The New England states may be small, but they boast plenty of coastline with lots of great beaches. I enjoy visiting these beaches either for the day or as part of a longer vacation. Although I love the beach, I usually plan for just one or two beach days, with more activities included in my vacation.
If you are visiting the New England beaches, there are some important things to know. The water can be cooler, especially if you are used to the warmer beach water in the south or the Caribean. There are also shark warnings at times, so you’ll need to pay attention.
Fall can be a great time to visit New England beaches. There are still some warmer days in the early fall, and the water is a little less cool since it had had the whole summer to warm up. Just keep in mind that some lifeguards and facilities are only offered during the traditional summer season of Memorial Day to Labor Day.
When choosing a New England beach, consider other attractions and activities in the area. Here are some of the best New England beaches to visit on a family vacation.
Please note that like other travel destinations and attractions, beaches have had to make changes in 2020. Some have restricted parking to residents only. Modifications are constantly being made, so you’ll need to check the beach websites for information before venturing out.
Disclosure: I’ve visited several of these areas and hotels at no/discounted cost for purposes of review. All opinions are my own.
The Best Beaches in New England
The tiny town of Little Compton Rhode Island is so small that it doesn’t have a high school. However, it offers two beautiful beaches located adjacent to each other. Little Compton may sound familiar if you read the book You by Caroline Kepnes (the location was changed for the TV series.
Goosewing Beach & South Shore Beach, Little Compton, Rhode Island
These two Little Compton beaches share a parking lot, and you’ll need to walk through South Shore to get to Goosewing. Managed by the Nature Conservancy, the Goosewing Beach preserve is a beautiful place to explore. You’ll find a pond, sand dunes, and a hiking trail.
South Shore is managed by the town and offers paid parking and porta-potties. Several food vendors are allowed, or you can bring your own food. This is a beautiful, quiet part of Rhode Island that is definitely worth visiting for the day. These stunning beaches are located right along the Atlantic Ocean.
There aren’t many hotels in the area, but you will find some Airbnbs and vacation homes. You can also consider staying in nearby Newport Rhode Island, where you’ll find lots of things to do with kids.
Easton’s Beach/First Beach, Newport, Rhode Island
Newport (and the island it’s located on – Aquidneck Island), have quite a few beaches. However, Easton’s Beach (also called First Beach), is the only ocean-front beach in Newport Rhode Island. Easton’s Beach is located right near the famed Cliff Walk. It’s also home to the small Save the Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium, which offers over 40 species that are native to the Narragansett Bay area, including a touch tank.
There are lots of hotels, B&Bs, motels, and vacation homes in the Newport area. It’s a great place to stay, even if you don’t plan to spend much of your time on the beach.
Old Orchard Beach, Old Orchard Beach Maine
This seven-mile sandy beach, located in the town of the same name, offers a quaint beach pier along with lots of space for sunbathing. The town itself is the consummate beach town, with mini-golf, sailing excursions, a zipline park, a nearby amusement park, and more.
There are plenty of lodging options in and around Old Orchard Beach. In addition, the Amtrak Downeaster runs right through this area.
Ogunquit Maine is such a bustling little beach town, with shops, restaurants, theaters, art galleries, and lots of lodging options. For a great beach day, you can easily walk to Ogunquit Beach from most of the hotels.
Frequently rated among the top beaches in the United States, Ogunquit Beach offers paid parking, white sands, rest/changing rooms, and a concession stand. There are several sections to the beach, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a beautiful summer day.
During our visit to Ogunquit Beach last summer, we really enjoyed our stay at the Meadowmere Resort. This family-friendly hotel offers an indoor and outdoor pool, on-site restaurant, and family suites, along with other kid-friendly amenities.
Hampton Beach, Hampton Beach New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, on the Massachusetts and Maine borders, you’ll find the famous Hampton Beach State Park. The Hampton Beach area includes hotels, restaurants, and other family activities like mini-golf and arcades. Because New Hampshire doesn’t have much Atlantic coastline, this really is your only option for a New Hampshire ocean beach.
You could easily combine a trip to Hampton Beach with a visit to Kittery Maine, Portsmouth New Hampshire, or the North Shore of Massachusetts.
Crane Beach, Ipswich, Massachusetts
Crane Beach is located on the Crane Estate in Ipswich Massachusetts and is managed by the Trustees of Reservations. A Crane parking pass for the season can be purchased by members, although you’ll need to get specific parking reservations for each visit in 2020. These are available online.
Crane Beach is one of the nesting sites for the threatened shorebird piping plovers. In season, the property offers lifeguards, changing areas, a store, picnic tables, bike racks, and outside showers.
Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester, MA
Cape Ann, MA, located north of Boston, is home to several beautiful beaches. Our favorite is Good Harbor Beach, in Gloucester, MA.
The beach offers a snack bar, changing facilities, and a large parking lot. The surf is perfect for those who want to bring their boogie boards, but the water isn’t too rough. During low tide, you can walk over to the small Salt Island.
Good Harbor does get busy in the summer, especially on the weekends. Arrive early to make sure you can access the parking lot. You’ll find a Shaw’s grocery store on the way in if you’d like to stop for picnic food for your beach day.
Wingersheek Beach, Gloucester, MA
Located on the other side of Gloucester is Wingersheek Beach, another popular spot in Cape Ann. Wingersheek offers restrooms, showers, and a concession stand. During low tide, you’ll find a sandbar that is fun to walk on.
There are several motels and hotels in Gloucester. However, you may consider renting one of the many vacation homes available in the area.
Singing Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA
Another popular beach on Cape Ann is Singing Beach, in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Named for the quiet singing sound the sand makes, this is a popular beach for families.
This beach does have non-resident parking (although not in 2020), but there is also an off-property lot run by the Boy Scouts. If you don’t park in official parking, there’s a walk-in fee.
Located on Cape Cod Bay, Duxbury MA is a beautiful town on the way to Cape Cod. There, you’ll find Duxbury Beach, which is a great day trip from Boston. This 7.5-mile barrier beach offers porta-potties, hand-sanitation stations, and Blakeman’s restaurant.
There aren’t many hotels right in Duxbury, but it’s pretty close to Plymouth (home to Plimoth Plantation – now known as Plimoth Patuxet).
Old Silver Beach, Falmouth, MA
One of my favorite beaches on Cape Cod is the gorgeous Old Silver Beach, located in Falmouth. It offers restrooms, changing facilities, and concessions.
If you’d like to stay right on Old Silver Beach, I definitely recommend the Sea Crest Beach Hotel. You can walk right from the hotel to the beach, where you’ll find beach attendants, chairs, and umbrellas for hotel guests.
Cape Cod National Seashore, various towns
The Cape Cod National Seashore includes six popular Cape Cod beaches. These include Nauset Light Beach in Orleans, Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, the Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, Race Point Beach in Provincetown, and Head of the Meadow Beach in North Truro. I generally recommend that you decide which town in Cape Cod you want to visit first, and then select the closest beach.