16 Top-Rated Beaches in Massachusetts

Written by Alison Abbott and Barbara Radcliffe Rogers
Updated May 26, 2022
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With close to 200 miles of coastline, Massachusetts boasts some of the most spectacular beaches in the USA. 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.

Tidal pools, seafood shacks, historic lighthouses, and impressive surf add further interest. Of course, choosing the best beach is a very personal choice, and no two people would agree, but you can save yourself some time figuring out where to go with our list of the best beaches in Massachusetts.

1. Crane Beach, Ipswich

Sunset at Crane Beach
Sunset at Crane Beach

A pristine stretch of sand beach backed by dunes and wind-ruffled beach grass, Crane Beach is part of the vast Crane Estate, meticulously maintained and protected by the Trustees of Reservations.

Accessed by trails and completely surrounded by nature reserve, there is no development in sight – only the beach, the sea, the sky, and Plum Island along the horizon. Transportation is available for those unable to walk the trails through the dunes, and the beach has lifeguards, a bathhouse, and a small refreshment stand, but no other facilities.

Don't expect the warmed waters of Cape Cod Bay – this is ocean swimming at its bracing best, more akin to Maine's beaches, and a good way to cool off from sunbathing.

Walking trails wind throughout the former estate, and the beaches are a prime nesting site for Piping Plover. The impressive mansion is open for tours, and you can stroll through the estate's gardens. If you can, stay for the sunset, a spectacular sight as the sky colors tint the sand and reflect in the sea.

Address: 310 Argilla Road, Ipswich, Massachusetts

2. Race Point Beach, Provincetown

Race Point Beach, Provincetown
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.

Provincetown accommodations are plentiful, but it's important to reserve early for high season..

Address: Race Point Road, Provincetown, Massachusetts

3. Chatham Lighthouse Beach

Chatham Lighthouse Beach
Chatham Lighthouse Beach

Parking nearby is difficult, and sections of the beach may be closed to swimming because of shifts in current, but the beach under Chatham lighthouse is among the most beautiful and scenic of all Cape Cod's beaches. The view doesn't get any better: across Cape Cod Sound one way and the white lighthouse tower in the other direction.

The different areas for swimming are labeled for information on the currents, and any dangerous areas will be closed. A red flag means all swimming is prohibited. But there's more to do here beyond sun, sand, and swim: it's a popular place for the large seal population to cavort, and you can get even closer on seal tours that leave from the beach.

Or you can walk out to Monomoy Island, a popular bird-watching site. The lighthouse is occasionally open for tours in the summer.

Address: 30 Main Street, Chatham, Massachusetts

4. Singing Beach, Manchester by the Sea

Singing Beach, Manchester by the Sea
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

5. Coast Guard Beach, Eastham

Coast Guard Beach
Coast Guard Beach

Between rolling dunes and the sea, stretches a wide, flat beach of soft sand, with plenty of space for sun worshippers, swimmers, beach walks, and lively games of volleyball. Although parking at the beach is for residents only, a frequent, free shuttle brings visitors to the beach from the parking area on Doane Road.

The large waves make Coast Guard Beach popular with boogie boarders and surfers, and the adjoining marshlands make it a popular spot for nature-lovers. Seals are a common sight here, as well. The boardwalk that leads to the beach is suitable for wheelchairs.

Don't be too eager to leave this beautiful beach in the late afternoon; you'll watch some of the best of Cape Cod's legendary sunsets here.

Location: Nauset and Doane Roads, Eastham, Massachusetts

6. Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester

Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester
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.

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

7. Head of the Meadow, Truro

Head of the Meadow, Truro
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

8. Old Silver Beach, Falmouth

Old Silver Beach, Falmouth
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.

Location: Quaker Road. Falmouth, Massachusetts

9. Madaket Beach, Nantucket

Madaket Beach, Nantucket
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 traveling with children. 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.

Location: Pennsylvania Ave., Nantucket, Massachusetts

10. Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor

Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor
Spectacle Island, Boston Harbor

Just offshore from Boston proper and about 20 minutes by ferry from Boston's Long Wharf downtown, Spectacle Beach offers visitors one of the few sandy beaches found among the Boston Harbor Islands and easily accessible from the city.

Open from May through Columbus Day, the beach is supervised by lifeguards during the summer months, and ferries run regularly from Long Wharf during the season. 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.

Tourists will find the central location an excellent starting point for visiting the city's top attractions.

11. Cisco Beach, Nantucket

Cisco Beach, Nantucket
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.

Location: End of Hummock Pond Road, Nantucket, Massachusetts

12. Rock Harbor Beach, Orleans

Rock Harbor Beach, Orleans
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.

Location: Rock Harbor Road, Orleans, Massachusetts.

13. Plum Island, Newburyport

The beach at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newburyport
The beach at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newburyport

Whether you're swimming on a summer afternoon, spotting birds in September, or collecting shells after a winter storm, there's no wrong time of year to be at Plum Island. The 11-mile-long barrier island lies off the coast near Newburyport.

Plum Island has three areas of beaches, with Newbury Beach at the center, near the island's only access road. To the left, Northern Blvd. leads to the North Point beaches, and to the right, past the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, is Sandy Point State Reservation, facing Crane Beach in Ipswich.

Several parking lots inside the refuge have access to beaches, but beaches there are closed in the spring and early summer to protect the endangered piping plovers that nest in the sands. Along with the beaches, the 4,700-acre refuge protects more than 3,000 acres of salt marsh that is habitat for several hundred bird species.

Avid birders flock here to see them, and you can explore the varied habitats on the mile-long Hellcat Interpretive Trail, an elevated boardwalk through the dunes, marshes, and maritime forest.

14. Marconi Beach, Wellfleet

Marconi Beach, Wellfleet
Marconi Beach, Wellfleet

The sand colors at Marconi Beach may surprise you – and may be different the next time you see them. This unusual phenomenon of changing and sometimes striped colors results from layers of various earth sources – red from oxidized iron, black from ancient peat bogs, gray and white from crushed stone – constantly eroding by the Atlantic tides and strong coastal winds.

The beach is wide and backed by large dunes that can take a beating over the storm season from the surf. This often means that along with the color, 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.

Location: Six miles north of Salt Pond Visitor Center, Wellfleet, Massachusetts

15. Lighthouse Beach, Edgartown

Lighthouse Beach Edgartown, Massachusetts
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 its 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 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

16. Horseneck Beach Reservation, Westport

Horseneck Beach Reservation, Westport
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, 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.

Address: 5 John Reed Road, Westport, Massachusetts

Map of Beaches in Massachusetts