×

10 Top-Rated Beaches in the Boston Area

Written by Alison Abbott and Shandley McMurray
Updated Jun 23, 2021

We may earn a commission from affiliate links ()

Like to enjoy a slice of beach with your city vacay? You're in luck. Boston's coastal locale is ideal for those who like to mix a little sand with the hustle and bustle of a historically vibrant city. While the best beaches in the Boston area may take a backseat to those in popular Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard, visitors will find plenty of hidden beachy treasures right within (or just outside) the city limits.

The best part about these beaches is their convenient location. Lying so close to the downtown core, travelers can reach the soft sand and bright blue waves of the Boston area's top beaches by merely jumping on public transportation or hopping in a car for a quick (less than an hour) drive. Easy, peasy!

As always, when the weekend approaches, parking fills up early, so be prepared if you're driving, and arrive before 10am. Beaches in the Boston area offer a wide variety of options for visitors that include warm waters, a front-row seat to jumbo jets taking to the skies, forts to explore, and, of course, easy access to some good old New England seafood.

For a relaxing day along the coast, browse this list of the best beaches in the Boston area:

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Spectacle Island: Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area

The beach on Spectacle Island
The beach on Spectacle Island | Jeremy T. Hetzel / photo modified

Just offshore from Boston proper, and about 20 minutes by ferry from downtown, Spectacle Island offers visitors one of the few sandy beaches found among the Harbor Islands. Open from May through 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. It's by far one of the best beaches in the Boston area.

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, which 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 are luxurious waterfront accommodation options.

2. Nantasket

Nantasket
Nantasket

Nantasket Beach lies on the south shore of nearby Hull. A popular spot for sun-seeking weekenders from the big city, this pretty, mile-long beach is a great place to enjoy a summer day.

Its Wampanoag Indian name reflects the sandy shores "where tides meet" location. The Atlantic shore is lined with pale grey sand, with tide pools revealing themselves, and a whole lot of extra sand to explore at low tide. Kids of all ages love to spend time looking for sea creatures in the shallow waters.

You'll find athletic fields, volleyball courts, a playground, and restrooms here. Summer concerts and public dance lessons make for great early evening activities.

Parking is available for a fee and it is highly recommended to arrive early on peak summer weekends. Nearby, World's End is a hiker's dream set on 250 acres of conservation land.

Offering panoramic views of the sea, the Nantasket Beach Resort has rooms with spectacular views. The Beach Shack is full of any necessities guests might need for fun in the sun.

Address: 212 Nantasket Ave., Hull, Massachusetts

3. Castle Island

Fort Independence
Fort Independence

Castle Island offers spectacular city views and a cool breeze on even the most humid of summer days. Although the island is now connected to the mainland by a spit of land, walking out to the historic Fort Independence will still have you surrounded by water. Tours of the Fort are available along with added information about all the Harbor Islands from the knowledgeable guides.

Along the shore, Pleasure Bay beach offers access to the water. Visitors will find it best at low tide, when more beach is revealed, along with tide pools. There are also plenty of benches and shaded areas of grass perfect for picnicking.

Didn't pack a picnic? No worries. Stop at the infamous Sullivans for a burger or fish and chips. Top it off with summer's ubiquitous ice cream cone. The wait can be long, so plan accordingly. Early risers can get breakfast there as well; perhaps after a jog around the trails. You can get to Castle Island by bus, and there is street parking lining the shore drive.

Continue the water experience by staying at the Boston Seaport Hotel. At night, the fire pits offer warmth when the temperature starts to drop.

Address: 2010 William J Day Blvd, Boston, Massachusetts

4. Wollaston Beach

Wollaston Beach
Wollaston Beach

A 30-minute ride south of the city will take you to Quincy, a destination known for its historical landmarks. After touring and brushing up on your presidential knowledge, make your way to Wollaston Beach.

This popular spot is located on Quincy Bay and boasts a two-mile continuous walkway, perfect for those who like their exercise venue served with a water view. The crowd is mixed and family-friendly.

The beach runs along Quincy Shore drive, which boasts street parking. You'll also find concessions stands placed in sporadic locations. Across the street are several well-known seafood shacks, where you can get your fill of fresh New England fish. Views from the beach include Boston, several of the Harbor Islands, and nearby Hull. Be sure to charge your camera.

The reliable Boston Marriott Quincy has a pool and great breakfast spread in a convenient location from Wollaston Beach.

Address: 970 Quincy Shore Drive, Quincy, Massachusetts

5. Walden Pond

Walden Pond
Walden Pond

For a beach of a different kind, visit Walden Pond in Concord. Transporting tourists back in time to the days of Henry David Thoreau's famous writings, this is a spot to connect with nature. While you're there, make sure to visit the replica of his famous small writing cabin.

Park hours change with the seasons, but in summer, parking fills up fast. Make the effort to get there early and take a hike around the peaceful trail (after staking your claim on a perfect spot for your beach chair, of course). Your reward will be cooling off in the glacier lake rumored to be more than 100 feet deep.

Walden Pond is home to a sandy beach and plenty of picnic areas, restrooms, and a visitor center. In addition, there is a boat ramp for kayaks. You'll find the refreshing water very clean, as the park service works hard to keep invasive plants at bay. Take note that inflatables are not allowed.

The historic Concord's Colonial Inn gives tourists a slice of New England charm in the center of town. The Residence Inn by Marriott is a great spot for families with a kitchenette and pool.

Address: 915 Walden Street, Concord, Massachusetts

6. Crane Beach

Crane beach
Crane beach

In less than an hour, sun worshippers can get from Boston to the idyllic Crane Beach in Ipswich. Visitors are greeted by four miles of sugar-white sand so soft, it massages each toe, and over five miles of trails guide them through ecosystems ranging from maritime forests to coastal dunes. It's almost impossible to feel stressed here.

Doubling as a nature sanctuary, this serene spot comprises over 1,200 acres and serves as home to a variety of creatures, including captivating shorebirds. This area has been deemed one of the "world's most important nesting sites for piping plovers." Dogs are allowed on the beach from October 1st to March 31st, and horses can visit during this time as well, with a city permit.

Speaking of permits, you'll need one (or a day pass, to be exact) to park at this beach. Buy an advance pass online to ensure your access to the beach even if it reaches capacity on the day you choose to visit. A bathhouse (including restrooms), concession stand, and beach store are on-site, and lifeguards are on duty during the summer. Waterproof beach wheelchairs are available.

When you're bored of the sand, head to nearby Castle Hill, the spectacular estate home also located on the vast Crane Estate.

Address: 310 Argilla Road, Ipswich, Massachusetts

7. Nahant Beach

Nahant Beach
Nahant Beach

If you favor serenity and seclusion in your beach escapes, Nahant Beach is for you. Sometimes referred to as Big Nahant and Little Nahant, this 67-acre protected area lies 15 miles north of Boston and served as a popular summer retreat for wealthy Bostonians in the early 1900s. Its Indian name means "two things united."

Nahant beach lies on a quiet peninsula, buffered by the Atlantic and jutting into Massachusetts Bay. Nahant is one of the few towns in the state to only be touched by one other municipality. The rest is surrounded by water.

The protected reserve includes a ramp that gives boaters access to Lynn harbor, athletic fields, parking for a fee, and a bath house. Additional amenities include seasonal lifeguards, a restaurant, and snack bar.

Numerous bike paths add another element of interest. Shade is scarce, so bring your own umbrellas and enjoy a beach that gently slopes into the water and remains shallow and calm for quite a distance. The two-mile walkway is great for jogging or a stroll to take in the scenery.

Address: 1 Nahant Road, Nahant, Massachusetts

8. Revere Beach

Revere Beach
Revere Beach

The roller coasters and carousels might be attractions of the past at Revere Beach, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of action on this stretch of sand that lies five miles north of Boston.

Pavilions with a Victorian flair, food vendors, and a heavy beat from the radios of passing cars all contribute to the ambience of what is known as the first public beach in America. This two-mile crescent is an ideal swimming beach, with gentle waves curling into shore. Views in the distance of lighthouses and passing boats add depth to the horizon.

Athletic fields, a bandstand, restrooms, and seasonal lifeguards make this a spot where people are likely to spend all day. Told you there was still plenty of action! Well known for its Sand Sculpting Festival in July, the popular beach can attract as many as 100,000 visitors on a busy weekend.

Easily accessed from Boston via the T's Blue Line, there is also metered parking along the boulevard, which is populated with walkers all day long. Dogs are not allowed from April to mid-September.

The Comfort Inn & Suites Boston Logan International Airport is a great spot for families to rest their heads after a busy day spent at the beach. Kitchenettes and a pool along with the colorful Mexican restaurant makes this a popular destination close to Revere Beach.

Address: 350 Revere Beach Blvd, Revere, Massachusetts

9. Constitution Beach Park

Constitution Beach Park
Constitution Beach Park

It will take less than 15 minutes to drive to Constitution Beach, one of the closest beaches to downtown Boston, or only a few minutes longer if you choose to take public transportation: Take the blue line to Orient Heights or the MBTA bus to Bennington Street.

Located in the Orient Heights neighborhood of East Boston, this is a popular spot to cool off with a dip in the Atlantic and watch planes flying into and taking off from Logan Airport while admiring the pretty view of Boston Harbor. Don't expect to be alone on this stretch of sand.

While the sand feels more gritty than soft, it still serves its purpose - as a base for lounging, sunning, sandcastle-building, and walking. Plus, parking in the main lot and access to this beach are free. Yay!

Lifeguards are on duty during the summer, and restrooms, a bathhouse, concession stand, playground, tennis courts, baseball diamond, and basketball courts are also available.

10. Esplanade

Esplanade
Esplanade

With the abundance of waterfront property surrounding much of Boston, residents stretch the term "beach" to include the beautiful Esplanade, summertime home to the Boston Pops. This grassy stretch of park lining the Boston side of the Charles River is filled with activity year-round.

The 18-mile paved path is busy throughout the day and early evening with runners and joggers. Kayaking, sailing, and stand up paddleboards are all available for those wanting to get on the water. Adirondack chairs are strategically placed on floating wooden docks for the ultimate sunset perch. A lagoon and canals invite further exploration, and several playgrounds, some with water features, provide plenty of kid space.

Restaurants and cafés are just a few blocks away no matter where you might choose to place yourself along the inviting space. Food trucks are often found near the river. While visiting Boston, if you have limited time and want to quickly get to a relaxing place on the water, the docks and green beaches of the Esplanade might be calling your name. Access is by one of the eight footbridges crossing over to the road.

The elegant Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston is located within walking distance of the Esplanade. Nearby is shopping and a myriad of restaurants. For a more boutique experience, the Revere Hotel Boston Common has an excellent Boston Common location and the added benefit of a pool.

Address: Charles River Esplanade, Boston, Massachusetts

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.

More on Massachusetts