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.

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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. You can even visit the Meigs Point Nature Center while you’re there! 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, car-free carriage roads and nearly 50,000 acres of protected forest in Acadia National Park. For $30 per car, 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 or the designated visitor’s lot (the other lots are 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 for adults. Children ages 11 and under get in free. Parking in the West Lot $10 on weekdays and $15 on weekends and holidays.

Discover more Rhode Island beaches. 

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. 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.

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77 Thoughts on “Exploring the Best Beaches in New England

  1. How did you miss Hampton Beach in NH? A great beach plus boardwalk with something for folks of every age. And oh yeah, great fresh seafood just about everywhere along the beach.

  2. I have been to a lot of great New England beaches from Ct. to Sand Beach in Acadia, but my all time favorite is Ogunquit Maine. Three and one half miles of sand beach for walking, with an occasional plunge into the bracing surf; what could be better? If you get tired of the beach, you can hike the mile and one quarter Marginal Way and watch the strong Atlantic surf breaking on the rocky coast below. Lot’s of good hotels, motels, and cottage colonies, and all kinds of great food a walk or short drive. Bad weather one day? Drive up to Portland, with something for everyone to see or do.

  3. I don’t leave Rhode Island. We have many beautiful beaches only one hour drive for any of them from South County to Newport.

  4. My two favorites are Chapin Beach in Dennis on the bayside and Coast Guard at the National Seashore. Of course I live on Cape Cod so off season is glorious at all our beaches ????

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.

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

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