21 Best Beaches in the Northeast, USA

Written by Lura Seavey
Updated May 11, 2023
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Author Lura R. Seavey lives near the New Hampshire coast and visits beaches in the northeast regularly during her travels.

For some, the perfect beach is a tiny remote cove or one isolated behind miles of undeveloped dunes. Others crave the hubbub and excitement of an old-fashioned beach resort with a busy boardwalk, soft ice cream, a carousel, and maybe even an ocean-side fun park like those found at Old Orchard Beach in Maine or the iconic Coney Island Beach in New York City.

Footbridge Beach, Ogunquit, Maine
Footbridge Beach, Ogunquit, Maine | Photo Copyright: Lura R Seavey

Beachgoers also differ on their preferred water temperature, from bracing Maine surf to the warmer waters of Cape May, and even one on the shores of New Hampshire's famed Lake Winnipesaukee.

Ranking beaches is a tricky business at best, so instead, we arranged them geographically, from Maine to New Jersey. We've tried to mix the list to include something for all tastes, although, of course, none of these is the secluded little cove that's a secret to all but a few.

These are all popular places to visit, so expect parking to be difficult — plan to arrive early in the morning, and even then, don't expect to be alone in your quest for a good spot. Remember, there's a reason these beaches are so popular: they're the best.

Plan your next family vacation using this handy list to find the best beaches in the Northeast.

1. Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Old Orchard Beach
Old Orchard Beach | Photo Copyright: Lura R Seavey

The throwback atmosphere of Old Orchard Beach is what its devotees love about it as they soar above the beach on a heart-stopping Ferris wheel ride at Palace Playland, New England's last full-scale amusement park on a beach. This carnival-style park has ticketed rides, not general admission, so you can wander around and soak up the atmosphere if you're not up for an arcade game or a bumper-car ride.

The old-fashioned wooden pier is another iconic landmark at Old Orchard Beach, topped with an assortment of shops and restaurants that offer all the expected soft ice cream, saltwater taffy, fried dough, and seafood. If you're here in the evening during a fireworks show, get an outdoor seat and have dinner at the far end of the pier for the best views.

Fountain and shops in Old Orchard Beach
Fountain and shops in Old Orchard Beach | Photo Copyright: Lura R Seavey

One of the best things about Old Orchard Beach is how accessible it is if you don't want to (or can't) drive here. Just one block from the sand, and right in the center of the main shopping and dining area, sits an Amtrak station that provides seasonal service from May through October. The southernmost station is Boston's North Station, with two more stops in Massachusetts, three in New Hampshire, and several more in Maine.

This is one of the most popular places to visit in Maine, offering seven miles of golden sand that is free and open to the public, as well as plenty of places to eat and an abundance of places to stay.

Location: W. Grand Ave., Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches near Portland, Maine

2. Kennebunk Beaches, Maine

Gooch's Beach
Gooch's Beach | Photo Copyright: Lura R Seavey

If you want to wiggle your toes in southern Maine's famous soft sand, formed by eons of grinding the native granite into a fine silver-colored powder, kick off your shoes in Kennebunk. Get a parking sticker at the town hall or take the handy trolley from your hotel or one of the B&Bs that fill the town's former captains' mansions.

Gooch's Beach begins at the Kennebunk River and leads to Mother's Beach, a short section protected by low rocky areas that are safe for kids to play in. Mother's Beach also has super-soft sand and a good playground that's relatively new, and although there are no permanent facilities here, portable toilets are maintained in summer.

West of the in-town beaches, close to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, is the idyllic dune-backed Parsons Beach. Parking is limited at the beach itself, but you can park near the main road and walk in.

Location: Beach Ave, Kennebunk, Maine

Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Kennebunkport, ME

3. Wells and Ogunquit Beaches, Maine

Ogunquit Beach
Ogunquit Beach | Photo Copyright: Lura R Seavey

A long barrier beach separates the saltmarshes of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve from the Atlantic Ocean, stretching from the town of Wells south to Ogunquit. Drake Island, Wells, Crescent, Moody, Footbridge, and Ogunquit beaches meld from one to the other, each with plenty of soft sand and its own following of families that return year after year.

Aerial view of the beach at Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve
Aerial view of the beach at Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve

Hotels, resorts, and restaurants stretch along Route 1, which parallels the coast. Of the lot, Ogunquit is the tonier base, with high-end resorts, fine dining, and shopping, as well as a beach with an especially gentle slope into the water — great for families. Don't miss walking Marginal Way from Ogunquit to Perkins Cove for beautiful ocean views and several tiny beaches enclosed by rocks.

Location: Beach Street, Ogunquit, Maine

Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Ogunquit, ME

4. Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

Aerial view of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
Aerial view of Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

New Hampshire makes the most of its 13-mile coastline with five public beaches, three of which are state parks. The biggest is Hampton Beach, a long span of white sand that's consistently rated as one of the cleanest beaches in the United States and among the best beaches in New England.

The town behind the beach is an unabashedly pure honky-tonk beach resort, with a boardwalk, fried dough, saucy T-shirts, pizza joints, candy shops, and a penny arcade.

At the center of this is the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, built in 1899 as a community entertainment center, now a live music and comedy venue that hosts name performers and bands.

Consistent with its lively atmosphere, Hampton Beach hosts frequent events and festivals: sand sculpture in June, Children's Festival in August, weekly firework displays, and live music nightly on the Sea Shell Stage.

Location: Ocean Boulevard, Hampton, New Hampshire

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in New Hampshire

5. Weirs Beach, New Hampshire

Weirs Beach, Laconia, New Hampshire
Weirs Beach, Laconia, New Hampshire

Weirs Beach is located near Laconia in New Hampshire's Lakes Region and is a favorite freshwater swimming spot for visitors. It occupies a stretch of sand on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee (locally referred to simply as "the big lake"), within the Endicott Rock State Historic Site.

Although the beach itself doesn't offer much in the way of amenities, it sits at the end of the Wiers Boardwalk, which has plenty of restaurants, shops, and diversions, including classic arcades. This is also home to the dock for the M/S Mount Washington and the US Mailboat M/V Sophie C, which offer sightseeing cruises on Lake Winnipesaukee.

In the evening, visitors can enjoy films on one of the three screens at the Weirs Beach Drive-In theater, and if the weather isn't cooperating, FunSpot is just up the street for plenty of indoor fun, including bowling and the world's largest collection of arcade video games.

Location: Lakeside Ave., Laconia, New Hampshire

Read More: Best Lakes in New Hampshire

6. Wingaersheek Beach, Massachusetts

Aerial view of Wingaersheek Beach
Aerial view of Wingaersheek Beach

Stretching along the tidal Annisquam River and Ipswich Bay north of Boston, Wingaersheek Beach has crystal clear waters and a very gradual slope that at low tide extends the beach to more than half a mile wide.

The shallow water makes this Gloucester beach a favorite place to visit for families, especially when the receding tide uncovers huge rock formations to climb on and tidal pools filled with snails and other small marine creatures to discover.

In the summer, you'll find changing facilities and food vendors at the beach.

Location: Atlantic Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in Massachusetts

7. Singing Beach, Massachusetts

Singing Beach, Massachusetts
Singing Beach, Massachusetts

Close to Boston, but feeling light years away in the cute and historic town of Manchester-by-the-Sea, is a beach with two unique features: singing sand and a charming bathhouse built in the 1920s. The setting is scenic, with a long rocky headland bookmarking one end of the beach.

The "singing" you'll hear as you walk across the sand is caused by a combination of round, uniformly sized sand grains containing silica, and a humid atmosphere. As you walk, the friction and compression cause the low humming sound.

Address: 119 Beach Street, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in the Boston Area

8. Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Race Point Beach
Race Point Beach

One of two Provincetown beaches that are part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, Herring Cove Beach is great for swimming, sunbathing, shelling, and even spotting seals. With the exception of shorebird nesting season, it's also a dog-friendly beach, and family-friendly as well thanks to well-maintained facilities, including a sizeable concession area.

Unlike Herring Cove, which faces Cape Cod Bay, Race Point Beach sits at the outermost tip of Cape Cod facing the open Atlantic. Backed by miles of protected dunes and on the ocean side of the Cape, Race Point tends to have heavy surf and an undertow. This makes it unsafe for serious swimming, but the shallow waters are fine for playing in the surf.

Herring Cove Beach
Herring Cove Beach | Photo Copyright: Lura R Seavey

And for sunbathers who like a bit of space, its seven miles of sand are spectacular enough to be frequently listed as one of the state's top beaches.

Location: Province Lands Road, Provincetown, Massachusetts

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches on Cape Cod

9. Head of the Meadow and Ballston Beach, Massachusetts

Head of the Meadow Beach, Massachusetts
Head of the Meadow Beach, Massachusetts

Both in Truro, on the outer end of Cape Cod, Head of the Meadow and Ballston Beach are idyllic stretches of sand facing the Atlantic, backed by dunes and sand bluffs that rise as high as 100 feet. Accessed over the dunes on paths lined with dune grasses, Head of the Meadow has two areas: one a town beach, the other inside the Cape Cod National Seashore. The latter has a lifeguard.

Surfing is allowed at Head of the Meadow, outside the designated swimming area. Both beaches are accessed from Route 6.

Location: Holden Street, Truro, Massachusetts

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Cape Cod & the Islands

10. Easton's Beach/First Beach, Rhode Island

View of Easton's Beach from the Newport Cliff Walk
View of Easton's Beach from the Newport Cliff Walk

Easton's Beach, also called First Beach, offers ocean swimming, as well as plenty of activities for kids. Younger kids will love the vintage carousel and playground, while teens can make use of the skateboard park and enjoy live music.

Beach amenities include showers, changing areas, and rest facilities, as well as picnic tables and grills for public use. Visitors can rent umbrellas, chairs, and water sports equipment on-site, and there is a snack bar that also sells staples like towels and sunscreen.

For a midday break, head to the Rotunda to visit the Save the Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium. Focused on conservation education, the center has touch tanks and aquariums that are home to more than 40 species of marine life, and it also offers a variety of educational programs and activities.

Address: 175 Memorial Blvd, Newport, Rhode Island

11. Narragansett Bay Beaches, Rhode Island

Narragansett Town Beach
Narragansett Town Beach

There's no need to make hard choices between the beaches that line the shore from the resort town of Narragansett to Point Judith. Twenty-acre Narragansett Town Beach extends for a full mile beginning at the edge of town and is a favorite for surfers, who have their own designated area.

There's plenty of water for swimmers here and in the long golden beaches farther south: Matunuck Beach State Park, East Matunuck State Beach, Roger W. Wheeler State Beach, Scarborough State Beach, and Narragansett Town Beach. All these have changing facilities and parking (if you're planning a few days to sample all of these, you can buy a parking pass that's good at all state parks).

Address: 39 Boston Neck Road, Narragansett, Rhode Island

Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Rhode Island

12. Misquamicut State Beach, Rhode Island

View over Misquamicut State Beach
View over Misquamicut State Beach

Despite its small size, Rhode Island has a whopping 384 miles of shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay. Its beaches are legendary — none more so than Misquamicut, in Westerly. Its gradual slope into the water and gentle waves make it an especially popular beach for families.

In addition to the wide beach of soft sand, Misquamicut State Beach has shaded picnic areas and other things to do, including frequent evening concerts and fireworks.

Nearby Watch Hill is a well-kept and upscale old summer resort town with a historic carousel that's a hit with kids. It's also home to one of Rhode Island's best resorts, The Ocean House, which is a stylish and grand Victorian hotel with a wraparound porch and an amazing restaurant.

Address: Atlantic Avenue, Westerly, Rhode Island

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in Rhode Island

13. Ocean Beach Park, Connecticut

Ocean Beach Park, New London, CT
Ocean Beach Park, New London, CT | Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

Ocean Beach Park in New London is an excellent choice for families, offering swimming not only on the half-mile beach, but also in the Olympic-size pool. There is also a spray park for little ones, and an all-ages triple waterslide for an additional fee, adding to the many reasons this is one of the most popular beach towns in Connecticut.

Beach amenities include a changing area with lockers available, as well as a picnic area, playground, and nature trails. There is also an 18-hole mini-golf course on-site, as well as a collection of seaside carnival rides, from kiddie rides to thrill rides for teens and adults. The park also has a coin-operated arcade that offers all the classic games, including pinball.

Visitors can also enjoy live entertainment on Boardwalk Stage, as well as special events during the summer months, including dances and car shows. Day-use fees are per vehicle (up to five people), and there is a lower walk-in rate for individuals who won't be parking here. There are also several food vendors, including a sit-down restaurant, a snack shack, and an ice cream parlor.

Address: 98 Neptune Ave, New London, Connecticut

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in Connecticut

14. Hammonasset State Park, Connecticut

Hammonasset State Park
Hammonasset State Park

The largest beach in Connecticut, Hammonasset State Park beach lines two miles of shoreline facing Long Island Sound. Waves in the sound are much calmer than those facing the open ocean, making this beach a popular place to visit for families with small children. Another attraction is the boardwalk that runs alongside the beach.

Meigs Point Nature Center offers walks, exhibits, and programs for children. Tourists who want to stay right here can camp in one of the 500 adjoining campsites or find several beach hotels and resorts nearby.

Address: 1288 Boston Post Rd, Madison, Connecticut

Read More: Best Places for Camping in Connecticut

15. Jones Beach, New York

Jones Beach
Jones Beach

The most heavily visited beach on the East Coast, Jones Beach lines 6.5 miles of Jones Island seafront, off the south shore of Long Island. Known for its gentle waves and wide expanse of soft sand, the beach is easy to reach from the city on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR).

Once here, you can run, jog, rollerblade, or just stroll and nosh along the two miles of boardwalk and play shuffleboard or ball on the beach. You can even play golf, and on summer evenings take in a show at the Northwell Health Theater.

16. Brighton Beach, New York

Brighton Beach, New York
Brighton Beach, New York

Another of the most popular beaches near New York City, Brighton Beach is east of Coney Island, in Brooklyn's Brighton neighborhood. Because it's farther from the city, it's correspondingly less crowded and has fewer commercial amusements.

Instead of arcades and rides, you'll find the exotic flavors of "Little Odessa" — a neighborhood of émigrés from Russia and Eastern Europe. You may not find Coney Island hotdogs, but look for pierogies and cheese-filled Georgian flatbread. The nearby New York Aquarium is the oldest in the United States.

Address: 601 Riegelmann Boardwalk, Brooklyn, New York

17. Coney Island Beach, New York

Aerial view of Coney Island and the beach
Aerial view of Coney Island and the beach

Possibly the most iconic old-style beach of all, Coney Island in Brooklyn is everything you imagined: neon lights, noise, arcades, tacky souvenirs, crowds, boardwalk, the legendary Cyclone roller coaster, and hotdogs from the original Nathan's Coney Island restaurant.

You come here for the atmosphere as much as (or more than) for the three miles of sand, but that's part of the undeniable charm of Coney Island — a carefree oasis of whimsical chaos, where everyone is welcome to be a kid again and enjoy the simple pleasures of sunshine, carnival rides, and guilt-free fried dough.

It may be hard to find a few feet of sand on hot summer weekends, but you'll always find plenty of things to do here. Right next to the beach's two seaside amusement parks, the New York Aquarium's massive complex provides plenty more diversions — a great option if you need a little time in air-conditioning or you need to evade a rain shower.

Location: Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn, New York

Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in New York City & Nearby

18. Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Sandy Hook beach
Sandy Hook beach

At the north end of the Jersey shore, with views of the New York City skyline, Sandy Hook beach is on a long, low spit of land, really an island connected to the mainland by a bridge. Besides the miles of lovely sandy beaches, Sandy Hook National Recreation Area has a seven-mile bike path, camping sites, and water sports equipment. You can watch the abundant birdlife or join a park ranger on a canoe tour.

With its protected wildlands and beautiful ocean beaches, Sandy Hook is one of the favorite weekend getaways in New Jersey. There are no hotels on Sandy Hook, but you'll find places to stay on the mainland in Atlantic Highlands, which is connected to New York City by a 35-minute ferry ride.

Location: Hartshorne Drive, Highlands, New Jersey

19. Stone Harbor Beach, New Jersey

Stone Harbor Beach
Stone Harbor Beach

New Jersey makes the most of its 127 miles of coastline, offering some of the northeast's best beach towns. The easygoing vibe of Stone Harbor Beach, on an island bordered on the west by the Intracoastal Waterway and on the east by the Atlantic, appeals to families and couples seeking a quiet getaway.

Entertainment here means lazing on the pristine dune-backed beach, stopping in a café, and browsing in the boutiques that line the stone-paved streets. Stop at the Wetlands Institute to learn about the shore ecosystem and meet some of the animals that live here, or get closer to the water on a boat excursion or fishing trip.

This is a great place to enjoy the sand with your pup, too — Stone Harbor Beach is among one of the best dog-friendly beaches in the state, with a section that's open to leashed dogs all day, any time of year.

Address: 2 94th Street, Stone Harbor, New Jersey

20. Wildwood, New Jersey

Wildwood beach, New Jersey
Wildwood beach, New Jersey

After the sedate atmosphere of Stone Harbor and the peaceful natural environment of Sandy Hook, it's hard to believe that Wildwood is part of the same 127-mile coastline. If you long for the neon and the noise, the tacky souvenirs, and cotton candy, Wildwood is your scene.

Thirty-six blocks of the boardwalk are filled with games, rides, frozen custard, beachwear, and fast food of all descriptions. The mood and the décor are strictly retro, with an unmistakable mid-century vibe. Don't let all this distract you from Wildwood's glorious sandy beach.

Address: 1ST E Glenwood Ave, Wildwood, New Jersey

21. Cape May Beach, New Jersey

Aerial view of Cape May beach
Aerial view of Cape May beach

Known for its Victorian gingerbread beach cottages and saltwater taffy colors, Cape May is like stepping into yet another era, a smartened-up version of the town's historic past as a proper Victorian summer colony.

Lined primly along the beach are spotless Victorian "cottages" replete with towers, gingerbread trim, and inviting front porches. You can retire to a rocking chair of your own at teatime, as many of the houses are now elegant B&Bs.

The history is real, for Cape May claims to be America's oldest seaside resort. Congress Hall, a grand hotel built in 1816 is one of the country's oldest hotels, and Cape May had already been a thriving resort for decades when it opened. The reason is clear: the beach is a spectacularly well-kept, gleaming expanse of soft white sand.