12 Top-Rated Beaches in Massachusetts
With close to 200 miles of coastline, Massachusetts boasts some of the most spectacular beaches in the country. The wide variety of landscapes makes the Bay State unique. Granite boulders on the North Shore are in stark contrast to the miles of wide, sandy dunes along Cape Cod. Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket add award-winning beaches that regularly appear on "Best of" lists. Tide pools, seafood shacks, historic lighthouses, and impressive surf add further interest. Save yourself some time figuring out where to go with our list of the Best Beaches in Massachusetts.
1 Singing Beach, Manchester by the Sea
Far removed from the hustle and bustle of nearby Boston, the north shore lays claim to a musical beach. When conditions are right, the sand grains rub against each other, and you'll swear you, too, are hearing it "sing."
This large stretch, about a half mile long, is located in Manchester-by-the-Sea, a charming New England town filled with historic architecture, including the beach's bathhouse, built in the 1920s. Today, it houses a small snack bar for light bites. The beach has public bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms. A designated swimming area has lifeguards in season.
Additional areas are set aside for sports. A path runs along an upper area, shaded with trees for those who want to get out of the sun. It's also a nice place for a picnic. Public transportation from Boston is available and recommended on weekends, when traffic and the parking lot can be challenging for anyone not getting an early start. You'll walk right by Captain Dusty's, a favorite stop for post-beach ice-cream. The selection of flavors is long, homemade, and delicious.
Address: 119 Beach Street Manchester, Massachusetts
2 Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor
Just offshore from Boston proper and about 20 minutes by ferry from downtown, Spectacle Beach offers visitors one of the few sandy beaches found among the Boston Harbor Islands. Open from May thru Columbus Day, the beach is supervised by lifeguards during the summer months. The eco-friendly visitor center provides a timeline on the evolution of the island, as well as changing exhibits.
On a clear day, views of the city skyline are excellent. A small marina attracts boaters. Hikers will delight in the five-mile loop around the island that offers exciting panoramas of Boston. Ferries run regularly from Long Wharf during the season. Tourists will find the central location an excellent starting point for visiting the city's top attractions, and the nearby Boston Harbor Hotel and InterContinental Boston are luxurious waterfront accommodation options.
Location: Ferry leaves from Boston's Long Wharf
3 Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester
Found along the Annisquam River north of Boston, the half-mile-long Wingaersheek Beach is a popular family location. Children will love the shallow pools that form along the rocks at low tide. They are a perfect diversion and are often filled with small creatures from the sea. Pets are allowed on even numbered days. The water on the north shore can remain quite cool all summer, but tourists will find the calm waters hard to resist in steamy July and August.
Traffic can be a challenge, as can the parking, so it is best to arrive early. There is a parking lot available for a charge. Rest rooms, showers, and concession stands are available during the summer season.
Wingaersheek Beach is especially nice in the fall off-season. Come September, the crowds leave, and you can often have the beach to yourself; the water has been kissed by the sun and sparkles in the afternoon light.
The quintessentially New England Beauport Hotel Gloucester is located on the waterfront in Gloucester with a rooftop pool. Plenty of restaurants in the city's bustling center reward visitors with a variety of options after a day in the sun.
Location: Atlantic Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts
4 Head of the Meadow, Truro
For a postcard-worthy New England sandy dune experience, visit Head of the Meadow in Truro on Cape Cod. Paths of tall seagrass lead to one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in Massachusetts. The unpopulated area has dramatic vistas of ponds, dunes, and typical saltbox cottages.
Forty miles of coastline lining the eastern elbow of Cape Cod are dotted with sand bars that have claimed many a shipwreck over hundreds of years. At low tide, you can often see the remains of the Frances, which was lost in an 1872 storm. Luckily, all aboard were rescued.
Head of the Meadow actually has two beach areas; one is operated by the town, the other by the Cape Cod National Seashore. The seashore side has a seasonal lifeguard. Surfing is allowed outside the swim zone, and the two-mile bicycle trail provides additional interest, if you can imagine getting tired of the sand and surf.
The beach seems to stretch on endlessly, insuring plenty of opportunity to find a private space. In some areas, the sandy cliffs reach an imposing 100-foot height, making this stretch a dramatic backdrop for a day of relaxation and fun in the sun.
Location: Off Rt. 6 in Truro, Massachusetts
5 Cisco Beach, Nantucket
One of the best surfing beaches in the state is Nantucket's popular Cisco Beach. Pounding waves have made this part of the southern coastline especially popular with stand up paddleboarders and surfers. In the summer, it's common to see cyclists riding the four-mile path from town along Hummock Pond Road, with beach chairs or surfboards tucked under their arms.
Stop at the popular Bartlett Farm about three quarters of the way out and load up on picnic ingredients. Their selection of sandwiches and salads is extensive and often features local ingredients from the field.
There is a large parking lot at the end of the road with a lifeguarded beach and portable restrooms. A surf school operates from this location, so if you've always wanted to learn to hang 10, this is the perfect opportunity. Be aware that rip currents can be strong here.
The beach is connected to many dirt roads, where you can find a more secluded location. Just be careful you don't get stuck - the tow trucks have a field day with city slickers, who think they know the tricks of off-road driving.
The Grey Lady gets her name honestly. An occasional fog bank rolls in and out of this part of Nantucket and adds to the beauty of an undeveloped coastline of rolling dunes covered in sea grass and sweet smelling rosa rugosa.
Most hotels on Nantucket are located in town. The Veranda House Hotel Collection, along with the historical Jared Coffin House, are centrally located and within walking distance to the harbor and a wide selection of restaurants in all price ranges.
Location: End of Hummock Pond Road, Nantucket, Massachusetts
6 Race Point Beach, Provincetown
Fewer tourists visit the hook of Cape Cod, where Provincetown sits majestically looking out over the Atlantic. That is probably just fine with its residents. After crossing either the Bourne or Sagamore bridges, it's an additional two-hour drive on a good day. A seasonal fast ferry from Boston is beginning to change that and bring day visitors to town in a quick 1.5 hours. Whether you brave the traffic or speed along on the water, all will be justly rewarded at Race Point Beach.
Part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, the wide strip of sand is known for rougher waters, but there are plenty of shallow areas for less experienced swimmers. The northern exposure allows sunbathers direct rays all day, so don't forget your sunblock. Seasonal restrooms, showers, and changing rooms are available.
Behind and within the dunes are paths for biking and hiking. Province Lands Bike Trail is a challenging path and directs you to another beach and Herring Cove. In addition, the two-mile stretch that leads to Race Point Lighthouse takes about 45 minutes on foot. If you like to walk the beach, it's a lovely trail through spectacular dunes. Be mindful, like all areas of the Cape and Islands, poison ivy and ticks are always a concern when you start getting off the beaten path. Overland sand permits can be purchased if you prefer to drive. Free tours of the lighthouse are offered at limited times, so make sure to check beforehand.
Land's End Inn offers luxurious accommodations with sweeping views of the Atlantic. Additional Provincetown accommodations can be found at the Cape Colony Inn, boasting an above ground pool among its many amenities, or The Seaglass Inn & Spa, set in a scenic hilltop location, also with an outdoor pool.
Address: Race Point Road, Provincetown, Massachusetts
7 Old Silver Beach, Falmouth
Old Silver Beach, with its warm waters from Buzzards Bay, lies on the western shores of Falmouth. This spot is known for the dramatic views of Cape Cod Canal. The beach is separated into two sides by a jetty. Town residents with a sticker have access to one side and the other is for the public. Make sure to park in the correct area for visitors. Like most of the public beaches in Massachusetts, the lot fills up early.
Soft sand and gentle waves are a big draw for sun worshipers. As the tide comes in, however, the current can become quite powerful. Be vigilant, especially if you have little ones in tow.
This classic New England beach has great amenities; a hamburger shack, Italian ice cart, water toys, even a t-shirt or two. Photo-worthy sunsets bring in an extra crew in the late afternoon to close out another summer day. Parents will be happy with the value at the nearby Holiday Inn Cape Cod -Falmouth. The hotel has a kids-stay-free policy.
Location: Quaker Road. Falmouth, Massachusetts
8 Madaket Beach, Nantucket
Visitors will need a 4WD vehicle and a beach permit to access the far end of Madaket beach on the western tip of Nantucket. If sunsets are your jam, plan to be there at the golden hour, as sunsets from the point are spectacular. This large open space can have powerful surf and an occasional undertow, so make sure to check conditions, especially if little ones are in tow. Lifeguards are sporadically located along the area, but there are no facilities.
Views of nearby Tuckernuck Island and the strong rip tide that draws fishermen to brave the channel are an interesting sight off the point. The refreshingly cool water is perfect on a hot summer day of sandcastles and long beach walks.
Hearty sun worshippers who don't mind a bit of sand hiking can also get to the area via the bike path (approximately five miles from town) or the seasonal NRTA shuttle bus. Very limited parking can be found at the end of the road.
Although Nantucket's 80-mile coastline is in reality one big beach, accommodations are found in town. The Nantucket Hotel & Resort offers relaxed luxury and a well-equipped health club and spa. The fabulously chic, boutique-style 21 Broad Hotel brings modern amenities and design to a historic neighborhood.
Location: Pennsylvania Ave., Nantucket, Massachusetts
9 Rock Harbor Beach, Orleans
The season on Cape Cod is starting to stretch further and further into the fall. Truthfully, September is one of the most beautiful months. That being said, visitors choose the same lovely beaches no matter what time of year they are visiting.
Rock Harbor in Orleans is one such spot. As the Cape starts to turn to the north, this is a location that really stands out. The area is filled with nooks and crannies of bays and tidal pools. At low tide, the flats seem to stretch on forever. Similar to other places on a narrow inlet, the magnificent Rock Harbor is split into two areas. Fishing and charter boats are found on the more popular western side. The small beach here can get very crowded, especially because there is no charge for parking.
The more secret side of Rock Harbor is located on the east side and is a wonderful place to watch the off-the-chart sunsets. You'll find the entrance down Dyer Prince Road. A short walk to the beach through a sandy trail leads to a much less populated area.
The Cove Motel on the waterfront is a quaint spot with a seasonal pool. Some of the rooms have decks. There is a picnic area and gazebo as well.
Location: Rock Harbor Road, Orleans, Massachusetts.
10 Marconi Beach, Wellfleet
The sand often changes colors along the cliffs of Marconi Beach in Wellfleet. Many have recorded the layers of earth one would normally see in Sedona and the cliff sites in Arizona. The beach is wide and backed by large dunes that can take a beating over the storm season from the surf. This often means the size of the beach fluctuates from year to year.
The views from the top of the dunes stretch out to the bay, the ocean, and the outer cape. Wooden stairs lead from the dunes to the beach, and as you can imagine, such a beautiful spot can get crowded, even in the off-season.
Guards are on duty in areas designated for swimming, and visitors can often see seals frolicking in the waves or sunning on a secluded spit of sand. Walkers will find a perfect place to daydream as they peruse the shore. A volleyball game is usually taking place, boogie boarders are busy riding the surf, and everyone can enjoy their own activity in this part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Bathrooms and outdoor showers are available. About a five-minute drive from the beach, Even'tide Resort Motel and Cottages has an indoor pool and bike path.
Location: Six miles north of Salt Pond Visitor Center, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
11 Lighthouse Beach Edgartown, Massachusetts
Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Cape Cod, is a destination that exudes laid-back, unspoiled charm. Each of the towns has their own distinct flavor, but the beaches are the common thread knitting them all together. Some of the beaches are private; others require a parking sticker, and some are unrestricted and open to the public.
Lighthouse Beach is one such location. Close to town, the beach looks out over Edgartown and Chappaquiddick harbor and provides a perfect escape for those just on the island for the day who want to take in as much as possible. Gentle waves make the spot popular with families. Water shoes help with the sharp shells that break up on the bottom of the sand. Cape Cod views can be seen across Nantucket Sound. The nearby Lighthouse adds further interest and has a limited schedule for tours (check first). The historic Harbor View Hotel in the heart of Edgartown is one of those rambling New England Inns loaded with charm. Add in the scenic ocean views, and you'll quickly see why families return for generations.
Location: Starbuck's Neck, off North Water Street. Edgartown, Massachusetts
12 Horseneck Beach Reservation, Westport
Southeastern Massachusetts is home to one of the state's most unusual beaches. The 600-acre Horseneck Beach State Reservation is part salt marsh and part barrier beach. Birdwatchers delight in observing nesting habitats in the nearby marshes. The geography of the area is a perfect place for willets, sandpipers, and plovers that feed on the small mole crab, only found on the southern shores.
There is almost always a light wind blowing on the two-mile stretch of beach lining part of Buzzards Bay. The wind makes for a cooling breeze and a light surf that is perfect for just about all swimmers. Horseneck is a state run beach, has lifeguards as well as facilities, and a small snack bar.
Walking and biking trails are nearby. Fishing and boating are also a possibility. Note that pets are not allowed. Gooseberry Neck is located behind the dunes and provides a 100-site campground. You'll find Horseneck Beach to be an underrated gem. Visitors can enjoy the warmer waters of the south shore without having to get involved with the traffic of nearby Cape Cod.
Hampton Inn Fall River/Westport is a reliable spot in the area to stay after a day exploring the Horseneck Reservation and the surrounding area of Westport.
Address: 5 John Reed Road, Westport, Massachusetts