FROM THE CRAGGY CLIFFS OF MAINE’S rugged shoreline to the tranquil beaches of Connecticut, visitors can explore more than 1,000 miles of wandering salt marshes, rolling sand dunes and clusters of wind-battered cedar cottages. The New England coast has grainier sand and chillier temps than its southern neighbors, but you can’t beat its legendary postcard scenery and bewitching charm.
To help you navigate the vast New England coastline and chose a destination that’s just right for you, Marinalife presents our picks for the best beaches in the region, listed from north to south.
OLD ORCHARD BEACH
43.5148° N, 70.3721° W
Visitors have been celebrating fun times at this grande dame of resort towns for 170 years. Despite being updated and modernized for the 21st century, the town’s Victorian-era beach vibe remains intact. The hub of activities on the seven miles of sandy beach is Old Orchard Pier. Beside drinking, dining and shopping above the waves, the pier has surfboard, umbrella and chair rentals. At nightfall the historic pier comes alive with fireworks, concerts and dancing.
43.2559° N, 70.5917° W
In the town’s native Abenaki language, Ogunquit means “beautiful place by the sea,” the perfect description for a 3.5-mile stretch of clean, white sand. The local trolley has a beach stop on its path around the quaint buildings, tiny shops and pedestrian bridges of this seaside village. Marginal Way is a spectacular mile walk beginning at the beach and winding along the windswept cliff edge to Perkins Cove, a popular anchorage with a working dock for local fishing boats.
42.9113° N, 70.8135° W
Folks from “away” are often surprised by the dramatic waves breaking along the state’s 13 miles of oceanfront. The beach is near the top on lists of cleanest in the country, and the Hampton Beach Boardwalk is ranked in the top 10 for its cafes and local shops, scenic setting, and lively atmosphere. Local bands tune up every evening on the Sea Shell Stage. For those seekingless honky-tonk, more reserve, nearby Jenness Beach in Rye is a smaller, less crowded option.
LAKE CHAMPLAIN, BURTON ISLAND
44.7745° N, 73.2043° W
Although it lacks ocean frontage, Vermont has state parks with beaches and camping along the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain and along the narrow Lake Champlain Islands, mid-lake. Burton Island, a 253-acre park off the southwestern tip of St. Albans, offers solitude along its hiking trails and back-to-basics waterfront campsites. There’s plenty of social activity around the snack bar and 100-slip marina.
SINGING BEACH, MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA
42.5702° N, 70.7604° W
Due to its location in this quintessential New England town, Singing Beach often ranks near the top of beach lovers’ favorites. As they approach the water, visitors are certain that the sound the sand makes is the sand singing, hence the name. Amenities include public restrooms, a small snack bar and changing rooms. Surrounded by stately mansions high atop the rocky coastline, the beach is also close to notable gourmet eateries dotting the village.
WORLD’S END, HINGHAM
42.2584° N, 70.8740° W
Only about 10 NM from Boston Harbor, on the east side of World’s End is the gorgeous, protected Martin’s Cove. You’ll find some moorings, but it’s a busy weekend anchorage where the views of Boston Harbor are spectacular.
41.5598° N, 70.5339° W
This island gem is located within Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, one of the last large undeveloped coastal properties on the south side of Cape Cod. Island trails wind through habitats consisting of a barrier beach, oak and pine forest, and coastal salt ponds. From Vineyard Sound, Washburn is accessed through either Waquoit Bay Inlet or Eel Pond.
HADLEY HARBOR, CAPE COD
41.5153864 N, -70.6994748 W
Well known as a protected and scenic anchorage, Hadley Harbor is perfect for an afternoon or an overnight. The harbor is surrounded by appealing islands, and the Vineyard, Cuttyhunk and Tarpaulin Cove are all within a few miles.
GOOSEWING BEACH PRESERVE, LITTLE COMPTON
40.741895° N, -73.989308° W
A one-of-a-kind exquisite coastal ecosystem of pristine coastal pond, barrier beach and grassy dune system creates a spectacular space to be enjoyed year-round. The preserve feels like a hidden secret: quiet even in season, and the perfect spot to spend the day swimming, beachcombing or fishing. The shoreline is scattered with rocks discarded by the glaciers that molded this region. Nature Conservancy manages the breeding of two year-round beach residents — the globally scarce piping plover and the rare Least Tern.
NARRAGANSETT TOWN BEACH
41.4354° N, 71.4558° W
In the Gay 1890s, The Towers (then called Narragansett Pier Casino) was the centerpiece of summer living, gambling, partying and beachside fun. The casino’s remaining stone towers have survived fires, hurricanes and Nor’easters to become the town’s good luck symbol. One of the state’s cleanest, most frequently visited beaches, Narragansett has lifeguards, first aid stations and all the necessary amenities throughout the 20 acres of smooth sandy beach. Vigorous wave action makes it a popular surfing spot.
41.1617° N, 71.5843° W
Nicknamed the Bermuda of the North, the island is an intriguing combination of 17 miles of fantastic beaches, curvy bronze bluffs and rolling dunes. Some places have amenities suitable to welcome international vacationers; other beaches are untouched providing outstanding scenery. Like a time capsule from the 19th century, much of the Victorian-era design has been preserved, and the island is ideal for exploration via bicycle or moped.
CHARLES ISLAND, SILVER SANDS STATE PARK, MILFORD
51.233547° N, -0.739495° W
Beaches in the Nutmeg State deserve more hype than they receive. As the shoreline slopes into Long Island Sound, the waters are warmer and the sand gentler. Charles Island is a favorite anchorage where, at low tide, the island connects via a tombolo (sandbar of rocks and shells) to the little known shallow waters and less-crowded beaches of Silver Sands State Park. The park’s 297 acres of dunes, beach, woods and salt marsh create a wild backdrop for the daily concert of whoops, squawks, whistles and hoots given by the native inhabitants. The quintessential town green stretches for blocks through an inviting center dotted with shops, bars and restaurants.
HAMMONASSET BEACH, MADISON
41.2667° N, 72.5584° W
The Hammonasset Beach State Park sprawls along two miles of beach front, wetlands and woodlands on Long Island Sound. Stroll the board- walk enjoying the salty air or trek several different walking trails winding through the park. More than 500 grassy campsites and several rustic cabins provide shoreside overnights. On the far east end at Meigs Point is a dinghy dock and nature center offering an in-depth look at the area’s natural wonders.
DUBOIS BEACH, STONINGTON
41.3284° N, 71.9065° W
Breezy DuBois Beach, on the tip of a narrow peninsula jutting into Fishers Island Sound and Little Narragansett Bay, has an abundance of nature trails and seaside meadows filled with wildflowers and beach roses. Take time to explore the wealth of Colonial, Federal and Greek revival buildings in this captivating village dating back to 1649.