water more than the sand, of course).

    Reply
    • I beg to differ Misquamicut’s 7 miles of beautiful beach is by far the best beach in RI if not all of New England.

      Reply
  • Frank R.

    Crowe’s Pasture, Dennis, MA you drive on with your vehicle. You must read the tides before going out there. They check you at the entrance because you need certain equipment with you and you need to have less air in your tires. It is pristine, quiet, beautiful, can cook on beach and your not on top of each other. Best beach ever.

    Reply
  • The best beach in New England is Nahant~ Clean, great waves for Boogie Boarding

    Reply
  • Marylou

    Best beach in New England is Ogunquit Beach in Ogunquit , Maine……hands down. The others mentioned are also good beaches. But Ogunquit Beach is my favorite.

    Reply
    • Elaine F.

      I’m with you, Marylou. I LOVE Ogunquit Beach….great, hard clear sand for walking when the tide is out. It’s magnificent!

      Reply
  • Could you tell me which New England beaches are handicap accessible? Pathways for wheelchairs? Water wheelchairs for going into the water in them?

    Reply
    • Debbie

      Hi Karen,
      I have seen water wheelchairs at Willis Sands Beach in Rye NH

      Reply
    • Dana L.

      Hi Karen!
      This sounds like a great idea for an article. In the meantime, I found links to accessible beaches in Northeast states:
      • Massachusetts beaches
      • Rhode Island beaches
      • Connecticut beaches
      • New York beaches
      • New Jersey beaches
      Thanks so much for reading!
      -Dana L.

      Reply
    • Paula K.

      The 18th Street entrance at North Beach in Hampton, NH, is handicap accessible with a wheelchair ramp and also a cement patio for wheelchairs, etc., once you get down the ramp to the sand. I have seen someone there using a water wheelchair, but believe it belonged to them. Parking meters are quite limited, however, and street parking requires a resident sticker.

      Reply
  • Jon S.

    Rather than a limited list of anonymous opinions, why not an informational table listing information useful to visitors who may have differing criteria? By state/county. Length/Expanse. Parking availability and cost. Public transportation. Food/Facilities. Even misc. information would be helpful such as Greenhead alerts, water temperatures, lifeguard info, dogs/horses allowed, or maybe direct links to local websites for further information.

    Reply
  • Cory H.

    Horseneck has a wheelchair ramp through the sand to the water. They also have ramps to get to the beach from the parking lot.

    Reply
  • I grew up in RI and as a kid my family went to either Sandhill Cove or Scarborough on Sunday and then to George’s for lobster rolls.

    Reply
    • Dana L.

      Nothing like wrapping up a beach day with a seafood dinner! We love Champlin’s for fish and chips and chowder and clam cakes.
      Thanks for reading!
      -Dana L.

      Reply
  • David C.

    In my opinion the best family beach is old orchard beach Maine. 7 miles of unbroken Beach, amusement park and a pier. Only negative, it can be a bit of a honky-tonk at night.

    Reply
  • VALENTINE P.

    Have you come across any NE beach that are a good spot for seniors? Mom is 90 and long walks from the car and over dunes in order to get to the water an not in the cards anymore. Spfld MA is our home and an hour or two ride is about all we can do. Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated. ty Val

    Reply
  • Long Beach in Plymouth, Mass. but you must be a town resident and have a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get a sticker allowing access.

    Reply
    • Dana L.

      Love Aunt Carrie’s, too! We had Indian pudding there for the first time last summer. Yum.
      -Dana L.

      Reply
  • John K.

    I don’t believe you can park in the lots at Narragansett Town Beach unless you’re a town resident and have a parking pass. You have to find street parking and there’s a two-hour limit until 4:00 PM (you’re good if you can grab a spot after 2:00 PM). Great beach but it’s not very welcoming to out-of-towners.

    Reply
    • Dana L.

      Thanks John!
      I just saw that on the town’s website … I’ll update the story!
      Thanks for reading!
      -Dana L.

      Reply
  • Cheri P.

    Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester, Mass., has been our family favorite! With a lobster roll pickup at Essex Seafood.

    Reply
    • Nancy T.

      Love that beach! Great memories from when my nieces and nephew were kids.

      Reply
  • Skeptic44

    When I lived in New London, CT, I used to love going to their city beach. It’s beautiful, and is surrounded by lovely cottages.

    Reply
  • Barkev K.

    The best beach on Cape Cod is Provincetown Beach (Herring Cove Beach). Living at the National Seashore for 4-1/2 years in the late 50s. I never saw algae on the beach. Also , the water is warmer there than that of Race Point Beach since it mixes with warmer water from the bay side. Being on the bay side, the wave action is much less, making for good distance swimming.

    Reply
  • If you like lots of rocks try Sandy Neck in Barnstable. It is anything but sandy.

    Reply

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